Fun facts about Washington D.C.

Do you know what the hardest part is about coming back from an amazing two-week vacation to the Mid Atlantic states? Well, it’s coming back. Out of the many times I’ve visited that region, I’ve never been there during the tree blooming season. This year, we managed to be in the area right during peak bloom, and I can only thank our school district’s vacation schedule for this coincidence. The week before we arrived, only a few trees were blooming, and the week after we left, the blossoms were being blown away by high winds and rain. We had 90% blooms during our stay. That’s what I call pure luck.

Coming from an area of the country where flowers and blooms are rare and sparse, this was a welcome sight – burst after burst of colors everywhere we looked. Oh, did I hear you say allergies? Well, knowing that my kids and I are allergic to tons of things in the San Diego air (dust, tree pollen, weeds, you name it, we’re allergic to it) and miserable all year round, I figured it wouldn’t be worse on the East Coast. Actually it was 100% better. As in, we had NO allergies the whole time. Of course, 10 minutes after getting out of San Diego airport, we were already sneezing. Nice.

We got to spend the first five days of our trip touring Washington D.C., the following weekend visiting my friend in Delaware, and the next few days in Virginia. My kids got to see the famous national monuments for the first time, visit the best museums in the country for free, stare in awe at the REAL spangled star banner (it’s HUGE!), walk around the Tidal Basin with another million tourists, see robins, cardinals and other critters, visit George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s estate at Monticello, admire the beauty and size of the Luray caverns, see many local animals at the Virginia Living Museum (first time my kids saw raccoons and beavers), and enjoy walking in real grass under real trees.

I’ll showcase a lot of the photos I took of these places and animals on my photography website over the next few weeks, but today I wanted to share a few fun facts we learned while touring Washington D.C.

Spring break is the busiest season of the year for the capital. About 600,000 people reside within the city limits. At spring break, 1.2 million people buzz around the streets of D.C. Honestly, we’ve been to the San Diego Zoo in the summer enough times to be ready to conquer any crowds, so this didn’t scare us.

With so many people, traffic can be a problem in Washington D.C. I drove in it and can tell you it’s not worse than driving in Paris. Except those drivers from Maryland. Watch out for them, they’ll run you off the road if they can! Oh, and watch where you park. The city manages to collect $92 million in parking tickets every year. We saw lots and lots of parking police officers hard at work…

Washington D.C. is one of the greenest cities you’ll ever see in the U.S., and that’s probably because a law passed a long time ago says that for every tree cut, two more have to be planted. That makes D.C. a beautiful city to walk and look at.

Talking about trees, the original cherry trees donated by Japan to the U.S. feature white blossoms. Most of the cherry trees that were planted later on display pink blossoms. Honestly, I don’t care what color they are, they’re beautiful either way, especially when they’re all blooming at once.

White cherry blossoms in Washington DC

White cherry blossoms in Washington DC

Some botanist got the brilliant idea years ago to cross a pink cherry tree with a weeping willow. The result is called a cherry weeping willow, or a weeping cherry tree, and there are lots of them in and around D.C. and many of them are very large (20 to 30 feet tall). All I can say is, wow!

Pink cherry willow blossoms in Washington DC

Pink cherry willow blossoms in Washington DC

And talking about pink, how about those pink magnolias? Double wow! Also called “tulip trees” because of the shape of their flowers, they’re everywhere in the city. You can guess I took many, many photos of those.

Pink magnolia blooms - tulip tree blossoms in Washington DC

Pink magnolia blooms – tulip tree blossoms in Washington DC

Let’s talk about the Washington Monument for a minute. It was still under renovation while we visited and is supposed to reopen in a few days. I thought it was closed because of remodeling purposes, but it was damaged in the August 2011 earthquake, the one with a magnitude of 5.8 in Virginia, less than 100 miles from downtown D.C.

Washington monument in Washington DC

Washington monument in Washington DC

By the way, did you ever notice the two different hues of marble on the Washington monument? A light hue for the bottom part and a darker one above? That’s because the monument construction stopped for several years, when people were arguing if it should be built at all. Once the argument was settled, the quarry had run out of marble in that specific location, so they had to extract marble a little further away, which explains the difference in color. One more funny fact: the Washington monument is made of “Texas granite marble” and of course it comes from… Maryland!

