Places to Visit in Washington, D.C. over the 4th of July Weekend
Visiting all of the most famed tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. may be a difficult goal to achieve, especially on a busy occasion such as the 4th of July weekend. It’s a good idea to plan ahead of time and identify which spots to visit so that you can have the most entertaining and stress-free trip as possible. I was able to visit our nation’s capital over Memorial Day weekend, and I recommend visiting these places for anyone interested in having fun while learning about American history:
Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
While the first two memorials are probably the most well-known to tourists, make sure to visit the two locations that honor both FDR and MLK. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial features walls engraved with quotes from the president as well as a statue of Roosevelt seated in a wheelchair. The waterfalls lend a sense of serenity to the entire memorial, which also includes sculptures of significant events, such as the Great Depression, that occurred during Roosevelt’s presidency. This is also the only presidential memorial that pays tribute to a First Lady, since a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt can be found due to her contributions as a UN delegate and human rights activist. Near this memorial is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which allows visitors to see a towering statue of Dr. King sculpted out of a large stone. I read every quote from Dr. King inscribed onto the wall that flanks the statue, and the quotes offered a unique insight from each stage of his extraordinary life. My favorite line was "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Opened in 2016, this museum was my first stop on my trip to Washington, D.C. The museum is divided into the following sections based on floors: Heritage Hall, Explore More, Culture Galleries, Community Galleries, and History Galleries. The museum enlightens viewers with information about the rich history of African Americans in music, sports, art, the military, and other areas through artifacts and interactive exhibits. Since the historical exhibits are in the lower levels of the museum, visitors can go down a large elevator and see the dates of each century on the way down to show that they are traveling back in time to learn about the very beginning of African American history. As a history buff, I was intrigued by the artifacts in the galleries, which included Nat Turner’s Bible and an entire segregated train car which visitors could walk through. There was also a section devoted to the life of Oprah Winfrey that had video clips of segments from her signature talk show and other mementos, such as the red suit she wore on the famous car giveaway episode. Unfortunately, this exhibit is now closed, but visitors can still learn about Oprah’s life in other parts of the museum.
International Spy Museum
Any museum that features an introductory video narrated by Morgan Freeman is likely to be a popular one. As a privately owned museum, the building does have an admission fee. The museum assigns each visitor a code name and a location that he or she must remember throughout the entire visit to participate in certain activities, such as a code-breaking simulation. I loved learning about the history of espionage throughout the world in this museum, especially when reading about the Cold War, the Culper Ring in the American Revolution, and Noor Inayat Khan, who was a British spy in World War II. I also learned that America’s foundations were built on espionage, since one British officer who served during the American Revolution reportedly stated, “Washington did not really outfight the British. He simply out-spied us.”
National Air and Space Museum
I have a confession to make: I did not spend as much time here as I should have because I decided instead to watch Aladdin in the museum’s IMAX theater, an experience I do not regret whatsoever. Nevertheless, I still was able to learn about outer space through a large visual representation of the size of planets compared to the sun (it’s so big!) and full-scale models of three Mars rovers. Even if you are not interested in astronomy, the museum caters to history lovers by charting the Wright brothers’ lengthy journey to building the first airplane. On display is also Amelia Earhart’s red Lockheed 5B Vega plane, in which the missing aviator broke multiple flying records.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Holocaust Museum is an educational experience for visitors of all ages because it not only depicts the horrors of the Holocaust itself, but it also maps out the steps in history that led to the genocide. Displaying photographs, a scaled model of a concentration camp, newspapers, propaganda, political cartoons, and more, the museum ensures that visitors understand the context in which the Holocaust occurred. Small theaters are located throughout the museum so that visitors can view short films with real clips of historical figures. One of the most powerful exhibits displays heaps of shoes from victims of the Holocaust, giving viewers a tangible representation of the lives of people affected by the genocide.
United States Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden is an excellent spot if you are looking for a relaxing stroll in what feels like a mini-wilderness. In the Conservatory, visitors can find plants separated by regions, such as the desert, the Mediterranean, and the tropics. The gardens are perfect for close-up photographs of different flowers, but make sure not to block other visitors in the narrow walkway while you are taking pictures. Visitors can also walk up the stairs in the greenhouse to obtain an overhead view of the lush plants below. It is important to be mindful of the heat in the Botanic Garden and possibly bring sunscreen and water when preparing for the trip.