After all our travels to the US, it was remarkable to us that we had never been to the American Capital. Fortunes had it that we were able to go to Washington DC over the Independence Day long weekend, so we were excited to see how the city celebrates July 4th.
A huge bonus was being able to connect with family. My Uncle Sid is one of those awesome uncles that you may not get to see on the regular, but who makes every visit memorable. We were scooped up from the airport and given a chauffeured tour of the monuments and sights in Washington (which was much appreciated given the intense heat and incredible humidity). We got a lay of the land and were able to scope out and pinpoint those places we wanted to further check out – it was perfect!
From there our days now seem like a big mesh of time. We were able to accomplish a fair bit given the crush of tourists in for the holiday weekend, but not run ragged from all the sight seeing. We wandered the monuments of the National Mall, stopping here and there for photo ops and breaks in the shade (it covers a huge area!). It was neat to finally see those iconic structures in real life.
We only went to two of the museums, which was a good way to whet our appetites. I hope our next DC visit will be on a non-holiday weekend, so we can take advantage of the free access to the rest of the Smithsonian goodies. The ones we checked out were the National Gallery of Art and the Air and Space Museum. Ewan was pushing for a visit to the latter, and while I feel I am normally someone who loves art galleries more than other museums, I felt that the Air and Space Museum was my favourite of the two. It was all that NASA stuff right in the main entrance. That’ll get you! (That being said the art gallery is fabulous. Their collection of famous works and impressionist paintings surprised the both of us! The museum is no slouch, it just had to compete with pods that have been in outer space…).
Our visit to Arlington Cemetery met our expectations. The sweeping grounds with uniformly lined up tombstones just cannot be captured in any photograph. We trekked up the hill to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, catching the Changing of the Guard, and we found the nearby Canadian Cross of Sacrifice, which honours Americans who enlisted with the Canadian forces during WWI, WWII and the Korean War (when the US wasn’t yet engaged). Perhaps our favourite sights at the cemetery were the headstones nearly completely engulfed by trees.
We also took a jaunt to Georgetown where we had a great meal with Uncle Sid and checked out the beautiful streets. My favourite part was seeing the house and iconic stairway from the movie The Exorcist.
We were treated to some family time in Virginia, meeting more family and having a fantastic time visiting and sharing a great meal together. It’s family visits that help to make travel and new places so special.
On July 4th, the weather forecast was bleak – nonstop rain. Luckily the rain was kept at bay as we took in the July 4th parade. It was entertaining, though I’m not sure either of us would seek it out again (Let’s just say we’ve had a lifetime’s dosage of high school marching bands playing ‘America the Beautiful’). Once the parade was over we killed time and avoided rain by heading for a meal and museum wandering before the fireworks.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I LOVE fireworks. So I was really excited to see how DC’s National Holiday fireworks compare to Ottawa’s Canada Day or Paris’ Bastille Day show. Thankfully the rain let up in time for the fireworks to go ahead, though the city was cloaked in low-hanging cloud cover. We found a soggy perch on the grassy lawn by the Washington monument and craned our necks upwards over the reflecting pools to the skies. The fireworks were impressive, the timing to the music was some of the best I’ve seen/heard and the organizers did not hold back on the fireworks that explode into shapes (hearts, stars, 3D cubes!!). There were some massive fireworks we missed as there were completely obscured by the fog, but the finale and overall spectacle of it made me happy that we checked them out.
Ultimately we had a great first taste of Washington, and I’m looking forward to future visits for more exploring and family time.