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Washington D.C.; The Capital of the World

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Washington D.C. is filled with many sites that tell a story about the history of our great country. Whether you are traveling with a group or going solo, Washington D.C. is an exciting, one-of-a-kind destination to visit year round.
Brandon Speakman on December 24, 2018 - 2:44 pm in Attractions, City Spotlight, Featured Cities, Historical, Places to visit

Things to do in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. was founded on July 16, 1790 and was decreed the official capital of the United States by the Constitution. Washington D.C. has been involved in “political maneuvering, sectional conflicts and issues of race, national identity, compromise and, of course, power.” President George Washington himself decided on the land where Washington D.C. currently sits upon; along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.

George Washington chose Pierre Charles L’Enfant to create and organize Washington D.C. Pierre Charles L’Enfant had a vision to design a city that had “grand boulevards and ceremonial spaces” that would resemble L’Enfant’s hometown of Paris. Today, The Capitol Building sits at the center of the grid system that L’Enfant designed.

Unfortunately, Washington D.C. was almost completely demolished by armed forces of Great Britain during The War of 1812. Many buildings were set on fire and burned to the ground including The White House, the Capitol, The Library of Congress, and its inventory of books. In 1815, Thomas Jefferson was able to replace the contents of The Library of Congress by selling his entire library for $23,950.

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Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

On April 16, 1862, all slaves owned in Washington D.C. were emancipated (nine months before The Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to all slaves that lived in Confederate States.) Washington D.C.  quickly became populated with many freed slaves and eventually was largely occupied by African Americans, including Frederick Douglass. Today, Washington D.C. is known as a “culturally diverse city” filled with an abundance of history, museums and great restaurants. You’ll never have a dull moment during your visit to the Nation’s Capital.

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Enjoying the beautiful sites of Washington D.C., despite freezing weather Photo courtesy Brandon Speakman

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is a United States Military Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia. “The national cemetery was established during The Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, which had been the estate of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna Custis Lee.” The Arlington National Cemetery Historic District includes Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House, Memorial Drive, the Hemicycle, and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Arlington National Cemetery Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2014. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for many notable individuals in politics such as John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Marvin.

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The final resting place of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

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Arlington National Cemetery Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

On top of a hill overlooking Washington D.C. is The Tomb of the Unknown Solider, which is guarded by The U.S. Army. If you have the chance, the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery is a very awe-inspiring event to be present for.

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The view of Washington D.C. from Arlington National Cemetery

The Food of Washington D.C.

The Pig

The Pig in Washington D.C. is a must-visit for lovers of all things pork. The Pig takes a sophisticated and fancy approach to bacon, which is something more states need, a fancy bacon-based restaurant. The official website of The Pig gives a more than accurate manifesto that reads; “The Pig is a celebration of pork and the whole animal. Our menu is dedicated to uniquely crafted, seasonal, and local food. Our menu is paired with American crafted cocktails, beer, and wine. We welcome our guests with great hospitality in a comfortable setting. Explore & enjoy the experience.”

The menu at The Pig is split up between Firsts, Mains and Sides. The first item listed on the Firsts section of the menu is an appetizer that was calling my name; Face Bacon, which is described on The Pig’s menu as a “fatty cut with rosemary maple and cognac mustard.” This bacon is exquisite. The fatty bacon slab is everything a piece of bacon should be. It’s crispy on the outside, but also melts in your mouth. The bacon is served atop the rosemary maple and cognac mustard, giving you a chance to coat your bite of bacon in the drizzle, before taking a bite. When that piece of bacon is equipped with the rosemary maple and cognac mustard and you take that first bite, it’s like heaven in your mouth. This bacon appetizer is a true work of art and I hope that all bacon lovers have a chance to taste it someday.

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The ever so heavenly “Face Bacon” Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

A notable item on the Mains section of the menu is the porchetta; sausage wrapped in pork belly with a crispy slice of bacon wrapped around the top of the pork belly, which sits on top bok choy and a wasabi potato puree and pork jus. The porchetta is a tasty main dish at The Pig. When eating at The Pig, everything seems like a treat, since it has something to do with bacon or another pork-based product, which makes the dining experience at The Pig a magical one.

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Porchetta at The Pig Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

The Pig offers a lively ambience and is a great place to go if you’re looking for a unique dining experience in D.C. Or maybe you are just a die hard bacon fanatic, either one works.

The Florida Avenue Grill

I was searching for breakfast one morning in D.C. and a friend of mine recommended I try The Florida Avenue Grill. I don’t think I’ve ever had a quality, hot, delicious, filling breakfast for $6. All it took were Two World Famous Hot Cakes topped with cinnamon and sugar and a cup of coffee. Not only is the food top-notch, the breakfast prices are unbeatable.

The Florida Avenue Grill started as a dream for Lacey C. Wilson Sr., a shoeshine man living in Washington D.C. Wilson Sr. desired to open up a restaurant that “felt like home.” He wanted his restaurant to be a place where everyone who came to visit was friends with each other. Wilson Sr. dreamed to serve up a home-cooked, soul food meal at a cheap price. Most importantly, Wilson Sr. wanted to give African-Americans a place where they could sit down and enjoy a meal, without being harassed or discriminated against because of their skin color. In addition, Wilson Sr. wanted to create a restaurant where people with different economic backgrounds, religious beliefs and heritage could all come together and enjoy a meal with the company of those of a different walk of life.

