6 Things You Should Know About D.C. On Your First Day But Don’t

By Alex Freeman, Taylor Sellers, Brooke Miller, Zachary Blevins, Riley Fink

1.) When riding the metro in D.C., knowing how to interact, or not interact, with your fellow passengers is a must. Metro riders rarely have any desire to socialize with their neighbors. Seldom do metro riders even acknowledge each other, instead opting to completely enter a meditative-like state of self-absorption. Riders instead partake in individualistic tasks, like reading complex books on American trade and foreign policy or listening to music. Interaction among human beings is seen as strange and unusual when riding the metro, which makes picking out chatty tourists easy.

2.) While you’re navigating through the streets of Washington D.C., you can usually find a landmark (and a Starbucks) nearby.

From Pennsylvania Avenue to H street, Washington D.C. has a number of historical landmarks in some unassuming places.

When we were searching for the Mary E. Stuart Boarding House (a site where John Wilkes Booth planned out the assassination of Abraham Lincoln), we were surprised to learn it is now a small restaurant and karaoke bar in Chinatown named Wok and Roll.

Our search for the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism led us to a beautiful monument that was tucked away behind the busy Streets of D.C.

Sightseeing can be exhausting, and luckily for the D.C. traveler, there was a Starbucks right around the corner of nearly every landmark we visited.

3. ) Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is the perfect spot to get to know the D.C. crowd. You walk in the door and soft lighting warms rooms filled with books. Roasted coffee beans and café chow tantalize your senses as you soak in the titles around you. Clatter of plates and silverware echo from the café, but book lovers talk in hushed tones, as they hope the quiet helps them soak in the knowledge that is seeping off the walls.

Located just above Dupont Circle, the books you find on display perfectly capture the citizens of D.C. One room is strictly dedicated to political pieces and the first table contains all the must have public affair novels of the month. While the books on business and economics may have been wedge behind the children’s section, they were still present, but just as in D.C., they are just a little harder to find.


4.) Perhaps one of the most sought after photos for tourists is in front of the White House. Typically, the North side is the closest that the public can get; however, with Inauguration preparations in full swing, that is not the case. A Secret-Service secured, upscale bleacher has been built in Lafayette Square for the First Family to view the Inauguration Parade following the ceremony, blocking most of the White House on the north side. So, if getting that up-close photo with the White House is an essential for your trip, coming to D.C. around the inauguration is not the ideal time to come. Instead, our best bet is to try from outside the South Lawn, but that drastically increases the distance from the actual building.

5.) Being the nation’s capitol, a little bit of each state can be represented in one form or another and you can find connections back to your home state. For us, this came in the form of art. While exploring the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, we noticed a statue entitled “Thinker on a Rock” by Barry Flanagan, which also happens to be in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines. After doing a little research, it turns out there are four of these statues in the world: D.C., Des Moines, St. Louis, and Utrecht, Netherlands.


Photo Credit: Taylor Sellers

6.) You’ll talk politics at breakfast. Sometimes, even with the chef cooking your breakfast. Get used to it.

It sounds intuitive: Washington, D.C. is a political city. Our nation’s Capital is home to thousands of politicians, journalists, think-tank-thinkers, scholars, and politicos who, through some bizarre Darwinian-type evolution, have come to require politics in their daily diets alongside their proteins and vitamins.

This is the expectation. What is surprising, though, is that even people not directly involved in the Washington Machine are acutely aware of happenings within it; and they usually have some strong opinions about those happenings that they’re willing to share without reservation.

Tom, a manager at Washington, D.C.’s famous Eastern Market diner called The Market Lunch, is one of these people. His place serves the best pancakes in the city. He has the Washington Post article to prove it. A quick-witted, bright personality behind the cash register, Tom isn’t afraid to call it how he sees it. If he thinks you ordered the wrong thing on the menu (spicy grits are an absolute must) he will tell you.

It didn’t take much to get him talking about politics—especially his love for Joe Biden.

In his 39 years operating The Market Lunch, Tom said he’s watched polarization widen the chasm between people of different political views. He’s worried we’re reaching a point of no return, and that soon Republicans and Democrats might even refuse to eat at the same places in D.C.

His fervor and passion for politics seems to reflect the public climate here. While only a few people in D.C. make the decisions, everyone has a perspective on what’s going on.

Even Tom, who made time to chat before getting back to making the best darn pancakes around.



More Photos from our Day 1 Adventures


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