Travel USA: Washington, DC – The Heartbeat of America

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Travel USA: Washington, DC – The Heartbeat of America!

By Patti & Abi Maghamfar


Playing Tour Guide in Your Own Backyard is Fascinating When Your Playground is Washington, District of Columbia!


Sometimes, we find the best travel destinations right in our proverbial backyards. In 2014 when we moved to the state of Maryland and planted ourselves just six miles from the suburban border of Washington, DC we knew very little about the city. Now, we think of it as our backyard playground. We never get tired of exploring the city and we relish our roles as tour guides when we have the opportunity to share Washington, DC with friends.

Exploring Washington, DC with friends

Abi Maghamfar, Viv Chapleo, Patti Maghamfar and Jill Hoelting exploring Washington, DC. (Smithsonian Castle in the background.)

The Heartbeat of America

With a population just shy of 700,000, Washington, DC is literally the heartbeat of America and it is such a vibrant city. There is always something going on. It’s where all things political come to life, or perhaps die on the Senate floor. But, the city is also so much more than just politics. People live, work and enjoy the city. And while they move quickly, they also stop to smell the roses, so-to-speak.
Actually, I think politics plays second fiddle to the history of the city and to the fantastic opportunities that await visitors. With that being said though, politics is definitely a key factor of what makes the city tick. It’s not at all uncommon to stop in for lunch at a local eatery and find political personalities enjoying the local fare.

The Torch Mural at Ben's Chili Bowl

The Torch Mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC.

An Open City

One of my all-time favorite things about the city is that it is an open city. There are no skyscrapers. The Height of Buildings Act, established in 1910, prevents the construction of high-rise buildings. The advantage to this is that one never feels overwhelmed or boxed in by skyscrapers. Look up and see nothing but wide open blue skies.

Look around and see trees, grass, and floral displays lining the streets and the National Mall. And, of course the city is gifted with wonderful monuments depicting the history of the United States. I’m not altogether certain there is any other city – in the United States – quite like it.

The Smithsonian Experience

There are a total of 19 Smithsonian Museums. Eleven museums and galleries line the National Mall, while others are located in the greater DC area and the National Zoo is in northern DC. I have a personal goal of visiting each and every Smithsonian, one at a time.

We’ve visited most of them here and there for a few hours at a time, but my desire is to visit one museum each week and spend an entire day just exploring that one museum. Then, the next week explore another one until I can cross each museum off the list. I think in order to do each museum justice, it’s the only way to go.

However, since that is not at all practical for the average DC visitor, my suggestion is two pick two museums per day of your visit. And, that’s just the Smithsonians, which by the way offer free admission. There are numerous private museums which are equally interesting, such as the Newseum, which demonstrates and promotes the first amendment and free expression.

I’ve had a love affair with Julia Child for years. I adore her and in my fantasy world we are the best of friends. Julia’s complete kitchen from her home in Cambridge, MA is housed in the National Museum of American History. Each time I visit Julia’s kitchen I see something new. It’s no wonder the museum is my favorite.

Julia Child's Kitchen at the National Museum of American History

Julia Child’s Kitchen at the National Museum of American History

Along with Julia’s kitchen, the museum has on display Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, the first lady’s inaugural gowns, Archie and Edith’s chairs, civil war memorabilia, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag which inspired the National Anthem, and pretty much everything you can think of having to do with American cultural history is on display at the museum.

Take a Walk on the National Mall

Stand at the top of the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and look toward the National Mall and your eyes will follow the direct line of the reflection pool toward the Washington Monument and beyond to the dome of the capitol building. It’s a fabulous and seriously moving experience.

Washington Monument & Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Washington Monument & The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Visitors can easily spend a minimum of ten days exploring Washington, DC, but if days are limited to just two or three, one must see experience is to walk the National Mall and explore all of the monuments. With the Lincoln Memorial at one end and the capitol building at the other end, it doesn’t matter in which direction you stroll. The Mall is approximately two miles in length and makes for a wonderful self-guided walking tour. Along the Mall you’ll experience the Vietnam Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial to name just a few.

Why Everyone Should Visit Washington, DC

I could go on and on extolling the virtues of Washington, DC and why everyone should visit. The experiences available are endless. The Smithsonian Museums, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and a tour of the Capitol are just the beginning. Explore a little further and take in the excellent presentation by the NPR at Ford’s Theater and learn what happened on that fateful evening when President Lincoln was assassinated. It’s a walk through time.

If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck because Washington, DC is a foodie’s paradise. Everything from white linen dining experiences to belly up to the bar for the best chili dog you’ll ever have. Long-established eateries such as Old Ebbitt Grill offer diners classic Washingtonian decor, fabulous cocktails and a menu to please every pallet. I can personally attest to the wonder of the fried green tomatoes.

Fried Green Tomatoes at Old Ebbitt Grill

Fried Green Tomatoes at Old Ebbitt Grill

And, if you’re wondering what to do with your evenings… take the full circle tour on the hop on/off bus to see the city and monument lights, or book yourself on an evening cruise on the Potomac River.

For that matter, book yourself on a day time cruise on the Potomac River. Purchase tickets to the Kennedy Center and see the long-running hilarious comedy, Shear Madness or take in a performance at the Shakespeare Theater Company.

Washington, DC has it all. It truly is a one-of-a-kind city and offers visitors an extraordinary travel destination. It’s why everyone should visit Washington, DC.



Abi and Patti have been traveling through life together for 40+ years embracing each new chapter and each new adventure with open minds. Their travels have taken them to 4 continents – North America, Europe, Australia and Asia – and to date they’ve traveled to 19 countries. In 2014 Abi and Patti retired, a bit on the early side, to live a simpler life and to travel the world. By sharing their journey on their website – One Road At A Time – they hope to inspire others to redefine retirement.


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