We were so impressed with the richness of what there is to see here, but also by the beautiful promenades, public parks, architecture and iconic spaces.  People who had visited ten years earlier had warned us that the city can be dangerous and dirty - but we spent most of our time in the central, Capitol/Federal district around the White House or cocooned by the historical gravity and safety of the magnificent monuments and attractions nearby.  

Unless you go out of your way to visit the more dangerous, outer suburbs of the South and Northeast, you will find the city quite beautiful and safe. It is also amazingly easy to get around on the weekends because all the politicians clear out of town after voting or working to return to their own hometowns.

Bookmark and Share

We were so greatful to have found a guide like Ismial. Washington is one of those cities that really requires a guide; it is full of incredible history and Ismial was able to deliver his knowledge to us in a way that was engaging, especially to the kids. 

One of the things I appreciated about Ismial was his time efficiency. So many guides have no clue keeping to a time schedule. 

Ismial will LISTEN to you, and hear what you are trying to achieve. We only had 2 full days in Washington to tour. My brief was to see as much as possible, have a taste of history, and not look back regretting that we had missed that much. I was after maximum sites, and experiences.

Bookmark and Share

GUIDE: ISMAIL NASKAI | WHITE HOUSE SEDAN , Washington D.C. | + 1 202 345 1627 |
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

My one regret was that I did not book in advance for the White House tour. I simply assumed that we could visit on the spot. Access can only be arranged within the week of your travel, as one needs a security clearance - so please book ahead!

We were so eager to get a closer look at the White House... so walking out of Hay Adams past Lafayette Square, Ismail said we were now entering the most secure place in the world !!

X- Ray cameras and signal jamming technology will prevent any launchers penetrating the White House grounds. It’s a very surreal spot to be standing in!

Bookmark and Share

This institution is an absolutely brilliant place to bring your family - it’s the world’s largest museum complex with 19 museums and weeks worth of attractions, devoted to specialist subjects like industrial design and architecture, the Native American Indian and the history of photography, even a 163-acre zoo. 

It’s a boundless place and we only had a few days in town, so the attraction that topped our list was the NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM - which is not only the most visited museum in the world but has just ‘starred’ in the Hollywood “Night at the Museum” Sequel.

The history of aviation and space flight is a subject matter than will interest children- who wouldn’t love to get a close peek at a space capsule or 1920s bi-plane? A massive 200,000 sq ft building was put up in the National Mall in the 1970s to fit these amazing objects dangling in the air overhead - like dashing female pilot, Amelia Earhart's famous Red Vega, the world’s first engine-powered airplane, and the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer

One of the most spectacular ‘firsts’ would have to be the Apollo 11’s moon mission in 1969. The very Command Module that took Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin is here in the museum. 

Kids can ride in several 4-minute flight simulators and there are space or nature documentaries constantly playing at the five-story-high LOCKHEED MARTIN IMAX THEATER.

The 20-minute ‘tour of the universe’ at the ALBERT EINSTEIN PLANETARIUM is breathtaking. You won’t get a better chance to introduce your children - or yourself - to the almost incomprehensible scale of space. You won’t want to miss out, so my advice is to buy movie and planetarium tickets ahead on arrival. 

Bookmark and Share

SMITHSONIAN, NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM| Independence Ave. at 7th St. SW Washington, DC 20560 , Washington D.C. | +1 (202) 357-2700 | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

You can visit the Washington house where the great president, Abraham Lincoln was tragically assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 15,1865.

Ford’s Theater where Lincoln had been watching the play, "Our American Cousin," is right across the street. After he was shot at close range in the presidential box a doctor in the audience helped drag him, barely breathing, across Tenth Street to this boarding-house. You can stand in the rooms where people desperately tried to save his life, in the outer chambers where his inner circle and wife waited in anguish and the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton held a cabinet meeting. 

This is one of those places where you get to step right into the history books. The house has been restored to the way it would have looked when the kindly German tailor opened his doors to the frantic entourage carrying the president. Further along the street you can see where the assassin spent time while plotting his attack.

