No Fun Zone

Washington, D.C. is like Disneyland. I was there one day and all I saw for the first hour and a half was two attractions (Union Station, U.S. Capitol), a bunch of concession stands, and a whole lot of grass in-between. No one ever told me that it took two hours to walk from one end of the ‘Mall’ to the other. On TV, it always looks so inviting and small. But when you get there it’s the complete opposite. It was the hottest day of the year (so far), and they blocked off anywhere that might have a little bit of shade to walk under. So imagine me, walking up-hill, both ways, in the dessert heat, trying not to buy expensive water bottles, and have no where to recycle them if I did.


View from Washington Monument towards U.S. Capitol Building
- 45 minute walk
- 3 concession stands
- 1 public washroom
- Lots of grass

View from Washington Monument toward Lincoln Memorial
- 40 minute walk
- 1 concession stand
- No toilets
- Large empty pond
- WW2 Memorial in between
- Lots of grass

View from Washington Monument toward Lincoln Memorial
- Not sure how long it takes to get there because you can’t go much further than that red car
- Lots of grass

View from Jefferson Memorial toward Washington Monument
- 35 minute walk. Yup, that’s a lake not helping on your walk
- 1 concession stand
- 1 vehicular bridge to cross
- You might be able to walk along the water’s edge, but there is grass right next to it. Lots of it.

But I have a whole new appreciation for lawn keepers after visiting Washington. I use to mow lawns during high school in Texas, to try and save some money to buy lunch so I wouldn’t be made fun of for bringing one from home. But these guys have hundreds of acres to cut, and in the blistering heat like I faced in Texas. All the while hundreds of tourists walk past them.

My view of D.C. might sound slightly negative because I took the train from Manhattan at four in the morning, so I was probably in an angered-sleepy state to really appreciate it (I blame Leigh Stringer‘s Facebook status updates, for convincing me that the train is a great way to get there. Maybe I needed more than a day).

Initially I went there hoping to relive so many great moments in film. Like running through that big pond like Forest Gump, but couldn’t because it was mostly drained. I wanted to sit on Abe Lincolns big old knee like I did with Santa Claus, but couldn’t because armed guards were guarding the thing. I even wanted to ring the White House’s doorbell and run away before anyone came. But couldn’t do that because the closest you can get to the shack is half a mile away. I’m surprised they even let tourists visit, with the amount of security that was around the Historic ‘Mall.’

I have to say, though, I was quite disappointed in the United States capital city. I was expecting to be blown away. But found that it was more conservative than I initially thought. I’ve been to both London and Ottawa, and found those to be cities first with the federal government located there. While Washington, D.C. is based around the government in hopes of being a city. Maybe I’m wrong, I’m not sure. But I was surprised to see complete areas of the city with no life whatsoever. It almost felt like being in Buffalo, with wide sidewalks, no shops or restaurants, and no pedestrian traffic in some areas. I’m actually curious to know the percentage of commuters from other states, compared to residents of D.C.

Now I know someone will probably argue: “Oh there is this street, and Georgetown”, “What about this, did you see that,” and “Didn’t you hear Jake Gyllenhall and Reese Witherspoon were in Georgetown when you were here.”

Well I walked the whole time when I was there. Basically covered the whole city. I’m not a fan of public transportation because there are too many people on it, and it’s also like watching a movie, but fast forwarding to the best parts. So I walk everywhere, doesn’t matter where I am.

I saw how part of the city is trying to be like Paris, with the radial planned, wide boulevards, similar heights and materials. Compared to Georgetown, which has a main street similar to any small town, but with more upscale stores. (The canals were nice though.) The Watergate Building, which is possibly one of the ugliest buildings in the country. I’m still confused how some of the federal agencies have no connection with the street or their surroundings, besides having truck barricades around their perimeter. I would have thought a Starbucks would have been located at street level. But the way it is now, you would never even know that people actually work in some of these buildings.

Now I know from Architectural History class that he city layout was originally design by L’Enfant and Ellicott back in the 1790s, and I am all for preserving history. But I think it might be time to rethink the the city. Like why is there so much grass on the ‘Mall’!

