Washington D.C. is arguably the most historically significant city in America. Sure, cities like Boston and New York City impacted our history, but no other place has been the capital for over 200 years. Because much of what there is to see in D.C. is based on this rich history, an interest in American history is vital for this trip, but if you have this, your D.C. experience should be amazingly rewarding. For all of my time in Washington, my family stayed at Wyndham Old Town Alexandria. While technically not in D.C., this resort provided easy transit through the Metrorail. A station was right across the street, and my family used the trains to get to almost every attraction, like the White House, Capitol, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The experience that had the most impact on me; however, was the only one that we didn’t use the Metro for: visiting memorials.
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My family chose nighttime to visit many famous memorials in Washington because of lower temperatures and more parking, but as we visited we discovered another advantage: the beauty that the memorials take on at night. Through several hours, our visitation allowed us to understand both the historical significance of individuals or groups and the beauty of architecture.
Out of the memorials we visited, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial were all dedicated to individuals who greatly influenced American history. The two most recognizable memorials, Jefferson’s and Lincoln’s, both featured stunningly huge neoclassical buildings surrounding statues of their respective presidents. As with all of the memorials, these demanded quiet among visitors in order to fully absorb the grandiose monuments and the significance of the historical figures. The Lincoln Memorial provided a new level of significance, as we not only admired the structure and the man it was dedicated to, but reflected on the historical significance of the place where Marian Anderson performed and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most famous speech. The newer Roosevelt and King memorials didn’t include huge buildings, but allowed visitors to experience the outdoors, with Roosevelt’s memorial featuring beautiful outdoor “rooms” separated by stone walls and water features. This memorial was also unique through its inclusion of two statues of Roosevelt, one where he is huge and simply sitting in a chair, and another where he is life-sized and sitting in his wheelchair, acknowledging his disability and how it made him stronger. The King memorial also featured waterfalls, as well as a huge stone sculpture of the civil rights leader, and like the other three included quotes from the memorialized for visitors to reflect on.
The other two memorials that my family visited that night were not to individuals, but to large groups: World War II and Vietnam War veterans. The National World War II Memorial centered around a huge fountain and wading pool, which was lit beautifully at night, and recognized every U.S. state and territory from whom soldiers were sent. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was based around a huge wall bearing the names of all American soldiers killed or missing in the conflict. This is the only memorial that I wish we had visited in the daylight, because poor lighting prevented us from fully taking in the memorial and all the names included.
Although my entire trip to Washington D.C. was spectacular, the night spent at the memorials had the deepest impact, because it allowed me to fully appreciate those, whether individuals or groups, who have sacrificed and changed our country.
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