Journey with Kileen: Having been a Tour Manager for the last fourteen years and being in thirty-five to forty states a year, there are not too many places I haven't visited in the U.S. I love traveling and meeting so many wonderful people from all over. The purpose of this column is to share with you some of my favorite places and different means of travel whether you go by car, boat, train or motorcoach (bus).
VACATION DESTINATION WASHINGTON, DC
It's almost Cherry Blossom time, although with all this warm weather, it is sure to be early this year. I thought a look at Washington, DC might be in order.
Some people go on vacation to relax and others want to see as much as possible that an area has to offer. No vacation destination would be complete without discussing Washington DC, the seat of our government and historic heritage.
Depending on how long you visit, prepare not to sleep much. There is so much to see and do in the city and almost everything is free. If you are not on a tour bus then take the hop on & off trolley. It is too far to walk to the different sites and parking and driving in the city can be a nightmare. You can hop on & off the trolley all day or evening or get a 2 or 3 day pass. The trolley even takes you over to Arlington National Cemetery. And, you can drive to Mount Vernon to see "George and Martha's" place or take a boat that you can catch right downtown on the Potomoc.
First up the Monuments... Air Force & Iwo Jima are in Arlington, VA, as well as the Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington is just a ride across the bridge from DC. I wouldn't bother with a car in DC. Parking is hard to find and streets are a little complicated since all the roads go around the Capitol like spokes in a wheel. There is a great subway system, very easy to use, that can take you everywhere you need to go.
On the DC side you want to visit WWII, FDR, Lincoln, Korean, Vietnam, Jefferson & the new Martin Luther King. Each one is awesome in its own right and you have to walk in to see them for the most part - you can not see them from the streets. If you start at WWII, you can proceed to MLK and FDR (one of my favorites with four different sections for each term of his presidency). Jefferson is right after you come over the bridge from Arlington.
Then it's on to Lincoln where 3 are grouped together. First check out the Korean ( & definitely put this on your evening list because it's awesome and different looking both night and day), then Lincoln and finally Vietnam. If you are on the trolley, you can drop off at Lincoln and then pick it up over on the Vietnam side when you finish that monument or viceaversa.
What is the National Mall? It has nothing to do with shopping. It is a 2 mile grassy piece of land. If you start at the US Capitol ( & don't forget the new VC Ð visitor center - which includes a tour of the Capitol ) and continue to the Washington Monument (Note: the Monument has been closed temporarily due to the 2011 earthquake) there is a big grassy park with buildings on both sides of the grass.
These buildings are part of the Smithsonian. You definitely want to go in the Native American building and next door is Air & Space Museum. On the other side of the grassy park is the National Art Gallery (the National Portrait Gallery is a few blocks away but definitely worth the trip), Natural History (including the gem collection) and finally American History. There is so much to see in the American History building but two highlights are the Betsy Ross flag and the First Ladies' gowns. On the opposite side of the Natural History (on Constitution Street) is the National Archives. There you will find the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta - this building figured prominently in the movie "National Treasure" with Nicholas Cage.
If you are not totally worn out and still have time left, there are still sites to see. The Kennedy Art Center is beautiful and Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was shot has recently been renovated. A drive through Embassy Row over to Georgetown is also nice. Close to Embassy Row is the National Cathedral (which also was recently renovated) and the Catholic Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is excellent, no matter what your religion. The Basilica is a work of art with separate chapels dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in many different forms from around the world and each one is done in mosaic tile that is incredible. There is an upper and lower church and Bob Hope sponsored one of the chapels in the lower part of the church.
Whew... did you get all that? After your trip to DC you will need a vacation from your vacation!
For the next few weeks I will be discussing some top vacation spots for you to consider. If you have any ideas that you would like me to include, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can be places, like national parks, or cities, or special attractions.
Editor's Note: To read more in depth about this area, check out Kileen's book "Journey Beckons". You can order through her website: www.kileenprather.com or at Amazon either in book format or the Kindle edition. Her latest, "Journey To Port" now also on Kindle.