Washington DC is not only the capital of the United States but the political hub of the world. I was so determined to visit Washington because of its accessibility to New York City. Washington DC is at the heart of the US political and judicial system. In both the US Supreme Court and Capitol Hill some of the most important and poignant decisions of our time have been made. On a side note: Scandal is my favourite TV show and Olivia Pope is everything (get watching if you don’t already).
There are a few different options when deciding how to travel there. However, I think if you have a few extra days at the end of your trip - it is most definitely worth a visit! We travelled up on the Friday morning and came home on the Sunday afternoon - it was short but memorable and most importantly, worthwhile. There are a couple of options so I’m going to divide it into a couple of categories:
ON A BUDGET
There is no doubt that the cheapest way to get to Washington is by bus. There are loads of bus companies to choose from and you may be overwhelmed by the results when you google it. Choose a reliable company; for example Grayline - read the reviews. We were trying to save cash and went for the cheapest result that came up. As my mum always says, ‘you get what you pay for!’ We really could relate to that statement. Early Friday morning we checked out of the hotel and hailed a cab because we were conscious of time (little did we know that we’d still be in the same bus station two hours later). When we arrived in a bus shelter just off Fifth Avenue - I knew. I knew we had made a mistake. We sat there for two hours until our bus finally arrived. The people at the desk just shrugged when we asked if it was coming. Our ticket was $40 return - apparently all the signs were there! The bus did get us there almost seven hours later. Initially we all had to sit separately on seats that had probably never seen soap or water. But a miracle happened almost half way in - I checked for wifi. This bus which chugged and pulled and was older than me had WIFI! We stopped in Wilmington and Baltimore on the way there (extra miles). So I couldn’t recommend this option to anyone but I could tell you that it got us there and home in one piece (just about). So, choose wisely, especially if you are a lone traveller, I would not recommend this.
You could potentially get a deal if you book train tickets in advance! The further in advance the better and the cheaper. This is a great option for people looking for a more luxurious and QUICK journey. The train takes just over 3 hours. This is definitely advisable for people with children. I have heard that the trains are great, really reliable! Check amtrak.com for deals and they also have a handy app that you can use.
SPLASHING THE CASH
This option could work out at a reasonable enough price depending on the flight prices on that specific airline and also how much luggage you are travelling with. This is definitely advisable for people who don’t have a lot of time on their hands. It is handy way to get from A to B quickly. The obvious disadvantage is having to be there before and also security etc and paying to check on a bag.
If I was doing this again I would certainly weigh up my options and check all of the prices and calculate the journey times. I for one know that if I was travelling with my parents I would opt for No.2. In a similar way - Boston is accessible by train, bus or plane from NYC. It is worth mentioning that Grayline Tours offer a DAY TRIP option to visit both cities in one day seeing all the main attractions for £100. Yes, you have to be up at 7am and won’t return until 12am but it is definitely worth it. It is very expensive but those days are days you’ll never forget.
WHERE TO STAY?
I absolutely love sites like BOOKING.COM and always use it when I’m looking for a place to stay. I booked about a month in advance and got a fantastic deal in the Capitol Hilton. This was the most beautiful hotel - the rooms, services and staff were superb. The only downside was that there was no WIFI in the rooms but was offered free of charge in the lobby. We stayed there for two nights at a rate of about 35 dollars each per night. It was worth every cent because of it’s location. It was ideally located, one block away from Obama’s house. Everything was in walking distance. We didn’t use taxis the whole time we were away. The rooms were clean and perfect for us. It was also very safe with night security and staff.
It is worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of NYC. Washington is so peaceful and quiet. Perhaps it was the time of year, sometimes it felt like we were the only people in the whole of Washington. That night we were eager to get started with all the things we wanted to see. But first - food (priorities). We found it very difficult to find places to eat in Washington, it became even more noticeable as the weekend went on. We settled on a nice looking bar which we hoped sold pub grub beside our hotel. It was reasonably enough priced (around 15 dollars per person) for big meals.
We made for the White house, literally a stone throw from our hotel. It was beautifully lit with throngs of secret service walking the grounds. The first thing Niamh, who was visibly shocked said ‘I can’t believe it’s that small - IT’S TINY’. It definitely isn’t small but maybe not as grand as we are led to believe on TV. There were few people at the railings when we arrived. The railings are a new feature the guard informed us. I also decided to ask him all the burning questions I had about Obama and the secret service.
