A day in Washington, DC, is always an adventure. On a recent trip to Baltimore, Maryland for a long weekend with friends, we decided to head down to DC for a day of sightseeing. The usual DC hustle was oddly quiet on this Friday, but there were still tourists aplenty.
Penn Station to Union Station
This is the iconic train station in Baltimore. It’s not a large station but does see a large contingent of daily commuters heading to work in the Nation’s Capitol. The hour-long ride, which ends at Union Station in DC, is an economical way to reach the city whether for work or a day of sightseeing. The one-way cost is $8.00 and there are many trains each day. If you want to ride the Metro to tour DC, it is easily accessible at Union Station. Do try and avoid rush hours because the train can be crowded and seating can be difficult to find.
DC can be an expensive place to stay, especially during peak travel season Baltimore may offer some more reasonably priced accommodations. With the easy commute to DC, the train may be a way to save on both parking fees and traffic.
The DC Circulator
The DC Circulator is the best keep secret in Washington. The bus is free and serves three different routes around the city. The Red Line will take you throughout the National Mall and to Union Station. The bus is a welcome respite from the Washington heat and for tired feet. The drivers are helpful and will let you know where the best stop is for which site you are trying to reach. We jumped on the bus just outside Union Station. You can skip the Metro and ride the Circulator and see more of the beauty of our Nation’s Capitol.
Memorials on National Mall
Everyone knows about the numerous memorials located on the National Mall. With only a good part of the day to spend, we decided to see five of the Memorials on the Mall.
We began with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Our only President to serve four terms is honored in multiple tableaus that cover each of his four-year terms, 1936-1945. Roosevelt died in April 1945 before the end of World War II. Want to learn more about FDR? Read my post on his Presidential Libary.
A short walk from FDR is the Martin Luther King’s Memorial. The enormous granite freeze of King looking over the Potomac Basin is a testament to the man who helped push civil rights to the forefront of the nation’s conscience. Texts from many of his enduring speeches surround the memorial.
Hopping back aboard the Circulator and took the short ride to the Lincoln Memorial. The ironic memorial was teeming with visitors on this hot August morning. The reflecting pool gleamed in the full sun as people enjoyed a pleasant Friday morning.
The Korean War Memorial sits just beside the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and you can walk amongst the Soldiers on patrol through a Korean field.
The black granite of the Vietnam Wall where names of the fallen are etched is located just across the reflecting pool from the Korean War memorial. One of the most visited sites in the capital it is a sobering reminder of the loss of a generation to war.
There are numerous memorials to see along the National Mall, and each is worth a visit.
After a morning of walking, we boarded the Circulator and headed to the National Gallery of Art for lunch. We walked past the food trucks on 7th St. NW but decided it would be nice to cool off for lunch. The Cascade Café, located on the bottom floor of the National Gallery of Art, is where you can find an affordable indoor lunch. The cafeteria offers a wide selection of reasonably priced foods. You can also do some shopping at the adjacent gift shop.
Our final stop of the day was the newly reopened Spy Museum. I had visited the museum a few years ago and had been somewhat disappointed by the exhibits. Now, the museum has relocated and has been completely redone.
The state of the art museum now houses the collection of thousands of spycraft items of H. Keith Milton. The museum building is massive at one forty thousand square feet of space covering eight floors. The exhibits are informative, surprising, intriguing, and some controversial. It certainly did not disappoint.
With tickets scanned, we were whisked to the fourth floor and entered the briefing gallery where you begin your ‘mission.’ We were each assigned a cover identity and code word. The real test is to remember your code word. While I think this may be a bit more suited to children, many adults are interested in locating clues found throughout the museum.
A short film gives us a history lesson of the clandestine services as told by individuals who served their country in the arena. In the main exhibit area, you will learn about Stealing Secrets and will see many of the tools of spycraft.
The Briefing Room Theater provides in-depth stories of actual real-life spy stories told by real operatives. You can imagine some of the information can be a bit gruesome.
After learning about the art of code breaking, we continued to the fifth floor to learn about how spying shaped history and how the cyber world is creating new and different challenges in spycraft. Moving on toward the uncertain world, we learned about the cold war, interrogation, and turncoats.
The exhibits throughout the museum explore the spy game in depth. The videos throughout are both educational and surprising. From the early days of spying to present-day spymasters are all documented here.
There are numerous rooms, exhibits, and video presentations to explore. You definitely will want to have ample time to explore this sizable museum.
After a long day of sightseeing, we grabbed a cab back to Union Station to catch the train back to Baltimore. As people left their offices, the train was much more crowded on a Friday afternoon, but we did manage to locate seats. It had a fun day of adventuring in DC, but there is constant about DC, there is always more to discover.