This is a bit delayed, but my best friend and I finally had a chance to go through our pictures from our spring break trip to Washington DC and I wanted to post a little bit about it.
The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. So here goes: I am obsessed with The West Wing. My best friend, Allison, and I talk about the show constantly, and I recently started rewatching it (after just finishing it) as I work on my thesis. Allison and I reached the height of obsession, though, when we decided to spend our spring break on a West Wing-inspired trip to DC. People seemed confused when we said we were going there instead of Florida, but trust me, this was an excellent decision. We made a list of places we wanted to go because they were mentioned on TWW (and the DC episode in season five of Parks and Recreation), and we had the best time. In fact, we both immediately started looking at graduate schools and potential jobs there because we loved it so much.
If you’re planning a trip to DC in the future, which I recommend whether you love The West Wing and American politics or not, here are some things you cannot miss! (And yes, almost everything on this list does have significance to The West Wing. I would apologize, but I’m not sorry.)
- The White House: Of course, this was the first thing on our “To Visit” list. We visited the grounds almost every day, saw Marine One taking off from the White House, and even got to take a tour of The East Wing one morning. We may or may not have cried. (We totally did. The experience was just too much.) We even took a selfie with a Secret Service agent outside of the White House, but he threatened my life if it ever showed up on social media. I think he was joking, but I don’t want to take any chances.
- The Newseum: I’ve been to the British Museum, the Louvre, the Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and a slew of other museums in Europe and New York City. However, the Newseum is by far my favorite. In fact, we spent two days in there because one just wasn’t enough. We were able to touch the Berlin Wall; explore an exhibit called “Creating Camelot” about John and Jacqueline Kennedy; see artifacts from the Anchorman movies at a special exhibit that actually made the films educational; see Tim Russert’s office and the Unibomber’s cabin; pull out newspapers with headlines about Lincoln’s assassination and women getting the right to vote; learn how journalists risked their lives on 9/11; understand how technology has changed the news over the years; pretend to be White House correspondents; and so many other things. It’s one of the few museums in DC that charges admission, but it’s well worth it. (The Newseum does have significance within The West Wing world as well—prior to its move to the heart of DC, it resided in Rosslyn and was the location of the heartbreaking shooting in the season one finale.)
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: I’ve been to the concentration camp Dachau, and nothing will ever be as haunting to me as that. However, this museum is still horrifying and intense. We quietly walked through the museum for about three hours, and it’s not something I really want to blog about. It’s just something that everyone should experience for themselves at some point.
- Arlington National Cemetery: Once again, this is significant on The West Wing since it is the burial site of three major characters. However, we really wanted to go for the experience. Arlington is beautiful, as you would imagine, and it’s also massive. We barely covered even a fourth of it. We were able to see the burial sites of the Kennedys and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as well as the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Once we left Arlington Cemetery, we made our way to the Arlington Bridge, a beautiful bridge that connects Arlington, Virginia, to Washington DC with a great view of the Lincoln Memorial. This was a particularly important site to us, as it is featured at the end of one of our favorite episodes of The West Wing: “20 Hours in America (Part 2).”
- The National Cathedral: This was a must see for us (spoiler alert!) since it is where those on The West Wing said goodbye to the beloved Mrs. Landingham in season two’s finale “Two Cathedrals.” The cathedral is stunning, and I was immediately taken back to my time in Europe, when I went to dozens of old cathedrals. While the National Cathedral, like everything else in the US, is not as old as the churches of England, France, and Italy, the National Cathedral lives up to the beauty. It was wonderful and peaceful to explore. (We even watched “Two Cathedrals” prior to our trip here to see where each character sat. See our super cool pictures below.)
- The Capitol: We took a tour of the Capitol Building on International Women’s Day, and while the tour is a bit short, it’s a lot of fun. They force you to watch some serious Congress propaganda before the tour, and then take you through the Crypt, the original Supreme Court chambers, the original House of Representatives chamber, and of course, the Rotunda. Allison and I even got to talk a bit about Kentucky to the group since Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln are frequently referenced throughout the historical building.
- The Supreme Court: We had no idea you could go inside the Supreme Court, but you can and it’s super cool! It wasn’t in session while we were there, but if it had been, we even could have gone to watch some hearings with the Supreme Court justices. That’s been added to my bucket list!
- The Library of Congress: I didn’t give the Library of Congress enough credit before going because it really was a lot of fun. I didn’t realize it was like a museum until we got there, but they had a number of wonderful exhibits throughout the building. We saw the George & Ira Gershwin exhibit as well as a fascinating exhibit about politics and popular culture, an area of research I have always been interested in. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring in there.
- The American History Museum: This museum features a lot from our nation’s short history in both politics and popular culture. Kermit lives here as do some inaugural dresses of the First Ladies (Grace Coolidge is our favorite). There was a lot of ground to cover, but we made our way through every room and loved it. We even stood in the spot where Ben and Leslie are reunited in “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” on Parks and Recreation. We were also a little bit famous in this museum—a guy took our picture because he liked our sweatshirts (I had on Bartlet for America while Allison wore her Lyman/Seaborn 2016) and then a group of people ran up to us as we were leaving to compliment them and discuss The West Wing. We were instant friends.
- The Memorials: There are beautiful memorials throughout DC, and the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial are all pretty close together, which makes for an easy and beautiful walk. (Just be aware that they’re far away from any metro station. The walk back was a bit torturous.) It’s definitely worth a visit, and you can even stand where Martin Luther King Jr. did when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. As a lover of all things history, that’s a pretty cool and powerful thing to do.
- A meeting on the Hill: During our second day in the Newseum, we got a phone call from someone at Congressman Massie’s office, who had arranged our White House tour for us, telling us to stop by his office so that we could pick up the pass we needed for the White House tour. Being West Wing fans, we immediately started calling it our “Meeting on the Hill.” We headed to the Cannon House Office Building, went to Congressman Massie’s office, and then explored the building for a bit. We made the most of the experience, that’s for sure.
- The Mall at night: This is when DC is truly beautiful. It’s just so peaceful. If you stand in between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument at the reflecting pool, you’ll get some stunning pictures.
We went to a ton of other places (including a Target with a cart escalator!), and I know there are still quite a few things on our list that we missed (18th & Potomac, for instance). However, we both plan on returning to DC as soon as possible! Below are just a few of the pictures we took!
And one final thing: A HUGE thanks to Allison’s cousin and her roommates for being so hospitable so we didn’t have to pay for a hotel!