Washington DC Travel Diary: Monuments & Memorials

In my eyes April is a magical month. It signifies a time when the sun rises earlier, sets later and the temperature increases to a certain degree where a jacket isn’t necessarily a requirement if you’re going outside.

A week ago it snowed in New York City and various parts of the United States. Yet for some reason the weather was on my side when I made it to DC. It was eighty degrees, warm and sunny. It was as if the Nation’s capital knew it was time for the Cherry Blossom Festival and refused to give everyone visiting anything but a good weekend.

My friend and I decided to travel to Washington to see the blossoms, something we have talked obsessively about the past few years. After we visited the Brooklyn Botanical Garden last year, we decided it was finally time to head to DC.

I feel like it’s necessary to share this funny little story. We’re getting ready to venture out and I’m looking at my map and I say to my friend, “We should do the National Mall first.”

I know I should have said “walk” but she got so excited and exclaimed, “Ooo! A mall! Okay! I want to go shopping!”

I laughed and had to explain to her the National Mall was not actually a mall but home to most of the monuments. Her mix-up didn’t phase her and minutes later we began our journey.

 

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Lincoln Memorial

Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial. My friend honestly didn’t think it was going to be so crowded so she was surprised by all of the tourists snapping pictures. I joked it looked like an article I read about what popular tourist sites really looked like. My friend–who has an obsession with some of the deceased presidents–was determined to get a good picture with Lincoln.

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I’ve seen the statue of Lincoln in plenty of television shows and movies but I didn’t realize how big it actually is. The statute is 19′ tall and was designed with Lincoln’s best qualities in mind. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, studied photos of Lincoln for years in order to capture his image and presence perfectly. According to the National Park Service website, Lincoln’s hands is clenched deliberately, this was made to represent his strength and determination “to see the war through to a successful conclusion.” His slightly open hand represents his compassionate and warm nature.

After we finished marveling at our sixteenth president, we walked back outside to a perfect view of the Washington Monument.

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Being my regular cheesy self in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument was built to honor our first president of the United States, George Washington. I’m going to awe you with a fun fact that has yet to leave my head since I was in high school:

Due to lack of funding, construction of the monument was halted in 1854, which is why you see a difference in color of the marble. By the time construction started back up again they had to use a different kind of marble because the original was no longer available.

It’s also the world’s tallest obelisk. #funfactsoftheday

And people say you never learn anything in public school.

Hot, sweaty and quickly become tired we trekked on, walking around the Reflecting Pool and ending up at The World War II Memorial.

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The memorial honors the 405,399 Americans we lost during the War. The entire memorial is extremely impressive. I love the granite pillars with a wreath for each state and the territories, the fact that you can sit by the large pool to really reflect on what you are seeing, and the Freedom Wall, with its gold stars to represent Americans who died in the war.

I didn’t take a picture of everything because there were some veterans walking around who were getting emotional as they walked through the memorial. I wanted to give them their privacy.

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We continued walking and veered slightly off path as we noticed Cherry Blossom trees! Since they were the main reason we were in Washington we had to walk through them.

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Unfortunately, because of the harsh winter the trees were already turning white and were far from optimal bloom but they still looked beautiful.

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Plaque for the first Japanese Cherry Trees, planted on March 27, 1912

The first Japanese Cherry Trees were planted on March 27, 1912. They were a gift to the United States from Japan. First Lady Helen Herron Taft, Viscountess Iwa Chinda–wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States–and a small group of people gathered and planted the first two of more than 3,000 cherry trees. Around one hundred of the original trees are still standing!

We walked around the entire basin and the surrounding area in search of trees that might have still been in bloom.

We were lucky enough to find a few as we headed to Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial.

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After this picture I promptly started sneezing thanks to my allergies.

If anyone is wondering my dress is from The Gap and I got my Keds on sale at Kohls. Keds are the perfect shoe to wear if you’re going to be walking a lot. They’re cute, go with every outfit and are super comfortable.

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I remember in 2011 when Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial was unveiled and everyone had something to say about it–mostly negative. Edward Rothstein called it a “failure” in the New York Times. There was also an issue with a botched inscription that was later removed.

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Engraved on the side of the monument is a quote from his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from 1963, “Out of the Mountain of Despair a Stone of Hope.”

I remember listening to his speech for the first time in the fourth grade. My teacher pressed play on a hand held tape recorder and his voice bellowed out and filled the entire classroom. I didn’t fully understand the importance of his words then but I thought, “This man sounds amazing,” and little fourth grade me was right.

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After spending some time with Mr. King, we continued onwards to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s memorial. His memorial was massive.

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I’m not talking about his statute but the entire layout as a whole. His memorial was broken up into four parts to signify the four terms he served as President.

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FDR’s memorial featured different quotes and statutes–one of him, one with his beloved dog, and some of those waiting in bread lines during the Great Depression.

I loved one of the quotes pictured above, “I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust.” He said this on April 14, 1938 during one of his fireside chats.

I appreciated the fact that they also included a statute to honor his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.

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She was the first to take an active role as the First Lady of the United States. She used to hold press conferences, wrote a column and advocated for women’s rights.

What a woman!

Finally, we walked around the rest of the Tidal Basin, hot and hungry, ending our journey at The Jefferson Memorial.

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Here’s another fun fact back from American Histroy about our third President:

Thomas Jefferson was a natural red-head.

Can’t you tell?

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Why anyone would put that on a midterm I still don’t quite understand but it stuck with me after all of these years (mainly because I was furious about it).

Our first day in Washington was filled with a lot of walking, sightseeing and picture taking.

Some other notable monuments we missed that you should visit include the Albert Einstein Memorial , The Vietnam Women’s Memorial (located north of the Reflecting Pool) and the Titanic Memorial (which I didn’t even know existed until I did a search online!).

Have you ever been to DC? What did you think? Or what do you think of all of these monuments? Would you stop by to see them? Let me know!

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Pop culture and political junkie sharing her travels with the world.

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