History Lives in Our Country's Capital

Spending two months in Washington, D.C. this past summer made me fall in love with the city. History comes alive in D.C. The tales of old America blend with a bustling metropolis filled with modern restaurants, shopping and entertainment, seamlessly intertwined with the politics of our nation.

Exploring Monuments and Museums

One of the best parts of D.C. is so much is FREE. Even with holes in our pockets, my group of friends and I saw the 200-year-old document that founded the U.S., priceless art, portraits of presidents, a giant panda, a giant elephant, the Concorde aircraft and the Hope diamond. Brian and Tracy at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

I spent Fourth of July at The National Mall with my boyfriend, Brian. The mall contains many of the United State's most popular sites. Honest "Abe" sits at the edge of the mall looking at the Capitol. In between these two monstrous structures lie the Vietnam, Korean and WWWII war memorials, while the Washington Monument peeks over the center of the Mall watching over the city, the flags of every state encirling it. Imagine one of the world's best fireworks display bursting above this scene.

Yet the popular mall is not the only place to find history in D.C. A trip to Arlington National Cemetary evoked a different kind of emotion illustrating the patriotic sacrifices of so many Americans. Next, my summer roommates and I traveled to the National Archives to relive the beginnings of the nation. Many more sites awaited, but the D.C. museums cannot be forgotten.

In 1826, British scientist James Smithson drew up his last will for his estate "to go to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men," according to the Smithsonian Web site. This venture has transformed a $500,000 gift into one of the largest groups of museums in the world. Smithsonian musuems include but are not limited to a collection of art and industry, air and space, American and natural history, and a zoo. The extensive collections pull artifacts from before the age of the dinosaurs to the present and from all corners of the earth.

My favorite Smithsonian destination, the National Air and Space Museum illustrates the mysteries of the galaxies and the birth of flight. It boasts the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world, and it acts as a center for research into the "history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics," according to their Web site. The museum recreates inventions of Galileo Galilei and delves into the history of space exploration, displaying exhibits from the mission to the moon to current space exploration technology. In addition, the museum illustrates the beginnings of aviation and the history of flight combat in WWI, WWII and Veitnam.

Tasting the D.C. Fare

Unlike many of the D.C. sites, eating was not free. But after treking through all those museums and monuments, sitting down for a nice meal was a necessary getaway. Chinatown became one of my favorite spots because it provides an ethnic backdrop for everyone's dining pleasure. Don't be deterred by the name -- Chinatown's not just Chinese. Rosa Mexican tantilated my tastebuds with unique, fresh Mexican fused with flavors from every region of Mexico. Clyde's of Gallery Place served delicious classic American food for a reasonable price that pleased all of my friends. And Tony Cheng's provided the Chinese flavors necessary to a Chinatown area. After a long day at the monuments, the circulator bus dropped us at my D.C. neighborhood: Georgetown. This trendy district is home to an elite university and tons of restuarants and shopping. Shops ranging from high price boutiques to Urban Outfitters dotted the cobblestone sidewalks. Pizza Paradiso dished up the best pizza in town and offered a selection of more than 80 beers. Near the waterfront, I recommend Bangkok Joe's, the only dumpling bar in D.C. I spent a great afternoon sampling the lobster and pine nut dumpling and a rice bowl. And for a gourmet meal, don a sport coat or cocktail dress for reservations at 1789, the Washington Post's pick for the best restaurant in town.