What I did:
The National Archives Museum-
The National Archives Musuem hosts many important documents such as the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the movie National Treasure, I did not see a treasure map on the back of it (but maybe I have to put lemon juice on it and put it under a hair dryer). Depending on the time of day, the wait can be very long. However, I went close to closing time, and did not have to wait at all.
Visited Various Memorial Sites and Statues-
I visited the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, National WWII Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. They are all very impressive and free to visit.
Library of Congress-
The Library of Congress is the oldest American federal cultural institution, and is said to be the largest library in the world. However, while it it free to enter the building and look into the reading room, only high-ranking government officials can check out books and materials from the reading room.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History-
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is located just off of the National Mall. It is a very nice museum, especially for animal enthusiasts and world history buffs.
National Portrait Gallery-
The National Portrait Gallery is another one of DC's free museums. Since I am not a big art enthusiast, I did not expect to enjoy the National Portrait Gallery as much as I did, but I found it very interesting.
Visited the U.S. Capitol Building, Capitol Hill, and the White House-
Each of these places hold a large historical and political significance in the United States. Also, the architecture is very impressive.
United States Botanical Garden-
Although I have not visited a significant number of botanical gardens throughout the world, the United States Botanical Garden in DC is by far the best free botanical garden I have been to. Also, it was very interesting to see the plants that many spices and medications are derived from.
Walked through the National Mall-
Although it is called a mall, the National Mall is not what most Americans would call a mall. It is a large, outdoor, grassy area that is located between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. This area hosts different events and vendors.
4th of July parade-
I was in Washington DC during the 4th of July, which is Independence Day in the United States. There was a large parade going through the streets on the 4th that I was able to watch.
Watched Fireworks from a Rooftop-
Throughout America there are large fireworks displays on the 4th of July. I found out about a CouchSurfing event (see more on CouchSurfing below) where I could watch DC's fireworks from a rooftop. I was able to meet a lot of interesting travelers and see a nice fireworks display.
Where I ate:
&Pizza was the top ranked inexpensive restaurant in DC. It was a very cool, laid back place where you can customize your pizza with the various types of sauces and toppings.
The Gibson is a cool speakeasy behind an unamarked door. If you do not know where it is you will not notice it, but if you find it you will be rewarded with a cool atmosphere and drink like the "Merry Traveler," which came with a cinnamon stick that was toasted with a torch.
Ebenezers is an award winning coffee shop in DC. The people were nice, the environment was cool, and the coffee was good. Also, their proceeds go towards helping people throughout the world.
La Colombe Torrefaction Coffee Roasters-
La Colombe is a popular Philadelphia-based coffee company with some locations in the DC area. Their draft latte is definitely worth a try.
Compass Coffee has a very good nitro coffee (coffee infused with nitrogen, giving it the texture of Guinness). It was probably the best cup of coffee I had in DC.
Dolcezza Gelato Factory and Coffee Lab-
I had heard about some interesting flavors Dolcezza had, but they were not serving them while I was there. It was good, but expensive for gelato.
Grand Trunk is a nice Indian restaurant in DC. While it wasn't the best Indian food I have had, it was still very good. Also, it was inexpensive compared to other restaurants in DC.
Where I stayed:
While in Washington DC, I used CouchSurfing for the first time. CouchSurfing is a website/application that travelers can use to find free accommodation worldwide, or to host fellow travelers. First, you set up a profile (similar to Facebook) telling a little bit about yourself. Then you can offer to host travelers that are visiting your city while you are at home. You can also attend CouchSurfing events, or use the mobile app to find other people in your area that are looking to do something. When traveling to a new city, you can search for people to send personal requests to or post a general request to that city's page. I added in my request on the Washington DC page that I would be moving to Spain to teach English, and Alban (who is also moving to Spain to teach English) offered to host me. He was super nice and very welcoming. I was even able to exercise in the gym in his apartment complex!
To be honest, I was hesitant to use CouchSurfing. However, I had a great experience using CouchSurfing. Also, I now have a new friend I can meet up with when I get to Spain! While proper caution should be used, CouchSurfing can be a great resource for travelers.
How I got around:
I used the subway system to move throughout much of DC. I also walked quite a bit while I was there. I found it easy to get around.
My Favorite Thing:
Many of the museums in DC are free to enter and explore. Also, I met some really cool people while I was in DC.
My Least Favorite Thing:
Although the museums are free, much of the good food in DC is very expensive. Much of the area felt a little too "high-end" for my taste.
For Next Time:
Next time I visit DC I would like to explore Roosevelt Island, Old Alexandria, and Georgetown. I have heard very good things about each of these areas and would like to check them out for myself.
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