In its own unique way, Washington D.C. has shown to be unlike anything I expected. After visiting New York City, I expected the same large crowds, wailing sirens, and late-night energy. This is true in a sense, but more as a New York “Lite”.
It has been much to my surprise to discover how different and unique D.C. is compared to any other major city I’ve visited. First of all, Washington D.C. is filled with tourists, especially student tourists ranging from 8th graders on a school trip to high schoolers on a senior trip. This is true of many large cities, but not to the extent of D.C. With so many beautiful and meaningful sites to see in D.C. (I could literally go on forever), it’s not hard to see why. The Washington monument, capitol building, White House, Lincoln memorial, Jefferson memorial, MLK memorial, World War II memorial, and the Smithsonian museums are all in easy reach. All of these sites are free to the public, including the Smithsonian museums (of which there are many).
Of all the yearly visitors to D.C., then there’s us- the interns. We are everywhere. We could easily make up 10-15% of D.C.’s population at any given time, interning at sites ranging from non-profit organizations to congressmen’s offices.
I consider Washington D.C. to be a New York “Lite” as it has many of the same traits, yet they are all on a gentler scale. Despite our significantly large population, you somehow don’t notice. The sidewalks are not overcrowded, and nor are the streets. However, you still have the impatient drivers who honk at pedestrians, other cars, or simply out of a sign of frustration. There are Sabrett’s hotdog stands on nearly every corner (although I’m still undecided if they truly are Sabrett’s) and coffee shops are always close by. Unlike in NYC, restaurants close around 10pm, not 2am, a lesson some of us learned the hard way when dining at a local German restaurant (unknowingly twenty minutes before closing). It was a genuinely excellent (albeit rushed) dinner. D.C. has no shortage of culturally diverse dining!
Ah, subways… D.C. is always very easy to navigate, with subway stations throughout D.C. allowing you to quickly access various areas from Arlington to Annapolis. The subways range from $1.75 to $4.25 and are surprisingly clean! This was a huge shock for me, as I was expecting overcrowded and not so clean subways! The subways here close at 12am, so bear that in mind. Also, if you are lucky, you may even see an individual or three playing some excellent jazz music outside the subway stations in the morning or evening. However, the public transit system is not the only way we get around town. Ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft have been extremely helpful, especially for those late-night grocery trips, where carrying sixteen bags of groceries is not exactly feasible whilst on a train. It’s less expensive than a cab and costs about $10 for the average Uber run (within 4 miles), but it’s quick and reliable.
While we have only been here for a week, we have all certainly learned a great deal about living in large city and getting around, as clearly evidenced above. During my time here, I look forward to visiting all of what this city has to offer, which is quite a bit. On the top of my list are the Smithsonian museums (especially the Natural History museum), the Smithsonian Zoo, and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving (AKA: the “Money Factory”). With that being said, I have already done such a great deal! Our group visited the Supreme court, Kennedy center, DEA museum, Capitol Hill, Annapolis, and the Library of Congress. One of the most meaningful experiences was our visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, where we observed both the wreath laying ceremony on the tomb of the unknown soldier and a beautifully given speech by President Trump.
Additionally, although Washington D.C is so large, it also feels so small. There is something strange about this city in that with such a large population, you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you are riding the subway during rush hour (that’s a totally different story). Being a student, I have been able to really appreciate the rich history D.C. has to offer. There are numerous memorials and museums to visit, and likely more than I will have time to see. I look forward to continuing my adventure here in D.C. and will keep you updated!
Thanks for reading,