Advantages Extremely good variety of sights, monuments and museums. Very good shooping opportunities.
Disadvantages The heroic approach of museums and public monuments can be tiresome. Inner city crime is a problem, but not in the tourist areas.
So it was when I first visited Washington as a child with my parents back in 1984. I was impressed, to say the least, of the great sights of this city: the dozen or more museums of the Smithsonian Institution put almost every other city on earth to shame, White House and Capitol Hill are impressive monuments of the American democracy, and the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials combine great architecture with beautiful surroundings and a historical aura.
Weren't things easy under the old world order? You could travel to Washington D.C. and believe that you had arrived in the capital of the free world. Eyes wide open, you would walk along Capitol Hill, the Mall and the various memorials of former Presidents, and adore the achievements of the great American nation.
In July 1997 I returned to Washington to attend parts of the official visit of GeorgianPresident Edward Schewardnadze to the United States, and had some extra days for sightseeing and shopping in Washington. At that time I had been somewhat disillusioned by the American way of self-celebration. Thus I tried to stay clear off Capitol Hill, the White House area and the Memorial Monuments during the private part of my visit.This is by no means a complete travel guide to Washington DC. You would need at least a week to discover all the sights in this city. During my last visit I adopted an attitude of strolling around Washington in a relaxed way and taking some side views. Thus my impressions are rather subjective, and limited to the parts of town I happened to explore more or less by coincidence. My aim was to come up with an authentic review, not with a shiny travel catalogue.
The Mall is not a shopping centre, but Washington's main park and monuments area which spans over 2 1/2 miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and is a quarter mile wide. The concentration of museums, monuments and memorials around the mall is unmatched worldwide, at least to my knowledge. Most of the museums are run by the Smithsonian Institution, a private foundation, and admission is free. During my last trip to DC, I visited two of them, the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum (see below).Before you embark on a tour around the Mall and its attractions, you should bear in mind that the area is very wide spread and has very poor restaurants / cafes / snack-bars infrastructure. Due to Washington's hot climate and the vast distances to be walked in open air between the sights, you may soon feel dried out. I would therefore recommend that you equip yourself with an armada of soft drinks before you start. Some of the museums do have canteens, but they are rather on the expensive side.
The Museum is located in the centre of the northern strip of the Mall, between Madison Drive and Constitution Avenue, and spans over three floors. You might expect a complete coverage of American history from Christopher Columbus or the Mayflower to modern day, but indeed the museum focuses mostly on 19th century exhibits.
National Museum of American History
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