August 2016 – We began our second day in DC with a tour of the White House. Tours are free but must be requested up to six months in advance. The White House does not confirm spots until two weeks before the reservation.
Our alarms either did not go off the morning of our tour or we slept through them somehow (I suspect the latter). Since we had to be at the White House at 7:30 and it was over a mile from our hotel, we had to rush to get there in time. I was feeling a little sick to my stomach from either something I had eaten or a short virus, so it was not a very pleasant walk/semi-run to the White House. The line was already long, but it moved very quickly once the clock hit 7:30. A lot of people were pulled to the side due to having bags (not allowed as clearly stated on all confirmations), and we never saw them again. We proceeded through a couple of checkpoints where they compared our IDs to the reservation, and then we went through security (less invasive than airport security, however). Within a few minutes, we entered the White House and explored the rooms on the first floor. Secret Service was stationed all around the floor, but they were very friendly to anyone who had questions. The tour was limited to just a few rooms and was over in about half an hour, but it was definitely a bucket list checkoff that I recommend.
After the tour, we decided to head back to the hotel for a little more sleep and restart our day a few hours later. Our next stop after our nap was the National Geographic Museum. At $15 per person, this is not a museum I would recommend. I expected more photography on
display or more information about people who work for the magazine. The museum was mostly artifacts that you could see for free at the Museum of Natural History.
After the National Geographic Museum, we made our way to the White House and then the International Spy Museum. On our way, we took a
detour when we saw Ford’s Theatre. The theater was well worth the time spent. The self-guided tour was free and started in a museum that had on display the gun that was used to shoot President Lincoln, as well as the boot that Boothe wore that night and other artifacts. The tour went through the theater where Lincoln was shot and continued across the street in Petersen House where he died a few hours later. We spent a couple of hours here and were completely absorbed into the history of the area.
Our next stop was the International Spy Museum, which we had booked online with credit card points. I noticed the price was pretty steep at around $22/person, and I did not feel the museum was worth that cost. It had some interesting points and displays, but I felt like a lot of the displays repeated themselves. There were also a ton of wild kids running freely through the museum. I am not sure where the parents were, but they obviously had no control over them.
After this museum, we crossed the street and entered the Portrait Gallery. Since we are not really into art and the current exhibit was jazz, we did not spend long
here. We then walked up the road in search of dinner before our tour time at the Washington Monument. We entered Roti Mediterranean and found it completely empty (not usually a good sign). We approached the counter and placed our order. At the end, we were met with a blank stare and giant yawn by the cashier. Then he told us our pita bread would take several minutes to warm up (also not a good sign), and he proceeded to touch several things behind the counter with the same gloves that he wore for food preparation. After a few minutes of standing around waiting, the manager walked by and asked to see the cashier at the dishwasher. We decided the food would not be worth the money at this point and walked out.
We found a Corner Bakery down the road and had dinner there then continued to the Washington Monument. We took a seat on the bench designated for our time slot and were told to enter the monument just before the time allotted. We moved quickly through the monument and up the elevator to the observation deck. Although it would have been nicer without selfie sticks and uncontrolled children, the view was still pretty great. We took several pictures, meandered around the museum, and lined up for the elevator back down. On the way down, the elevator slows at two points and lights up blocks. This was a nice, educational feature. The rangers were also very nice and helpful, and we found out that the monument was just reopened in 2014 due to damage from the 2011 earthquake.
After the monument, we decided to call it an early night and head back to the hotel. We had an early tour of the Capitol scheduled for the next morning (part 3).