The first question went down like a ton of bricks: What does it mean if the flag is up, does that mean that he’s in?
That’s classified information which I cannot disclose under any circumstance.
He was joking. Thankfully. My face had gone two shades brighter in the meantime. Apparently it means absolutely nothing, Obama was vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard while we were there. He informed me that he had in fact seen Obama in the flesh and has heard that he is a really cool guy. He was very clear that at any moment under these huge black covered raised parts of the ground, secret service guys were waiting.
As we left for the Washington Monument the streets were noticeably deserted. We met very few people on our travels, but on route we saw where all the committees and official personnel carry out their work. Washington is not filled with skyscrapers but with beautiful buildings intricately designed. We used the Washington Monument as our compass while we were there - it’s in the centre. It is much larger than you could imagine. It is located on a height surrounding by American flags and is definitely worth seeing at night.
Just across the way is the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Both are absolutely incredible - just like you see in the films. The WWII Memorial is breathtaking with the most brilliant water features inside, it is surrounded by large grey-stone pillars with each state in a wreath emblazoned across it. It is so gorgeous during the day and you can even get in the fountain. The heat was so extreme that day that we happily obliged. Children were running around whilst eager tourists snapped every section of the monument.
Right across the way is the Lincoln Memorial - he literally is looking over the whole of Washington. This was definitely my favourite part of Washington - the great long reflecting pool is beautiful. The pool is lined by walking paths and trees and reflects not only the Lincoln Memorial but the Washington Monument. This is such a grand monument - one of the best I’ve seen. Lincoln is huge, I remember previously joking about getting up on the chair. NOT A CHANCE! I couldn’t even touch his hand.
As you can see from the photos above, the next day we visited these monuments again because they look completely different! We woke early in search of somewhere cheap and cheerful for breakfast. We found a Cosi not far from our hotel and at 11am the obvious choice for me was a pizza (I know I am ridiculous).
We opted not to take any of the tour buses as we wanted to see it all on foot. We really did walk the feet of ourselves. It was really tiring but well worth it because we could do all the monument spotting. Washington is home to the most amazing museums. We visited the NASA museum and although we weren't particularly interested; it was amazing. It would be perfect for people with children who have an interest or even just to take some photographs. For anyone who loves Night At the Museum 2 (like Annie) the museums in the film are all in Washington.
Everything in Washington appears so close because you can see almost all of it from wherever you are. So when we spotted Capitol Hill at the end of the walkway with all the museums, we headed straight up. It was longer than we anticipated. Capitol Hill is where all the political business is carried out (well, on the face of it). This is where the US congress sits, this is made up of two branches, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There's a visitor centre underground which is definitely worth a visit (it cost $621 to build alone). Around this there are so many buildings to see and one which was at the top of my list was the US Supreme Court. Studying Law myself I know the importance of this building and the fundamental decisions that have been made here. This court has come along way since 1896 where for example, in Plessy v Ferguson state racial segregation laws for public facilities was upheld to 2013 which saw judicial activism in favour of same sex marriage in US v Windsor.
We had dinner in probably the coolest place I have EVER been. It was called Barcode and is definitely not somewhere I would take my mum and dad as the music was unbelievably loud. But the music was so brilliant that we didn't mind roaring across the table whilst enjoying our burgers
and pizza which were so reasonably priced.
On agenda that night was Arlington Cemetery and bikes around Washington. So when we went to the electronic bike stall to rent them we realised that you need a credit card for every two bikes and so decided against it. We hailed our first taxi in Washington to get to the cemetery fast as we feared it might be closing. As he left us off it looked eerily quiet, it being a cemetery and all. It was closed. We were so disappointed but made our way across the beautiful bridge and l
ooked up at the sky to see lines of planes waiting to land. It was just gorgeous. We reached a set of steps which looked over the river, it was so nice to just sit down and relax, we must have spent two hours here. As we aren't 21 yet we couldn't go to any of the nightclubs or bars in Washington and so I can't offer much information in that regard. However, what I can say is that Penn Quarter and China Town were both buzzing with people.
This was such a welcome change to the fast pace city that is New York. I absolutely loved my time in Washington and will definitely be back. I want to take my family to see the place where so much history was made.
'I thought Washington DC stood for DA CAPITAL'