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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

September 2010 - Washington DC

In this issue:

Washington DC is one of the most historically inspired cities in the United States. As the capital of our country and the home base of our president and other key decision makers, this city is teeming with monuments, statues, memorials and attractions. In my experience, it's challenging to do "everything" so plan your trip accordingly, take a general tour then decide what features you'd like to see up close. In the meantime, here are some suggestions.

National Cathedral

The National Cathedral is a beautiful structure to take a quiet break from sightseeing.
© Mike Leco

Free things to do

Many attractions in DC have an admission fee. But you would be surprised how many attractions are free or very inexpensive, including the following:

The free docent-led tours are an excellent way to see the highlights of the National Postal Museum. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing welcomes visitors to learn about the U.S. paper currency during a free 40-minute experience which includes an introductory film and gallery tour of the production process. The National Cathedral is one of DC's more unique buildings, as it not only stands at one of the city's highest points but its architecture is Gothic style, complete with stained glass windows, elaborate carvings including intriguing gargoyles. Gargoyle tours are available during spring and summer months or you may visit the cathedral on your own during the remaining months.

Postcard Landmarks

Some of DC's landmarks and attractions stand out more than others. I like to call them "postcard landmarks" because photos of these tributes and buildings are most likely to end up on postcards or in calendars.

The Washington Monument: This monument was built in honor of our first president George Washington. It's hard to miss this beautiful landmark. At over 555-feet, it is the tallest structure in DC. It has been standing since 1884. The White House: This is one of the country's most cherished landmarks as it is the home to our current President. Arlington National Cemetery: This 612 acre section of Virginia alongside the Potomac River is a military cemetery where more than 240,000 service members and their dependents are buried. Jefferson Memorial: This memorial is dedicated to the third President of the United States. The monument setting is pretty in the spring when the Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees are in bloom. Lincoln Memorial: This memorial is in honor of the 16th President of the United States. Three chambers divide the memorial: central, north and south. The famous white marble statue of President Lincoln sits in the central chamber. The south chamber holds a tribute to Lincoln's November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address and his inaugural speech is in the north chamber. The monument is not without symbolism, 36 Doric columns on the outside of the memorial represent the number of states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's 1865 death.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument, surrounded by the fall foliage, is just one of the postcard landmarks.
© Mike Leco

Learn more on a guided tour

Washington DC is one city where it's necessary to have comfortable walking shoes since self guided walking tours and long strolls between museums and attractions are common. If you'd rather leave it to the professionals, there are many guided tours available which are fantastic because the guides reveal facts and stories you would otherwise never hear.

Walking: Washington Walks tours last two hours and provide great insight and history on the area. You may pay ahead of time or the day of the tour. DC by Foot is a free, tip based (meaning you tip your guide whatever you deem fair at the end of the tour).

When you're ready to give your feet a break there are a number of other tour opportunities.

Trolley: Old Town Trolley Tours conductors provide historic and humorous stories, ask fascinating trivia and make the entire experience entertaining and interesting.

Shuttle: The terrific thing about Tourmobile sightseeing is that passengers may hop on and off as they please. The American Heritage shuttle tour of Washington and Arlington National Cemetery is a narrated tour which runs along the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. Passengers may disembark and reload at the Smithsonian Museums, the Presidential Memorials, The White House and through Arlington National Cemetery. Reservations are not required. You may purchase tickets directly from the driver or the ticket booth at Arlington National Cemetery and Union Station. Shuttles stop at the red, white and blue marked Tourmobile stops.

Segway: If you like being on the streets City Segway Tours is an adventurous way to see the city. Two and three hour guides tours take guests to DC highlights which include the White House, Smithsonian Castle, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

See the city from the water

A unique way to see the city is from the Potomac River. There are various companies in the DC area offering lunch or dinner cruise. If you take a day cruise, fall and spring are particularly beautiful. At nighttime, see the monuments lit up. Depending upon the company you choose, you may view Washington Harbor, Old Town Alexandria, Gaylord at National Harbor and Nationals Ballpark.

