Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let Freedom Ring!

My country ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

I can’t help feeling full of pride and patriotism whenever I hear this song, along with America the Beautiful and Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA (which I’m listening to as I type this blog!). I’m ashamed to admit this, but when I was in school, I didn’t enjoy learning about history. While I liked American history, I didn’t love it; and I absolutely detested world history...which is kind of ironic since I love reading historical romance. *g* But in recent years, I have come to really appreciate our country’s history, thanks in part to my son’s avid interest in it. At 11 years old, his knowledge and passion of American history and its presidents is incredible and astounds me. He has inspired my husband and me to learn more, and his zeal has even rubbed off on our seven year old daughter. So, where do you think we went on vacation last week? Why, Washington DC, of course! And since our country’s birthday is fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to share with you a little about our trip to our nation’s capital.

Jefferson Memorial

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – Thomas Jefferson

The Jefferson Memorial was the first monument we visited and I got chill bumps when I looked up at the statue of our beloved third president and read the above quote circling the inside of the dome. Thomas Jefferson accomplished so much in America’s beginning that it is only fitting that he received an amazing memorial dedicated to him. If you haven’t been to Washington DC, or haven’t visited the Jefferson Memorial, you should really make an effort to. It is a must see!

FDR Memorial

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Next up was the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Since my son had recently written a biography book report on FDR, and we had visited his Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, this spring, we simply had to see his beautiful memorial for ourselves. It was even more beautiful and bigger that we imagined and undoubtedly suits our longest serving president.

Lincoln Memorial

“...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, from his Gettysburg Address

The Lincoln Memorial was the monument that we were most looking forward to as Abraham Lincoln is my son’s all-time favorite president. He did a speech about Lincoln for 4H this year and has at least eight different books about our 16th president. To say that we were inspired and filled with hope at seeing Lincoln immortalized in white marble would be an understatement. It is by far one of the most breath-taking sights I have ever seen. I got chill bumps again. In one word: amazing. And the fact that my son was on cloud 9 made my heart sing!

World War II Memorial
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – Harry S. Truman

We saw several other memorials, such as the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but the one I most longed to see was the World War II Memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the victory of “the greatest generation”—which is an apt description as my 91 year old grandfather served in World War II and I consider him one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. The memorial features granite columns, bronze panels, 4,048 gold stars (representing the more than 450,000 American lives that were lost), and numerous inspirational quotes carved in stone. It is a remarkable tribute.

Ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz

Visiting at least a few of the many museums that Washington DC has to offer was on our list of things to do. We went to the Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Natural History, and while we enjoyed all of these, our favorite was the Museum of American History. It is an absolute must see for anyone who appreciates any or all aspects of American History. They have everything from the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre on the night he was assassinated, to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, to the 1903 Winton—the first car driven across the United States, to Julia Childs’ kitchen. We learned so much and if we ever go back, we plan to visit it again.

Other highlights included:

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument, which is dedicated to our first president. We went inside and up the elevator to the top. The view from all four sides was simply magnificent!

The National Archives

The National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. More chill bumps.

Ford’s Theatre, the place where President Lincoln was assassinated. On display in the museum are the clothes Lincoln was wearing that fateful night, one of the pillows his head was laid upon, and the gun that John Wilkes Booth used to kill him.

Arlington Cemetery, where greats like Audie Murphy and Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft are buried, along with the Tomb of the Unknowns. Big chill bumps.

The White House

And, of course, I have to include the White House, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the busy Union Station. Not to mention the many statues, memorials, and monuments placed throughout the city, including our favorites of Benjamin Franklin and Ulysses S. Grant. And when we left DC, we made sure to stop by Mt. Vernon to visit the home of George Washington and see his and Martha’s tombs. That was something really special. All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime and as my kids put it: the BEST vacation ever!!

So, dear readers, have you ever visited Washington DC? If so, what were your favorite things to see and do? If not, is there a place that you had wanted to visit and were finally able to? Tell me about it!


  1. I haven't visited DC since I was in junior high. We went on a bus tour that included stops in Philly and the Shenandoah Valley. I loved the museums the best in DC. I do want to go back and see what's new at the Smithsonian. We passed by the White House and visited the Lincoln Memorial, but didn't get a chance to visit Arlington National Cemetery. I do want to see the Eternal Flame at JFK's gravesite.

  2. I have NOT visited Washington DC. I would love to.

  3. I have gotten to go to D.C. but didn't have the time to see even a tenth of everything I wanted to see. I want to go back again with days to spend wandering. I did get to visit Arlington and there was a ceremony taking place while there, chill bumps and tears were shed for the entire process, be the deceased statesman or the lowliest of privates. That has been years ago and I still tear up thinking about it.