Jefferson Memorial:   (My favorite destination)
Lincoln Memorial:
White House: (Looks strangly familiar to Graceland)
HOK Washington’s Studio:     (I was too afraid to go in)
Portrait Gallery (Norman Foster Courtyard):
Canadian Embassy (Arthur Erickson):
U.S. Capitol Building
Nothing says: “we care about our environment and our future,” like putting an electric wire all over their statues


Best part about Washington had to be the train ride back to New York, though.

I was outside all day, in the sun with no shade. So I had to make excuses why someone couldn’t sit next to me on the train (for the benefit of the other passengers of course). So I tried everything to not get someone to sit next to me: talking to myself, looking angry and violent, coughing in their direction just before they sat down, even telling them that I didn’t want them sitting beside me. One person finally did sit down, but they got the hint after they took a whiff in the air.



Justin Zawyrucha‘s other blog posts:
Page 1      -     Blogs 111-81
Page 2     -      Blogs 80-50
Page 3     -      Blogs 49-19
Page 4     -      Blogs 18-1

  1. June 29th, 2009 - 5:40 am

    I’m impressed by the amount of ground you covered in one day. i’m surprised that you found the watergate uglier than the fbi building, though.

  2. June 29th, 2009 - 6:32 am

    I’ve heard that there is indeed a lot of grass around the Mall. I have also heard there are some cool museums as well.

  3. June 29th, 2009 - 6:43 am
    justin.zawyrucha said:

    Yeah I was wondering what that building was, now I know it’s the FBI Headquarters.
    I don’t think it’s as bad because it isn’t standing all alone next to a highway.

    A few of the museums were pretty good. But they are all internilized institutions. All the museums along the ‘Mall’ corridor basically could be concrete boxes with the way they address the street, and enhance the street activity.

  4. June 29th, 2009 - 7:30 am
    anica said:

    too bad you didn’t get to see the DC part of Washington, DC! the Mall is nice and all, but the real people live everywhere but the Mall! if I’d known you were coming, I would have been happy to give you the delux tour through U Street, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Meridian Hill Park, etc. there are plenty of people and street life once you get away from the Federal core. try again in the fall (Solar Decathlon in october) or spring (cherry blossom festival) – and let us WDC folks show you how to have fun in the capital city.

  5. June 29th, 2009 - 7:42 am
    Rachel said:

    That’s an impressive trek!

  6. June 29th, 2009 - 9:48 am
    Rachel said:

    I agree with Anica; I live just two miles from that often-barren downtown with way too much grass, and DC is a wonderful place to live. The neighborhoods are unique and interesting, full of history and character; the people are friendly and fascinating, and the restaurants are wonderful. Besides, the best way to make it around the Mall is by bike; and if you must walk, you have to stop into a museum every few blocks to cool off and see the latest in culture. If you didn’t go into a single museum on the hottest day of the year, as you say, then you really missed out.

    Next time, seek out a DC resident to show you around, and then you’ll get a true feel for this wonderful city that so many of us love to call home!

  7. June 29th, 2009 - 7:30 pm
    jodi said:

    Just to be fair…Justin did ask me (a 9-year DC-ite who grew up only 75 miles away). When I asked him what kind of things he wanted to do, he told me sit on Lincoln’s lap. So I sent him off to the monumental core armed with information about distances, water, and bathrooms (left out for dramatic effect??).

    I do think that the Mall is beautiful (especially down by FDR, Jefferson, and the Tidal Basin, as well as up at the Capitol Complex), and is something that every visitor to DC (and resident, too) should experience at least once.

    As for the neighborhoods – yes, there are many fantastic places to see! It’s just too big and great a city to see & do it all in one day! Come back soon and we’ll stalk Jake & Reese and get some cupcakes.

  8. June 29th, 2009 - 7:31 pm
    jodi said:

    also the walk from washington to lincoln is only about 10 minutes, you slowpoke!

  9. June 29th, 2009 - 7:49 pm
    justin.zawyrucha said:

    It is not 10 minutes, and even if it was 10 minutes. It was the longest 10 minutes I have ever walked in my entire life.
    It felt like I was walking an uphill battle that was going downhill.

  10. June 29th, 2009 - 9:12 pm

    I want cupcakes!

  11. June 30th, 2009 - 11:39 am
    shar said:

    What a jam-packed day… not sure how i would have felt about walking the “mall” in that heat either.

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