District of Columbia, National Mall & District of Columbia Area Parks, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, United States, Virginia

Seein’ the DC – Part 2: Arlington National Cemetery, US Capitol, National Mall, & Department of Interior Museum

September 14, 2022

I actually grumbled when my alarm went off, and I made plenty of grumpy noises as I prepared for the day. After a long day of travel the previous day topped off with miles of walking and staying up later than I wanted, I was… grumpy. But time to turn the frown upside down, as there was more exploring to be had!

Cassy, her brother Tyler, and I grabbed coffee breakfast at Philz Coffee and then grabbed an Uber to Arlington National Cemetery to get our busy day of sightseeing started.

Arlington National Cemetery is an amazing experience. I’m sure I could come up with more graceful words to describe it, but of all the things we saw in DC, this location was my favorite. It is hard to describe… just have to go there and see if you see what I mean!

Arlington National Cemetery

After going through security, we headed towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Later in the day they do run a little shuttle, but since we got there shortly after opening, we chose to walk all around, clocking about three miles on our journey.

Walking towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Including this photo because the night before when I was looking at things, I saw “Sir John Dill” and something about a horse, and I thought the horse was buried in the cemetery… no, it’s just a statue of Sir John Dill riding his horse…

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we watched the changing of the guard at 9am. The ceremony is performed every thirty minutes during the summer months, and hourly in the winter months. After the changing of the guard, we watched a few wreath laying ceremonies before moving on. We did have a soldier come up to us and let us know that the Minister of Defense for Japan would be laying a wreath at 10:30am in case we were interested in watching. Sadly we were exploring other areas of the cemetery at this time and missed it. But it was nice of her to let us know!

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is guarded 24/7/365, rain or shine.
Changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider
One of the wreath laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider

Next up we headed towards Arlington House. The full technical name is the Robert E. Lee Memorial, and this site is a National Park Service unit. (There is a push to change the name to just Arlington House Memorial or something along those lines, and drop the Robert E. Lee part.). This is a controversial memorial, as it is preserving the history of a man who fought against the United States. I think NPS sums it up the best on their website:

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, is perhaps the most complex and controversial national memorial in the country. The public will see Arlington House as it was in 1861. This historic place, the only national memorial to someone who fought against the US, was originally constructed to memorialize George Washington. Arlington House tells America’s story from its founding, including the story of slavery, the Civil War, Freedman’s Village and the establishment of Arlington National Cemetery. Today, Arlington House exists as a place for brave dialogue and healing.

National Park Service
One of the preserved enslaved quarters at the Arlington House

On our walk we came across a line for a funeral, and one of the cars let us know there would a flyover as a WWII vet was being buried and honored. So upon arriving at the Arlington House we joined everyone outside waiting for the airplane, which ended up being some sort of military cargo plane as the flyover. We then quickly walked through the south wing of the Arlington House.

View of DC from Arlington House

I have to give major props to the employee of the Arlington House Bookstore (which is an amazing gift shop to begin with). He noticed I was quite the passport stamp fan, so he broke out the special stamps he keeps behind the register and we completely geeked out over the passport stamps. I walked away with several 3×5″ index cards completely stamped up, helping to cement my Gold Master Traveler Award for 2022!

The most organized passport stamping location I have ever seen!

Next up we visited the gravesite of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John F. Kennedy, Jr. Up next was a quick jaunt through the Military Women’s Memorial. Then we walked to find the grave of a family friend of my traveling companions.

Visiting RBG. I couldn’t get through this without crying 😦
John F. Kennedy and Jackie O’s gravesite with its perpetual flame.
One of the exhibits in the Military Women’s Memorial
Each headstone has a number on it and you can inquire at the visitor center about locating a specific person.

In the end, we spent way more time at Arlington National Cemetery than all three of us expected to, but did not regret a minute of it! Honestly, we could’ve stayed even longer and saw much more, but we knew there were more things to tackle on this exhausting day. We caught an Uber to Capitol Hill for lunch and then continued exploring.

