It goes without saying that any history/ culture buff would love DC. It is the seat of power, and hosts more landmarks and museums than you could reasonably visit in a school year. I know that 3/4 into my LLM year, I have yet to scratch the surface of discovering all that the city has to offer.
A. Government Offices: Some government offices are open to visitors for free. These include the Capitol (which houses both chambers of Congress), the Library of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. The Capitol and the Library of Congress both require an advanced booking online, which I did in the summer. It was surreal to see the places I had only seen on CNN before in the flesh and to get my very own Library of Congress researcher’s card! The White House requires a tour request which is typically coordinated through the various national embassies and representatives in Congress. Personally, I’ve only been to the Eisenhower Executive Building in the White House complex beside the West Wing as part of a group visit to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, but I hope to see the Oval Office somehow someday! The Supreme Court is also open to visits and if you are committed enough to brave the lines, you could even sit in on an oral argument (which I have yet to do!). On the top of my bucket list are the Pentagon and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which as far as I know, haven’t opened up to tours since Covid-19. But you can bet that when they take visitors, I will be there!
B. The National Mall/ Monuments: If you’ve ever received a postcard from Washington DC and it isn’t of the White House or Capitol, I’m willing to bet that it’s of the National Mall. The Mall is beautiful. It is a wide open space and every time I am there, my mental health is restored by a couple of levels. The trees and flowers are stunning, so going there always feels like a new experience as the seasons change. Going there these days, I have a hard time believing it’s the same place I first toured with my new classmates in July. Before coming to DC, I thought the Mall referred to just one landmark, but it actually spans about 2km and includes the various war memorials, the iconic Washington Monument, and the Lincoln, Jefferson, and MLK Jr. memorials. The National Mall is a great place for yearlong fun from fall picnics to winter iceskating. And the great part is, it’s only a $1 bus ride from the law campus.
C. Museums: There are a ton of museums in DC, and most of them are free. They have museums for all kinds of things: history (Holocaust Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of African American History and Culture), art (National Portrait Gallery, Renwick Gallery), and science (National Geographic Museum, National Air and Space Museum). There are also random cool ones like the International Spy Museum and Planet Word (dedicated to language). My favorite one is probably the Hirshhorn Museum, which is currently exhibiting the art of famed contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. The museums make for an enjoyable friend date location, and are a safe haven from the scorching sun in the summer and the freezing cold in the winter. The different museums have different admissions processes as some require advanced booking, so Google is your friend!
D. Literature and the Arts: Being the nation’s capital, Washington DC is definitely a stop on authors’ and artists’ stops when they go on tour. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the book launch of Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist and Nobel Prize winner, and I got to sit in the second row and get a photo with her after — just a ten minute walk away from school! I love books, and if I had more of a budget, I would have loved to attend the local book tour events of Michelle Obama, Matthew Perry, and Bernie Sanders, who all released books over the past couple of months. There is also a significant theater scene in DC and the Kennedy Center hosts a number of Broadway productions, so there’s no need to travel to New York just to see a show. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen while they were here and both shows were amazing and would not disappoint any Broadway babies! The Folger Shakespeare Library also puts on a number of free Shakesperean productions and is walking distance to the law school. Finally, several musical acts make stops in DC when touring and several classmates have gone to see Lizzo, Death Cab for Cutie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the like. To my disappointment however, Taylor Swift is not making a stop in DC for her Eras Tour. Lol.
Writing this piece has been surprisingly nostalgic for me as I look back at all the good times I’ve had at all these places. Cue: The Beatles’ In My Life. Moreover, it makes me realize how much more of the city I have yet to see. I look forward to making the most of the remainder of my time here learning a thing or two about the arts or sciences in the company of awesome friends.