In case you missed the first few posts in this series, we are chronicling our family trip to Washington D.C. The first post in the series is here. You can find the rest under the travel menu on our main page. Last week I reviewed the time we spent touring the National Zoo. This week I will continue with the events of our seventh and final full day in the city.
Once again, I will take a brief paragraph to cover the smartphone apps we used on this day in D.C.. The only app we used on this day was the NPS National Mall app. It contained a lot of useful information about the various memorials we saw. As you will see in the reviews of the memorials below, there was a lot of information and symbolism included in these monuments. It would have all been easy to miss if we had not taken the time to read about them on this app. We also used some other sites, but this app contained almost all the information we needed to fully understand the memorials.
So, what did our schedule look like for our last full day touring Washington D.C.?
Bureau of Printing and Engraving
This was the last tour we scheduled for ourselves during our stay in Washington D.C.. Watching money being printed. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Even so, we had heard it was a fun tour, and something the kids would enjoy. We bought our tickets early the day before. By doing this we were able to select a suitable time for a tour. We selected a time early in the morning when the kids would be alert and attentive.
The tour starts with an introductory video about the history of the U.S. Treasury and paper currency. It also covers some of the history of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. After the video, the actual tour began. The tour is of the slow moving processional type. There are several stops and stations along the way. Each stop provides a view of a different part on the money printing process.
Many of the early steps in the process look like a large scale version of any other printing process. The second half of the tour was much more interesting. All the bills are inspected by hand before they leave the processing floor. If an error is found while flipping through a bundle of bills, the entire bundle is pulled out of the process. I would have thought that the process would be automated by this time. I guess not everything we do is high tech.
There was plenty of trivia mixed into the tour as well. Some of it was interesting. Some of it was not. Of course I have forgotten most of it. At the end of the tour you end up in the gift shop. No surprise. One item you can buy is a shredded bill. These are the bills that have the misprints found during the inspection process.
Overall the tour was fun and educational. It was definitely worth the time. Once we completed it, we headed off towards the Washington Monument. Beyond that monument was the trail of memorials we planned to cover for a majority of the day.
This memorial is located on the edge of a body of water, which makes for a beautiful setting. The memorial, like all the others, is big. The domed structure is gigantic, and dwarfs the statue of Thomas Jefferson inside. Several of Jefferson’s more notable speeches engraved on portions of the wall surrounding the statue.
One fun fact the tour guide shared was that Marine Corp 1 (the Presidential helicopter) lands in the space between this memorial and the water. So, when you see pictures of the President climbing out of the chopper onto a concrete surface, it is probably in front of the Jefferson Memorial. We never saw the helicopter land, although it was in the air a lot, so we cannot confirm this with firsthand accounts.
From this memorial we continued our walk around the lake to the next memorial.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
This memorial was unique from all the other presidential ones we visited. Rather than being a large building of some sort, it was more like a maze. It was not a tower building. Instead it was a sprawling memorial with open areas, ponds, and statues skirted by a large wall of red granite. Each area of the memorial focused on different aspects of Roosevelt’s life and accomplishments. It is divided into four larger groups, one for each of his terms as president.
It was the first monument in Washington, D.C. to be classified as wheelchair accessible. Fittingly of course. Before visiting this memorial, I would recommend spending some time on the National Park Service website about it (https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/fdr_memorial.html). There is far more symbolism in this monument than any other we visited. Unless you are aware of it ahead of time you may miss some.
Once again, when we had taken in this entire memorial, we continued our walk around the lake to the next one.
MLK, Jr. Memorial
Our oldest daughter developed a keen interest in civil rights during school last year, so this memorial was important for her to see. It was a beautiful monument. The rock that Martin Luther King, Jr. was carved out of was massive. The artist did an extraordinary job in creating most of King protruding from the rock. The layout of the memorial only enhanced these efforts. There were short walls around the courtyard surrounding the statue. On these walls were the texts of his most memorable speeches.
I do not know what it was about the memorial itself, but it was somber. Everything was simple, clean, and crisp. Yet, at the same time, it was filled with emotion and energy. Perhaps it was the overshadowing size of the MLK, Jr. statue. Maybe it was knowing the impact his speeches have had on the course of our nation’s history. Or it may have been the monument combined with the plaque in the ground by the Lincoln Memorial commemorating where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. More than likely, it was a combination of all these things. Regardless, the memorial was well worth the visit.
This was a far more lighthearted experience than the MLK, Jr. one. It was the only memorial statue we visited that the kids were allowed to climb on. They were even encouraged to climb and pose on it. In typical Einstein fashion, the face of the statue was smiling and welcoming. The kids climbed all over the statue while we sat there. We even took the time to eat lunch in the green space around it. As we ate, we read about the memorial.
One thing we learned were that there was actually a rhyme and reason as to the location of the metal circles in the platform surrounding the statue. Each metal disk represents the precise location of the sun, moon, planets, and many stars at the time the memorial was dedicated in 1979. If you look at them with this in mind, you can see star constellations.
Besides the astronomical markings, there are also quotes from Einstein engraved in the wall surrounding the statue. He is also holding a “paper” in his hand that denotes three of his more revolutionary equations. I found them interesting. The kids found their sandwiches more intriguing.
After we had finished our time at the Einstein memorial, we walked back across the street to the national mall. We walked around the mall and visited several of the memorials again for a quick refresher. And in some cases, for better photo opportunities. The sun was out on this day, and we had a couple cloudy days in our trip. By the time we were satisfied we had taken all the pictures we wanted to, it was time to find the metro rail station and return home. After a short train ride and walk, we were back in our rental house for one last dinner and evening. We made sure we had everything prepared for the morning, we relaxed for a few minutes, and then headed to bed.
Have you ever traveled to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite part? Share it with us!