Culture

Three Reasons Washington, DC Is Way Cooler To Visit Than You Think

I have a confession to make. For the longest time, I assumed Washington, DC was a boring place. I pictured it as a bigger version of Canberra. And the mention of that city evokes images of a 12-year-old me visiting Parliament House for the first time, all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sorry, Canberra. I hear you’ve become really cool since my primary school visit, but this will forever be the memory I associate you with.

Anyway, long story, short: I knew there were important monuments in the city, but compared to the likes of New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, I just wasn’t particularly interested in the nation’s capital.

I couldn’t have been more misguided in my assumption.

After reading a bunch of articles and hearing friends rave about the city, I figured I should give it a go. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was genuinely surprised by how much I loved it. If you also think Washington DC might not be for you, allow me to offer some points (other than the fact that it’s the place where Forrest reunited with Jenny) that might convince you otherwise.

Here are three reasons Washington, DC is a seriously cool city:

#1 Washington DC is seriously beautiful

Even the most apolitical traveller has to admit Washington is an objectively beautiful city. The architecture is striking – almost like you’ve stepped into an ancient European city. The streets are wide and unbelievably clean. And there’s no shortage of green spaces.

Roaming and taking in the sites promises dropped jaws, on a few occasions. If you want my recommendation, however, I’d suggest checking out the major monuments by night.

I was lucky enough to experience Washington for the first time while on a Topdeck trip, and the illuminated tour our trip leader Mike and driver Shane took us on was one of the most memorable parts.

Not only were we given an in-depth rundown of each of the monuments – courtesy of Mike – we were able to explore without contending with huge crowds. And there was something moving about seeing the likes of Capitol Hill and the Lincoln Memorial lit up after dark. I’d go so far as saying it was a little bit romantic, even.

Where:

  • Capitol Hill: 1st St SE & E Capitol St, Capitol Hill
  • Lincoln Memorial: 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW

#2 There’s a museum for everyone:

 

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Art aficionado? Check out the National Gallery of Art. The gallery houses the likes of Claude Monet, Roy Lichtenstein and Vincent van Gogh. And it’s free.

Science nerd? You’ve got the National Air and Space Museum, which exhibits everything from the world’s first successful aeroplane to moon rocks, and it’s also free. Yay!

History buff? Okay, you might be here a while. But top of the list would have to be the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Newseum.

The NMAAHC is the newest museum in the Smithsonian Institution, exploring the history, culture and experience of African American people. Admission is (you guessed it!) free, although timed passes are sometimes required due to popularity.

The Newseum is an interactive museum centred on the importance, and impact, of the free press across history. Tickets for adults are US$24.95 (AU$36).

Not sure what you want to see? Go for something like The International Spy Museum. Here you’ll be assigned a spy cover and mission to complete while learning about some of the craziest spy stories in history. Tickets are US$24.95 (AU$36) for adults.

Where:

  • National Gallery of Art, Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC
  • National Air and Space Museum Independence Ave at 6th St, SW Washington, DC
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, 1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC
  • Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC
  • International Spy Museum, 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington, DC

#3 The bar scene is impressive:

 

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The thing that surprised me most about Washington, DC was the nightlife. We rolled into a sports bar on a Monday night and found it absolutely teeming with university students.

I have never seen a bar so packed on a weeknight.

I don’t know if it’s just the student presence, or if it’s that the people working in government need a stiff drink occasionally… But Washington certainly delivers when it comes to bars.

From beer halls stocked with giant board games to Instagrammable pop-up bars, the USA’s capital knows its way around a night out. So, rest assured! You’re not going to be stuck indoors, reading about Abe Lincoln of an evening… unless you want to, of course.

Where:

  • Franklin Hall: 1348 Florida Ave NW, Washington
  • The Lemon Grove: 1843 7th Street NW, Washington

(The writer visited Washington DC with the assistance of Topdeck, on a Sunshine States itinerary.)