Travel memory: Washington, D.C. as a kid

washington monument

My seventh-grade school trip to Washington, D.C. was the first big travel experience of my life. We went for three days and took tours of the major monuments. Except the White House – I still haven’t been inside there.

It’s hilarious looking back on the few surviving photos from the trip. This was way before digital cameras, so I had to take a cheapo 35mm cam with a 24-exposure roll of Kodak film. The pictures I got were dreadful – mostly blurry shots taken while I was walking.

What do I remember from this trip? A lot of odd memories. Singing Bon Jovi songs in the big tour bus. Playing Paperboy in a video arcade at the rest stop just outside Maryland. Finally getting to D.C. and sharing a hotel room with four other kids and watching Guns N Roses’ “Patience” video on MTV.

I remember being at the top of the Washington Monument and enjoying the views. I took a few pics up there but they were all too blurry to be useful.

We stopped by the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. I’m sure we saw other important sights, but I couldn’t tell you what they were.

washington dc

Visit #2 to DC

One summer when I was 21, I was working as a counselor for a pre-college program at Penn State for high school students, and one of our weekend trips was to the capitol area to check out George Washington and Maryland Universities.

Even though I was hearing great things about the DC nightlife, and I was now old enough to go to bars, our schedule did not allow us to do this since we were chaperoning the entire time. We were given one free night, about two hours, to wander around the reflecting pool. There wasn’t much to do, aside from people-watching and taking in the statues.

wash dc statues

Visit #3 to DC

In October, I’m going back to DC for the first time as an adult. I’ll finally get a chance to check out the nightlife, but I still want to see all those monuments too. They’re such iconic structures. I see them everyday when I count my $5s and $10s. It’s time to see them in person again.

It’s also gonna be cool to take the pulse of DC just a few weeks before the presidential election. I like being where the action is, so I have a feeling being in the middle of the battle will be fun.

Tunnels and skyscrapers: Seeing Houston from above and below

What are your impressions of Washington D.C.? Do you have any suggestions of places I should check out while I’m there?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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  1. We are big DC fans (go every year for a big advocacy trip). Let’s chat before you go, we have some really good cheap eat options to share.

    Lve those pics and hearing about you watching the video for “Patience.” I still find myself whistling that damn thing form time to time.

  2. I was trying to guess the years of your visits by the clothes – I also visited DC first (and only) time in 7th grade. Although I think my pictures using that old 110 film were actually better than yours! Unfortunately, what I remember best is that it was the first time I had ever had anyone come up and ask me for money. I was so scared!

  3. How about walking up and down the Exorcist stairs? I always see many foreign visitors there and other parts of Georgetown. The Einstein statue amazes every visitor I take into DC. Also along the Mall, I enjoy seeing the documents (Declaration, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Magna Carta) at the National Archives, the Smithsonian Castle, and The American Indian Museum (great food!). Depending on when your previous visit was, new freebies include the Martin Luther King Memorial, the World War 2 Memorial, and FDR Memorial. Oh yeah, do you like baseball? The new Nationals stadium is wonderful.

  4. I lived in DC for a couple years recently. The museums are great of course. On the weekends there are a lot of great farmer’s markets. During the week at lunch in the business district there’s awesome food trucks. On Sunday afternoons (4-8) there’s a drum circle at Meridian Hill Park (at 16th and Euclid NW). Good neighborhoods to walk around include: Adams Morgan, U Street, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown. There’s a lot of great Ethiopian food in the U Street neighborhood. If you want fancier fare the Penn Quarter neighborhood has good stuff (you can’t go wrong with a Jose Andres restaurant). My favorites: Rasika, a great Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter, 2 Amys – a pizza place a little ways from Cleveland Park metro, and Busboys and Poets – good sandwiches and stuff at 5th and K NW or 14th and V St NW. You should have pretty good weather in October – enjoy!

  5. I haven’t given Washington DC its due, but I really need to. The last visit I had was spent pretty much at the Smithsonian museum…esp. the Air and Space Museum, but there’s more to DC than the Mall..I do want to do a culinary tour of DC for sure…

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