A Sunday in Washington DC
After seeing so many movies where Washington features prominently, almost like a silent character, we weren't sure what to expect when we decided to visit. Would the city be like on screen? Would it be friendly? Comfortable? Genuine? Yes to all the above!
Washington is a surprisingly friendly city, of a fair size to get to know in up to a week, where a visitor will find all the famous sights that feature in every other movie, together with an endless list of free attractions, excellent customer service in all venues, and enough mystique to make one feel like they are somewhere special.
I've written other articles about the Sunday experience when you're abroad, because I think touring a city on Sunday is one of the best ways to get a feel for the genuine thing. You'll see neighborhoods sleepy until brunch time, you'll see folks decked out to the nines for church or family events, or any type of event for that matter, you'll see families out with kids, couples, groups of friends just strolling around…
To quote myself, there is none of the daily grind, none of the hurries, everyone is out and about at leisure. In short, Sundays generally paint a different view of a city from what you'd find in the tourist guides –or in the movies, indeed.
Sunday Route in Washington DC
We took the metro to Foggy Bottom –got to dig that name for a subway station, which is about a 15 minute walk to the center of Georgetown.
That's a nice and comfortable stroll that you won't be able to avoid, unless you decide to arrive via taxi or bus, because there isn't a metro station in the neighborhood.
This upper class, intellectual quarter, pride themselves in not having a metro station. Apparently this fact qualifies them as "set apart" from the rest of the city, an island of quiet, peace and chic in an otherwise busy and varied city.
The epicenter of Georgetown is M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, with stress on Wisconsin as the central hot spot with door to door fashion stores, bars, restaurants, and an endless supply of Sunday dwellers.
On M St and Wisconsin Ave there are two ideal routes to explore, first down to the Potomac river, and after that up to Dumbarton Street and the vicinity.
If a city is best visited on a Sunday, then the epitome of a Sunday in the city is a park, any park – and I will refer to this later as well in our tour around the National Mall.
Any expanse of grass will be packed with folks picnicking, playing ball, sunbathing, some even fishing on the river!
Most of us out and about did have our brunch with us to sit down and enjoy while people watching, chatting, and generally lazing around.
Georgetown up Wisconsin Ave
After the stroll around the Waterfront, we took Wisconsin Avenue up again and back to M street. Then the sightseeing and strolling took a different hue, with all the nice stores and the general foot traffic and Sunday atmosphere.
On Wisconsin and Dumbarton Street we made a right and started the lane and alley enjoyment.
Boy, is that a cute and quaint and classy neighborhood. Very much worth the 30 or 45 minute stroll around the laid back Sunday ambiance of a very well preserved historic district.
At around 13:00 we picked our way back to Foggy Bottom metro station, and we had an extra perk for our Sunday experience: It was Graduation Day for what looked like a good number of colleges around George Washington University.
Graduates and families were all over the place, and the atmosphere was so festive that we couldn't help but stop and gawk in numerous occasions.
14:00 Washington Mall Tour - Segway City Tours
First things First
A 3 hour tour of the National Mall is USD 75$ apiece. This is very fairly priced in my opinion, all things considered –training, length of the tour, quality of service, the fact that you are in effect renting a motorized vehicle, and most importantly, the fact that such a vehicle will allow you a 100% tour of the Mall in less than 3 hours, which is impossible to think off if you're on foot –boy, is the Mall huge! So I'm hoping your budget will allow you to enjoy this original and tremendously fun way to experience a different "Sunday stroll"!
But the real turning point for us to pick a segway tour was the fact that in 3 hours one could have loads of fun navigating an immense National Mall on a day where people are out and about.
We decided this would be a very uncomplicated way to enjoy all the sights without missing a beat. We were right!
The 20 Dollar Bill Anecdote
The first stop of the City Segway tour is between Lafayette Square and The White House. Our super friendly guide asked someone in the group for a 20 dollar bill and then proceeded to explain the cutest anecdote: The face of the 20$ bill shows Jackson, whose equestrian statue sits smack in the middle of Lafayette Square. The back side of the bill shows The White House. Consequently when you stand in that spot you can consider yourself in the middle of a 20 dollar bill! HE! But that's not all, at all!
Go grab a 20 dollar bill and check out the lawn depicted there. Apparently, the Dept of Treasury and the gardeners at The White House are quite obsessive about maintaining the lawn just as depicted in the bill. We were told that if a tree falls or a plant gets sick and needs extra trimming, the 20 dollar bill backside will be redesigned to fit the true White House image. Dig that!
