Stella, May I know how you spent one crowded day at Washington, DC?

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There's something real patriotic about going to the nation's capital, isn't there? Even when I was fighting a cold and we decided last minute to drive here, it was worth it. Our plan for catching the cherry blossoms this year? Drive 10 hours, see cherry blossoms, visit other DC sights, and drive 10 hours back. Sounds  a little crazy, but me and Mister are somewhat comfortable driving longer periods (we have driven cross country twice last year!). We were supposed to depart Atlanta by 10PM to arrive at DC before sunrise. That way we can be comfortably seating in the park and watching the sunrise. However we didn't leave until almost 11PM and we saw the sun rise as we got to Arlington, Virginia.
Before we even the crossed the George Washington Bridge and arrived at the National Mall, we could see the day was going to be crowded with people. I researched that it would be the smarter choice to park elsewhere and ride the metro in. One the the cheapest places to park in the city for the whole day? Union Station. But when we got there, there were no signs of a parking garage. It's probably the way we drove there and we somehow missed the garage. I decided to just brave the crowds find street parking (limit two hours) and repark the car afterwards. There is free street parking on Ohio Street. When we got there, it was quite full. If you are crossing the bridge, the street that runs along the Potomac is Ohio Street. Somehow I saw a parking lot and people were leaving. It was a free parking lot! Not only free, but free until 1AM! It's located near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, under the bridge. It was labeled as cherry blossom parking. That is my biggest tip for parking if you do come during the cherry blossom peak bloom time. In hindsight it also would have been a good idea to park in Arlington and walk across the bridge.
We parked, changed to walking shoes, packed up some snacks and walked to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
 View from the Jefferson memorial.
 Then we walked over to the Washington Monument. The entire walk so far was filled with cherry blossom trees!
Reflection pool and Lincoln Memorial. It was a good day to just sit on the green and enjoy the weather.
From there we continued around the National Mall to the White House. This is the view from the North Lawn. This is also the best unobstructed view of it. I knew that the closest you can get it the bars you see behind that kind security guard (who moved over slightly for my picture). However the day we went, security was extra tight and they added this extra fencing that makes it even harder to take a good picture in front of the White House. Did you know in order to tour the White House, you have to put in a request with your local Congressman? (or embassy, if you are International)
This is the US Department of Treasury. Right next to the White House.
We were a little early for lunch so we stopped by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, but I think I'll post about that later this week as this is getting to be a fairly long post. As far as scheduling goes: After the White house, we wandered over to the Smithsonian side of the National Mall and picked a museum! If you were to also do DC in a day, I would suggest going to lunch or having a packed lunch on the greens in the mall. There were also a lot of food trucks parked along the Smithsonian row of museums. It would be nice to have lunch there and head into the museums. (Don't bring your lunch in though! No food is allowed in the museums, have lunch then head in.)
After lunch we had lunch we ubered our way to the zoo. Since it was also a Smithsonian Institute, it's also free! I had planned to take the metro there, but by now we walked a lot and even though we just had lunch we were not up for taking a 30 minute journey on the buses. It also turned out that taking an Uber was more economical! Who knew it would be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable to take an Uber?
 There are two entrances to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Either side is good, but the Connecticut Ave NW entrance leads you right to the pandas. Sadly the building was closed (it closed at 6PM) by the time we got there and we didn't get to see the baby panda. I was looking forward to seeing pandas. We even contemplated staying the night and coming back in the morning! We didn't do that, instead we wanted to see Oswald and Popcorn more. We left them at home for this short trip as they would have no where to stay as we wandered DC. This is the empty home of the pandas.
 We did see some Asian Elephants. They are much smaller than you think. It's kinda crazy to think elephants are smaller than you imagine.
 Fennec Fox turned away from the camera. This is the little creature is Nick's hustling partner in Zootopia!
 This strange mammal is a Greater Malayan Chevrotain. That's a mouse-deer! It's like a weird hybrid of mouse and deer.
 Anteater. #zotzot
This tiger was the last things we saw and it was howling! The sound he makes is so unusual and deep. If you hear it, you wouldn't believe it came from a tiger. I've also just realized that prior to this visit I would not know how to describe what sound a tiger makes.