  4. My favorite places are the museums - especially the one for natural sciences.

  5. Andrea, it sounds like you had a wonderful time and saw so many fabulous things!!! As you know, I have never been there. The hubby and I are hoping to plan a trip with the kids in the next couple years.

  6. I love visiting DC and my absolutely favorite place is the Smithsonian Museum gemstone collection. My husband and I are "rockhounds" and to us this is like visiting a candy store. A gentleman who works in that area overheard us talking about the different gemstones and offered us a tour of the area not open to the public. It was amazing to see the items they own but do not have room to display. Of course, visiting all of the memorials leaves one feeling in great awe of the many sacrifices made by our U.S. heroes.
    Connie Fischer

  7. Jane, I hope you get to go back soon. When we were there, a new memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. was still under construction (opening in August, I believe) and I would love to go back and see it.

  8. marybelle, hopefully one of these days you'll get to visit. It would definitely be a trip you'd never forget! :)

  9. What a wonderful trip! I've been to DC three times and each time I discover something new. One of the most moving experiences of my last trip was a night tour of the monuments. They're all memorable by day but at night? Breathtaking!

  10. I hear you, Dianna. We were there for a little more than four days and still didn't see all we wanted to. lol I want to go back!

  11. Dtchycat, we loved the Museum of Natural History. My kids got to see the dinosaurs and I got to see the Hope Diamond. It's a win-win!

  12. Buffie, you all have to go soon. You, hubby, and the boys would LOVE it!! So much to see and do for everyone. :)

  13. How awesome for you, Connie! I love the term "rock hounds". LOL! My mom and aunt would be considered "rock hounds" and would loooove to do that tour.

  14. PJ, I really wish we could have done a night tour. The only monument we did at night was the Washington Monument tour...and at 8 pm, it was still light outside. Next time, for sure!

  15. Great pictures, Andrea! I love going to DC, and the Smithsonian is one of my favorite places to go. So many museums, so much to see---I could spend days and days just exploring.

    I think the monuments all lit up at night is a breathtaking sight.

  16. Never made it to DC but I always wanted to. I'd love to see Niagra Falls and Mt Rushmore. We did make it to the Grand Canyon -- totally awesome -- and to the Redwood forest -- again, awesome.

  17. I have never been to DC, but I hope to one day! Love the pictures! :)

  18. What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing all of your pictures and stories with us, Andrea!

    I have a good friend of mine who lives in northern VA so whenever I go down to visit, we always try to take in the sights. (Though that often includes more malls and restaurants than places of historical and cultural significance, lol).

    I definitely want to check out the Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR memorial, as well as Arlington.

    I love the Spy museum down there, and had a lot of fun, though I quickly discovered I have no aptitude whatsoever for espionage!

    And the Air and Space museum was a lot of fun too.

  19. What a wonderful endorsement, Andrea. The DH and I have been to DC twice and we took the kids the last time. I love it. It was a blast with the two of us pre-kids, we did a lot more, but it was also amazing to see my kids so into all of the history. Although by the last day they were kind of tired of reading all the info on the markers. LOL

    I agree with PJ and Gannon, the memorials at night are unbelievable. I have a fondness for Lincoln and Jefferson. I could spend days reading about the two of them. Visiting Fords Theater gave me goosebumps. I'd really love to go visit Monticello and see where and how Jefferson lived.

    If you liked DC you would most probably love Mount Rushmore. We've also been there a couple of times and each time I go it never fails to take my breath away.

  20. It souds like a great trip, Andrea, one yout kids will always remember.

    Will I sound dreadfully shallow if I admit the First Ladies' inaugural gowns exhibition is my favorite thing at the Smithsonian? I do find visiting the monuments makes me choke-in-the-throat patriotic, especially the Lincoln Memorial, but the Washington attraction where I can spend hours and still long for more time there is the National Gallery.

  21. I love visiting all the D.C. museums and monuments. I minored in American History in college, all those years ago, and still enjoy learning about it today.

    One highlight for me was the Holocaust Museum. The last time I visited, one of the special exhibitions featured pages from The Diary of Anne Frank. The permanent exhibition is heart-wrenching and wonderful.

    Mount Vernon (Washington's home) is quite close to D.C. and well worth the visit. The National Zoo is a lot of fun, too. Your column makes me want to go back!