Allow me to deviate a moment from my Sunday quest recount to comment on my Segway experience. The City Tours staff are nice to boot, from minute one to the very end of the tour. The way they customize the commentary for the historic locations were we stopped by is a real treat, fun and full of anecdotes that do have a historic significance, but are mostly there to entertain and make you oh and ah and laugh and enjoy the ride even more, if that's possible.
The National Mall
The highlights of the Mall are impossible to list unless we make a whole Washington DC history guide, on a guide of the history of the Union, indeed!
You'll stop by the White House, the Navy Memorial, which is in front of the US National Archives where the Declaration of Independence is safely guarded, pass by the Newseum, stop again by the Capitol, pass by the many Smithsonian museums around the Mall, stop by the Smithsonian Castle, on to the Washington monument, the WWII Memorial, pass by the Reflecting Pool and stop by the Lincoln Memorial.
Really and seriously all the sights that one ought to catch at the Mall. Which means this is a very convenient option if you're short on time in the city, too.
The Mall, a Huge National Park
But what I want to stop on and comment a bit is the ONE sight that made all the impact with me in my Sunday quest:
The endless fields of grass that were sprinkled all over with Sunday dwellers playing Frisbee, ball, football, picnicking, kids running around, folks cycling and jogging, complete with the food carts serving all sorts of –AHEM— delicacies, and benches under the endless rows of trees to just sit and enjoy.
I do believe this is the most people out and about I've seen together on a park (yes, yes, it's a public park!) on any given spring day in the USA.
For those of you who're now frowning and thinking I have got to go to Strawberry Fields on Central Park, NYC, or perhaps the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco – think again. Been there, done that, just perhaps I wasn't lucky to visit on such a glorious spring Sunday!
Besides, there is a moment of recent history that I have carved in my mind, much as the Gettysburg Address is engraved at the Lincoln Memorial, and can't quite dissociate from the Mall and the Reflecting Pool that perhaps makes this park a tad more special than others I've visited. I have a dream, anyone?
Speaking of indelible history, I took a few minutes to read, for the nth time, the unique and everlasting Gettysburg Address engraved at the Lincoln Memorial.
18:30 Diner at Legal Sea Foods
In the Foggy Bottom metro station we met the Capitol tour guide that took us around the Capitol visit! Would you believe it? Honest to goodness, it's true! Seems like all the movies in the world won't make Washington stop being a charming city!
So back at home base in the City Segway Tours, we picked our way back Foggy Bottom metro station to take either the Blue or Orange line, whichever came first, in the general direction of 7th Street NE, for that is where Legal Sea Foods bar and restaurant is located, pretty much at the corner of G Street.
That is around the corner of the National Portrait Gallery, which deserves and will probably get an article of its own.
Legal Sea Foods
At any rate, we specifically visited the Legal Sea Foods on account of their much acclaimed New England Classic Clam Chowder and, ahem, on account of it looking like a deliciously chic venue.
Ladies and gents, both are true! The classic chowder was really and truly great, and the ambience and general décor of the place did very much meet the expectations.
Being a Sunday like it was, and a Graduation Day Sunday to boot as well, the place was nearly full, both the bar and the restaurant. Perhaps on a regular Sunday –sans Graduation, the place would have been less packed, but I'm fairly certain the atmosphere would have been just as charming.
Staff was friendly, quick and efficient and they didn't rip us off at all – very fairly priced. It was a perfect end to our Sunday adventure.
20:30 Lincoln Memorial by Dusk – Evening Closure
By the time we left the Legal Sea Foods we were totally knocked off. Totally. So what did we do? We got on a taxi to Lincoln Memorial to be there by dusk. Worth it, I say. I almost couldn't walk past my hotel door later that evening, but I surely enjoyed the dusk sights of the Memorial and the Mall, here is just a token photo.
Yes, It's Got to be a Sunday
Perhaps you wonder whether you can do this tour any other day of the week. Wonder no more, you can!
However, you will not catch the atmosphere that you would on a Sunday, most especially on Georgetown or the National Mall. You can visit the same joints and sights, but I doubt you will feel like you're part of it, because there is nothing quite like a Sunday in the city.
© 2014 Elena.
More by this Author
In my experience, one of the best ways to get a feel for a city is have a stroll around it on a Sunday. The pace is slower, you'll see people doing what they would, shopping, eating out, enjoying the day with families,...
- EDITOR'S CHOICE2
The Coop Bookstore at Harvard is a fabulous bookstore, featuring a café and a store for official Harvard merchandise. The bookstore proper, however, is the main attraction to this old student cooperative which...
A springtime leisure Sunday in Tokyo around Daikanyama and Nakameguro, where you'll feel like a citizen rather than a tourist.