We explored this city for two weeks so I divided up the blog posts into two parts. See Part 1 here.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery in Arlington,Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Families come from all over the country to bury their loved ones at this historic cemetery.
This 600 acre cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, which had been the estate of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna Custis Lee (a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington). The Arlington House was closed for renovations.
We were so happy we decided to wear tennis shoes instead of dressing up because of all the walking we did. We thought about dressing up because there are funeral services Mon-Sat and we wanted to be respectful. I called and was assured that tennis shoes were ideal. The services are only until 3pm but the visitation hours are over at 5pm so we waited until Chris could take off a little early on Friday and headed over.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
The soldiers entombed there are: 1-Unknown Soldier of World War I, entombed November 11, 1921; 2-Unknown Soldier of World War II, interred May 30, 1958; 3- Unknown Soldier of the Korean War, also interred May 30, 1958;, 4-Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, interred May 28, 1984; The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, in 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had them reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. This Tomb will remain empty.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded since 1937, by the U.S. Army. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”) began guarding the Tomb in 1948. There is a meticulous routine that the guard follows when watching over the graves. He/she marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and finally takes 21 steps down the mat. He/she repeats the routine until they are relieved of duty at the changing of the guard. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed—the 21-gun salute.
This changing of the guard ceremony happens every hour in the winter (half hour in summer) and every two hours at night, regardless of weather conditions.
There is an exhibit inside the amphitheater that has explanations about the history and artifacts regarding this historic site.
JFK and the Eternal flame
President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, along with their son Patrick and their stillborn daughter Arabella are buried here and their site is marked by an eternal flame.
After visiting the Cemetery we headed over to The Pentagon 9/11 memorial. They are really close to one another. I am not sure about the parking situation. There are places for tour buses and employees but I couldn’t find public parking. It was after 6:00 pm so I parked in an employee spot and felt rushed to walk through the memorial. There has got to be a better place to park. There was a lot of construction so perhaps this is something that will be reserved.
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the tragic events that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. All 184 lives lost in the attack on the Pentagon are represented here where the plane crashed. The memorial is laid out in order of the ages of all the passengers and pentagon victims. Dana Falkenberg was the youngest (3 yrs old) and John Yamnicky Sr. was the oldest (71 yrs old). Did you know that there were 5 children on that flight that perished? Three of them were 11 yr old students that had won a trip to CA and were traveling with their teachers. The other two were sisters; Dana Falkenberg (3) and Zoe Falkenberg (8). The Falkenberg sisters were killed with their parents, Charles and Leslie. They were on their way to Australia via California for two months. The family had missed an earlier connecting flight and tragically boarded Flight 77 instead. They are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. We did not know this earlier when we were at the cemetery.
The benches, honoring victims on board Flight 77, face the direction of the plane’s approach to the Pentagon, while those with names of Pentagon victims, face the plane’s point of impact on the Pentagon’s south side. At a particular angle, the benches look like wings.
Mackenzie posed in front of the building she’d like to work at one day. This girl has a long list of careers she’d like to explore.
Along with requesting a Capitol tour from our state representative, I also requested a tour of the Pentagon (didn’t get), the Diplomatic reception rooms (had booked but got cancelled) and the White House. They granted us the tour of the East Wing of the White House on Saturday, March 16th at 11:00am.
There are few buildings as famous and recognizable as the White House in America. We did not get to visit the White House on our last trip here 5 years ago so we had to make it part of our American Adventure.
There are two main White House tours – tours of the East Wing or the West Wing. The East Wing is by far the most common White House tour and allows you access to where the President lives. By contrast, the West Wing tour is where the business happens, and includes the famous Oval Office. Because of the nature of the West Wing, tours are typically reserved for guests who are personally invited. We were lucky enough to get invited by the brother of a dear friend. But first I’ll talk about the East Wing Tour.
East Wing Tour
We dressed up and took the train into the city. You can’t bring anything into the White House, except an umbrella and/or a phone/camera. I left my purse at home because there aren’t any lockers around the White House. Even though we had a timed ticket (11am) and arrived early, we stood in the security line for an hour. I guess it was because it was a Saturday during Spring break. When you request these tours you don’t get to pick the day or times. White House Tours are only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30am-11:30am. The free tours are self guided and we were able to take pictures.
Once inside we were able to see the Rose Garden, The China room, State Dining room, the Green, Blue and Red Rooms. We could see Baron’s soccer goal in the rose garden.
Through the blue room we were able to see the south lawn’s fountain and it had been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. This tradition was started by Michelle Obama. President Trump is continuing the tradition and this year it coincides with the visit of Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
President Donald Trump and Varadkar had three joint appearances Thursday, the 14th, celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day early, to mark the close relationship between the two countries including an Oval Office and an East Room Shamrock ceremony.
