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Why? It is the most interesting of all the National Mall memorials, composed of a group of soldiers making their way through Korean rice paddies. See it on a cloudy day or at night for the best effect. Easily the “local” favorite of all the monuments.
How? It’s on the very west end of the Mall, next to the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials. A long, but nice walk from the Smithsonian metro, and tour bus accessiable. Open 24 hours.
ONLINE: The Korean War Memorial
PHOTOS: ‘koreanwarmemorial’ on Flickr
Why? It’s one of the newest monuments, and is easily the greatest departure from the rest because it is a little more interactive than the more somber downtown monuments. in its layout. It occupies over seven acres, with dozens of statues and waterfalls.
How? It’s a little remote, being on the west side of the Tidal Basin (ie. the far side if you are standing on the Mall) in between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials. There is plenty of parking, a longer (but nicer) walk if you are up for it, and tour bus accessiable. Open 24 hours.
PHOTOS: ‘fdrmemorial’ on Flickr
Why? Easily the best view of the city, and a nice short cut to see a lot (as in ALL) of the city in a short period of time. There is an elevator to the top — since the renovation, you aren’t allowed to take the 896 stairs — and they give you a great overview of the monument on the way up.
How? It’s hard to miss, so I will spare you the directions. Timed-entry tickets are required, but they are free and can be obtained for same day visits from the kiosk at the bottom of the monument’s hill. Tickets run out early in the summer, but you should be fine on off-peak weekends. Open 9 am to 4:45 pm.
ONLINE: Washington Monument
PHOTOS: ‘washingtonmonument’ on Flickr
Why? Normally, the National Air and Space Museum wouldn’t make our personal top 10 — been there 10,439 times — but the National Museum of American History is closed and the Smithsonian has relocated their “Treasures” collection here (think “Ruby Slippers”). Across the Mall is the National Museum of Natural History, which was magnificantly redone in the last 5 years, with the addition of a brand new IMAX theater (which makes a great break in a day of touring). You also have the Castle (houses special exhibitions) and the National Gallery of Art (best gallery outside of the Met in New York City).
How? The whole DC transportation system is geared to get you to these places. Take the metro (Smithsonian), drive or take any of the tour bus operators’ offerings. Most are open 10 am to 5pm, everyday.
ONLINE: The Smithsonian Institute
PHOTOS: ‘smithsonian’ on Flickr
Why? This is a great place to visit, rain or shine. It is a giant greenhouse, with some of the most exotic plants you will ever see. There is a brand new external garden next door as well, and a rotation of new and permanent exhibits inside the conservatory.
How? It’s on the east end of the Mall, between the Capitol and the Smithsonian museums. Smithsonian Metro, although Union Station will work in a pinch. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
ONLINE: U.S. Botanic Garden
PHOTOS: ‘usbotanicgarden’ on Flickr
Why? Always with a global flavor, you can view changing and permanent exhibitions on a variety of scientific, geographic, and cultural themes. Check to see if they have something for you on their website.
How? Located on 17th between L and M, this is about three blocks from the wedding hotel. Open Monday thru Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ONLINE: National Geographic Museum
Why? Absolutely beloved by locals, Eastern Market is the last traditional city market in DC. The main building recently burned down, but it relocated just across the street while being restored. There are several “sub-markets” including a flea market, farmers market and arts-and-crafts market every weekend.
How? Located on the opposite side of the Capitol, the market has its very own metro station (cryptically named “Eastern Market”). The flea market is open Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; farmers market Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; arts-and-crafts market Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
ONLINE: Eastern Market
PHOTOS: ‘easternmarket’ on Flickr
Why? The reading room is one of the most spectacular inside spaces in DC, and their collection is easily holds its own with the Smithsonian. The Library of Congress also offers book talks, gallery talks, poetry readings, lectures, and vintage movies that are open to the public.
How? To get the most out, you should do a tour, which is available Monday thru Friday at 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 and Saturday at 10:30, 11:30, 1:30 and 2:30. Visitors should arrive 15 minutes early for a security check. Capitol South is closest, though Union Station will again work in a pinch.
ONLINE: Library of Congress
PHOTOS: ‘libraryofcongress’ on Flickr
Why? On the other side of the Potomac from DC, there is something for everyone from the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to JFK’s eternal flame. The cemetary is huge, so plan on walking… quite a bit.
How? There is a metro station at the base of the grounds. The guard changes every hour on the hour from October 1 through March 14, and every half-hour from March 15 through September 30. The cemetery is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from October 1 to March 31, and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. from April 1 to September 30.
ONLINE: Arlington National Cemetary
Why? There is a DC beyond the Mall, and these guys will help you find it. Oddly enough, not all of DC is made out of marble and granite.
How? Check out their web site, as there are dozens of walking tours that you can take to get a much better flavor of the city.
ONLINE: Cultural Tourism DC
PHOTOS: ‘culturaltourismdc’ on Flickr