View Memorials to White House in a larger map
Some time ago, I sketched out a sample itinerary for a day in DC focused on Capitol Hill that combined a bit of the National stuff that you’ve come to see with a little of the local color that humanizes the experience and makes your visit more memorable. So in that vein, let’s lay out another day, taking in the Memorials in the morning and a little of DC the rest of the day.
We’ll kick off at the Foggy Bottom Metro Stop on the Orange and Blue lines. We got a lot of walking to do this morning, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t do it without a cup of coffee. DC has some top notch coffee shops, but as we’re not near any of them now we’ll make do with the Starbucks at the GWU Hospital. We’re heading south on 23rd (downhill) towards the Lincoln Memorial. As we head down 23rd, you may want to swing by the Columbia Plaza shopping center (just past Virginia Ave) and pick up some water or other supplies. We’ll be walking a good chunk of the morning and pickings are scarce on the Mall.
When you get to Constitution, stay on the north side and swing by the Albert Einstein Memorial. In a town full of stuffy rules, it’s nice to find a place where you can climb on the statuary. Get it out of your system, because we’re crossing the street to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial where this would not be cool. I like to continue down Constitution to 21st and enter from there. That way, as you exit the Memorial, you are looking directly at the Lincoln Memorial, as Maya Lin intended you to.
You’re now in close proximity to the Lincoln and Korean Memorials, and I’ll let you take a few minutes to explore them. You’ve no doubt read my blog exhaustively, so you’re well prepared, but if you want to pick up a few amplifying materials about any of the monuments, swing into the book store just to the right of Abe as you go into the Memorial. There’s also a restroom at the base of the Memorial if you need to put that coffee somewhere.
From here, we’re going to take one of the legendary American strolls, along the Reflecting Pool towards the World War II Memorial. If, as the map indicates, you walk the south side, you will come close to the DC World War I Memorial, which is getting some much overdue care. On that note, for the next couple of years the Park Service is restoring the Reflecting Pool, so you may have to detour at some point. I’d tell you to check their website for updates, but their public outreach is, um, sad.
You may also wish to take advantage of the restrooms before we leave World War II; they are far cleaner than those at the Lincoln Memorial and your best option for a little while. Moving on, we’re going to head north along 17th ST towards the White House. This stretch is one of my favorite strolls in Washington. It passes several interesting, well known, but rarely visited institutions that each deserve stories of their own. For know, I’m going to skim on through them, but we’ll come back some day.
First up is the Organization of American States. Originally built as the Pan-American Union, it stands on the site of an early DC mansion, the Van Ness House. Fascinating stories there, but that’s for another time. All that remains of that time is the carriage house out back, now known as the Casita. If it interests you, the OAS’s Art Museum of the Americas is a block away on 18th Street. But for now, I just like to point out the sculpture’s on either side representing North and South America. Above them is an eagle and a condor, also representing the two continents.
Next up is the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. Sadly, this building is perhaps best remembered as the place which refused to allow Marian Anderson to sing due to her race. However, the DAR has been very upfront about addressing their history, and if you have the time, spend a few minutes (or even an hour or two) exploring all this wonderful institution has to offer. Their Museum is top notch, Constitution Hall is perhaps the greatest large indoor venue in Washington, DC, and the building itself is worth poking around. Interestingly enough, the “front” you see from 17th Street is not the front entrance to the building. Swing down D Street NW for the postal entrance to the site: 1776 D ST NW. Clever, those ladies.
Continuing down, we pass by the headquarters of the American Red Cross, which hopefully you didn’t need my assistance to figure out. With a little foresight, you can contact them, tour the building and view the organization’s historic National Headquarters. Of particular note is the three Tiffany Windows in the Board of Governors Hall.
As we continue north, you will start to see the First Infantry Division Monument across 17th Street. The “Big Red One”, as you could probably figure out on your own from the number, is the oldest division in the US Army and the Monument is worth visiting. Take a look at the flower bed out front. Depending on the season, you will see a large bed of red flowers in the shape of a “1”, nicely illustrating the Division’s insignia of a large red one on a green field.
Now, if you wish, you can take a quick detour to check out the South Lawn of the White House. This is the one you might recognize from all the movies; the long shot of the White House with the long, green yard and the fountains in front of it. This is where Marine One lands and where you see the President come and go. Just walk down E Street to the east and you’ll be there in a couple minutes. You can see the new vegetable garden quite easily from here, as well as the bee hive that keeps it humming (I’m sorry, there was no excuse for that pun).
But assuming you didn’t (or you’re back by now), let’s continue up 17th. We’re going to pass by the Corcoran Gallery, both the oldest and largest non-Federal art museum in DC. It’s going to set you back 10 bucks per person, but well worth it if art is your thing. Across the street is the Old Executive Office Building, er, excuse me, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. No disrespect to President Eisenhower, but I still think of it as the OEOB. Either way, fascinating building, and no, you’re probably not getting in.
Finally, we arrive at Pennsylvania Avenue. While I’m the first to complain about the encroaching Federal shutdown of DC in the name of security, I have to admit that the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue after the Oklahoma City bombings has made for a pleasant pedestrian plaza. Take a few minutes to snap a picture or two of front of the White House (yes, it is the front).
In the immediate vicinity, there’s a few other places of interest. The Renwick Gallery, on the corner of Penn and 17th, is the original home of the Corcoran, and now houses the craft and decorative arts collection of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. You might also want to snap a pic or two of the Blair House. Not open to the public, it’s where the President stashes foreign dignitaries when they come. You will know if anyone is staying there as they will fly the flag of that nation in place of the American flag. Across Penn from the White House is Lafayette Park, which is worthy of its own post, but on the corner of H and Jackson Place is the Decatur House, once the home of Stephen Decatur, early American Naval hero.
Depending on when you’ve started, how quickly you’ve walked, and how many stops you made along the way, it’s probably been 2 to 4 hours since we kicked this journey off. Assuming you followed the directions and didn’t make any detours, this little jaunt is about 2.75 miles. You’ll know better than I how long that will take you. At this point, let me urge you to take a break, whether you want to or not. We’ve go a full day ahead of us, and I don’t want you burning out on me.
There’s a Cosi and a Caribou Coffee across the street from each other on 17th and Penn, but if it’s lunch time, go half a block up the north side of Penn and grab a sandwich from Bread Line. Take it to Lafayette Park and enjoy. If it’s a crappy day, I recommend Teaism on the north side of Lafayette Park. A Salty Oat cookie will make you wonder why you’ve been eating unsalted oatmeal cookies all this time and they have Japanese style bento box lunches that can be a break from you standard McDonald's fare. And yes, there’s one of those nearby too, but you can find that yourself.
We’ve taken up quite a bit of you’re time today, and we’re only at lunch. Let’s take a break, and we’ll pick back up in a couple of days. Lot’s more to go from here; we’re only getting started.