Spending My Birthday in DC

birthday picture in front of the white house in june

Two weeks ago I spent my 26th birthday in a fine city I’ve come to experience before. The one and only DC had only been worthy of one trip so far, back in 2011, where I had a humongous blast staying in a hostel and committing to a sightseeing-marathon. So for the most important day of the year, I already knew I wanted to get away from this city. I couldn’t be bothered with the hectic bustle’n’hustle of Nueva York but wanted to simply do something culturally appealing. A day trip to DC seemed like the right fit and so it was.

After spending some excruciating five hours on the Chinatown bus (read more on this bus here), we were finally dropped off in the midst of, well, Chinatown, of course. Now Chinatown in DC is a bit different than anywhere else in NY. It appears to be pretty much in the middle of town and very close to all sightseeing attractions, such as the White House, the National Mall, and the quazillion amounts of Memorials. So what could my first stop possibly be after a nerve-wrecking bus ride on my birthday? You named it! McDonalds! Yes, I know, perhaps not the first choice in culinary experiences. I also managed to snag two slices of pizza at We, the Pizza in the evening hours, which didn’t add to an elevated experience in gourmet foods.

Turkish protest in front of the White House
Turkish protest in front of the White House

However, I was here for the culture. And culture I got to see plenty! First, of course an obligatory stop at the White House. Always fun to watch the famous brick walls and wondering what might be going on inside. And as in two years ago, another protest was held outside of the gates. This time it had to do with Gezi-Park and the inhuman conditions going on in Istanbul. A nice crowd of Turkish protestors had gathered together, with a heap of onlookers and picture-takers.

Then off to the next stop on my personalized birthday tour: The World War II Memorial and its sparkling fountain! Not without forking over 2 dollars for a small bottle of water at most likely one of the only ice cream vendors lurking around the National Mall. I know, you guys can charge that much because everyone was suffering under a heat stroke, but seriously?

Yes, as you might have figured, it was hot. If not hotter as hot. Albeit not as humid as in New York. Which didn’t make sense to me, especially after my roommate later proclaimed that DC was built on swampland (new information learned each day). Perhaps Manhattan cages the heat in between its skyscrapers. However, the National Mall in DC does not have a lot of shadow because of the lack of trees. So just keep that in mind if you’re going on a trip in the summer.

Reflecting Pool
Reflecting Pool

Anyhow, the first day of June was a fine day for sticking my feet into the Reflecting Pool at the Memorial. Like dozens of other exhausted visitors, too. And here comes the tricky part: You can put your feet in and act respectful but you are not allowed to jump up and down, walk around in the water or even carry a bride through it for a good picture! One of those six Park Rangers swarming around the area made sure to warn us when we sunk our feet in the cooling water. And he didn’t make an exception for the young bride and her groom, who were ushered around by their photographer. As soon as they wanted to pose with their bridal party for what would have possibly been a superb memorable picture, he already came hurrying out of the shadows and intervened. Poor wedding couple! And they had been so good blinking into the blinding sun just moments before because their photographer had thought this to be a great shot!

Young Wedding Party at the World War II Memorial
Young Wedding Party at the World War II Memorial

After cooling off and facing the sweltering heat once again, I decided to bypass all the other memorials (the Lincoln for one) I had already seen the last time and went to the National Mall. My goal was to get a peek at a few museums I didn’t get the chance to see in 2011. I entered the Museum of National History (not without zipping and unzipping multiple bags for security) and made a round past the ancient Star-Spangled Banner. It had been sown together by multiple pieces of cloth during the war of 1812 and after the battle some soldiers had decided to cut themselves a share. Such as a star, which was missing in one corner.

air and space museum in dc

While this was an entertaining museum, the most time I did indeed spend in the Air and Space Museum just a walking distance down the road. From the history of the first man-built plane to great accomplishments in aeronautics – everything there was worth seeing.

My impression of DC’s museums so far? They are all for free, which is great. But they also tend to be a bit smaller than let’s say the Met in New York. At the same time, you have a diversity of different topics so close to each other and how could you possibly become bored of those choices? Definitely worth checking out!

The one and only Capitol
The one and only Capitol

My last stop on this spectacular tour was once again the Capitol. A few snapshots here and there and then I was over it. They have a beautiful garden you can walk. And on that particular evening there must have been a high school prom happening, as excited teenagers were posing in nice gowns and made-up appearances.

And finally, a drink at a bar in Capitol Hill with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. A nice momentum to end a birthday celebration. On our way back to Chinatown we ran into a bunch of people who were running a marathon. At 11 o’clock at night! Well, I guess craziness exists everywhere.

Luckily the bus ride back was relatively uneventful (except for an old Russian guy who loudly talked on his cell phone) and I was back in 3 ½ hours. A set record so far!

While I thought DC was already quite right for a visit back in March of ’11, this time around I was happy to have seen it during a warm summer month. Even though the cherry blossom weeks were over, other flowers had bloomed and it was gorgeous in a different sense. I also liked the fact that I was able to spend the entire day outside instead of having to warm up somewhere. I’m not sure how hot July and August get, but so far June has been the most perfect month!

[For more pictures on DC go to my Facebook page or
A Picture Every Day: A Trip to Washington DC and A Trip to Washington DC (Part 2)

6 thoughts on “Spending My Birthday in DC

  1. Sounds like a great day trip!! I love DC, but I haven’t spent much time there since I was on a little trip when I was 10. Glad you had a great birthday! xo

    • All museums are free in DC. The nations’ cultural capital. Yes, it was indeed better than “nothing”, especially during that heat wave. 😉

  2. If you are ever in DC at night, check out some of the monuments then. I didn’t have a good camera to use but still enjoyed taking pictures at a time that wasn’t typical. I didn’t realize all the museums in DC are free (the time I was there for museums and the like was in Jr. High. I got food poisoning on a boat cruise and missed most of the sights). I wouldn’t mind going back sometime.

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