On the other side of this door is the blue room. After the tour we took some pictures outside of the East wing and then walked around to get a picture of the whole house.
There were Venezuelan protestors on Pennsylvania Avenue, one group wanting our help and another group not wanting our involvement. They were out there along with the other groups expressing their stand on abortion and war. One of the protestors has been out there since the 1970’s. I think he actually lives inside that tent that he is screaming from.
National Museum of Natural History
After the White House tour we visited the Natural history museum. There was a line outside but it moved quickly. We did a rather quick walk through of the museum because we had visited it 5 years ago and it was super crowded. We saw the highlights like the Hope Diamond, and caught a new exhibit about Narwhales.
We had never visited the Smithsonian castle, so we went inside. This is a nice small museum with bathrooms and a cafe. And best thing, they have the history of the Smithsonian and how it was created. I’m so glad we stopped in because I had never heard this story.
The Smithsonian was created against all odds. James Smithson was born in Paris, where his single mother hid to give birth to an illegitimate child of the Duke of Northumberland. He became a great scientific mind that believed in the pursuit of science and knowledge. He never married or had children. When he died, he left his estate to his nephew, with the clause that if his nephew never had children (legitimate or illegitimate) his fortune would go to the United States of America. James had never stepped foot in America, so the reason he did this is not clear. Did he do it out of spite against England for the stigma as an illegitimate child or simply his love for our experimental government or the fact that in America people are valued for their contributions not their place in society? Regardless of the reason, we benefited when his nephew died 6 years after him with no heirs. It took 7 years for the US to accept the gift. Luckily, the 104,960 gold coins, packaged in 11 boxes, made it here safely after a 6 week ocean voyage. Then it took 10 more years for Congress to decide what exactly the words from James’ will, “establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”, meant.
And today the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, with 19 museums, galleries and a zoo.
I had to take advantage of the lighting and background to take a few pictures; even though it was at the end of the day, the girls indulged me. As long as they were allowed to take a picture of me and I’d post it.
Dinner with dear friends
To continue our St. Patrick’s Day celebratory weekend we had dinner at my childhood friend’s house. They have two girls, Anna and Lilly, the same ages as Abby and Mackenzie but have never met…you would have never guessed it though! They got along beautifully. Christy prepared a delicious meal and we had lovely conversation. Thank you Christy and Pete for hosting a wonderful evening!
West Wing Tour
We had several friends working on trying to get us a West Wing tour and one worked out! This was really the icing on the Amazing American Adventure. A dear friend, and Chris’s co worker, asked her brother who works at the White House to take us on a tour. He was so sweet and took time away from his family on St. Patrick’s Day to come into the city and take us on a private tour of the West Wing and the Eisenhower building. Thank you R and S!
We headed down to meet him at 3:00pm on Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2019. We were told we needed to dress up for this tour as well. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day we each accessorized with something green. We were excited to see the fountain was still green.
We met R at a security check point. Unfortunately, when Chris sent in all our names and social security numbers, he wrote Christine instead of Christina. In 25 year, he’s never made this mistake and of all times, this was not a good time to do that! They weren’t going to let me in. R worked some magic and called someone and on a Sunday he was able to get the clearance changed. Whew! Chris did not have to sleep in the tent after all.
R took us through the building he works in first, the Eisenhower Executive Office building. Originally built for the State, War and Navy Departments, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building now houses a majority of offices for White House staff, included the Executive Office of the President, including the Office of the Vice President of the United States. located right next to the West Wing of the White House. It was for years the world’s largest office building, with 566 rooms and about ten acres of floor space.
Inside we saw Office of the Vice President, the Indian Treaty Room, The Cordell Hull Room, Truman’s bowling alley.
The Office of the Vice President
Indian Treaty room had great views of the White House.
The West Wing
This is us walking into the West Wing.
We had to lock our cell phones in a locker before entering, which drove me crazy, so I’ll list some of the rooms we saw and attach a few photos I copied from the White House Tour’s website and I’ll credit the photographer.
The first rooms were the Navy Mess and the situation room
The Roosevelt room is located across from the Oval Office.
The Oval Office by Carolyn Kester.
I found this photo by Alex Wong.
There is a restroom 20 feet from the Oval Office, we all of course took turns using the bathroom where the President and his visitors use the bathroom. The waiting room hallway has 4 amazing original Norman Rockwell paintings. We sat and waited in the waiting room while Mackenzie used the restroom. When she entered we said, “Hello Madam President.” She loved that- she also wants to be President. She’s decided she’ll be the first doctor asked to go to Mars and then when it’s colonized she’ll run for President of the Mars colony.
Once we were done, we were able to retrieve our phones and take pictures outside and of the press briefing room.
