I recently had occasion to visit Washington, DC, on a research trip. My work-in-progress takes place in Washington and I needed to see first-hand the places where my protagonist works and lives and where she goes to do research. I lived in Washington for a very short time many years ago, and though I remember the experience fondly, my memories of some of the neighborhoods in the capital city aren’t crystal-clear. But my research trip wasn’t all research–I played the role of tourist, too. I got thinking that for my blog post this week, it would be great to share some of my favorite places in and around Washington.
Mount Vernon. Located not far from the US capital in Mount Vernon, Virginia, this is the plantation home that belonged to George Washington. My daughter and I visited Mount Vernon in March and both of us loved the experience. I was surprised to learn that Mount Vernon is not a national park. In fact, it is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union and the organization does a beautiful job of maintaining the buildings and the grounds for visitors. There is a working farm, a beautiful learning center where you can watch a fascinating movie about George and Martha Washington and about the estate in general, a boat landing, the plantation house, outbuildings that are open to visitors, and so much more to see. One of my favorite parts of our visit was looking at the Potomac River from the veranda of the house, which sits on a hill with a majestic view of the river in both directions.
International Spy Museum. My son and I had occasion to visit the International Spy Museum on a Boy Scout trip to Washington a couple years ago. Hands-down, it was my favorite part of that trip. Ever wanted to know how the KGB assassinated a Soviet dissident in London? Ever wondered how the CIA used to hide cyanide pills? Ever suspected the Romanians of listening in on your conversations? The answers to these mysteries and so many more are in the museum. I highly recommend a visit!
Ford’s Theatre. History buffs will know this as the place where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Visitors can see the box where President and Mrs. Lincoln were sitting that fateful night; the docents willingly share their extensive knowledge of both the assassination and its immediate aftermath. If you get a chance to visit Ford’s Theatre, make a bonus stop at the Petersen House (it’s right across the street). This is the private home where Lincoln died on the morning of April 15, 1865. You’ll see the important rooms of the house where historical figures came together to pay their respects and to mourn the President’s passing.
Lincoln Memorial. And speaking of Abraham Lincoln, don’t miss a stop at the Lincoln Memorial. At the top of the steps of this building, you’ll find a huge statue of a seated Lincoln as well as gorgeous carvings of text from some of his most memorable speeches, such as the Gettysburg Address. Depending on the route you take to get to the Lincoln Memorial, you might also pass the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and/or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen). From the Lincoln statue, turn around to see the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.
Tudor Place (sorry, no photos of this one). Located above Georgetown, this property is a National Historic Landmark which was once the private home of George Washington’s step-granddaughter Martha and her husband, followed by generations of their family. Visitors can tour the grounds for free and tour the house for a small fee.
There are so many things to see and do in Washington, DC, that you’ll never lack for activities if you get a chance to visit. These are just my favorite places, and I encourage you to find some of your own!
Until next time,