Maybe it's the influence of having gone more places this summer than we usually do, but I have been thinking about the top ten places I would take a visitor to the area. (My definition of the D.C. area is rather far-ranging, as you will see.) We used top ten lists for Paris and Heidelberg when we were there since we had limited time. We don't have the opportunity to show people around generally since anyone who visits from out of town has lived around here before. Anyhow, to the list:
1. The U.S Capitol. I haven't been to the new visitors' center yet, but I think seeing this iconic structure should be high on anyone's list. We'll disregard the present sorry state of government and recognize the world's greatest legislative body.
2. The White House. So much history here in the People's House. Sure, you have to go through your congressperson to arrange a tour, but it's worth the trouble.
3. The various Smithsonian Museums and Galleries. I know, I'm fudging by including a bunch of museums under one category. My favorite is the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. An amazing collection, even for people who don't care for things aerospatial. And they're all free...or at least paid for by tax dollars. Now, you do have to pay to park at Udvar-Hazy. Load your car up with a bunch of friends and split the cost.
4. Arlington Cemetery. A beautiful and solemn place. The Tomb of the Unknowns and the changing of the guard are essentials. Also, JFK's grave and the eternal flame.
5. Colonial Williamsburg. A bit far afield, I know, but absolutely unique as a restoration of a seventeenth-century city. Warning: swarmed by hordes of middle schoolers during the school year.
6. Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Almost heaven. (I know, most people, including the state of West Virginia, think the song is about West Virginia. The lyrics read, "Almost heaven, west Virginia..." but Bill Danoff, one of the lyricists, said the song is about the western part of Virginia. We can also sing "Shenandoah," which should be the state song although it was originally a sea chantey.) Ineffably beautiful, especially with the colors in the fall.
7. Library of Congress. Nothing like it in the world. Go see it.
8. Mount Vernon. Terrific new visitors' center with museums, displays and videos, including snow falling from the ceiling during a segment on Valley Forge. Thank you, Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, for preserving this important estate. While you're there, have a meal at the Mount Vernon Inn located on the property. They don't take reservations for lunch, so be prepared to wait, but they do for dinner.
9. A Potomac Cruise. There are a number available and it's a great way to have a different perspective on the city. Some include meals.
10. Gravelly Point in Virginia. Here you can park and watch the airplanes take off and land from National Airport. An odd choice, but a unique one, I think.
There you have it! I left out a number of great sites, and I'd be interested in what you would add to this list. Come on down!