Now that summer has unofficially started after last weekend's Memorial Day ceremonies, if all the flag waving and parades has lit a patriotic fervor, consider jumping in the car, boarding a train or catching a flight to Washington, D.C., for a visit. And if you do, here are five attractions to make sure you see:
The monuments and memorials
Washington, D.C. is a city filled with monuments and memorials to the people and events that have shaped our history. From the small to the expansive, they are everywhere. To really experience them, you need to walk among them. For example, you cannot just drive by the Lincoln Memorial. Its 57 steps need to be climbed, and visitors need to stand next to Lincoln.
Also, you need to gaze up high at the Washington Monument. You need to stand before the Vietnam Memorial and touch the names engraved in its walls. These monuments are meant to make us remember.
Arlington National Cemetery
Watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is enthralling. The precision with which the soldiers perform their duty, rain or shine, cold or heat, is awe-inspiring. It's reverential and emotional. Walking the pathways through the cemetery is sobering.
The White House and U.S. Capitol
The White House and U.S. Capitol buildings, icons of our federal government, are open to the public. Unlike palaces in some other countries, American citizens are welcome in these seats of power. Where else can you stand in the same spot the most powerful man in world stands, or walk the same halls that Lincoln and Jefferson did? It's worth taking the time to look up your senator and representative and to visit their offices, also.
Many of us haven't read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since our last fourth grade civics lesson. However, these three pieces of paper kicked off the great American experiment in self-government that has lasted over 236 years. They were ideas put on paper that started a revolution and gave birth to the United States. Within the documents are the principles our leaders are sworn to protect and the freedoms that our servicemen defend. It's humbling to be able to read some of the original copies.
National Air and Space Museum
A part of the Smithsonian family of museums, the National Air and Space Museum has two locations, one in downtown Washington, D.C. and the other at Dulles airport in Chantilly, Va., about 25 miles away. A favorite of children and adults alike, countless hours can be spent exploring the exhibits on the origins of flight and the conquering of the space frontier. From a replica of Wilbur and Orville Wright's first airplane to the retired Space Shuttle Discovery, there is almost a million square feet of exhibit space filled with original equipment to explore. In here, American ingenuity and determination are on full display.