Before I go on holiday I like to research and plan out what i’m going to do and on what days. I don’t plan every hour but I like to have some idea of what I intend to do during the visit and a rough idea of how long it would take to visit everywhere. In planning for Washington this seemed an impossible task, there is so much to see and do. My husband made a list of all the things that we wanted to see and then grouped them together into areas of the city, what were must dos and what we could skip.
Today we decided to visit the National Zoological Park; thankfully this day coincided with dry weather after it had rained for the previous day spent in museums. The Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution so as per the other museums it has free entry. Some of the most popular animals here include the giant pandas but the zoo has lots to see including the amazing orangutans who are one of my personal favourites. One other really random and amusing thing about the zoo is that they have their very own police force! I felt like I was living Zootopia for real.
After spending ages watching the lions play we quickly came around the corner to the Think Tank. This is an area designed for education, it demonstrates how animals think and learn. For example the orangutans are taught to spray water on visitors or get treats. This was obviously not running when we were there due to the colder weather but you can clearly see its well used so the animals must enjoy it. Inside here we came across a baby orangutan still feeding with his mother, adorable.
The orangutans has a lot of free movement between the Think Tank and their enclosure, we witnessed them several times using the rope line to cross between the two. The rope actually crosses over the path at several points so you get a brilliant view of the animals.
One of the most famous residents of the zoo, who sadly is no longer there, was Smokey Bear who had the infamous phrase “only you can prevent forest fires”. I actually purchased an awesome Smokey Bear t-shirt while shopping in Target on the first night which has pride of place in my wardrobe now.
The pandas here were amazing, it’s only the second time I have actually had the opportunity to see Giant Pandas before, having previously seen them at San Diego Zoo. The ones here were super playful and I honestly could have stood and watched them play all day. The other animals here who unexpectedly stole my heart were the beavers. We chanced upon them at feeding time and honestly they were so cute the way they just gnawed away at their food with their tiny little paws.
After we left the zoo we got the Metro back to the National Mall where we visited the White House. We cycled here from the Metro station using one of the many bikes for hire around the city. We initially visited the front of the building where it was the busiest viewing area. I was shocked at how close you can actually get to the front lawn, although looking around for a bit longer you soon realised the amount of security in the area. We went around to the rear of the building past a lot more security measures and posed for some more photos. What really caught my attention was that you can clearly see visitor information boards where you could previously go up closer to the building but this is now barricaded by large concrete barriers and lots of patrolling security.
From here we walked up to the Washington Monument. This thing is enormous, I know this seems a bit daft to say but you really have to get up close to appreciate the sheer scale of this monument. We went from here to the World War II Memorial located just before the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool which honours the 16 million Americans who served during the war. This is also where you will find the Freedom Wall, this has 4,048 gold stars each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. Poignantly written in front of the wall is “Here we mark the price of freedom.”
Next up on the hit list of must-sees was the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, this site has been seen on any film based in Washington and most recently in my memory from Captain America 2: Winter Soldier where Steve Rogers is running around it. This area is lovely to stroll down either through the trees in the shade or along the waterfront although beware of flies and bugs if close to the water! The 2,029 feet walk is well worth it down to the Lincoln Memorial. This is an another iconic site to see, although lets be honest nearly everything in this city is iconic. It as also here that we saw the Presidential helicopter flying over to land on the White House lawn.
After a long day trekking around the city we finished it off with some delicious pizzas from Matchbox, this was an unassuming little store front which lead to a massive restaurant behind. The food here was great and highly recommended. When looking for places to eat in new places we generally refer to Foursquare to read reviews of places, it’s a great tool and we have found some great little gems from this. Please don’t forget to leave your own review after visiting though to help others. We called it a night soon after this and thankfully our hotel was only a few doors up. We really couldn’t have picked a better located hotel than Pod DC.