Jul 24,2010 0 Comments
In summertime, the population of D.C. doubles. Tourists here. Tourists there. Tourists everywhere.
We almost always become tourist guides to folks and friends from out of state or from the Philippines showing off local attractions like the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Jefferson, Lincoln and the war memorials, the Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian museums. There are also other tourist spots on a less beaten path that offer the tourist an equally historical and educational experience, often taken for granted because they are outside of D.C. but they are just a short drive away.
One such sight is Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, America’s first commander-in-chief and considered to be one of the greatest U.S. presidents. Sitting above the Potomac River, the estate includes a 14-room mansion and a breathtaking view of the Maryland shore.
An avid farmer, Washington planned the landscape of his home. To this day, visitors can see plants known to have been in Mount Vernon in the late 1700s. Forty-five acres of the estate are open to the public. Visitors can tour more than a dozen outbuildings including the slave quarters, kitchen, stables, a four-acre working farm that includes a re-creation of the 16-sided treading barn.
Every July 4th, Mount Vernon salutes George Washington with a spectacular smoke fireworks in patriotic colors over the Potomac River, a wreath-laying ceremony and military re-enactments.
STEVEN F. UDVAR-HAZY CENTER
Another sight to visit is the companion facility to the Smithsonian Institute, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport which opened in December 2003. It houses the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world. Most notably, the B29 superfortress bomber Enola Gay that was used in the mission that dropped the atomic bomb destroying Hiroshima, Japan piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets is on display there.
In November 2004, the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, which boasts of a total of 113 large space artifacts including two Mercury capsules, an Apollo Command Module, an array of cruise missiles, satellites and space telescopes, was opened.
The centerpiece of the hangar is the space shuttle Enterprise, the first space shuttle orbiter.
WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
Being a predominantly Catholic people, we usually bring guests to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. But a more historical place worth visiting is the imposing Washington National Cathedral, the sixth largest cathedral in the world. The cathedral’s English Gothic architecture is complemented by wood carvings, gargoyles, mosaics and more than 200 stained glass windows. Yet, though it pays homage to centuries-old ecclesiastical design traditions, the cathedral’s stately silhouette is leavened by some slyly humorous touches, including an occasional poke at the pompous nature of Washington officialdom. Visitors who focus their binoculars on the cathedral’s roofline will see carvings of a corrupt politician with a wad of $100 bills emerging from his coat pocket, a businessman carrying a briefcase, and even Darth Vader, the arch villain from the Star Wars movies. Many of these figures were created by talented immigrants, most of them Italian-born stone carvers whose skills were honed by years of rigorous training in their native country.
The Cathedral has also been the location of many historic events, including a burial for a U.S. president (Woodraw Wilson), three state funerals (Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford) and seven memorial services for presidents of the United States. More recently, the funeral service of NBA basketball player Manute Bol was held here on June 29, 2010.
Come and visit with us in D.C. and we’ll do D.C. together.