After the exciting, yet slightly disappointing time at the zoo, we marched our way to the Meridian Hill Park for the sunset. This is walk is full of hills, so be prepared. It wasn't all bad though, we did get to see a lot of different embassies on the walk over. Even though it's not Embassy Row, there was still some prominent countries here.  Apparently I'm all about the sun and setting our location for the best place to view it. This place would have been great but the water wasn't running. From the pictures, I thought I would be standing in a beautiful cascading water feature, but I'm not. You should just google the pictures of this place.
I would be standing in water. The park is still nice place to go to, just disappointed the fountains aren't running. The natives call it "Malcolm X Park" and on Sundays they have a drum circle!
We then walked our way to DC's famous Ben's. Another Washington landmark restaurant. It's said to have the best chili dogs, half smokes, and milk shakes. This was supposed to be our last stop before we started heading out of the city, but we were getting hungry and it was less than a mile from the park. Ben's is opened late into the night, so  this was the place to fill up before we hit the road. Instead we cut out visiting Georgetown and had dinner here instead.
Cooking up lots of hot dogs.
Selection of cakes. 
The place is also frequented by lots of celebrities.
Original Chili Half-smoke order. It comes with a quarter-pound half pork, half been smoked sausage topped with mustard, onions, and spicy chili along with Utz chips.
Strawberry milkshake 
The food was okay. It definitely filled out hungry tummies.
Then we ubered our way back to the National Mall. Again much cheaper and way more convenient.
We still needed to complete the circle of the National Mall. So first off, Lincoln Memorial. By now it's like 9PM and as you can see there was still a ton of people!
 View from the top of the steps at Lincoln Memorial. By this point we were starting to feel a little tired, but just look at the view of the Washington Memorial and Refection Pool!
 We also stopped by the War Memorials before we headed back to the Tidal Basin. This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It's a little more dramatic at night, don't you think?
Cherry blossoms at night. (although because of the city light pollution, it doesn't really look like nighttime.) There was no one here now. It is such a contrast to when we arrived. The cherry blossoms don't look as nice, but it's still a sight to see all the blooms along the Tidal Basin. Then we returned back to the car and was relieved that it wasn't ticketed or booted.
Before we headed back south, we drove over to see the Marine War Corps Memorial. Then we started back home and to our luck we drove right into a storm! That made the ten-hour journey twelve hours. It did however keep me up and alert for the drive. It was a good thing we didn't stay the night at DC, as it would have been a rainy, dreary day. It was also going to be Easter Sunday, so there was going to be even more people in the city. I feel so bad for the White House Easter Egg Roll, but not so bad that by the time that event started we were home and warm and sound asleep!
Even though DC was crowded everywhere, we got to do almost everything we wanted. Here is an itinerary for a day trip to DC: Start at Jefferson Memorial. Walk to Washington Memorial and White House. Visit the Smithsonian museums. Lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. Visit the National Zoo. (shop around Georgetown!) Sunset at Meridian Hill Park. Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl. Return to the National Mall. Visit Lincoln Memorial. WWII Memorial. MLK memorial. Cherry Blossoms at night. Marine Corps War Memorial.
If we were to do it all over again, I would remember to grab some coffee and breakfast for the morning walk around the mall and really enjoy the sights. I would also reserve some paddle boats! I would also try to squeeze in visiting Georgetown and the Eastern Market. This all means we are to return to DC someday! Come back Wednesday for the Old Ebbitt Grill post and Thursday to see how we managed to do the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in twenty minutes!
links: National Mall Zoo Meridian Hill Park Ben's Chili Bowl

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