At a short notice of a week, I was told that I had to travel to McLean, Virginia, for a short business trip. Just like most of you, I had no idea about McLean. I immediately Googled for it and saw that it’s extremely close to Washington, D.C. But the thing is – I had only 24 hours of free time.
Being the planner that I am, I decided to plan my trip beforehand to get the most out of it. I asked a couple of friends for recommendations, researched myself and made a list of places to visit. Here’s what my trip looked like!
How did I get there?
I took a flight to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) from the Denver International Airport (DEN).
Where did I stay?
As I had some work at McLean, I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Virginia. The travel time to Washington downtown by road is about 35 minutes when there isn’t any traffic but can easily go up to 1 hour with traffic. Another mode of transport is the metro. The Tysons Corner Metro Station was the closest to my hotel. Traveling by metro is definitely cheaper but takes about 45 minutes to downtown Washington.
Where did I eat?
Considering I only had 24 hours of free time apart from the time I spent at work, I mainly ate at my hotel. As I knew I had limited time to explore Washington, I made sure I carried a lot of granola bars, fruits and water with me to eat on the go!
What did I do there?
Before I start elaborating on my travel experience, here’s a quick list of places that I went to:
I had an evening and the next morning until 1 PM to explore most of the places on my list. With no time to waste, I packed my essentials (food, water, DSLR, lip balm and a charger) in my camera bag and off I went to Independence Avenue in a taxi to meet a friend and visit some places at the same time. It took me an hour because of the traffic but the route was so beautiful that I ended up spending my time taking pictures on the way.
I started with the White House after which I met my friend.
We then went to the Washington Monument which is 555 feet tall and almost touches the clouds when it rains. Earlier, they let people go very close to it but now it’s fenced to protect the property.
We made our way to the National World War II Memorial which is just a sheer delight to see! They have different states as pillars and two arches inscribed with “Atlantic” and “Pacific” respectively that separate the states.
There’s also a water fountain in the middle.
It was nice to watch families take pictures with the state they were born in or where they currently live. I have studied in Arizona and currently live in Colorado. I obviously had to take a picture with both!
After spending some time here, we decided to head to the Lincoln Memorial. There’s a beautiful pool called the Reflecting Pool that’s between the two memorials. It takes about 11 minutes to walk but so peaceful. When there isn’t any wind, you can see the reflection of the Lincoln Memorial from one end of the Washington Monument from the other.
The Lincoln Memorial was extremely crowded because it was the peak time to visit D.C. We somehow managed to go up the steps to the place where there is a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two of his well-known speeches. The view of the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool from there was just mesmerizing! It was around 8 PM when we decided to walk around downtown to get some dinner after which I returned back to my hotel by 11 PM.
Day 2 began with me waking up at 7 AM (I KNOW) to get ready and leave as early as possible so that I could visit the places I intended to. Washington has 19 museums in all to offer. But looking at the time, I figured I would only be able to visit one. I decided to go to the Air & Space Museum in the morning as soon as it opens. I had checked that it opens at 10 AM. It was too late for me to start my day. So, I researched and found this place called the Smithsonian Castle which is about 6 minutes walking distance away from the Air & Space Museum.
That place is a beauty! There’s the Enid A. Haupt Garden next to the castle which is purely divine. I explored that for a while and got some really good pictures there.
At about 9:40 AM, I was on my way to the Air & Space Museum. There was a small queue to enter, which I was very happy about. YOU GUYS, THIS MUSEUM IS SOMETHING. It’s huge and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to visit every exhibit but totally worth the time. In 1.5 hours exact, I completed my tour there and even bought myself a souvenir!
I then walked all the way to the United States Botanic Garden. This was a 6-minute pretty stroll. Dhansree, if you’re reading this, I remember you texting me on Instagram saying I need to make time for the National Museum of Natural History. I’m so glad you that you did!
As I reached the Botanic Garden, I didn’t spend a lot of time there as I had been to a few botanic gardens before. This one was dazzling, no doubt, but now I had to visit another museum which wasn’t planned. From there, I went to the United States Capitol as it was very close to the Botanic Gardens. The structure of the building is amazing. You can get a good photo of the Washington Monument from there too!
Time check – I only had an hour left before I had to head back to my hotel to get my bags and go to the airport. The walk from the United States Capitol to the National Museum of Natural History is about 20 minutes. Instead of taking a taxi, I decided to walk it out. As soon as I reached the museum, I took a map and literally ran from one exhibit to another. But, I’m happy that I did! This museum, much like the Air & Space one, is worth it.
I was completely exhausted by the time I left for my hotel. But guys, I managed to visit all these places in a matter of 24 hours!
Things to keep in mind!
I’ll tell you one thing – I have never done this before. I usually take my own time to explore a place. But, this experience was thrilling! It probably helped me with my planning and time management skills as well. 😛
Hopefully, this article is helpful to anyone to wants to know what to do during their trip to Washington D.C. Also, even if you have less time, you know you can still cover a lot of places! Happy traveling! 🙂