Dandy Restaurant Cruises offers gourmet dining and dancing as you cruise past the historic monuments. Or consider a ballpark theme cruise with Spirit Cruises.

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a place where many Americans pause to reflect upon our nations history.
© Mike Leco

Many ways to arrive

Washington DC is extremely easy to get to. Depending upon your travel plans you may be visiting several U.S. cities. If Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York are part of your plans Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express is one option. Unless you plan to drive, consider one of the three nearby airports:

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, also known as National Airport, is located in Arlington County, Virginia. This is the closest airport to downtown Washington. While this airport is convenient, it's small and very busy airport with limited flights.

Dulles International Airport is located in Chantilly, Virginia, about 40 minutes from downtown. Shuttle and taxi service is available for guests.

Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) is located south of Baltimore. Driving between the cities can take a good hour. However, there are also plenty of other transportation methods between the two cities including subway, train, taxi and shuttles.

After trying to decide how to get to get to DC it's time to look for accommodations. Check out our Washington DC Hotels page for some great ideas.

Mail List Contest Winner

Congratulations to Juan Gomez Benitez from Spain. He has won our Summer 2010 Mail List Contest.

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you would like to purchase your own copy of the prizes, follow these links:
RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel http://www.roadrunner.travel
2010 Road Atlas http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0528942530?ie=UTF8

My Favorite Place

The Long Beach Peninsula

By Irmgard Castleberry, German Translator

My husband and I like to visit the Long Beach Peninsula in the southwest corner of the State of Washington. It reaches like a finger north from the Columbia River, the second largest river in the US. It is 180 miles (288 km) from Seattle.

This area is one of rare natural beauty, unspoiled by too much civilization. It attracts visitors from faraway as well as people who settle here to pursue their passion of creating art, writing novels or to just retire.

Irmgard enjoying the Kite Festival on the Beach.

Irmgard enjoying the Kite Festival on the Beach.
© Irmgard Castleberry

The peninsula is rich in history. Captain Robert Gray in his ship Columbia was the first recorded direct Euro-American contact with the Chinook Native Americans at the mouth of the Columbia River in May 1793.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the first overland expedition to the Pacific Ocean. They arrived in 1805, spending the winter across the river in Clatsop, Oregon, where a museum and a replica of their camp can be visited. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Ilwaco on the Peninsula offers tours, programs, guided hikes as well as exhibits.

Another museum in Ilwaco is the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum which has artifacts of the Lewis-Clark expedition with displays of their recordings of geology, geography, wild life and diplomacy - trading with the natives. One room is devoted to the story of the Chinook Indians and their way of life.

There are a number of settlements on the Peninsula. However the town of Long Beach is the largest with 6,000 inhabitants. The town has entertainment for the whole family including a beach promenade, carousel, arcade, golf course, rides, galleries and of course shops and restaurants.

A perfect daytrip is to drive to Astoria, Oregon. It takes less than an hour and you will cross the Columbia River over the 6 mile (4 km) long bridge. Astoria was established in 1811 by John Jacob Astor as a fur trading post. It became the first permanent settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.

The Flavel Mansion is a restored 1885 Victorian open to the public. It was built on a hill by a ship captain who liked to observe his ships coming up river from his tower room. The house is fully furnished and gives visitors a splendid impression of a family living during that time.

We always find the Columbia River Maritime Museum along the River a wonderful place to visit. It explores marine transportation from the days of canoes through the age of sail to the present.

For another thrill drive to the Astoria Column - towering above Astoria on its highest hill with a spectacular view over the city and the surrounding rivers, bays, forests, mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1926 it rises 125 feet in the air and 164 steps lead you to the top.

Whether you look for solitude, a quiet place in the dunes to contemplate serious issues, or whether you seek excitement, loud fun and thrills on the beach, go visit the Long Beach Peninsula. This place will pull you back again and again until it is your favorite place in Washington State as well.


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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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