Even with its hassles, Washington, DC is still a wonderful city | News
I have long enjoyed visiting places out of season.
The weather is often better than in high season, and the hordes of tourists are always at home, under the covers.
One of my best experiences in Prague was in a gray November. The museums, cathedrals and shops were exactly as they appear in summer, but with a bit of a bad mood, and you can kind of feel the wintry gloom of the medieval city.
I rushed along the boulevards the way the Czechs rushed with their purchases dangling from their wrists in Hugo Boss and Billa bags. I was no longer a tourist but a fellow citizen, huddled in my coat, trying to warm up, trying to get home.
Last week, right after the snowstorm hit Virginia and before the freezing temperatures set in, my sister, niece and I traveled to Washington, DC to visit my nephew who works there.
We drove, at my insistence really, because I didn’t think I could handle the airport/plane experience in a mask. We delayed our trip a day because of the snow, but when we left the roads were clear and the sun was bright, and West Virginia put on a show, decked out in flowing white dresses.
We stocked the car in case of a disaster, with blankets and pillows, flashlights and water, but mostly we just ate snacks when we were bored. The journey was long but uneventful.
Because there were three of us, we opted for an AirBNB, and I found an entire carriage discount on Capitol Hill, costing less than a hotel room per night. When we walked half a block in either direction, there was the imposing and inspiring US Capitol. Lit up at night, it took my breath away.
We never tire of seeing it.
Our spot was right behind the Capitol, a block from the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, which was sitting. On our walks to the Capitol and the Mall, we passed Capitol Police, some in the middle of the narrow Colonial Street, standing on either side of a barricade.
Apparently we were passing the house of one of the judges who lives in this block, and security was very tight, possibly because the judge was home for lunch.
Washington, DC in the winter is always a bit of a gamble, but if you prepare for it, the fresh air can be invigorating and energizing. I found it that way.
If you’re unprepared, you’re in luck, as some of the best shopping in the country is right next door, a short metro or Uber ride away.
Really, I almost passed out for shopping.
But the museums are also a big draw, perhaps the biggest. Here you will have a hard time.
If you’re planning a trip to Washington, be sure to check out the Smithsonian’s website. Museums have unusual hours and most of them are not open every day of the week.
I drew a complicated diagram to take with us to know the times and dates of each museum. We completely missed the Museum of American Art, the only one I really wanted to revisit.
Another consideration if you are considering going there is this. Some venues require a timed ticket to manage the number of people allowed to enter. We consulted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, kept in the National Archives.
It’s free, but we had to register for a specific time. We had to do the same for the Library of Congress. The Holocaust Museum must be booked weeks in advance.
And then there are the masks.
If ever a city took its mask mandate seriously, it’s DC
It’s common to hear a guard or docent barking orders at someone to wear their mask properly, or put on their mask, and depending on your persuasion, it was either comforting or irritating.
I was chastised once, in a bookstore, with a panicked little man who rushed up to me, pressing his face to mine, ordering me to wear my mask properly.
I wondered where the social distancing came from in this interaction, but he called me “miss”, so I obeyed.
Masks, identity and vaccination cards in restaurants, and everyone a bully on the correct wearing of the mask.
Still, it was wonderful to walk around hassle-free and without a mask, to wander the streets our founders walked, to feel the crackle of energy that is our capital.