Washington D.C. // Day 1


When Independence Day rolls around, hot dog and burger buns fly off the shelves at supermarkets and people put the final touches on their authentic, star spangled banner outfits. The smell of sunblock, smoking grills, and sparklers fills the air as Americans hit the beaches and parks to camp out for shimmering fireworks symbolically celebrating our independence from England.

That's all fine and dandy, but just not what my family and I do. Don't get me wrong, I love the USofA but it just seems to be a long, all-day excursion to exert appreciation of our country. In prior years, we usually just had a relaxing day, seeing as my parents were both off from work, where we would go for a bike ride, have nice meal downtown, watch a documentary on History Channel, then drive out at dusk, park on the side of a road and watch fireworks from a distance. This year was the complete opposite. We decided to immerse ourselves in American culture and spend the holiday in none other than Washington D.C. Dad had to stay home and work so he had to miss the trip. My mom, sister, and I had gone on a vacation to the Dominican Republic and visited family on the east coast, so we drove from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. After a three hour drive we arrived at the The Willard InterContinental Washington Hotel, only two blocks away from the white house!

This historic and opulent hotel offers the fully DC experience. The staff was friendly and attentive, especially when we lost our keys and requested extra shampoo. Our room was very clean and authentic, the perfect place to relax after an exhausting day touring. Tip: Book well in advance (I'm talking 8-12 months) for excellent rates, especially if you're planning to be visiting over major holidays like the Fourth of July or the famous Cherry Blossom Festival. Now I forgot to mention that we'd be only staying for three days and two nights. And since we don't get to go to DC that often, we attempted to squeeze in every major landmark into our short stay. First stop on the list was the Library of Congress. This majestic library is perched at the edge of the National Mall, and has the perfect view of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument in the distance. It was like stepping into an old world library with marble columns and floors, famous quotes and renowned philosophers and figures depicted on the walls and ceilings. We walked through a few of the special exhibitions and saw the main library.

We took the underground pedestrian walkway from the library to the U.S. Capitol and grabbed some tickets to see the famous rotunda. Unfortunately, the rotunda was under a bit of construction, but we were still able to see George Washington idolized and the beautiful paintings which tell the nations history. Touring the capitol was one of the highlights of the trip for me; very educational and relevant, plus our tour guide was amazing. From there we went outside and took in the architecture of the Capitol.

At this point, it was late in the afternoon and we could tell that storms were going to be rolling in soon, so we popped into the Supreme Court Building hoping to avoid the weather. I must say, even though it wasn't the most majestic or artful building, it was by far the most intimidating.

Of course we didn't beat the storm, we actually timed it perfectly. Big drops were starting to fall and we tried to scurry back to our hotel, only to realize that we were probably going to get soaked. Then, my mom made the executive decision (after a few cracks of lightening and thunder) that we should just take the Metro. The Metro, WHAT a life saver. And it's the best and arguably easiest way to get around DC.

After freshening up, we trudged a few blocks through puddles to Joe's. Now my mom had found this place somewhere on yelp or trip advisor, and reviews can be hit or miss. This was an absolute hit. Joe's is a classy seafood and prime steak restaurant with a swanky atmosphere. Their speciality is stone crab. Our server was excellent and recommend the best meals. I opted for the chopped steak which was divine. We finished off with the havana dream pie which is a MUST if you ever dine there. With full, happy bellies, we walked around DC and ended up doing some shopping before we went back to the hotel and relaxed for the night, gearing up for the festivities the next day.