Bookmark and Share

THE PETERSEN HOUSE | 516 10th St. NW, Washington D.C. | Tel: + 1 202 426-6924 |
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

You may be able to follow Lincoln’s last day and death step by step, but of course it is so important to celebrate Lincoln’s life, and everything he stood for - he is the real American symbol of integrity and truth. 

Ismail our guide, explained the symbolic meaning of each of Lincoln’s stone hands - the strength in one (the fist) and the command of the other. 

This is also the very spot where Martin Luther King stood to make his “I have a Dream” speech during 1963’s famous freedom March on Washington

I was really struck by the whole thing; being in the America’s capital, seeing the grand buildings and monuments like the obelisk that Abraham Lincoln looks down from. 

Bookmark and Share

Washington , Washington D.C. | + 1 202.426.6841 | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

This is a beautiful, moving place that seeks to put the focus back on all the young men and women who lost their lives in this unpopular war. The politics were so controversial that the normal treatment of veterans as genuine war heroes and heroines got overshadowed. I am old enough to remember the atmosphere, but I really wanted the kids to learn about this too.

The actual location is not gloomy - the wall is in the beautiful CONSTITUTION GARDENS adjacent to the National Mall, northeast of the Lincoln Memorial. We were all moved to tears to see designer, Maya Lin’s simple column after column of the names of the 58,159 soldiers who never came home. Originally a landscape architect, Maya won the tender to design this memorial.

A lot of people create ‘rubbings’ of the names on tracing paper - which was the designer’s intention. There are men in yellow shirts who are actual Vietnam vets who volunteer their time to answer questions from people like us. These vets give you a name of a fallen soldier and encourage you to research the person’s real life.

Bookmark and Share

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL WALL| Constitution Ave NW & Henry Bacon Dr, NW Washington, Washington D.C. | + 1 202 634-1568 | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

For a real journey into the heart of this superpower’s military history our family will never forget this extraordinary place - the cemetery where American soldiers all the way back to the Civil war are buried. Amazingly, even though Arlington is just an 11 minute drive over the Potomac river and Theodore Roosevelt Island in the middle, you are actually leaving The District of Columbia to go to another state: Virginia, known for its green fields and privileged, equestrian culture.

There is a traditional TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER and a changing of the guard 24 hours a day, rain or shine. It is on the hour, and we watched it with the crowds who gather.

What makes Arlington more fascinating as a visitor is that most of the Kennedys are buried here. We spent some time at the tomb and eternal flame of JFK, Jacqueline and their still born son.

Section 60 is a very active part of the cemetery and has been called “the saddest acre in America” because the soldiers’ bodies have only just been sent from Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, soldiers that die in Iraq or anywhere around the world have the choice of being able to be buried in Arlington or in their hometown.

Apart from a chance to honour all these war heroes, the rows of headstones are like a chronicle of America’s war history. You see Stars of David and crosses and so many real stories and historical facts behind the simple statistics etched on them. An average of 28 funerals are conducted a day - which is the rate of veterans dying.

Visitors here will spend a very emotional, sombre, interesting time in these beautiful grounds with rows of crosses on the hillside that seem to go on forever. It is certainly not an attraction,’ but a chance to step into the full after effects of war.

Bookmark and Share

ARLINGTON CEMETARY| 214 McNair Rd, Arlington, Washington D.C. | + 1 703 607-8000 | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

After visiting Arlington Cemetery our guide Ismail thought it was worth visiting the world’s most famous geometric office building, The Pentagon, to see the remarkable reconstruction after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense.

Bookmark and Share

Any visit to Washington is also an opportunity to visit the most elaborate, important Holocaust Museum in the world outside of Israel itself. Sheira and I, as humanists who feel connected to all people and are saddened by hate crimes of any kind, always want to learn more. As intensely powerful and sad as these experiences are,this museum does an absolutely superb job of interpreting, educating and then engendering hope about the future.

This memorial, a grey stone, geometric style building, is funded by a combination of passionate donors and federal funds and has a dual purpose, to preserve the memories of the victims of the holocaust and cause moral reflection on what their deaths mean to us now. The museum presents archival collections that accent many different aspects of this state-sponsored persecution: from individual portraits, to the passionate work of Stephen Spielberg’s footage of the camps themselves, so the truth can never be forgotten. 

