July 6th, 2022 – Kate
Today was our main sightseeing day in Washington D.C. After a much-needed long sleep, we woke later than previous mornings but were headed out of the door around 10 am. A quick stop along the way to Starbucks for our morning coffee fix, we set off to the first tourist attraction of the day: the Washington Monument.
As with many tall buildings, the Washington Monument can be seen miles away before you actually reach it. We walked over to it slowly so Steve could get photos of different angles and views. Tours of the inside of the monument have re-opened post COVID but are limited. Ticket allocation is given out at 8 am, free entry but you have to get there early to get one of the slots. Given how much rest we needed after the holiday weekend, we missed the 8 am allocation time so did not go up the monument.
From the Washington Monument, you can see the capitol Building in one direction and the Lincolns memorial, the reflection pool, and the War Memorials. You can also grab an unimpeded view of the front of the White House, albeit from a distance. As the Capitol Building and Lincolns Memorial are in opposite directions, we had a decision to make about which one we visited. From the distance, we could see building work was being done at the Capitol building, with hoarding around the front of the building. We chose not to walk any further in that direction and headed off toward the D.C War Memorial.
WWII War Memorial
Many of D.C’s monuments and memorials are conveniently located near each other with grassy pedestrian-built areas for people to wander and explore the city at their leisure. We followed other tourists toward the Lincoln Memorial, taking in the sights along the way. Our next stop was the WWII Memorial which honors the lives lost during the fights in the Pacific and in Europe. There is a tranquil pool with water fountains that people respectfully sat by and soaked their feet in the water. Following other examples, we too took the opportunity to sit and cool down. The heat and humidity had now begun to creep higher and cooling water was a welcome relief.
After a while, we left the Memorial and began the walk toward the reflection pool and The Lincoln memorial. Unfortunately, we were unable to walk alongside the reflection pool as barriers set up for the 4th of July fireworks were still in place and the pool was closed off. We walked along the pedestrian sidewalks, passing the Korean War Memorial as we went by. We would have missed this memorial if we had been able to walk along the reflection pool so we were actually seeing more sights this way. This included the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial which is also just off the main pedestrian walk down to the Lincoln Memorial.
At this point, it is worth noting that Washington D.C was a lot quieter tourist number-wise than New York had been. Whether or not this was simply because the holiday weekend was over or it was just a quieter city is unknown to us as we had no idea how busy D.C was on the 4th of July. Lincoln Memorial, however, was the busiest we had seen in the city. Still a lot quieter in comparison to New York but with lots of people milling about, it was hard to get good photos with few people in the shot.
We have developed a technique for getting a shot of something that is popular though. Often we will want a photo of an attraction without anyone in it, including us! Trying to take a photo in between people doesn’t work as people do not move out of the shot unless someone else comes up for their turn. So, I stand in the reasonably polite queues with everyone else wanting that selfie or group picture in front of the attraction in question but when it is my ‘turn’ Steve simply cuts in front of me, getting the shot with no one in it (me included!) it confuses a lot of tourists around us, but it works the majority of the time!
Steve found getting good photo’s without too many people in the shot quite hard at the Lincoln Memorial so we spent a good amount of time here, being patient (mostly!) and enjoying the view from the memorial.
Lunchtime had been and starting to go at this point and we had not eaten all day. Unfortunately, there were very few food options available around the monuments and memorials. We found one cafe and souvenir shop after the Lincoln Memorial but the food on offer was only packet sandwiches costing up to $10!! We had drinks with us so we decided to push on and walk across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to our next stop, the cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetary
We had decided to walk to Arlington Cemetary and get an Uber back to the hotel. There are clear pedestrian and cyclist route signs across the Memorial Bridge so seemed like a reasonable plan. We still had not really gotten used to the heat and humidity though and the less-than-mile walk was harder than we expected. We arrived at the cemetery very hot and tired! The views of the city as you walk across the bridge (remembering to look behind you!) are stunning and I can imagine that in the cooler months, the walk is quite pleasant! If walking isn’t for you though, the cemetery is accessible by car, or taxi and has its own metro station just opposite the welcome center. There is a $3 per hour charge for car parking.
Arlington Cemetary website explains that a full body and bag security check is in place when arriving. It also says that Government Issued I.D. is required for entry, including passport I.d. for non-US citizens. We do not remember needing this but it is something to remember to take just in case!
Arlington Cemetary, like most places in Washington D.C, is free to enter. They have a Tram Tour service that takes tourists to key grave spots around the cemetery every 30 minutes which is $15 each. Considering that Arlington Cemetary spans 639 acres, we chose to use the Tram Tour service. The Tour is narrated throughout and there is 4 drop off points:
- President John F. Kennedy Graveside
- John J. Pershing Graveside
- The Memorial Amphitheater with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
- Arlington House
After a sit-down and cool-down in the visitors center, we filled up our water bottles and purchased the tickets for the Tram Tour. The first stop was President J.F. Kennedy’s graveside with the eternal flame. His wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, and 2 of their infants are both buried next to the President.
Just a few meters down the hill on the right of JFK there is the grave of the late Supreme Court Associate Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her gravestone is just a few rows from the front in section 5, easily distinguished by black granite.
The next stop on the tram tour is the marker for John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front during World War I. However, each stop is not guaranteed and the route depends on whether Military Funerals are taking place in that area on the day. The tram tour did not stop at this gravesite on this day and continued to the Amphitheater and The Tomb of the Unkown Soldier.
While the Cemetary is open, The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier occurs on the hour, every hour. We arrived just as a Changing of the Guard was about to take place so we watched the ceremony at Arlington’s most iconic memorial. Since 1937, the Tomb has been guarded by Soldiers from Fort Myer 24/7, with the Changing of the Guard happening every 2 hours when the cemetery is closed. The Soldiers guard the final resting place of unknowns from WWI, WWII, and the Korean War.
After the Changing of the Guard, we walked around the Memorial Amphitheater, which celebrated its centenary in 2020. Up to 5,000 visitors attend this hallowed space for major annual memorial services.
Our final stop was Arlington House. We arrived at the house just before 4 pm and were told by the guide that the House closes daily at 4 pm. We were the only ones to get off the tram at this stop but we knew what sights were waiting for us! The house was still open and the volunteer let us quickly walk through the house while he continued his close-down duties. The house was constructed in 1908 and is the first national memorial to George Washington, featuring panoramic views of Washington City below. From Arlington House, you can see the D.C skyline including the Arlington Memorial Bridge, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol building.
When we returned to the visitors center, the Tram guides handed out poppies to wear as a symbol of those lost in the wars fought.
As planned, we got an Uber back to our hotel from the pick-up area outside the Visitors Center. It was only 5 pm when we got back to our hotel but we still hadn’t eaten all day. Whilst I showered, Steve searched online for somewhere to eat.
Immigrant Food at the White House was showing a Happy Hour for street food. Tempted by the offering of something spicier and more exotic than the usual American cuisine, we headed down to the restaurant. Ironically, it was just across the street from where we had picked up our morning Starbucks all those hours before!
We ordered a pitcher of Pineapple Mimosa with Taj Mahal Sliders, Mini Gyros, and a side of Truffle fries to eat. The food was delicious! We were so hungry we also ordered Macarons for dessert. After an enjoyable, tasty, and reasonably priced meal we headed back to the hotel for our last night in Washinton D.C.
Walking Total – 17,853 Steps – 9 Miles
Today felt a lot more than only 9 miles! Some of these were really hard-fought miles in the burning heat. As most of the routes today were direct we think we clocked up fewer miles than the usual meandering we do at theme parks or in the City.