8 minute read
Each year, almost sixteen million tourists flock to Washington, DC. Well known for its politics and history, this infamous city exists as the temporary home of the current president, and rightfully so. Monuments, attractions, museum exhibits, and restaurants located throughout the city have been established to honor our former presidents. Visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating history of the office of the President of the United States, no matter the status of the current political climate. Spend a day or two, or even a long weekend, getting to know our former presidents.
Our Well Known Monuments & Memorials
Most tourists are familiar with our monuments and memorials. Washington, DC has the largest collection of presidential memorials in the United States, which emerge from the city in various forms.
- The large obelisk in the middle of the National Mall is a memorial to the nation’s first leader, President George Washington.
- The Abraham Lincoln Memorial sits at the western end of the National Mall, and serves as the best place to watch the sunset in Washington, DC.
- The Thomas Jefferson and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorials overlook the cherry blossoms of the Tidal Basin, which becomes crowded with excited onlookers in early spring.
- Known for his love of adventure, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is one of the furthest away from downtown DC. It is aptly located, nestled deep amid the trails of Roosevelt Island, a 88.5 acre island on the Potomac River.
- The newest memorial for President Dwight D. Eisenhower is currently under construction, located on Independence Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets SW. It is scheduled to be opened in May of 2020.
Crafted in Wax at Madame Tussauds
Besides the presidential memorials, you can also catch all forty-five presidential figures in wax at Madame Tussauds of Washington, DC, located at 1001 F Street NW. Carefully crafted in size, shape, and character, you can stand next to each and every one, read their history, and see how you measure up in so many ways. Sit within the oval office or give a speech at the presidential podium complete with the presidential seal. Madame Tussauds also has many interactive exhibits, testing your presidential knowledge and highlighting moments in history that challenged our presidents during their time in the White House.
For those not as interested in the Presidents, the Washington, DC Madame Tussauds also hosts George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and many other wax celebrities similar to other Madame Tussauds locations. In addition, they have recently added a new exhilarating augmented reality experience. There is a significant savings when booking online, so be sure to avoid the walk-up premiums.
The Scene of the Crime
For the history buffs, one block south of Madame Tussauds is Ford’s Theatre. This venue is known as the location where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. What many do not know is Lincoln did not die there. The President was rushed across the street to the Petersen House, and died in a back bedroom the following day.
While at Ford’s Theatre, you can stand inside the presidential booth where Abraham Lincoln was sitting on the night of his assassination. Or walk on the stage where actor John Wilkes Booth landed after he shot Lincoln. There are many opportunities to conduct your own investigation of the assassination, including eyewitness testimonies and physical evidence.
At the Petersen House you can explore historic images that show how the theatre and Petersen House looked in the 1860s and how it has changed over the years.
Both the theatre and the Petersen House are open daily for tours for a small cost. Ford’s Theatre still opens its doors at night for on stage performances, so visitors should check the calendar for showtimes and tour hours.
Portrait of a President, & More
If you love art, just down the street from the theatre is the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Located at the corner of 8th and F Streets NW, the gallery is housed in the old historic patent office and is free to enter.
Among the exhibits honoring American art, the National Portrait Gallery has a collection of over 1,600 Presidential portraits, which form the centerpiece of the museum. The collection covers all forty-four former presidents, as well as our current president, Donald J. Trump. This collection is the only additional collection of presidential portraits, second to the White House.
The portraits have been created in a wide variety of mediums, including but not limited to, large scale oil paintings, prints and drawings, photographs, and a few sculptures. Each president is idolized in a style that is synonymous with the art of his time and therefore vary from president to president. In honor of President’s Week, the Smithsonian hosts an annual Presidential Family Fun Day in mid-March, complete with presidential trivia, Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents, and presidential makeovers for kids. Check the website for dates, times, and event details.
Working Up A Presidential-Sized Appetite
If all this museum and memorial-hopping has left you hungry, there are a few popular restaurants that will feed that presidential-sized appetite.
The first is Lincoln, located at 1110 Vermont Avenue NW. It’s traditional American Cuisine – “Food for the people, by the people” – featuring southern comfort food. The atmosphere is fun and Lincoln-inspired, great for families. They offer a wide variety of menus depending on time of day. My favorite dishes are the variety of deviled egg appetizers, shrimp and grits, mac and cheese, and chicken pot pies. Lincoln is also known for their Sunday Brunch with chicken & waffles, duck confit benedict, and brioche French toast.
Open most days 11a-11p, but hours do vary. Happy Hours run weekdays, 3p-8p, with specials on Bar Bites and Signature Cocktails, such as Honest Abe Moonshine and Proclamation 95 Punch.
Teddy & The Bully Bar
Another great restaurant is Teddy & The Bully Bar. The atmosphere has a rustic western vibe, just like it’s namesake. The incredibly diverse menu and peculiar pairings of ingredients will leave even the most adventurous foodie satisfied. From poke bowls to duck confit flatbread to pumpkin grilled cheese, everyone at the table will be trying something new and loving it!
Teddy & The Bully Bar is well known for their happy hour. The bar bites menu provides small plates of almost everything on the main lunch and dinner menu and beyond. To compliment the smorgasbord of small plates is a long list of signature cocktails named after Theodore Roosevelt himself: The Cowboy, The Rough Rider, and The Trust Buster. Whether you are stepping in for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or brunch, you are bound to find something that will ignite your taste buds and leave you asking for seconds!
Grab Some Zzzzzzs
If staying overnight in Washington, DC, one of the best hotels is The Watergate Hotel. This hotel is infamous for the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters that lead to the President Nixon cover-up and inevitably, his resignation.
When the Watergate hotel was renovated and reopened in 2016, it embraced both its scandalous past and its iconic look. The hotel room that overlooked what was the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 was renovated as the Scandal Suite, and can be visited by hotel guests. The suite portrays an updated look into the scandal, using copies of the periodicals that were printed throughout the scandal and the period technology that was used to spy on the DNC. The remainder of the hotel has been carefully redesigned honoring the hotel’s most influential time in history. Both the staff and the amenities at Watergate Hotel are fitting for a president and are a perfect way to bookend your trip to our capital.
Throughout Washington, DC there are numerous locations to study and celebrate our forty-five fearless leaders and the historical events that molded their presidential careers. Regardless of your own political leanings, its hard to ignore the fascination surrounding the office of the President of the United States. ◊
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