  22. Thanks, Gannon. That's the wonderful thing about DC, there is SO much to do!

  23. We want to visit Mount Rushmore, too, TJ. One of these days, we will. We've seen the Grand Canyon twice and each time it took my breath away. :)

  24. Thanks, Trisha. Maybe we can go together!

  25. Lisa, the Spy Museum is on our list for next time (and there will be a next time). Both kids "informed" me of that! *g*

  26. irisheyes said: I'd really love to go visit Monticello and see where and how Jefferson lived.

    Oh, us, too! And my son told me we need to visit Springfield, IL to see even more stuff about Abe Lincoln, including where he's buried. I really hope to see Mount Rushmore one day!!

  27. Janga said: Will I sound dreadfully shallow if I admit the First Ladies' inaugural gowns exhibition is my favorite thing at the Smithsonian?

    Absolutely not, Janga! I really enjoyed it, too! About the National Gallery, I was super impressed to see Ginerva de' Benci by da Vinci, along with Young Girl Reading by Fragonard. Both are beautiful!

  28. Thanks, LSUReader! Good for you! I really wish I'd appreciated American history more in school. My husband and I wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum, but were warned that it wasn't for young children. We will definitely go there on a return trip. We loved Mount Vernon and I'm so glad my son suggested it to us. Yes, definitely worth the visit!

  29. Lisa, we went to the Spy Museum a couple of years ago. So cool!

  30. I think the last time I went to DC was when I was a kid and during which my little brother scared my 5-year-old cousin by telling her that the statue of Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial wanted to kill her. I doubt I've been back since.

  31. We lived in northern Virginia for 5 years while my husband was stationed at Andrews AFB. We went back this past winter with our grandson who was 12 at the time. Unfortunately the Jefferson Memorial was closed at the time. At the Smithsonian, we hit the castle, Air and Space and the Museum of Natural History. We went out to Chantilly for the Air and Space Center there. Our grandson is a big fan of the Transformer and Night In The Museum movies and wanted to see where they were filmed among other things. We didn't realize the Chantilly Center had been used until we got there and saw the display. We were able to tour the White House and he really enjoyed that. There wasn't enough time to do all we wanted to do. There are still several museums I would like to see a several of the historic homes we never got to.

    My Cub Scout den got to do a wreath laying ceremony inside Washington's tomb at Mount Vernon. Both girls were old enough to usher at the inaugural parade and participate in some of the events as ushers or companions. The both were also able to take part in a GC congressional aide program. We did go to the 4th of July celebrations on the Mall our first summer there. It was quite an experience. Seeing the fireworks in person can't be matched by the TV coverage.
    No matter what you like, there is something to see. Best of all, you can't beat the price for most of them.

  32. Isnt that funny, our youngest son has also inspired us in the same way. We have always been, sort of, interested. My husband more than I. We have always been patriotic. But our youngest son has drug us along to a whole new level of learning and patriotism. Along with every person he has known since he was about 6. I have so had many of his teachers and friends mention to me his effect on them. How many people vote now, because of him? Really, he is a force to be reckoned with. We went to dc a couple years ago. It was a magnificent trip. Every single place was moving. We should all try to get there. Amazing.

  33. Oh, no, Sheree! I'm sure you'd appreciate it more as an adult. ;-)

  34. Oh, how awesome that you got to see the fireworks in person, librarypat! I bet that was beyond spectacular. We hope to tour the White House on our next trip there...along with going to the wax museum. As for the price, you are so right!!

  35. krazymama_98 said: We should all try to get there.

    Hi, krazymama! My son said something very similar to me just yesterday morning: "Mom, I think every American should visit Washington DC at least once in their life." And I agree. :) We've been home for a week and he is still talking about it!

  36. I used to LOVE to visit DC. It's been a very long time, but I still have great memories about visiting. The last time I was there, was the first time I'd been to the Vietnam Memorial. I have a KIA bracelet, so I took a rubbing of my soldiers name and will keep it always. The Korean Memorial is very moving as well. It took my breath away. As we were walking up to it, the soldiers were all in line, but a few of them were "looking" back at you walking up on them. Gives me chills just remembering.

    Of course we visited the Smithsonian and Air & Space Museum. I could tour those places everyday, all day!

    I'd really like to go back, and go to the Holocaust Museum.

    @Connie... Lucky you!! I am sooooo jealous!!! Lol!!

  37. I loved almost everything about DC. I really want to return with my son

  38. Monica, DC is certainly a "chill bump inducing" place, isn't it? I dare anyone to say that they don't get chills at least once while they're there!

  39. fsbuchler said: I really want to return with my son

    I hope you do! I think that having my son (and husband and daughter) there with me only enhanced my visit. I got to see it through my own eyes and theirs! :)