I'm no newcomer to our nation's capital ..... my father was posted here - or in nearby Quantico or Stafford, Virginia - more than once, and weekend-long visits to D.C. were common..
But that doesn't mean there isn't anything new for me here ..... THERE IS ..... a lot of new additions, and a lot of changes to the old.
Since my last visit to Washington, they've added the National World War II Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial ..... I was especially glad to see the latter, being the the son of a man who served with Chesty Puller's First Marines in the Frozen Chosin.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History was closed for renovations ..... but we were well compensated by the special exhibit culled from that museum's collection, and set-up in special gallery space in the National Air & Space Museum.
Washington's underground Metro Rail is an outstanding way to get around the city. We parked our car immediately upon arrival at our hotel, and don't plan to retrieve it until Friday, when it's time to head for the airport, and home. If we hadn't needed a rental car at the start of our trip, I'd have been tempted to take Amtrak from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Union Station, and rely solely on the Metro ..... it's that fast and convenient, and the day-long passes make it especially economical.
Those planning to hit some of the highlights - the Washington Monument, for example, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing - should plan to get in line early. Free tickets for timed entry become available each morning, for that day, and are usually gone within the first hour. If your family has an early riser - such as myself - head to the ticket kiosk for these locations, and plan to be there by 6:30 a.m. I took a book with me, but ended up spending a pleasant ninety minutes-to-two hours talking to those in line next to me ..... then call back to the hotel and let the family know when they can join you at the mall.
Advice to the early birds, after they've gotten the tickets and they're waiting for the rest of their group to join them ..... most of the mall-area cafés don't open until ten o'clock. The one exception is the Castle Café in the old Smithsonian Castle, which now serves as a visitor center for the museum system. This café open at 8:30, and offers an espresso/cappuccino bar, Argentinean gelato, panini, antipasti, organic salads, specialty sandwiches, soups and pastries, which you can enjoy in the massive - yet quiet - setting of this grand old building.