Now that I’m reflecting on the trip it’s weird to think I was only in D.C. for three full days because we did so much in that time! On the last day of my trip we accomplished one of the priorities for while I was in town: PANDA WATCH. On the way to do that, we checked out a few more must-see destinations on Capitol Hill.
The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S. and, in my friend’s humble opinion, the most beautiful building in D.C. I’d have to agree. It claims to be the largest library in the world. We’re not just talking about millions and millions of books here. It’s collections include music, newspapers, pamphlets, and loads of other printed materials.
You can even schedule time to use and read those materials if you’re working on a project or just for your own personal research. The catch is you have to do it in this super small and cramped reading room pictured above. Kidding of course, one picture couldn’t even capture how massive the Main Reading Room is.
The coolest part of the building was the display of Thomas Jefferson’s Library. Back when the British burned down the Capitol in 1814, they also burned the original Library of Congress. At the time, Jefferson had the largest personal library in America with more than 6,000 books. That was double what the original Library of Congress had. After the fire, he sold the government all of his books for nearly $24,000. But get this, ANOTHER FIRE burned the Library of Congress again in 1851, destroying 2/3 of Jefferson’s books. Since then, the government has either found original copies of the texts Jefferson had, or re-prints and complied them all together in a semi-circle glass case to show off the collection. Each book has a ribbon to denote if it’s part of Jefferson’s original library, a copy or a re-print. It was so interesting to look at all of the books with green ribbons in them (the originals) and realize that those were books that Jefferson held with his own hands and looked at with his own eyes.
After that, it was Panda Time! I promise I tried to get a normal picture of the sign without a child in it, but there seemed to be a never ending rotation of people taking photos in and on the “ZOO” sculpture. Once again, this excursion was completely free. I think that’s so cool that D.C. is set up that way! You just stroll right in. Love it!
I’ll save you the trouble of looking at my digital zoomed, blurry pictures of the panda in the outside exhibit that was way far away. Even though we stood in the sun long enough to feel the need to put sunscreen on for those, I’ll skip right ahead to when we figured out it was lunch time and you could see them up close in the indoor area. I’m pretty sure this is Bei Bei the baby panda. Please enjoy this sequence of him doing something really cute after he accidentally picked up two pieces of bamboo.
As we were watching him chomp away at bamboo, it was clear he can only work on one piece at a time. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what he would do next in his high octane scenario.
He decided to wear the extra piece of bamboo as a hat!! Classic Bei Bei.
And it just chilled there on top of his head, and he just chilled there too gnawing away at his lunch. Bravo. Bravo.
After that bamboo hat, who could have guessed the evening could still go up from there? But then we went to the most adorable sustainable riverside raw bar for dinner: Whaley’s. It seemed like a no-brainer to indulge in some fresh seafood while on the East Coast. We opted for the ‘small’ seafood tower which had all of this goodness in it. I love clams and have never had them raw until then, turns out they’re great hot or cold. Catfish dip at 12:00 on the plate tasted similar to crab dip but somehow so much better! Everything was so delicious!
The inside of the restaurant was adorable as well. I kept staring at the cute pastel underwater mural they had near the ceiling. The staff was super friendly and really attentive. We all really loved it and enjoyed a brief stroll around the river walk after dinner. Definitely want to go back the next time I visit.
Even though it was getting late my friend insisted that we see all of the monuments at nighttime which, like all the rest of her suggestions, was awesome. This is the aforementioned WWII Memorial with all the fountains lit up.
The Lincoln Memorial has such a different vibe to it at night. There were still some late night onlookers, but something about all the shadows and the lack of crowds makes it feel very special.
Mr. Lincoln looking even more iconic all lit up.
The last stop of the trip was my first visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Surrounding his statue on both sides are large walls that have some of his quotes etched into them. The one on the side of the statue explains the symbolism and is from his “I Have a Dream” speech. It says, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” It was so moving to see this relatively new monument honor such an influential and important man.