After saving up all of his tips, Wilson Sr. and his wife Bertha opened up a “small, humble restaurant on the corner of Florida Avenue and 11th street in Northwest D.C. called The Florida Avenue Grill.” At the start of Wilson Sr.’s new business, The Florida Avenue Grill only had room for two bar stools. The Florida Avenue Grill was open for business in 1944. Lacey and Bertha Wilson couldn’t even find room to have a kitchen on the ground floor of “The Grill,” so they had to cook in the basement. When the restaurant first opened, Lacey and Bertha were on an incredibly strict budget. In fact, Lacey would send Bertha to the grocery store to buy 2 chickens. As soon as both chickens were fried and sold, Bertha would take the money they just earned and head back to the grocery store to purchase 2 more chickens. Because of how hard the Wilsons’ worked in getting The Florida Avenue Grill established, today’s management will tell you “the grill was built literally ‘two chickens at a time.’”

By 1968, The Florida Avenue Grill was a well-established restaurant in D.C. and was operated by Lacey Sr., Bertha and their son, Lacey Jr. On April 4th, 1968, the restaurant had the test of its life during one of D.C.’s darkest days, the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The assassination of Dr. King generated riots throughout America, but the U Street corridor was the nucleus of the D.C. riots that night. Sadly, the riots caused many businesses to burn down to the ground. The Florida Avenue Grill was able to withstand the riots, but not because the community thought highly of the restaurant. Lacey Jr. stayed up all night and kept watching the front booth of the restaurant ready with a shotgun. Although The Florida Avenue Grill was firebombed during the riots, Lacey Jr. was there to put out of the fires.

In 2005, Imar Hutchins, an attorney and entrepreneur, purchased The Grill from Wilson Jr. Although Hutchins made some changes, he wanted frequent visitors of The Grill to know that it will always hold the same “loveable charm” as it did when Wilson Jr. owned it. Hutchins built a monument as a way to praise The Wilsons and “the historical significance of The Grill.” The monument that celebrates The Wilsons is the Lacey Condominiums, “an award winning 26-unit building designed by Ali Honarkar of “Divisions of Architects.” The Lacey Condominiums were built respectively on the Florida Avenue Grill’s former parking lot. It was important to Hutchins that The Grill and the Lacey “co exist together.” “Most developers would have wanted to tear down the Grill to get another couple of units, but to me it was important to preserve a critical part of DC history.”

While The Grill has seen its share of hardships, it has always been able to stay in business and serve its loyal D.C. customers for years. The Florida Avenue Grill has been able to “survive everything from natural disasters and recessions to the crack epidemic, crime waves and gentrification.” The Florida Avenue Grill is currently the oldest soul food restaurant in the world and continues to put a smile on the faces of every customer that passes through.

The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille was founded by Ned Grace and officially opened in 1990 in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. As downtown Providence was a rundown area at the time and also because the grand opening of The Capital Grille happened during an ongoing recession, it took a while for The Capital Grille to become established. Seven years after The Capital Grille opened in Providence, the restaurant was earning over $4 million annually. By 1996, The Capital Grille had expanded to multiple major markets, including Boston and Washington D.C. As of 2014, there are 51 Capital Grille locations in the United States.

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Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

Visiting The Capital Grille on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. is a delightful experience. While the menu at The Capital Grille can be a little pricey, there are still sections of the menu that offer cheaper selections, such as New England Clam Chowder, Soy Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Au Gratin Potatoes, Parmesan Truffle Pies, Roasted Chicken or the Caesar Salad.

The dish that I ordered at The Capital Grille was a personal favorite of mine; Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese. The Capital Grille doesn’t even give a detailed description of the Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese. All it says under the Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese is “as magnificent as it sounds.” I can and will fully back up that statement. Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese is one of my favorite dishes and one I’ve had on multiple occasions. The Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese at The Capital Grille is one of the best I’ve ever had. This particular Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese dish has the macaroni and lobster positioned on top of a buttery, delicious pool of cheese, which makes it extra cheesy. Pieces of lobster are added to the Mac ‘N’ Cheese and topped off with breadcrumbs. The Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese alone is worth the trip back to The Capital Grille. The Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese is listed under the ‘To Share’ section of The Capital Grille’s menu. If you love yourself, you won’t share this Mac ‘N’ Cheese.

The Capital Grille also offers a full dessert menu that includes Crème Brûlée, a Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake, Warm Fuji Apple Crostata with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chef’s Seasonal Fruit Sorbet and much more. The Capital Grille in Washington D.C. is a fun and delicious experience. You may want to call ahead to beat the dinner crowds, but other than that, bon appétit.

Touring Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. offers tours of The White House, The U.S. Capitol, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, FBI Headquarters, Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, Supreme Court and State Department. Tours can be booked on the official website of the government branch/agency you would like to visit.

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During my trip to Washington DC I had the opportunity to tour The White House, The U.S. Capitol and Kennedy Center. Seeing The White House all decked out for the holidays is a rare treat that I hope everyone can enjoy someday. Yes, it was very, very cold outside, but the decorations were all very tasteful and it was fun counting the hundreds of Christmas Trees that were sprinkled throughout The White House.

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The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

WH Theatre Room

The White House Theatre Room Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

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The White House Library Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

And of course, Washington D.C. is home to some of the most famous monuments and memorials in the world, which are scattered around The National Mall, including The Jefferson Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument (the elevator that takes you to the top will be reopening in 2019), Korean War Veterans Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial etc.

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Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

As a first-time visitor, Washington D.C. was hands down one of the most exciting places I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit and I cannot wait to go back, as I hear spring in D.C. is delightful. Touring The White House and seeing Arlington National Cemetery all decorated for Christmas was an added bonus and really added some charm as I walked through this marvelous city. To learn more about Washing D.C., check out the official tourism board website.

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Washington D.C.’s Union Station Photo Courtesy of Brandon Speakman

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