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Trip Report Highlights of our trip to DC

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Thanks to the Fodorites who helped with planning our 13-night trip to DC over Christmas-New Years. The trip was fantastic, my wife and I would return in an instant, and are already considering it.

I'm not much of a writer but I'll pound out some notes from the trip, should someone else find them useful.

Hotel

Our hotel at One Washington Circle worked out nicely for us. Yes, it's not a fancy new boutique hotel, it's a bit worn around the edges, and it can be noisy at times. But the price at $89/night (plus tax) was a great value, especially given the central location. Staff was friendly and helpful. Our room, which they call an executive suite with kitchen, was spacious, comfortable and kept clean. We used the kitchen for breakfast and late night snacks. It's an easy five minute walk to the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Speaking of the Metro, the weekly unlimited Metro passes we bought were money well spent. Not having to deal with the complicated ticket machines, caring how much was left on charged up card, and just jumping on a train whenever we wanted added freedom and simplicity to the trip. Essential for anyone visiting more than a few days.

Top Favorite Sights

Just about everything we visited was worth returning to, so we often did! This was at the expense of completely missing other sights altogether. But this is how we have travelled for years, diving deeper into fewer places. It works for us. We have interest in both art and history, so our favorites will reflect where those converged.

National Portrait Gallery / American Art Museum - At the Portrait Gallery the exhibits The American Presidents, American Origins, and Americans Now were all fascinating, making you want to dive deeper into the lives and times of the people you were viewing. The George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collection of Norman Rockwell paintings was an eye-opener, giving us new respect for the depth of emotion in Rockwell's work. Albert Bierstadt, Georgia O'Keeffe, and so much more. The write ups included with the all the works were excellent.

National Museum of American History - We returned here several times, touring the following exhibits among others: The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life, First Ladies at the Smithsonian, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War. They held special interest given our interest in history. (Before the trip we watched a series of American History lectures from The Teaching Company. This greatly enhanced our visit). There were many other things we enjoyed seeing in this museum including Dorothy's red slippers, Archie Bunker's chair, a baseball signed by both Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, Julia Child's kitchen, the gunboat Philadelphia, and C-3PO. The Greenough Washington statue is unforgettable, for better or worse. Of course the Star Spangled Banner was very moving. Something for everyone here.

Library of Congress, Jefferson Building - The interior of the building is a knockout. The exhibits Exploring the Early Americas, Creating the United States, and Jefferson's Library were incredible. Maybe not everyone is interested in seeing an actual signature of Francisco Pizarro, or a letter from Franklin to Lord Howe, or Jefferson to Madison, but we were! We also made a point of seeing the Waldseemüller map, since we've just read "The Fourth Part of The World". Amazing to see the actual map. They did a great job with the interactive kiosks in these exhibits as well.

National Gallery - One of the world's great museums. We took several docent tours, all of which were enjoyable and informative, and also spent a hours exploring both the east and west wings. The Arcimboldo exhibit and Chester Dale Collection demanded repeat visits. Standing two feet away from Da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci' was a totally different, and much better experience than being roped among the crowds 25 feet away from the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Then there were the Hudson River School paintings, Renaissance masters, iconic Winslow Homer works, and on and on ... The Leo Villareal digital light display in the concourse between the building was really cool!

Other Favorite Sights

White House - Lucky we got a spot for this relatively short notice. Something special about being in the White House! We liked that the tour was self guided, so we could take our time and backtrack a bit if we wanted to see something again. We went in with some reading material to explain what we were looking at, plus the agents answering questions were great.

Supreme Court - an enjoyable lecture about the history of the court and the building, while sitting there in the courtroom looking at those nine chairs!

Zoo Lights - this was really fun. We hit it on a balmy night (around 50 degrees). We arrived at the zoo a couple hours before dark and stayed until a couple hours afterwards. We don't always visit zoos, but this is a great one and the lights were wonderful. We did see one of the pandas.

Mall Monuments - we chose a relatively warm and calm day to walk the length of the mall, visiting most of the monuments.

National Museum of Natural History - sure everyone goes there to see the elephant, dinosaurs and Hope Diamond, but the insect display was also great!

Folger Shakespeare Library - the "Vivat Rex" Henry VIII exhibit wound his fascinating history into the collection of lovely books that belonged to him. Most impressive, but once again I'm easily impressed by seeing the actual writing of such a towering historical figure.

Phillips Collection - I went there alone while my wife spent the day with a high school friend she hadn't seen in nearly 40 years! (We all had dinner together at Old Ebbitt). This was a gem of a small museum with so many icons that it seemed like I had seen them but had not. Chief among these is Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, but there were many other form El Greco to Lichtenstein. I'm into photography and thoroughly enjoyed the TruthBeaty and Coburn exhibits. They were sold out of the TruthBeauty exhibition catalog but I hunted one down. They are becoming hard to find.

Holocaust Museum - Not easy to look at of course, but very moving and well done.

Mount Vernon - Yet another iconic vista that lived up to expectations.

National Christmas Tree - And still another iconic vista, fantastic with the White House lit up behind it.

Minor Disappointments

Capitol Tour - too rushed. They get you through there in 45-50 minutes, and while our tour guide was nice and knowledgeable it was clear she was on a schedule. Would have much preferred a self guided tour like the White House, but that's what it is these days. Worth doing, of course, but rushed.

Georgetown M Street - the shops were what you see in many other places, didn't really feel like anything special. We knew we should have wandered up to the north but it was cold that day and we decided to retreat to a museum.

Favorite Restaurants

We focused on Mediterranean tapas. It's a style of food that we don't get here in our Colorado town and we often look for it when travelling. Some pre-trip research I did paid off here.

Zaytinya - WOW! We had one meal there midway through our trip then, booked a return for our 35th wedding anniversary on the final night. Even if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts give the ones there a try, it might change your mind!

Jaleo - another wow. Part of the Zaytinya family, apparently well known from the Jose Made in Spain show, but new to us.

Lebanese Taverna - located across the street from the Metro stop at the zoo. We were there on New Year's Day and they had a special all you can eat brunch for $20.11. We returned for a late evening snack after visiting the zoo lights.

La Tasca - We had the most fun here, possibly because our first visit was at half price pitchers of sangria happy hour! We wound up eating there for Christmas dinner at their Alexandria location, and New Years Eve at the Chinatown location. There we put our salsa lessons to good use and danced the night away to music from a great sounding Latin band.

Chop'T - Best cheap, fast, light, healthy food.

Le Pain Quotidien - when we didn't have breakfast in our hotel we headed here as it was a short walk from he hotel. Lots of bread and pastries that we don't get at home, and their quiche and tartines were great. A bit pricey but enjoyable.

M.E. Swing - Hands down the best cappuccino or latte.

We also had dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, Founding Farmers, Legal Seafood, and Dusk in the Westin Grand. They were all fine, but didn't knock our socks off like the above tapas meals. We tried twice to get into the Blue Duck Tavern and once into Filomena, but the wait was too long at the times we were there and we hadn't made reservations.

Thanks again to all Fodoroites who helped us with the planning of this successful trip.

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