Press Briefing room
Because of the growing number of reporters assigned to the White House, in 1969, President Nixon had FDR’s indoor swimming pool covered and turned into press offices and a lounge that could double as a briefing room.
In 2000, the room was renamed the “James S. Brady Press Briefing Room” to honor the press secretary who had been shot and permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on President Reagan.
The girls acting as the press…
Thank you so much R for such an amazing experience!!
After our tour, we ate at Blackfinn for dinner.
Chris took off today on a Tuesday because this is the only day I could get tickets for Ford’s Theater. I discovered out east the national parks have timed tickets that you have to reserve ahead of time. Even if the park or monument is free, it’s because they are so busy and have to regulate how many people they can accommodate per hour. Chris had calls until 10:00 and then we headed into the city. Our ticket time was for 11:30am.
We were going o be walking right by the old Clock tower on our way to the Ford’s theater so we stopped by and went up to the top. This is also run by the NPS but didn’t require a timed ticket.
The Old Post office, Clock tower and Trump building
This was the city’s original post office, since 1914. Since the Washington Monument is closed, this tower was a perfect alternative for great views of the city. The Old Post Office is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW, halfway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building.
The building was in need of renovations and was at risk of closing or being torn down. Donald Trump saved the building by purchasing it and making it a hotel. The NPS still operates the clock tower and offers free tours. It is a beautiful building inside and out.
At Ford’s theater we learned about the events of April 14, 1865, and the lasting impact of Lincoln’s assassination on our nation. We reserved tickets for the museum, exhibits, the play and the Petersen house Watching the play, One Destiny, in the theater looking up at the booth where President Lincoln was shot was an incredible experience. The actors really made you understand what it was like that day, Chris and I both got chill bumps.
In the exhibit area, there is a tower of just Abraham Lincoln books.
After the play we headed across the street to the Petersen house where he actually took his last breath.
Old Ebbitt Grill
We made reservations at Old Ebbitt Grill for lunch because everyone we talked to recommended we do so. It is the oldest bar and restaurant in Washington, DC.
Established in 1934, NARA serves as the official building for all federal records deemed to be of historical value. It holds 3 billion records, from the 18th century to the present and include the most important documents in American history. The famous Charters of Freedom, the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, are housed here in the rotunda.
Another highlight of the gallery is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta.
The next pictures are not mine. We were not allowed to take pictures but I wanted to have images of what we saw in our scrapbook so I borrowed pictures from museumarchives.gov.
Air and Space museum
One of our favorites is the Air and Space Museum. We packed our lunches and ate in the cafeteria before we explored. The Moon rock display had moved from where it was 5 years ago. There was a lot of construction so several exhibits were closed. We idd get to see the original Wright brothers air glider- it’s so weird that it’s not in Kitty Hawk.
We sat in on a drop-in discussion about space. Abby and I got bored and moved to the rest of the exhibit space. As we turned the corner on the lower level of discussion theater, we saw Mackenzie raising her hand to be chosen to demonstration putting on the astronaut suit. She was chosen. It was so fun watching her in all her glory. She was wearing a diaper in public 🙂
After the Air and Space Museum the girls and I rented scooters and rode around the mall. It was a lovely afternoon. We rode down to the White House and all around the monuments and memorials. If you ask the girls what their highlight was from this stop- it’s the West Wing Tour and then riding scooters is a close second!
I did learn that when you download an app for these scooters, you can only rent one per account. So we had to find three scooters from different companies so we could all three ride. Each one was different and we each had our favorite.
Second longest escalator in the world
On the way home we hopped off the train at the Roselyn station and rode the second longest single span escalator in the western hemisphere. It is 207 feet long. The first is here in D.C., Wheaton station(230 feet) as well, but it would have been an hour train ride out of our way.
Mt. Vernon is the historic plantation home of George and Martha Washington, right on the Potomac. You must get an advance ticket to tour the inside of the house and the National Treasure tour was only offered on certain days so Chris had to take half a day off from work so we could all go.
Inside the house you can’t take photos.
On the grounds the young Martha Washington was on site chatting with folks, telling stories and answering questions. She told us that she was married and had children when she married George. They never had children together. It’s crazy to think our founding father didn’t have a family blood line after he died.
We took at National Treasure Movie tour which took us to the basement and talked about the filming. Of course, this is one of our favorite movies.
We learned that George Washington had terrible teeth and by the time he was president, he only had one real tooth remaining. He had special dentures made of animal and human teeth, lead, and ivory. It had a whole to fit his one remaining tooth. Eventually, that tooth fell out and he had a new set made. They had them on display here. I’m so glad we had time to watch the 4 D film in the theater. We pretended to take the oath into presidency.
Burial site. It’s weird to smile at a gravesite but it’s also weird not to…
We rounded our day off at Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant for dinner. I had the shrimp and grits with George Washington’s gristmill grits.