12 Hours in Washington DC

12 Hours in Washington DC

Inside Union Station, Washington, D.CArriving in D.C. at Union StationWelcome 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.

Union Station detailWashington DC Union StationOftentimes 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, US Capitol with Ulysses S. Grant National MemorialUnion Station, Washington, D.Cheavily 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 United States Capitol detail (3)United States Capitol (2)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 US Capitol rotunda detailUS Capitol rotunda detail (3)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” Library of Congress detailLibrary of Congress exterior detail 'The Court of Neptune'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 Library of Congress detail (5)Library of Congress detail 'Minerva of Peace'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.

'Tune Inn' bathroom graffiti'Tune Inn' wall trophiesTogether 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-'People of Chilmark' by Thomas Hart BentonInside the Smithsonian National Air & Space MuseumIns & 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 'Delusions of Grandeur II' by Rene Magritte'Roy II' by Chuck Closeclose 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 Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building detailSmithsonian Institute Building aka 'The Castle'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 Lincoln Memorial detail, Washington, D.CWashington MemorialSmithsonian’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 & World War II Memorial detail (5)Vietnam Memorial detailIndustries 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 World War II Memorial detail, Washington, D.CWorld War II Memorial detail (2)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 Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office BuildingThe White House2004. 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 U.S. Treasury Department Building, Washington, D.CRenwick Art Galleryconstruction 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 Old DC Post Office detailThe Old DC Post Officeof 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 Federal Trade Commission Building detailNational Archives Building detail, Washington, D.CEisenhower 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 Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board BuildingCannon House Office Buildingdetailed 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, Library of Congresson 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.]

Capitol Police on the Washington Mall

Dale Carlson

Dale Carlson grew up along the northeastern shores of Lake Michigan, where at a young age Detroit called out to him in his dreams. In 2008, after extended stays in ten different Michigan cities, the author settled permanently in southeast Oakland County where he currently lives and works in various capacities within the local real estate industry.