Alright, one very last funny fact about the Washington monument: when the elevator was originally installed, only men could use it. That’s because it was considered a safety issue and people thought women and children were safer taking the stairs. Right… It would take the original elevator 17 minutes to go up and down the monument, so maybe the elevator wasn’t much faster than the stairs anyway.

Other monuments in D.C. were damaged in the 2011 earthquake, including the Washington National Cathedral. You can actually see the stones and gargoyles that fell off during the earthquake, as they’re piled up by the entrance of the church. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be close to it when it happened. By the way, if you want to see the inside of the cathedral, plan to shell out $20/person. No need to say, we didn’t bother going in. How do you like my postcard picture?

National Cathedral in Washington DC

National Cathedral in Washington DC

Finally, if you’ve ever being to D.C., you’ve probably noticed the many statues of military men on horses. It seems that every military general, or even officer, that fought in the American Revolution or the Civil War has his own statue in the city. One funny fact about these horse statues: they all face the White House. So if you’re ever lost in the city and are looking for the White House, look for a horse statue and you’re all set!

Military man and horse statue in Washington DC

Military man and horse statue in Washington DC

Do you know other fun facts about the Washington D.C. you’d like to share?

15 responses to “Fun facts about Washington D.C.

  1. How nice that you got to see the blossoms! I’ve never been to DC during that time but would love to be. I’m impressed you drove! I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do that, but I guess if you can survive Paris driving, you can survive anything. Interesting bit about the two-toned color of the Washington monument. My hubs in DC right now for a conference. I hope the trees are still in bloom for him.

    • I doubt the cherry trees are still in bloom because that only lasts a few weeks but I’m sure other trees are in bloom now. There are many types of blooming trees on the East Coast, so you get to see some flower color in the spring or summer. It’s really not that bad driving in DC. And it ended up costing less than taking the metro for 3 people and the time was the same or less. I did take my kids on the metro one time, so they would have the experience. And of course, they loved it.

  2. Sounds like you had a GREAT trip. I’m so glad. And I enjoyed your fun facts ~ I knew about the marble but NOT the direction of the horse statues. Glad you timed it to be there for the blossoms! And that your allergies didn’t get in the way.

    • You have no idea how well we all felt without allergies for two weeks. I forgot how wonderful it is not to have my head in a fog. It was a great vacation and I’m glad we took the trip. I’ll have to stop by your blog to catch up. It’s been hard to get back into the blogging mode…

  3. Wow! Those blossoms look amazing. Good luck and timing! I’m glad you had such a good vacation. I want to see Washington DC someday; it’s on my ‘bucket’ list. Your boys are sooooo lucky (and I bet there’s a calendar in the future based off this trip…right?)

    • You HAVE to see Washington DC and its surroundings, and take your whole family with you. Honestly, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the country, especially the Shenandoah valley. You’d love camping or staying in a cabin there. There’s so much history and so much culture, and it never gets old.

      And you’re right, I may have enough photos for a 2015 calendar. :-)

      • Yea for new calendars. And I will have to make plans for a future trip. You’ve sold me.

      • Trust me, when you see the photos as I post them on my photo blog, you’ll want to see those places in person. Maryland is lovely with green grass and trees, but Virginia is simply beautiful with all its valleys.

  4. Nice that you are broadening your kids horizons and making it fun at the same time. How fortunate that you got to see the trees in bloom to boot!

  5. A truly fun, beautiful, happy memories filled vacation. The blooms just exploding in colors and forms covering every space of the tree’s branches. Wonderful facts about the place too. Now I know which landmark to choose as guides. They say, the first year in a new place, we’re spared of allergies but the year after we get desensitized this allergy woes begins. Here in Houston, its all year round with Spring, the worst. Small price to pay though for all the beauty and fun it brings. Happy weekend and all the best!

    • I really don’t know what to think about allergies. I never had any when I lived in Paris or in Connecticut, but developed them my first year in San Diego. It’s so dry here, the allergens stay in the air a long time since there’s no rain to set them down. Every place has its pros and cons, I guess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s