12 Hours in Washington DC
Welcome to Washington DC, our nation’s Capitol, and home to many of the most iconic structures in the history of American architecture. I Love Detroit Michigan aims to inform y’all of just a handful of the highlights one can experience here with only a few hours to spare.
Oftentimes day trips to DC originate at Union Station, a gorgeous beaux-arts edifice designed by Daniel Burnham, who is widely recognized today as North America’s premier architect at the dawn of the 20th century. Burnham was often criticized by his contemporaries for his lifelong devotion to classically inspired, heavily ornamented exteriors, despite the rise of modernist and minimalist building design during his time. Burnham played a major role in the planning and development of downtown DC, and Union Station was originally built with the intention of being a grand entrance to the Capitol City, a function it still serves well today. (Burnham designs in Detroit include The Ford Building and the soon to be renovated Dime Building, both on Griswold St).
When you’re done checkin’ out Union Station, head just three blocks south by southeast, down Delaware Ave, to reach the United States Capitol Complex at the eastern extreme of the National Mall. Countless architects and dates of construction preclude an in-depth analysis of this amazing building’s history here, but I Love Detroit Michigan highly recommends its readers take a nice long look at a disgustingly good website entitled “Architect of the Capitol” for just about anything you could hope to learn about this seat of American government.
Just a block to the east and a tiny bit south sits one of the most richly ornamented structures in all of North America, if not the world: The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Once again, I Love Detroit Michigan is forced to defer to yet another superlative website, “On These Walls”, to give our readers the fullest accounting possible of the multitudinous decorative elements both outside and in this stunning, must-see U.S. Government building.
Together the Capitol and Library of Congress require at least four hours to take it all in. So take a break here and head two blocks to the southeast, down Pennsylvania Avenue, to enjoy a nice lunch at the Tune Inn, a restaurant recently featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network television show, “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” (Episode DV1002 “Tried and True”). I Love Detroit Michigan regrets to inform its readers that we failed to get any decent shots of our delicious burgers, and furthermore, should you visit D.C. anytime soon, you won’t be able to eat here on account of a kitchen fire that’s caused the place to close up for a months-long renovation, but we’re sure they’ll be back.
After lunch, head west past the Capitol along Independence Avenue to begin an extensive tour of the National Mall. First stop: the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I Love Detroit Michigan was elated to learn upon our first visit here that nearly every museum along the National Mall is, we kid you not, FREE FREE FREE!! This includes ALL nearby Smithsonian facilities, including the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art. Be sure to step inside the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Gallery and marvel at the way no one bothers you while taking photographs of works by such masters as Rene Magritte, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Hart Benton, and Chuck Close. The Smithsonian Institution Building also known as “The Castle”, the Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building, and the National Museum of the American Indian all stand as photo-worthy works of art in their own right so be sure to get a nice long look from the outside, too.
When you find yourself all museum-ed out, head even further west to find three unquestioned classics of American architecture: The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial and the Maya Lin designed Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To the immediate west of Washington Monument is the lesser known, less grandiose, but in our opinion just as impressive, National World War II Memorial, completed in 2004. Learn more about the somewhat unnecessary controversy surrounding this masterfully constructed memorial here. Other nearby points of interest we missed due to time constraints include the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Memorial, and the currently under construction Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. If you’ve really got some major time to kill take the foot path to the south side of D.C.’s Tidal Basin to see the famed Jefferson Memorial. (I Love Detroit Michigan strongly recommends you check out this hilarious yet disconcerting recent video of a bunch of dancin’ fools being arrested at TJ’s Memorial.)
When you’re done with the National Mall head north on 17th Street, away from the WWII Memorial, toward Lafayette Square and The White House. In the immediate vicinity of Obama’s crib you’ll see three truly gorgeous buildings: the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the west, Renwick Gallery to the northwest, and the U.S. Treasury Department Building to the east. From the Treasury Building, head south down 15th and then left on Pennsylvania to head back towards the Capitol. Along the way you’ll see the elaborately detailed Old D.C. Post Office, the National Archives Building (where the original Constitution of the United States and Declaration of Independence are usually on display), and the Federal Trade Commission Building which features a couple of great Works Progress Administration-era sculptures, on the building and near it.
By this point in your long and exhausting day of touring the National Mall area you oughtta be good and ready to head back to Tha D, so as you draw near the Capitol and/or Union Station be sure to tell passers-by along the way that I Love Detroit Michigan sent ya! ~I♥DM
[Editor’s Note: Additional photography in this post’s album provided by Mr. Todd Thurgaland of Thurgaland Marketing & Consulting. Check out more of his amazing work here.]