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Washington D.C.: See the Sights in the Heart of American Democracy

February 12, 2012

Washington D.C. is perhaps my second favorite place out of the U.S. cities I have visited so far. It’s clean, soaked in American history, and perfect for a budget traveler thanks to the numerous free or very inexpensive sightseeing options. Here is what I love to do when I go down to the Capital City.

1. Take a stroll along the National Mall.

Most of you watched the famous scene from Forrest Gump, when Robin Wright’s character throws elbows and makes her way through the crowd of pacifist hippies to meet Forrest halfway in the reflecting pool. Among my favorite movies of all time, I have always wanted to reenact this particular scene one day. Although I didn’t get to jump into the pool, I finally made my way to the National Mall, which is especially gorgeous in spring when the cherry blossom trees burst out in colors during the blooming season and their aroma floods the nearby streets.

Be sure to say ‘hi’ to President Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. There is some kind of powerful energy you sense when you stand at the top of the stairs gazing out over the reflecting pool at the Capitol located on the other end of the mall, and the view is impressively stunning.

2. Check out the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art.

If you’re into museums, allot at least a day to peek into the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art. The best reason to do so is that they are free of charge. Located on both sides of the National Mall, these history depositories cater to both kids and adults. Check out the dinosaurs from Night at the Museum in the Natural History Museum, take a look at the impressive Soviet and American missiles in the Air and Space Museum, or learn about this county’s past in the American History Museum. With more than a dozen of them, you’ll be sure to have a fulfilling day.

One of my favorite museums is the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is also located next to the National Mall. Although not part of the Smithsonian, this microcosm of tragic history of many generations is worth paying tribute to.

3. Learn about the history of professional espionage at the International Spy Museum.

Photo by absentmindedprof

Introduce yourself to the romantic yet dangerous world of renowned spies. With an intriguing motto “Where Nothing Is What It Seems,” the International Spy Museum will give you a sneak peek into the history of world espionage. Exhibiting curious devices such as invincible ink pens, briefcases with hidden compartments carrying top secret documents, or glasses with concealed cameras, this place is reminiscent of James Bond’s secret lab and will captivate your imagination just as much.

4. Catch a game at the Verizon Center.

Washington D.C. is notorious for its hardcore sports fans, so if you want to be part of it and experience the crazy energy at the heated games along with the passionate D.C. fans, watch a game at the recently renovated Verizon Center, where the Wizards or Capitals will show you how to handle a ball or puck. Be sure to rock the red, white and blue once inside.

5. Dine out in Georgetown.

Georgetown is one of the prettiest areas in D.C. Its main street is swamped with shops, restaurants, bars and coffee houses. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to visit the famous DC Cupcakes for a decadent indulgence in out-of-this-world flavors. The street is especially bedazzling when it’s lit up at night. With its gingerbread-like brownstones and old-fashioned street lamps, it reminds me of old European charm, which I am quite partial to.

6. Explore beautiful Old Town Alexandria.

This place is my absolute favorite! Located just outside of D.C., Alexandria is a fairly big city, but the most worthwhile site there is its Old Town quarter. Stretching from the scenic waterfront to the imposing Masonic Temple, Old Town’s King Street features numerous exquisite restaurants, trendy bars and classy boutiques. I’ve dined out there many times, and being biased toward ethnic food, I give my preferences to Taverna Cretekou, a real-deal Greek restaurant with a cozy fireplace and a rustic interior, and La Tasca, an authentic tapas restaurant that wins you over with its delicious Spanish food, bottomless Sangrias, live performances, and a to-die-for dessert — Tres Leches — light and fluffy cake soaked in three different kinds of milk: whole, condensed and evaporated.

7. Take a tour of the Capitol.

Pay a visit to the heart of democracy by touring the Capitol building. Its impressive architecture and grandiose dome will certainly make you feel special. Learn about the American legislative history absolutely free of charge. Note that you cannot bring in any large backpacks or luggage, and being rambunctious is extremely frowned upon.

8. Strike a presidential pose in front of the White House

The closest you can get to the President of the United States is the fence surrounding the White House. So stay there, take some pictures and perhaps you’ll be lucky to get a glimpse of Obama working hard in his Oval Office.

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