Lunch was at a restaurant on Capitol Hill whose name escaped me. Not shabby for “east coast Mexican,” but definitely not the authentic Mexican food I am use to back home. These tacos were huge!
A rough depiction of our route around the National Mall area. Some stretches were covered by an Uber.

Time to tackle the rest of the National Mall and a few other stops along the way! First up after lunch was the US Capitol, where I promptly did a cartwheel and handstand, before Cassy and I went through security to get to the gift shops.

Security around the US Capitol is a bit tighter than I imagine it was a few years back.
Just me up to inverted shenanigans at the US Capitol
Heading towards one of two gift shops that are located in the basement area of the Capitol. Unlike the Wyoming State Capitol, you cannot just wander freely, and must have a booked tour in order to get into the Capitol proper.

There are much more cost effective ways around the National Mall area, such as the Metro and DC Circulator bus, but we chose to take Ubers for the convenience mostly. After the Capitol and quick shots of the Supreme Court, we grabbed an Uber over to the White House Gift Shop, which is not at the White House for those wondering. We traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue, which was a treat… and also covered in UK flags, assumingly since the Queen had just passed. I joked to Cassy, “For a nation that went to war to be free of the British, its strange our capital is now covered in their flags!”

Supreme Court building as we were waiting for our Uber to arrive.

Security denied me entry over a pair of nail clippers in my purse to the White House Gift Shop, so I headed across the street to the World War I Memorial, which was a lot more poignant than overpriced souvenirs anyways. And come on, there is NO souvenirs of The First Cat, just the dogs… and as a crazy cat lady, I am saddened by that. So settled for spending some quiet moments reflecting on world history instead.

World War I Memorial is a beautiful space. It was dedicated as this particular memorial in 2021, but Pershing Park was established in 1981.
Paying a visit to John Pershing. Lots of things around Cheyenne are named after him, so seemed appropriate to say ‘hi’!
World War I Memorial

From here we jaunted to the Washington Monument for gifts and stamps (still collecting ALL the passport stamps… can’t stop, won’t stop!), and then I dragged everyone through the German American Friendship Garden, which actually seemed a bit sad and neglected. As a German-American, not sure how I felt about the condition of the garden!

The Washington Monument. One can take an elevator to the very top if they so desired. None of us desired.
The German-American Friendship Garden and its plants. Maybe it’s suppose to be xeroscaped? Maybe I have no idea why I was disappointed.
You cannot get anywhere close to the White House like you could twenty years or so ago. Just a distant view! Receiving a tour involves your Congressperson setting it up. I figured they wouldn’t let me pet Willow, The First Cat, so didn’t pursue a tour.

Next up was the World War II Memorial. This memorial opened in 2004 and sits at the opposite end of the Reflecting Pool as the Lincoln Memorial. I found myself enjoying all the war memorials (enjoying seems like a weird word to use here…), and the WWII one was no exception. We took the chance to relax for a few minutes by the central fountain, resting up for the last push of the adventure.

We found the Wyoming pillar!
A panorama of the World War II Memorial
Soaking your feet in the fountain is allowable, but nothing else. There is a bit of controversy over how tourists act in the fountain and debates on if it is disrespectful.
The Freedom Wall at the World War II Memorial. There are 4,048 stars, which each represents 100 Americans who died in the war.

There was really just one last place to see on the Mall, and that was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We quickly passed through Constitution Gardens (a NPS unit!) on our way, enjoying the shade.

I found the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be a lot smaller than I had thought it would be, and it was somber walking past the 58,318 names inscribed on the wall. There are books on site where you can look up names and locate them on the wall, since the names are listed by chronological date of death, not alphabetically.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or Vietnam Wall as a lot of us commonly call it.
This was emotional to see. I think as one of the closer wars to my generation, there are a lot of ties to those who fought in the war – parents, relatives, etc.
The Three Servicemen.

After a quick repeat visit to the Lincoln Memorial so Cassy’s brother could take a gander, we debated heavily going up to the Department of the Interior so I could go to the museum and get the National Park Service Headquarters stamp. Cassy finally decided we should just do it, even though by now we were all dead tired. This ended up being a good memory, as the security guards at the Department of Interior were funny, kind, and friendly. Getting ready go through security, I hear:

“You have to sing for us.”


