I’m super lucky to live in an area that is really close to three major cities – Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Each of the cities has a unique vibe and are fun to visit for different reasons although I tend to shy away from going to Baltimore very frequently.
Yesterday I went down to D.C.
D.C. is easy to get to if you know how to use the commuter train system in the area. The local MARC trains will take you to Union Station and from Union Station you hop on the metro red line which will connect you with all of the other lines. The metro is really, really easy to understand and by far the most efficient way to get around the city. Locals complain about the management of the metro system (it has definitely seen better days) but if you’re just visiting for a day or two it’s not going to affect you all that much.
In order to visit D.C. like a local, you’ll need the following:
- A backpack or some sort of bag that will keep your hands free. Large totes are common but even those are still worn on the shoulder. Backpacks are most common and you’ll see every sort – from Jansport to Osprey. As long as it can carry your stuff without looking like you’re traveling the world, you’re good. And even then, backpackers aren’t necessarily uncommon in D.C. so you’ll still fit in if you want to carry all your worldly possessions on your back.
- Headphones. Everyone and their brother uses headphones on the metro and while walking the city. Unless you’re traveling with friends, you’ll need headphones to separate yourself from everyone else in the metro.
- A SmartCard. You can buy these at most major Metro stations. A SmartCard starts at $20 but you get $10 worth of train fare automatically. The card is scanned at the turnstiles at the entrance and exit of the metro stations. No one who lives in D.C. uses the paper tickets. Everyone has a card. You can put them in your wallet and just hold your wallet up to the scanner to go through the turnstile.
- An umbrella because you really never know what the weather is going to do, particularly in the fall. I have been caught in violent rainstorms on more than one occasion. Just get one of the little collapsible umbrellas and throw it in your backpack. Maybe you won’t use it the first day, but if you’re there long enough you’ll be glad you have it.
As far as dressing to fit in, regardless of your politics, D.C. is a really accepting city. There’s something for everyone in D.C. and the secret to fitting in is to dress deliberately. I’ve worn both jeans and dresses to D.C. As long as you have carefully chosen your clothes to match and look good, you’ll be fine. People go to D.C. for all reasons – from government work to anime conventions. Wear whatever is appropriate for your activity and make sure your clothes look nice. That’s all you have to do. Hair, jewelry and makeup are a definite must as well. You aren’t trying to go overboard, just look nice. D.C. is not New York where you can dress over the top. It isn’t a big fashion city, you just need to look nice.
There is so much to see and do in D.C. that it would be impossible for me to list my favorites. The Smithsonian’s are a definite must see, as are the memorials. I’d also highly recommend going to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The National Portrait Gallery is phenomenal (I really like art museums) and don’t even get me started on the Spy Museum. Sooooo many cool places in D.C.
Once you’ve stopped by your favorite museums and you’re ready for lunch, avoid the restaurants inside the museums and branch out to any of the cool little spots D.C. is starting to become known for. Ramen shops, sandwich shops, taco spots. Just open up Maps on your phone and browse restaurants near you.
I was completely unprepared for Union Market.
In order to get to Union Market you take the red line to the NoMa stop and walk about five or six minutes down the block. The market is inside a large brick building and it is basically a madhouse (maybe because I went around lunchtime) of different little restaurants. They also have some little popups with jewelry and other bobs.
I didn’t take any photos because I was just so enamored with the place. Finding a table was difficult because there were so many people around but the communal dining is there for a purpose. I sat down at a big table with a few other people and no one cared. I had the bowl from TaKorean and it was delicious. Next time I’m going to the bagel place.
Once lunch was over, it was time to head to the gallery.
The Renwick is currently displaying art from Burning Man. In case you don’t know what it is, Burning Man is…..well, I don’t know how to describe it. A movement? A large-scale art exhibit? A lifestyle? Whatever it is, I find it amazing. I don’t agree with everything they espouse but I do like how honest they are about themselves. I like their principles of radical self-expression, civic responsibility, self-reliance, participation and leaving no trace. I do believe that if I were to somehow incorporate some of these principles into my every day life I’d find myself closer to the lifestyle that I’m looking for.
Would I ever go camping in the desert for a week? I don’t know. But I do know that I’m inspired to be more mindful, to appreciate the moment and be honest about who I am.
One of the reasons I really loved this exhibition is because it inspired me to think differently. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Art isn’t just supposed to be beautiful pictures, it is supposed to make you feel and think. Good art should affect you somehow and the art from Burning Man really made me think about how I’m living and if there are things I could do differently.
Built into the exhibit was a temple-like space that was designed and intended for quiet reflection. There were signs explaining what the room was for and requests that people keep their voices down. In the middle of the room was a table with small wooden plaques (about three inches by four inches) where you could write down a memory of someone you lost. I wrote the name of my friend who recently died and left it there along with plaques from hundreds of other people. It was calming to realize that death is a universal experience and there are thousands of other people around us who are also being affected by the loss of a loved one.
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man will be at the Renwick Gallery until January 21, 2019. Some of the art will actually be removed a bit earlier – September 16, 2018 – so if you’re interested in going, I’d get a move on.
My absolute favorite piece of art from the whole exhibit? Shrumen Lumen!!! Shrumen Lumen are glowing mushrooms that change colors and get larger and smaller. They’re pretty much an ode to psychedelic mushrooms but they are so adorable!! (Don’t do drugs, kids.)
Thanks for reading! Do you have any small adventures coming up? Anywhere you plan on going that you’ve never been before? Leave me a comment! I want to hear about your adventures!