There is no more beautiful city in the world than Washington, DC. The architecture is both personal and heroic. Like Athens and Rome in their day, it has become the center of civilization. It is the seat of American government and a symbol of power. It is also a haven of hospitality that offers a feast for the eye and a boost for the spirit. A tour of the city can convey a sense of the people, places, and events that have made the United States. such a blessed place to live.
Members of the home care and hospice community will have the chance to visit this splendid metropolis while attending the 2013 NAHC Annual Meeting & Exposition. The meeting will take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, located on the banks of the Potomac River across from Reagan National Airport. Since the Gaylord opened its doors five years ago, an entire city has popped up out of the ground, as if by magic. Guests can visit dozens of fine restaurants and shops, all within walking distance of National Harbor. Or they can relax in the Gaylord with its stunning views of the Potomac, Washington, DC, and Old Town Alexandria in the distance.
In September of last year I decided to do something special to celebrate my birthday and that of my wife, Kathy. I proposed we tour Washington, as if we were foreign visitors seeing DC for the very first time. We hired a driver so we could save the time and hassle of finding a place to park. Then we spent a full day taking in the sights of Washington, DC. The weather was perfect. What follows is our itinerary — a list of my favorite places in Washington.
The U.S. Capitol
It is simply stunning. Even today, I cannot look at the Capitol dome without getting a lump in my throat. I am always filled with gratitude that a small-town coal miner’s son could be standing where Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Kennedy once stood. My favorite view is from the west front with the reflecting pool in the foreground. This is the side of the Capitol that has been used for inaugurations in recent times. Going further back, you will recall that George Washington laid the cornerstone for the building and it has been home to the Congress since 1800. The Senate occupies the north wing of the Capitol while the south belongs to the House. Visitors who want to see the House or Senate in session may obtain gallery passes from the offices of their senators or representative. Watching government in action is an enormous thrill, and so is looking up at the Capitol dome from the center of the building. Nearby is National Statuary Hall, where all 50 states have placed statues of their most prominent citizens. And few are more prominent in my mind than the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass. I was there when a stunning statue of him went on display in the new visitors’ center next to Statuary Hall.
The U.S. Supreme Court
The justices of the Supreme Court used to meet in their chambers in the Capitol Building. When the court outgrew these quarters, Congress commissioned a new building in the style of a Greek temple, suitable for the august role the justices fulfill. The court is in session from October through June, and watching it hear cases is awesome. As a member of the bar of the Supreme Court, I have the honor to take in court proceedings, argue cases before the tribunal, and bring guests with me for a private tour. I was last there when the court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the ACA. Before that I was there when NAHC made a successful appeal before the court to maintain the companionship exemption to the Fair Labor Standards laws. The justices declared unanimously that the exemption was constitutional and that it should be sustained.
The Library of Congress
Simply put, it is the largest library in the world both in terms of shelf space and number of books. It exists to supply information to members of Congress and to researchers from around the world. As a law student, I spent countless hours in the stacks at the extensive law library, though I still didn’t get through its 2.5 million volumes. There are three buildings including the Jefferson Building a veritable temple of books crowned by a gold-plated dome. The Jefferson Building is the oldest of the three and the best known thanks to the Watergate scandal. If you saw “All the President’s Men,” you will remember Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman doing research in this massive and ornate structure. From the stairs turning west, there are splendid views of the Capitol across the street.
The National Museum of the American Indian
Go west of the Capitol on the south side of the National Mall, the grassy expanse that runs all the way to the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. You’ll come upon the National Indian Museum. The museum is a cultural celebration of Indians past and present and a venue not to be missed.
The Air and Space Museum
This building is part of the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex. In this much-visited favorite, visitors can track man’s progress to defy gravity and take to the skies. Exhibits range from kites and balloons to the Wright brothers’ groundbreaking plane, from John Glenn’s Mercury 7 space capsule to the moon lander used by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Additional space and aviation artifacts, too large to fit there, are now housed at a second museum near Dulles Airport in Virginia. If you’re flying out of Dulles, take advantage of the chance to see a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery.
