The nation’s capital is much more than just big buildings and big debates. Within the “Beltway” lies a city rich with food, music and ... bad driving.
Colleen McCarthy and Christine Kraly
They’re sold as pop-up guides and “how-to” diaries, but visitors’ maps to Washington, D.C., don’t truly capture everything that makes the city great. A fruitful journey through the city should include more than just a stop at the White House and a few Lincoln Memorial photo ops.
Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students spend semesters in Washington (known as the “Beltway”) and learn as much about its sights and sounds as they do about tailgating and the Victory March. Here, students share their tips on a larger campus, the hub of the United States.
Sure, there are the politicians and the Congressional meetings — and, of course, the interns — but the city is most enjoyable at times when no tourists are in sight.
The monuments are beautiful — striking symbols of a rich political and social history; but they’re best when visited at night. Seeing the Washington Monument and Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are a must, and a plus when they’re lit. Little compares to standing at one end of the Mall (a grassy expanse that runs from the Capitol, past the Smithsonian Museums and is home to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial) and seeing the outline of the city’s greatest architectural symbols it up against the night sky.
Probably the greatest aspect of Washington is that most of the city is free enjoyment. Years of art, history and technology at the Smithsonian Museums are within the public’s reach and cost nothing to appreciate. History lovers should stick to the Museum of American History and the Holocaust Museum, while art fans should visit the National Gallery of Art, which holds original pieces by Monet and the country’s only Leonardo da Vinci.
Supreme Court sessions can be a great way to see behind-the-scenes legal action. The highest court in the land deals with serious issues every day. Just because it’s not a Big Tobacco argument doesn’t mean it’s not important. Class and group visits are available to check out the men and women who rule the gavel.
Some of the best journalism in the world comes out of Washington, where everyone’s got something to say and, guaranteed, they say it. The Washington Post and The Times are popular, but for great information on what’s going on in the city, The City Paper is a must. Interesting stories on the city and tips on what to do around town make it an amazing resource for visitors and residents alike.
Unfortunately, some of the best places to eat, drink or even read never make it into fit-in-all-in-one-weekend best sellers. Popular restaurants, for example, can be very overpriced and crowded. Great food and atmosphere are found in many small, ethnic restaurants peppered throughout the city’s ethnic neighborhoods. They can be harder to find, but less touristy stops along the Metro, the city’s popular subway system, can reward the tastebuds with one-of-a-kind cuisines.
Although the city is a mecca for political movers and shakers, there’s more to D.C. life than who’s up for re-election. Jazz and blues bands thrive in the city and most can be found in small, intimate bars and lounges. Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle put the hungry music-lover at ease with several restaurants and music venues to choose from.
Dupont Circle is also home to Kramerbooks, a bookstore and a cafe that’s usually crawling with single people and is said to have sparked numerous relationships. After finding love in the stacks, couples can find coffee and chocolate at Xando, a coffee bar where customers make s’mores right at the table.
D.C. is home to hundreds of special events, stemming from political rallies to annual marches. The Cherry Blossom Festival, for instance, takes the less political and more aesthetic route when the white cherry blossoms bloom in the springtime. The blooms line the Tidal Basin surrounding the Jefferson memorial and visitors can paddleboat around the monument.
For the camera-crazed, hundreds of spots in the city make for postcard-like moments. But those who make the trek to the top of the National Cathedral can get an amazing view not seen by most just hitting the usual hot spots.
Whether making it action-packed or relaxing and educational, the city has endless possibilities. And with enough patriotic gusto and sky-kissing buildings, Washington should have every visitor singing “America the Beautiful.”
as for special events in the fall, Halloween is a pretty big day. Georgetown is not to be missed at Halloween (people really go all out
up). Also on Halloween there are the “Drag Races” at Dupont Circle that
are famous and draw drag queens from all over the world. A lot of people
(even our age) go trick-or-treating to the Embassies on Embassy Row also.
All Scene Stories for Monday, September 4, 2000