The next morning we loaded up the car again and headed north. We drove over a bridge into Newport News (the name prompted me to do Bugs Bunny quotes, “Hocus-cadabra!” “Walla Walla, Washington!”), which brought us past historical locations such as Yorktown and Williamsburg. All places on the list for future visits. We arrived in Arlington around noon and checked into the awesomely retro Americana Hotel.
I discovered the Americana while looking for a place to stay in DC that was affordable. Hotels in DC proper were expensive this time of year, so I started looking in Arlington knowing that the Crystal City area had easy access to DC’s subway system. The Americana originally opened in 1963 as a small motel and grew to a 102 room fully functioning hotel over the years. It still has the 1960’s styling from its neon sign to the early 60’s style furnishing and décor in the lobby. They didn’t have the most modern rooms, but they were in great condition and very comfortable. We checked in and headed to the nearby subway stop. We were going to see how much of the Mall we would do with the rest of the day we had available to us.
We got out at the Smithsonian station and headed towards the tidal basin. We quickly realized it was far more hot and humid than expected. The heat was oppressive, but we were determined to slog on. We passed the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, took a photo of the Jefferson Memorial across the basin from us, then headed towards the memorial.
Our first stop was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial; a circular domed building that looks out over the tidal basin. Inside the rotunda, a tall bronze statue of Jefferson gazes out towards the water surrounded by his quotes along the walls. We drank some water and rested while reading some iconic words from the third president, the most notable were his words from the Declaration of Independence. We didn’t stay for long since we had a long way to go to get around the basin, and much more to see. We exited past the massive columns, down the steps and got back on the path to the next memorial.
Next was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It wasn’t until we had walked halfway through this impressive sculpture and water feature filled memorial that we realized we were going through it backward. Four sections celebrated Roosevelt’s four terms as president. Bronze sculptures and quotes take us on a journey through the 32nd president’s time in office that stretched from the Great Depression to WWII. Many of the things Roosevelt said touched KJ deeply, words of perseverance, hope, and unity. Much of what we were reading felt so relevant to even today’s political climate. She also loved the sculpture of his adorable Scottish terrier Fala.
The next memorial we reached was for Martin Luther King Jr. We came upon it from the side so we didn’t enter the way we should have, through the center. Just like the Roosevelt memorial, we realized this after we had walked around for a bit. The memorial consists of a long wall with a timeline of Dr. King’s speeches that has an opening in the center. The sculpture of Dr. King himself seems to have pulled out of the center of the long wall, an example of his words “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” We exited through the center of the timeline and headed to the Lincoln Memorial.
We first passed the World War II Memorial, an enormous fountain surrounded by pillars, as we began our walk along the reflecting pool. At the other end, we saw the Korean War Memorial off to our left and an installation of Korean War memorabilia at the other end of the reflecting pool. We stopped for some ice cream and water from a nearby cart then rested a bit while watching the water in the reflecting pool and watching the hordes of tourists ascend the steps.
We then headed up into the memorial itself. We all needed a restroom stop, so we entered a lower area that happened to have a museum. We walked through the Legacy of Lincoln exhibit before taking the tiny elevator upstairs. Viewing Lincoln’s statue is breathtaking. Just like the other memorials the statue is immense with the entire Gettysburg Address and the entire Second Inaugural Address on either side.
We headed through the tall columns, back down the marble stairs, and started our way back towards the National Mall on the opposite side of the reflecting pool. This path brought us past the Vietnam Memorial but not close enough to see it clearly. At the end of the reflecting pool, we were back at the World War II Memorial. The day was getting increasingly hot and humid, so we decided to take a break beside the large central fountain. It was just slightly cooler as we sat by the edge of the fountain. We resisted the urge to put our feet in even though everyone else was using it as a wading pool. We noticed the sign that asked people to respect the monument and not enter the fountain. The sign must have been too small, or the cooling waters of the fountain too much to resist since many people were ignoring the request to stay out of the water. If you find yourself at this memorial or any other public fountain, always make sure you’re allowed to enter.
We couldn’t sit for very long since we wanted to see a few more monuments before dinner. We headed north along 17th Street to the large green space in front of the White House known as the Ellipse. Once we reached the viewing area, we could see where the National Christmas tree stands during the holiday season. We waited for an opening along the black wrought iron gate as people for all around the world snapped pictures with the White House in the background. Eventually, we got a clear spot and snapped a photo of our own, both KJ and CT looking sweaty but smiling.
Since it was just a photo op moment, we didn’t stay long. We continued along the walkway and headed back towards the subway station that according to Google was near a sushi restaurant. Little did we know this would be quite the adventure.
The restaurant that I thought would be out in plain sight turned out to be underground. Once we finally got inside the building that my map assured me contained the sushi restaurant, we began our descent into what appeared to be an underground mall. Our sushi restaurant turned out to be a counter among other counters in a food court for the federal building we were in. Hey, it was cool and the food was tasty, so we weren’t going to complain. It was also near the Federal Triangle stop so once we finished eating it was an easy walk to the subway back to the hotel.
The kid’s take on the first half of our DC adventure:
KJ: Oh boy, Washington DC in August. Man.
CT: Oh yeah it was hot.
KJ: It was it was a nightmare
CT: The most significant thing that I remember was getting a SpongeBob popsicle, I don’t even know why I got one because I don’t like SpongeBob but it melted and broke and fell on the ground and I tried to get mom to get me a new one. I got over it, though.
KJ: I remember the Lincoln Memorial and the Roosevelt one, the entire Roosevelt one, it was all the Roosevelts.
DJ: That’s right; they had statues of Eleanor and their adorable Scotty dog.
CT: We also saw this wall dedicated to Martin Luther King. We saw his memorial.
Once we returned to the hotel, we took much-needed showers then collapsed on the beds to enjoy the air conditioning. We had to get some rest, the second half of our DC adventure continued tomorrow.