The World War II Memorial
West of the Washington Monument is the stirring World War II Memorial. It honors the thousands who served in World War II, especially those who made the supreme sacrifice to keep America safe. Its design featuring two 43-foot arches, waterfalls, and a circular garden has won numerous awards. Among the many it honors is former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole who was gravely wounded in World War II. He also championed the memorial and became its chief fundraiser upon the request of former President Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in his bid for the White House but supported him in bringing the memorial to completion. And Dole enjoyed his own triumph at the memorial’s dedication when Kansas Senator Pat Roberts said “the World War II Memorial would not exist were it not for Senator Bob Dole.” The picture at the introduction to this artcle features this monument in the background.
The National Gallery of Art
Take a trip through every era and style of art by visiting this fabulous collection on the north side of the Mall next to Constitution Avenue. Visitors can see everything from the sketches of early cavemen to the finest works of Rembrandt, Renoir, and Jackson Pollack, along with America’s only Leonardo Da Vinci. The neoclassical West Building is centered on a rotunda that was modeled after the ancient Roman Pantheon. The second and more modern East Building by architect I.M. Pei features the largest mobile that Alexander Calder ever designed.
The Museum of National History
Further down the Mall, visitors will come to the museum that’s most popular with kids and loved by those who are young at heart. Its signature exhibit is a stuffed and mounted bull elephant who rears his trunk and greets all who come in. He’s ginormous, except when compared with other exhibits like the Blue Whale and Tyrannosaurus Rex. View the Hope Diamond, learn about the mud masons of Mali, and explore the ancient seas.
The National Museum of American History
This is a wonderful place to trace human progress from the Stone Age through the Industrial Age to today’s Electronic Age. If you think Michelle Obama is the only First Lady with a sense of style, you should check out the almost 100-year old First Ladies Collection, including gowns worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Laura Bush. There are also exhibits on everything from advertising to architecture and automobiles from the days before the Model T to the modern race car.
The Washington Monument
The world’s largest freestanding masonry building is under repair now due to earthquake damage. Yet it is still clear that this is a fitting tribute to the first president of our country. The 555-foot tall obelisk has an elevator and an 897-step stairway. The stairs are now closed to the public, so perhaps you’ll still have the strength for a side trip to Mount Vernon, Washington’s family home, 16 miles south of DC on the George Washington Parkway. Its mansion and more than a dozen original structures make it well worth the trip.
The Lincoln Memorial
This unique monument is built in the style of a classical Greek temple. There are 36 columns which support the roof, one for every state that was in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Standing on the memorial’s steps, which look back across the Reflecting Pool and down the Mall to the Capitol, is one of the most heartwarming of American experiences. This was the site of the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. I was there when Dr. King spoke those famous words and I returned to the Lincoln Memorial on several occasions during my early years in Washington, DC. My family in Utah was 2,000 miles away, so I used to have my Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with Abe Lincoln. Sitting at his feet somehow erased the loneliness I felt.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial
The newest entry on the Mall is this tribute to the revered civil rights leader and Nobel Prize winner. The centerpiece of the memorial is the “Stone of Hope,” a 30-foot statue of Dr. King emerging from a block of granite. There is also a 450-foot inscription wall made from granite panels inscribed with 14 excerpts of King’s sermons and public addresses.
The Jefferson Memorial
This neo-classical monument honors our third president, primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Located on the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial is accessible to the public 24 hours a day. North of it, across the Tidal Basin, is the world’s most famous address: 1600 Pennsylvania, the home of those who continue Jefferson’s legacy of freedom and independence. Visitors who really want to get to know Jefferson should visit his home in Monticello, Virginia, about a four-hour drive south and west of Washington, DC.
