Travel: Washington DC, USA Highlights!


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Ah, that iconic spotless white dome. The crowning glory of the temple of Democracy. I loved DC for its neoclassical monuments and divine architecture. And as a former Political Science major, this really made my inner history nerd smile. It cradles the heart of political America and I loved it because it was a great reprieve from the rush and bustle of New York City. There was so much to know and see, and we spent an amazing 5 days just taking the time to savour what this charming city had to offer. And here are some of our favourite spots!

Capitol Hill

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The home of the United States Congress gleams a blinding white from afar. It forms the origin point of all the numbered streets in DC. It houses lush, high-ceilinged rooms labelled ‘S’ and ‘N’ for the Senate and the House, as well as galleries, underground tunnels and a private subway that connects the main Capitol building with each of the Congressional buildings in the surrounding complex.

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The tours were very informative, and filled with fascinating facts and historical anecdotes of all the past Presidents. And it was also quite an experience to stand in rooms where so much history was being made.

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I particularly loved the furnishings, sculptures and busts donated by each state, the ornate, painted ceilings and just how small it made you feel. Every ornament told a story, there were secrets in the walls.

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I could get lost in the sheer gravity and grandeur of the place.

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And the tours are absolutely free! You learn so much and soak in an incredible amount of beauty. This was definitely my favourite landmark in DC.

Lincoln Memorial

We did a walking tour of all the memorials on a different day. It was freezing out, almost dipping below zero degrees at some point, but I really enjoyed that poignant afternoon. We walked in the footsteps of greatness, and revisiting painful moments in the history of not just the American people, but of the world.

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I liked the Lincoln Memorial the most. It was elegant, peaceful and put one in a reflective mood. It was constructed in the likeness of a Greek Doric temple. Grand but not grandiose, spectacular but not overwhelming.

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It looked beautiful from any vantage point. It was also wonderful to stand at this very spot, and imagine what Martin Luther King saw the day he made his iconic speech and first uttered the immortal words…

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Washington Memorial

The world’s tallest obelisk was built to honour America’s first President, and is probably the most visible structure in DC from afar. You can’t miss the stiff, cold tower of marble and granite rising in solitude out of the ground.

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It’s almost 170 metres tall, but the elevator doesn’t work. It’s a mammoth structure that I felt sadly was devoid of soul. Brick over brick of blue stone Gneiss.

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Still, it was interesting that the tower is of a different colour right around halfway up. They ran out of funds to build it somewhere in the 1850s, and left it half-completed and unsightly for at least another 20 years. This was a result of much blood, sweat and lots of tax payers’ money. But in the sunset, it had its quiet beauty.

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The White House

And of course, how could we miss out paying the Obamas a visit? They say if you spot three black helicopters, it means the President’s come home. We spotted two. Haha.

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Strangely enough, the White House always seemed so much more regal and well, huge, in my mind. It was quite interesting to find it looking so normal and fenced up. Needless to say, it being heavily guarded meant these were the best shots we could get.

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The sunset that day was beautiful. And we admired the National Christmas Tree just across from the White House with the chill of winter in the air.

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Korean War Memorial

I love history. I am a firm believer that those who don’t understand the past are doomed to repeat it. And so I absorb as much as I possibly can to do my civic duty as a citizen of the world to stay vigilant against war and violence.

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These sobering monuments made me feel a deep sadness. Seeing the names of the war dead inscribed on smooth black marble. Rich, human lives reduced to a mere statistic. My heart went out to the families.

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National World War II Memorial

Dedications, cards and old photos left behind. Fathers, sons, brothers, friends all needlessly lost. How incredibly heartbreaking.

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It was a memorable, thought-provoking afternoon.

National Gallery of Art

Moving on to some art. While New York boasts the motherlode of iconic art pieces in the US, DC does not fall too far behind.

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Apart from the gorgeous marble halls, fountains, and cherubs frolicking among pastel pink poinsettias, we discovered some gems by Van Gogh and Monet here too.

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I was completely captivated by this Monet. There’s just something about him that speaks to me.

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We also popped by the National Air and Space Museum, but it looked pretty dated (like our Singapore Science Centre, yikes). So we gave most of the exhibits a miss and had some McDonald’s before our final stop. These museums are all within 10-15 minutes away from each other on foot, so it’ll be easy to cover them all in a day or so.

Newseum

Whether you’re a news junkie or not, the Newseum might just be more fun than you think. Whether it’s coming face-to-face and touching an actual chunk of the Berlin Wall..

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or poring through old newspaper clippings of iconic events in history, there’s definitely something that will intrigue you or leave you curious to know more.

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There are also many interactive elements like production booths, and you could even try your hand at doing a ‘live’ news report and reading off a teleprompter and have it broadcast on a screen. Pretty cool stuff. It gives a rare peek into what goes on behind-the-scenes in a newsroom whether its a paper, over the Radio or on TV.

You could even play with a real set-up of TV election coverage and participate in interesting polls.

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We were also lucky that day to share in a special moment for 5-year-old Kaheem who has Leukaemia.

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His biggest wish in life is to be able to save the whole city. And how beautiful that hundreds of people including local firemen, the FOX News team, museum staff and countless members of the public came together to make it happen for him.

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What a champ! And how amazing that even in his own suffering, all he wants to do is save others. This boy really stole my heart.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

And finally, what is a museum run without ogling dinosaurs? The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is not as spectacular as the one in New York, but it definitely had more heart.

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Volunteers like Leila here conducted live show-and-tells with tarantulas! Feeding them and teaching adults and children alike about all the common misconceptions we have about them.

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There were also Paleontologists working on fossils of giant dinosaur bones and micro fossils. Fascinating stuff.

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We also caught a glimpse of the infamous Hope Diamond which is housed there in the Gem Museum among a staggering display of minerals and gemstones. We were floored at the sheer size and magnitude of the collection.

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Attractions aside, DC had a great balance of all the cosmopolitan comforts of a big city, with the old world charm of an almost European style of living. There are beautiful churches with stained glass windows, quaint but luxurious houses lining the streets, and then there were the vibrant bars and restaurants at Dupont Circle.

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There were also the festive pop-up christmas markets, world-class restaurants, late-night supper joints and all that wonderful architecture! Sean and I agreed DC was totally a place we could see ourselves living in.

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If ever in the States, take a couple days and stop by DC. You can’t say you’ve been to America until you’ve soaked up all its history and come right to the heart of its cherished values of equality, freedom and democracy. Did we miss anything? Share your experiences with me!

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