Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Washington D.C./Gettysburg, PA

Washington, D.C.

We were down on a Saturday during Labor Day. I was very excited because 1) Dan Brown - The Lost Symbol, 2) National Treasure movies, 3) Bones the TV show, 4) Forrest Gump, and 5) I've never been!

US Capitol Building
There is so much to do down there that it could easily fill a week. Almost everything is FREE. So aside from transportation and food costs, there is very little to spend extra money on.

Bring minimal stuff, there can be lots of security stops (depending on where you are going) and this will speed the process up.

Wear comfy shoes!!

Transportation: We parked and took the train into DC, Union Station. This was the same/more expensive then driving in, but we are not familiar with the area so we weren't sure about parking. We also didn't know if there would be lots of traffic or if it would be difficult to drive around. The train worked well and also was easy to maneuver for getting back from a different area of DC.

US Capitol - Arrive early as well to reduce the security line, we arrived around 8:40. We were only there for about 40 minutes (including the security) because we didn't take the tour. I'd recommend getting the free tickets for the tour (we decided not to get them since this was our first stop and were unsure of how long the rest of the day would be). With the tour tickets you can see the Rotunda and the National Statuary Hall, and a short intro video.

Library of Congress - It was connected to the US Capitol building so no extra security lines. We spent probably an hour here. You can see the oldest bibles, photo galleries, the room where everyone can study, the statues and decor of the building, and other temp exhibits. We saw the Books that Shaped America, Exploring the Early Americas, Japanese Cherry Blossoms, and a few others. If you do the tour it is commentary on the area/building and other facts. If you are pressed for time and want to poke around on your own, you can still get to all the areas.

Botanic Gardens - There are no lines/security for the gardens. We were there for about 45 minutes to an hour. I was expecting it to be more of a manicured garden and decorated like that. Instead it is a few indoor greenhouses such as desert plants, orchids, food plants, tropical plants, rare/going extinct plants etc. Lots to look at! There is a little garden for walking around outside as well. The special exhibit, Savage Gardens: The Real and Imaginary World of Carnivorous Plants, that wasn't what I was expecting. There was a little information and a person on hand to ask questions, but it wasn't a huge scientific display that I had imagined. Very pretty and has some nice sitting areas to take a break from all the walking so far.

Dire Wolves - less intelligent than real wolves... Game of Thrones lied!
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - Short 5 minute line to get into the building/through security. We spent about 40 minutes here. Not quite our thing. Lots of exhibits and information from the beginning of the technological changes. You can walk through a space shuttle, see the astronauts space gear, look at how planes fly, etc. Great hands on exhibits for kids. There is also a Planetarium and an IMAX theater if you wanted to buy tickets for it.

Smithsonian Natural History Museum - We really liked this one. Again no line/quick security & bag check. We were here about 3 hours and went fairly quickly. Fossil exhibits, we saw one on Forensic Anthropology, evolution of humans, ocean/earth development exhibits, gem stones, and many other exhibits.

Jefferson Memorial
National Mall - The last stop on our whirlwind of a day. This was about 2 hours, 3 miles. This is the walk for many of the monuments in DC. I thought the Roosevelt one was really well done. We concluded our tour with walking past the White House.

Food - The important part of the trip! Breakfast was Au Bon Pain at Union Station. Lunch was Quiznos between the Smithsonian museums. Dinner was Chop't Salad. The first two were... alright. There weren't many options for food lunch places. Now this salad place? Great discovery. It has fancy salads mixtures that are to be eaten as a salad or in a wrap.

Gettysburg, PA
This was a short and uneventful trip. We did the auto road which drives around the battle field. You can take a tour, have a tour guide, drive around, or get an tour CD which can play as you drive yourself. I wish we had purchased the CD.

There are several stops with many memorials and informational stands so you can get out and walk around the areas. 

You can get tickets for the tour or purchase the CD at the visitor center. The visitor center also contains a museum and a small exhibit. For a small fee you can go into the museum and see the film about the history of the Battle of Gettysburg.

There is also the National Cemetery which is a walking tour.

We found a great place to eat! Flats is a small restaurant that has sandwiches, pizzas, quesadillas, and so forth on flat breads. Then we went to the Cannonball Malt Shop which is has Turkey Hill (aka not small homemade) ice cream, but it was a nice treat.

Happy Travels!

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