“Yeah, sing! You are the last one in line, so you have to sing to pass.”

Okay everyone, I am TONE DEAF. I am the worse singer on the planet. I froze. At first all I could think of was some Backstreet Boys song, then Cassy chimed in with, “rap Eminem like you always do!” It is true, I’m known for busting Eminem lyrics acapella at the drop of a dime, but I got stage fright.

“Uhhhh… the FCC won’t let me be, or let me be me, so let me see… they tried to shut me down on MTV, but it feels so empty with me!” (I inserted a weird curtsey at the end.)

I had all the guards cracking up and applauding, and that is how I gained entry into the Department of Interior Museum, nailclippers and all!

The museum is quite small, but I still enjoyed the exhibits and, of course, obtaining my NPS Headquarters passport stamp.

Entrance to the Department of Interior Museum. Entry is free, and just requires a short security check.
Forever collecting all the photos of benchmarks I can! This one is a mighty 24 feet above sea level…
I appreciate the Department of Interior realizing they really are the “Department of Everything Else”!
Arctic snow goggles! Definitely a lot fancier than my glacier glasses
I enjoyed the exhibit of Thomas Moran paintings.

I had one final place on my agenda for the day, so we hoped the DC Circulator bus that goes around the National Mall area to get closer to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. This is one of the newest memorials in DC, established in 2020. Upon arriving, the employee of the gift shop had stepped away, so we waited for about twenty minutes for the store to reopen as I wanted my stamp.

We walked through the gardens at the Smithsonian Castle on the way to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is one of the newest, and therefore missing from NPS maps.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. The building behind is the Department of Education.

Finally, we were done. So beyond tired! According to my watch, we walked over eleven miles total! I ended up buying a magnet at the Dulles airport that said “I walked my feet off in DC!” and no truer words have been spoken! We grabbed an Uber back to our hotel in Arlington, and freshened up before heading to dinner at Urban Tandoor. In a perfect world, we would’ve somehow squeezed in Fords Theatre and the Embassy of Iceland (I mean, why not?), but exhausted we were. Due to some closures for renovation, it was not possible for me to see every NPS unit in DC, therefore it was impossible for me to finish out the region, so a return trip would be necessary anyway on my journey to see all 423 NPS units.

Stuffing ourselves at Urban Tandoor

The rest of my time on my DC trip was dedicated to a conference, so we did not get out for more exploring. However, we did grab a final dinner at Rus Uz, a Russian-Uzbek restaurant which was absolutely amazing! I so rarely get to eat my favorite Eastern European foods, so I eagerly dug into the potato pirozhki and goluptsi (something my mom made all the time when I was a kid but was too picky to eat…). Funny enough, there was a German restaurant across the street, and I halfway seriously debated also eating something from there just to fully round out my ethnic heritage, but tummy was full!

Sunset over eastern Colorado. We flew home on the biggest plane I’ve ever been on, even bigger than what I flew to London on! It had a 3-4-3 seating configuration!

2 thoughts on “Seein’ the DC – Part 2: Arlington National Cemetery, US Capitol, National Mall, & Department of Interior Museum”

  1. Wow, I didn’t know there were so many NPS units or the DOI headquarters! I definitely didn’t visit all of these when I was in DC. Also, nail clippers? Really? What do they possibly think a person could accomplish with those?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many NPS units! I think I only missed seeing 5. Not too many, but enough that I’m sad I couldn’t just see them all and be done with the DC region!

      And yeah…. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if people are just having a bad day and hate the world, or if they really think mini sized nail clippers are a threat. Considering this was just a gift shop not anywhere near the White House, seemed a bit crazy. Especially since the Capitol did not care about them, and they’ve had legit security events happen. I didn’t want to throw them away, as that is when I’d need to emergency clip my toenails (never know!) I decided a gift shop wasn’t a priority to see! I’m happy security at DOI made up for it, they were the polar opposite!

      Liked by 1 person

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