Destinations

Jude Dobson’s Washington dream

Jude Dobson and her family take on the US capital one highlight at a time.

Jude Dobson and her daughter, Rosie.

Pennsylvania Avenue is the best place for your quintessential DC photo. But while you check your angles and backgrounds, take time to look up at the snipers on the tops of the buildings around you – we found it interesting to see how many we could spot.

Washington DC is a city overflowing with political history and intrigue. You simply can’t do DC and not see the National Mall or the White House.

On our trip, though, we didn’t have enough time to see it all, so visited the city’s website, washington.org, to figure out what we were willing to miss.

Top of the list was the easy walk from the Obelisk to the Lincoln Memorial.

This was followed by the tranquility of the reflection pool – we added our pennies and made a wish.

Next was figuring out where Forrest Gump and his beloved Jenny had been, standing where Martin Luther King Jr dreamed his dream and looking in awe at Lincoln in all his marble glory while reading his Gettysburg address on the walls.

Down the steps, we visited the Korean War memorial on one side and the Vietnam one on the other. Sobering stuff.

We headed back towards the Obelisk, not forgetting to look left at the White House beyond the National Tree (we visited at Christmas and saw it fully lit up – that’d be a steep power bill!).

Inside the iconic Old Ebbitt Grill.

Another must-do was Arlington National Cemetery. It’s the final resting place of more than 400,000 active duty US military members, veterans and their families, and is a national shrine.

Many notables are buried there and you’ll be issued a handy map to find them all. But it’s President Kennedy and his family who always draw the crowds.

Walking to the back of the cemetery took us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There’s a 24-hour guard in place, 365 days of the year – whatever the weather.

The elaborate ritual on the hour in winter and the half-hour in summer to change the guard was quite some ceremony. The accompanying museum was also well done.

Arlington National Cemetery is a moving spot to visit, and is a national shrine.

The Capitol has a fantastic tour with informative guides. As well as the huge amount of historical and modern-day info on offer, there are cool “Did you know?” moments too.

Reagan was the president of my youth, so I was interested to hear that his statue has concrete pieces from the Berlin Wall in it. Then there’s President John Quincy Adam’s plaque on the floor to note where his seat was.

The guide explained how he could listen in secret to his opponent’s conversations on the other side of the hall, and you’ll discover the parabolic effect of the room.

We were sure to get a free pass to see the Senate and Congress – they have their own guides and a comprehensive 20-page book to give away, and finding our way there was half the fun.

Ford Theatre, where Lincoln was shot, and the house across the road where he died is also a must-see. Our guide spoke from the theatre stage, recounting the story of that day and the lead-up to it.

Across the road, we went back to 1885 in his former home and the museum then went through the aftermath. A visit loved by all ages in our group.

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.

Insider’s Guide to…the US capital

Best drink: If you want to splash out, the rooftop bar of the W Hotel, called POV, is a go-to cocktail spot. Overlooking the White House and the National Mall. It’s a treat to see the city all lit up.

Local flavour: Old Ebbitt Grill is a DC institution just across from the White House, frequented by politicians and the who’s who of DC. It has a huge wood-panelled bar with oysters a specialty to go with your Champagne, as well as a bustling restaurant with a broad menu that is family friendly.

Best photo opportunity: Wow – it’s easy to fill your camera roll! It’s hard to beat the Obelisk or Lincoln Memorial, though.

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