By Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Stategic Communications Director
Those stationed in the National Capital Area, know firsthand how unique a duty station it is! It is often said that you could pick something to do or see every day and still not see everything. Here is PCSgrades’ Washington D.C. Bucket List of “once in a lifetime” things to do and places to see in our Nation’s Capital.
Hear an Oral Argument in the Supreme Court
Beginning the first Monday in October, the Court hears two one-hour arguments on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., with occasional afternoon sessions. Arguments are held in two-week intervals through late April (with longer breaks over the holidays in December and again in February).
All oral arguments are open to the public, but limited seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Before a session begins, two lines form on the plaza in front of the building. One is for those who wish to attend an entire argument, and the other, a three-minute line, is for those who wish to observe the Court in session only briefly. Seating for the first argument begins at 9:30 a.m. and seating for the three-minute line begins at 10 a.m. Some cases attract large crowds, with lines forming before the building opens so arrive early.
National Museum of American History
There is a museum on nearly every block downtown but one thing that sets D.C. museums apart is that most are completely FREE! And there are some unique ones at that. The National Museum of American History has a collection of miscellaneous Americana to include social, cultural, political, scientific, and military. The actual Star-Spangled Banner, Abe Lincoln’s top hat, Julia Child’s kitchen, Archie Bunker’s chair, inaugural dresses worn by first ladies, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” are some of the more notable items.
National Building Museum
This museum, housed in a beautiful building on F Street NW, is known for its unique exhibitions. Past exhibits include a Lego display of small-scale, detailed replicas of famous buildings, the art of architecture in Africa; and a Building Zone area enabling children to construct their own monuments with soft blocks.
If you are a “news hound,” this is the perfect museum for you! One of the few museums in the Nation’s Capital that charge an admittance fee, but the collection of memorabilia devoted to the world of news and journalism make it worth the price of admission. Fourteen galleries, 15 theaters, an interactive newsroom, a piece of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, a fragment of the Berlin Wall, and a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, make this interactive museum one not to be missed.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The first and only museum dedicated solely to the many artistic achievements of women features 4,500 works of art by more 1,000 artists including Georgia O’Keeffe. There’s also an 18,500-volume library and research center.
The Exorcist Stairs
Anyone who has seen the 1973 horror classic movie the Exorcist will likely recognize the site of the climactic final showdown between the priest and the demon. These famous stairs are very narrow and steep, and the ivy-covered walls only add to the creepiness. But for movie buffs, this is a must see attraction. The steps received an historical marker in October of 2015. The top of the stairs is at 3600 Prospect Street NW in Georgetown. They lead down to a gas station on M Street NW.
The Space Window
Five years after making history in 1969 as the first men to set foot on the moon, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins presented the Washington National Cathedral with a small memento from their voyage. The window that would house the moon rock was a specially commissioned stained glass creation depicting stars and orbiting planets inspired by photos taken from the Apollo 11 mission. The rock, estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old, is encased in a small, air-tight, nitrogen-filled capsule to prevent deterioration and placed at the center of a planet in the upper half of the window which is located on the south side of the cathedral.
Take a Tour of the Monuments (at Night)
There is no city quite like Washington D. C. with a wide variety of monuments. From the enormity of the Lincoln Memorial to the beauty of the Jefferson Memorial on the Potomac River to the solemnity of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the monuments are a sight to be seen. But visiting these symbols of America at twilight is a whole new adventure! Spend an evening exploring these iconic buildings and statues for memories to last a lifetime. For a twilight tour via bus, check out DC Trails . You can also head out as the sun sets on bike via Bike and Roll Washington D.C.
Visit the White House
It is literally the most famous house in the country and believe it or not, with some advance planning it is open for touring! Requests must be made through a member of Congress and can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days before your visit. Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, excluding federal holidays. Tours fill up quickly so submit your tour request as early as possible. Free White House tours are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Find more information here.
The Mansion on the O
The Mansion on O St, near Dupont Circle has over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors spread throughout four maze-like floors. The mansion is actually four-row houses turned into one elaborate hotel/museum. Each themed room contains hundreds of pieces of art, books, and other knick knacks. Themes include the French Renaissance room, a log cabin room, and a billiards room. One of the most popular rooms is the Beatles room which houses a large amount of Beatles and John Lennon memorabilia, including a Sgt. Pepper Jukebox. The O Mansion is open to the public on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays and the most popular events are their teas, but the schedule often includes brunches and concerts.
If you have anything to add, please comment below. And check back in this spot for our Bucket List for Northern Virginia! For all your PCS needs, check out PCSgrades.com for reviews of on-base housing, local neighborhoods, moving companies, realtors, and mortgage lenders.
Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Coordinator, lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and their two children. She has checked all of these items off her D.C. Bucket list and suggests visiting the Exorcist Stairs during daylight hours with a group of people! You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.