The White House
Every American should have a visit to the White House on their bucket list. This has been the official presidential residence since the days of John Adams, and each presidential family has in one way or another left its mark on this splendid mansion. Though public tours have been suspended due to budget cuts, great photo opportunities abound, especially from the north where Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed to traffic. Those looking for souvenirs may want to visit White House Gifts (whitehousegifts.com) at one of their two locations: 701 15th Street NW (202-737-9500) and 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (202-737-7730). If you go to the main store on 15th street, you can have your photo taken behind the famous Resolute desk with the Oval Office as a backdrop. And if you’re looking for Christmas ornaments, be sure to visit White House Historical Association (www.whitehousehistory.org) at 740 Jackson Place NW. It’s the official source for the 2013 White House Christmas ornament honoring President Woodrow Wilson.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
This 7.5 acre combination of gardens and landscaped park sprinkled with waterfalls is open 24 hours a day. Its four outdoor gallery rooms depict the 12 years of FDR’s presidency. Visitors can see statues of FDR in a wheelchair, his wife Eleanor, and his dog Fala. FDR, who suffered from polio, was the only president to ever have a handicap, and the FDR Memorial is the first monument designed to be wheelchair accessible.
Arlington National Memorial
This living tribute to sacrifice and service is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Monuments, memorials, and trees commemorating individuals and important events are interspersed throughout its grounds. The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is located here, as is the Women in Military Service Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial representing America’s gratitude to its Marines. An eternal flame marks the grave of President John F. Kennedy, who’s buried here along with his wife Jackie and his brothers Robert and Ted.
The Einstein Statue
The National Academy of Sciences on the 2200 block of Constitution Avenue is known for its statue of Albert Einstein. The great physicist is a favorite of mine for his commitment to freedom and humanitarian causes. I often look to him for inspiration and always have in mind his moving words: “Only a life lived for others is worthwhile.”
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Located on the Potomac River, the Kennedy Center is the largest cultural facility of its kind. Its Grand Foyer features a seven-foot high bust of our 35th president that weighs 3,000 pounds and sits atop a travertine marble pedestal. I love the rough-hewn bust so much that I bought a copy of it for my office. It’s also popular among the many people who go there to attend concerts, opera, plays, or the ballet. They include President Barack Obama and his cabinet members, who often attend the celebrated Kennedy Center Honors, an annual program that recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
American architect Mayan Lin was just 21 when she submitted the winning design for this dramatic tribute to those who served in the Vietnam War. The memorial is a black granite wall inscribed with the names of 58,209 Americans killed or missing in the Vietnam conflict, many of them no older than Lin. A life-size bronze statue depicting three young servicemen is located near the memorial wall. Nearby is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, featuring a sculpture of two nurses tending to a male soldier’s wounds.
The Mahatma Gandhi Statue
Gandhi was a global ambassador for peace, so it’s fitting that his statue should stand on Embassy Row not far from lively Dupont Circle. The small park with Gandhi’s statue is one of my favorite places to go in Washington, DC. Whenever I’m there I think of the great man who inspired us with his philosophy of peaceful nonviolence. He had a profound influence on Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the millions who have been touched by his famous words: “Love is God; that is the only truth that I really recognize. Love equals God.”
There are many wonderful churches in the area. My favorites are the Washington National Cathedral, where you can get a taste of Gothic architecture in northwest DC and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with its Byzantine dome and impressive mosaics.
My favorites are the Capital Grille, located at 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, literally at the foot of the Capitol, and the Old Hickory Steakhouse, the signature restaurant of the Gaylord National Resort. It features prime steaks and wonderful views of the Potomac River.
My personal favorite is the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, located close to Reagan National Airport in the Pentagon’s shadow. It offers a world-class shopping experience with 170 fascinating stores and restaurants, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Coach, Swarovski Crystal Gallery, and Sony Style. The sky-lit food court features international specialties from the familiar to the exotic.
My favorite is Lake Presidential Golf, Maryland’s number-two ranked public course. Created by the developers of spectacular Kiawah Island in South Carolina, it features an 18-hole champion golf course on a scenic 30-acre lake. It’s located at 3151 Presidential Drive in Upper Marlboro, about 15 minutes north and east of the Gaylord National Resort. To learn about any specials or promotions, call them at 301-627-8577.
Best Day Trip
I prefer either a 35-minute drive north to Baltimore to see the National Aquarium or a similar-length drive to Annapolis, home to the U.S. Naval Academy and many quaint shops. If you decide to make the trip, charter a three-hour cruise on the Woodwind, a yacht made famous by the movie “The Wedding Crashers.” It leaves from the dock behind the Marriott Hotel.