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A Trip to a Neighbouring Nation's Capital

Passing through several museums and visiting some of the most well-known landmarks in the world, this was an eye-opening experience I will remember forever.

Washington D.C. looks stunning during the fall. I mean, how could a city that’s rich with so much history not seem like the most beautiful place to be during any season. The leaves that are shades of burnt red and amber are an immaculate backdrop for the stone buildings that decorate the city.

Passing through several museums and visiting some of the most well-known landmarks in the world, it was an eye-opening experience I will remember forever.

Day one consisted of the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum. The National Museum of Natural History reminded me of the Royal Ontario Museum, filled to the brim with countless species of mammals, fish and fossils and the history behind them. The National Air and Space Museum was an interesting delve into learning more about America’s fascination with space throughout the 1960s. Of course, the technology that continues to this day in both air and space is always growing, but it’s still noteworthy to see just what trials and tribulations happened during those early years of flight.

On the second day of visiting the capital, sight-seeing was on the agenda. The National Mall is a remarkable piece of land, dotted with legendary memorials documenting different parts of American history. Not only has it grown to become a tourist’s haven, but it has been the location of several of the most iconic marches and protest movements in history. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam, the Poor People’s Campaign, the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the Million Man March and more recently, the Women’s March on Washington all demanded change out of the government that allowed for better opportunities most of us are lucky enough to have now.

The Lincoln Memorial stands tall at the west end of the mall and is decidedly larger in person than it is on-screen. The entire time I was there, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was replaying in my mind. Getting the chance to stand where he did when he demanded civil rights and better economic opportunities for African Americans, 50 years later was special.

The Washington Monument is phenomenal and can be seen from any part of the city, just as the C.N. Tower is back home. Regardless of how many times I saw it over the course of three days (and the number of photographs I snapped), I could never get sick of it.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial were equally enlightening as it’s important to be reminded of those who fought to keep our countries free. The United States National Holocaust Museum was the next place we visited. Throughout the museum, it was impossible not to carry a heavy heart. Photographs and videos from concentration camps will help us in remembering those who sadly lost their lives and to never forget the Holocaust.

A glimpse of the White House is a moment everyone should have while in Washington but it cannot compare to the U.S. Capitol building. I may be biased as I couldn’t get very close to the White House (for obvious reasons), though the Capitol was another level of breathtaking. As the autumn sun was setting, it made for the most picturesque photographs a person could ask for.

Despite the frigid temperature and high winds, the U.S. Botanic Garden was next. The flora was nice to look at but didn’t take much time, although the lobby of the Botanic Garden was packed-full of Christmas spirit. Backtracking to where the National Air and Space Museum is located, we visited the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. "Pulse" by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was an interactive and very Instagram-worthy exhibit that took up the majority of the second floor. Walking quickly to where Washington Capitals play and having my first-ever Shake Shack experience, day two ended in triumph.

As a new day emerged, my experience with Washington D.C. was coming to a close. Day three brought one of my favourite museums, the National Museum of American History. Not only did they have numerous inventions that were created by Americans, but the entire top floor was made up of former presidents and gowns donated by the first ladies. Jacqueline Kennedy’s yellow silk evening gown from the Kennedy administration’s first state dinner along with her pearls from that night immediately took my breath away. American designer Oleg Cassini created the gown.

In the presidential section, they had knick-knacks like one of Bill Clinton’s saxophones and a board game about the Kennedys with information on each president, along with memorable speeches playing on television screens. They even had a section of assassination attempts, which is where I found the most information about a president that was assassinated 55 years ago; John F. Kennedy. To see a case brimming with different photographs and artifacts from those four days in November could be described as nothing less than heartbreaking.

After seeing my fair share of ruby slippers and the Bat-mobile, art was up next on the agenda. The Renwick also included some interactive art installations and abstract works that were familiar to the Hirshhorn. The National Gallery of Art was recommended by a Lyft driver and definitely did not disappoint. This enormous building could have easily taken a full day to get through when we showed up only an hour to closing. Dashing to get to where the Monet’s and Van Gogh’s were located, we managed to see all that we needed to in the time period given.

Another windy day, led us to walk quickly towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial located on the opposite end of the National Mall. Quotes from King decorated the walls surrounding a looming statue of King himself.

Leaving on November 29 was bittersweet. As the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s death and the 55th anniversary of his brother, John F. Kennedy’s death were commemorated this year, it was significant to me to visit their gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery. John, as well as Jackie, lie together with the Arlington House present in the background, just over the hill. Quotes from his inaugural address look out onto Washington and the many bodies that also lay in Arlington. Bobby’s grave is just over from Jack’s. The simple white cross and plaque with his name sit alone, with quotes from his infamous speech after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. facing towards him.

Two men that were meant to guide us towards a more equal future, to carry the weight of a nation and a generation on their shoulders; two men that lost their lives for wanting change. To finally be face-to-face with where my political heroes were laid to rest could only bring tears to my eyes.

Although there were places I wish I could have visited, like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which sits beautifully on the edge of the Potomac River, the National Archives Research Center, the Newseum, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the International Spy Museum to name a few. It’s safe to say that I will indeed make my way back to this exceptional city sometime in the near future as three and a half days was simply not enough.

Watch my journey, which includes visiting the lovely city of Pittsburgh here:

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