Thursday, 30 July 2015

Adventures in the USA part 1 - Washington DC

A few weeks ago, I finally went off adventuring again (friends of mine on Facebook will have recently seen a photo series involving flowers, food, Colours Ball, bowling with friends, and things I've been up to while fighting a wanderlust of just over two years), and this time it was to the USA with my family.  We had two stops, Washington DC and Walt Disney World Florida, which I will cover in a series of posts which should last well into September.  The first of posts will cover our time in Washington DC.  We spent 4 days here, in which we saw memorials to several presidents, a few of the Smithsonian museums, and the White House.  Below, I share my favourites of the places we visited and a couple of top tips!

Top 5 places to visit in Washington DC

  1. Franklin Roosevelt Memorial - Out of all the presidential memorials that I saw (including Jefferson and Lincoln), the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial was my favourite.  It felt like an endless road of walls filled with inspirational quotes and punctuated by small waterfalls.

  2. World War 2 Memorial - With a view of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in the background, a granite pillar adorned with a bronze wreath to represent each of the United States, and a large central fountain and pool, the World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC could be a great place for reflection and expressing gratitude. 
    The World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC.

    A "Freedom Wall" holds 4048 gold stars, each of which represents one hundred American service personnel who died or remained missing in the war.  The 405,399 Americans dead or missing in World War 2 is second only to the 620,000 Americans dead or missing following the American Civil War.
    The Freedom Wall.
  3. White House visitors center - Since I'm one of those people who can easily go around a small museum reading stopping at every artefact and reading every sign, the White House visitors center is definitely somewhere to keep a few hours for.  In this mini-museum (everything is on one floor in one big room), you can learn about the role of the White House and Washington DC since its inception in 1790 as the capital of the United States of America, different presidents, hear audio clips from presidential speeches, learn about the role of the First Lady and the First Family, and see both original and replicas of items found in the White House and used by past presidents.
    The back of the White House.
  4. National Air and Space Museum - From the first hot air balloons to the early aircraft models similar to that flown by the Wright Brothers to Federal Express planes to modern passenger aircraft, you can see and learn about the history of the flight of man.  You can also see spacecraft, including modifications of the Hubble Space telescope.
  5. 4th July fireworks - As we arrived in Washington DC on the afternoon of Saturday 4th July, we were able to see the evening Independence Day celebrations (there were celebrations throughout the day, but we only arrived in the early evening).  Our hotel gave us timings of the fireworks display being held behind the Washington monument, where to see it from, and informed us that they would be holding a barbecue at the hotel afterwards.  Despite arriving at a patch of grass near the Smithsonian museums about half an hour to 40 minutes before the display was due to start, this patch of grass was already packed with American viewers decked in red, white and blue (I, meanwhile, had spent the flight in black and white), with rumours that some of them could have been waiting there for the 9:15pm firework display since about 3pm.  Given the nature of the firework displays that I had seen in Florida in the past and would see in Florida in the following week, the Washington DC fireworks display for Independence Day wasn't very spectacular, but I still think it was good to experience a part of the Independence Day celebrations.
Independence Day fireworks behind the Washington Monument.

Top Tips

  1. Fill up at your hotel's breakfast buffet (if they have one) and take extra food from the buffet to eat later in the day.  This can mean saving the time and money you would spend on lunch.  For breakfast each day, I ate a bowl of dry Raisin Bran, 2 slices of jam toast, and a big bowl of fruit (this is the equivalent of my typical breakfast, lunch AND fruit snacks when I'm at home), and then took fruit to eat later in the day.
    Extra fruit from the buffet which we took to eat later in the day instead of stopping for lunch.
  2. Unfortunately for us, breakfast wasn't included in the hotel price, but I managed to save $4 on breakfast each day by having a continental breakfast buffet (described above) instead of a cooked breakfast buffet.  I therefore spent $12.95 on breakfast and lunch combined each day instead of $16.95 each day as the rest of my family did.
  3. On the first morning, we went to Starbucks and since we could only see the water in glass bottles at the time, we asked the man at the counter where the plastic bottles of water were.  He then offered us ice-cold tap water in a plastic cup for free, so we had more water to take with us and it was so refreshing and cool.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Adventures in the USA series, in which I will reveal my top places to visit in the Downtown Disney shopping district at Walt Disney World Florida!

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