Last month, during the Thanksgiving week, I traveled to Washington DC to visit my parents for the holiday. Luckily, my current project is remote so I was able to work from Washington DC without a problem (other than that 3 hour time difference!). The last time I visited, I wasn’t able to sight see too much with only a couple days to see my parents and help them get moved in. So this time around, I knew I wanted to go to visit a few museums and other buildings around the National Mall, especially since my boyfriend joined us during the week too.
After a couple of days indoors and working, we headed out to explore. The great part about most sights in Washington DC are free and open every day. We were able to fit a lot of things into just three days and there is still more to see next time!
The National Mall
The National Mall is the area that encompasses and sits in the middle of several landmarks, from the Capitol to the Potomac River. It houses the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Constitution Gardens. It’s a great place to walk around and enjoy DC. The rest of the places I’ll be talking about are either in or right around the Mall.
The Capitol is where Congress resides and is at the eastern end of the National Mall. The Visitor Center is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Inauguration Day. You can book a tour to learn more about the history behind the building and congress on their website or through a Senator or Representative!
The Washington Monument is one of the most iconic parts of Washington DC and it stands out with it 555-foot structure. Unfortunately, it’s closed for visitors until 2019 as they are updating the elevators so I haven’t had a chance to go to the top. However, it’s still a sight to see during the day and the night, where it’s lit up.
The Lincoln Memorial is an enormous structure on the west side of the Mall. It’s completely made of marble like many of the other monuments and buildings but stands out due to the statue and architecture. The building also has inscriptions of the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address.
Library of Congress
Our sightseeing actually started with the Library of Congress since it lies on the east end of the Mall. It’s open 9 to 5 every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I love all the architecture in Washington DC since the buildings I’m mostly around aren’t nearly as old as these, and the Library is no exception. The inside is ornate and very impressive with quotes, phrases, and designs around the walls and ceilings.
We only went to the Thomas Jefferson building but there are three buildings in total. The building houses the Gutenberg Bible, the reading room, and Thomas Jefferson’s original collection of books along with other exhibits.
I can’t get enough of these pillars and ceilings! If you’re into history and architecture, the Library has so much information and details to see that you could easily spend a couple hours walking around the three buildings.
The National Archives
Another building full of historical exhibits is the National Archives Buildings. Considering one of the entrances is located right off of Constitution Ave., you can probably guess what it houses. Not only does the National Archive Building house the Constitution, it has the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and the Magna Carta.
There are several exhibits that you can walk through but once you get to the main area with these documents, there is a line. We only waited in line for around 5 minutes until we were all herded inside the rotunda.
National Gallery of Art
Thomas and I always visit art museums when we can and Washington DC was no different. The National Gallery of Art is separated into two buildings with older art in one building and newer, contemporary art in the other.
On the first day, we went to the main building but it was close to closing time so we only had time to see highlighted paintings in the brochure. We were still able to walk through most sections of the building and see the fountains and rotundas.
National Gallery of Art East building
When we came back to the Gallery, we visited the East building. The building itself is beautiful and a work of art.
The building is taller than it is wide and there are towers on each corner with special exhibits. I’d say this was one of my favorite parts of my entire trip.
Of course, the biggest reason I loved this building was because of the tunnel connecting the two buildings together. The light installation surrounds the moving walkway so you are completely immersed.
Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space
Of course, we couldn’t leave without going to the Air and Space Museum since my boyfriend was dying to go. I enjoyed all the exhibits and space- and air-crafts they displayed around the museum, although it was mostly aircraft focused. If we had more time, we would have visited Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
The Natural History Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world, so we had to visit! It’s full of exhibits and took us a good two hours. Even though it was Thanksgiving Day, it was pretty crowded. I really liked seeing the Human Origins and Geology/Gems & Minerals exhibits. All three of us (boyfriend, mom, and I) really enjoyed this one!
Have you ever been to Washington DC?
I’d love to hear about what tourists who are new to Washington DC should see in the comments! As always, if you’re interested in more from me, follow me on Instagram to see more of what I’ve been up to. To see more of my travels and adventures, I have a whole travel section here!