As we had young teens and our six year old daughter, Zoe with us, we were conscious of how to navigate through the museum without over exposing them to the horrors of this period. There is plenty of hope here too, with survivors’ stories and tales of ordinary people who put their lives at risk to help their Jewish friends and neighbours. 

Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story, an exhibition for children, opened at the Museum in 1993. It presents the history of the Holocaust in ways that children can understand.

Daniel's Story, is based on the actual experiences of children during the Holocaust, vividly telling the story of a German Jewish boy’s life between 1933 and 1945.

Daniel is never pictured, and he is not given a last name. His story is based on the diary accounts of many children who recorded their impressions of life during the Holocaust.

Bookmark and Share

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM | 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW Washington, DC 20238-0001, Washington D.C. | + 1 202 488-0400 | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

As a family we love to see any sport that is done at the best level. When in South America, we’ll soak up the atmosphere at a soccer match. In the US, it has to be BASKETBALL; It doesn’t hurt that the boys have been long standing fans of NBA!

We had a very exciting night with the fist pumping locals at THE VERIZON CENTER to see the Washington Wizards play the Boston Celtics. I had purchased front row tickets months earlier through RAZORGATOR.

It is a great opportunity to get amongst the real life of a city and engage in the tribal intensity of sport - what an amazing experience to see these 10-foot tall champions leaping though the air and shooting hoops!  There was a very well-dressed, educated family with their teenage daughter sitting just in front of us.  They were an ambassadorial family from a European country on a night out who  told us they found Washington DC a really interesting, exciting city to live in with a cosmopolitan flavour of people from all over the world.

Bookmark and Share

VERIZON CENTRE| 601 F Street, NW Washington, Washington D.C. | + 1 202 661-5000 | View web site
RAZORGATOR| Washington D.C. | View web site
View All Black Book Entries for Washington D.C.

After our few days of non-stop historical content we had a low-key afternoon to fill and decided to amble around university neighbourhood, Georgetown on the Potomac River. The academic population of professors and lecturers as well as the students is massive. The whole area is very hilly and green with beautiful, colonial Georgian-influenced 18th century brick houses built in the FEDERAL STYLE. This was the new country’s first architectural identity. 

Even though Georgetown is a mere short drive from the downtown area, it is an idyllic spot that has always attracted the wealthy and privileged; it is really worth a drive around.  John F and Jacqui Kennedy lived at 3307 N Street, considered the most beautiful street there, before moving into the White House in 1961 and you can hike or cycle along the now disused CHESAPEAKE & OHIO CANAL. 

Bookmark and Share

No matter what monumental attractions you set out to see, just driving around a city that is this steeped in politics, it‘s bound to rub off or follow you wherever you go. 

On our way somewhere else, Ismial would casually point out an ugly, 1970s looking building and say, “Oh, that’s Watergate.” Sheira’s and my jaws just dropped, as we explained to the kids that this is where those connected to President Nixon had broken into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, setting off the chain of event leading to his 1974 resignation. 

Traveling past Capitol Hill takes you past all the beautiful, neo classical buildings inspired by the original democracy, ancient Greece. These are the organs of Government, like congress, that operate at the highest level.

The FORD DU PONT PARK is where Washington people go for their vast expanse of green space amongst oaks, beeches and maples and this adds to my impression of Washington as an elegant, very livable city. And never dull!  

Bookmark and Share

This would have to be one of my more surreal, pinch-yourself runs. As I followed the pavement across Lafayette Square past these lovely old Washington brownstones until I was slap bang in front of the White House, I couldn’t help wondering how many presidents had snuck out in the early hours to do the same thing and blow off some steam. 

I know how much more sane and centred I feel after my runs; I’d like to think the man with the nuclear codes has a similar hobby… This is a hardworking town so I passed plenty of early morning joggers out early before heading to their high powered jobs.

Bookmark and Share

We’ve Got More on Washington D.C....


Koh SamuiPhuket


Soneva Gili
Back to Home Page
Choose a Place we've visited around the World
Where to Stay around the World
Places to Eat around the World
Things to See & Do around the World
Where to Shop around the World
More travel tips and advice