Day 1 – Wednesday
White House Tour: This tour has to be arranged 6 months in advance through your congressman, but is worth it. You get to tour the East Wing, as well as the first floor of the White House (East Room, Red Room, Blue Room, Green Room, State Dining Room, and Entry). These rooms are cool, but if you miss it, you didn’t miss much. The coolest part of this tour is the fact that you exit out out the North Portico of the White House. Walking down those historic steps and down the front driveway makes you feel pretty special.
White House Visitor’s Center: This is the post 9/11 substitute for the White House tour. It is an unimpressive photo essay and video about the Presidency. A good primer for the White House tour, but would not replace it.
Ford’s Theatre and House Where Lincoln Died: This is a nice place to swing by while you’re in the neighborhood, but don’t plan a special trip. Ford’s Theatre was actually closed for restoration, and the House is a 5 minute unguided tour without many original artifacts… not too special.
International Spy Museum: This museum is good for teenagers and adults alike, but gets a little redundant by the end. I mean, how many little pen cameras and microdots can a person see before they understand spying? It’s all very cold-war-neat-o, but has one glaring omission: a discussion of and glimpse into spying today. The museum totally ignores how the internet and modern communications has completely changed the way governments spy on each other, and seeing the technology of the past only wets the appetite to see what kind of stuff the use nowadays!
Museum of American Art and National Portrait Gallery: This gallery ended up being our favorite in Washington DC. The art is varied, and the portraits are stunning. Each piece of work is well annotated about both the artist and the subject of the painting. This museum is a great smattering of American Art, and a great way to experience the full breadth of American History through the many portraits of important figures. Plus, this museum is open 2.5 hours later than all the others, making it a great place to stop by if you aren’t tired by 5pm yet.
This portrait of George Washington, one of the most famous portraits, was actually never finished by Gilbert Stewart. From this portrait, things like the dollar bill were made. I think it’s funny that the most famous likeness of Washington came from an unfinished painting.
This museum holds many of such treasures, including the famous Lansdowne portrait of Washington that Dolley Madison saved from the White House during the War of 1812.