An Intern’s Guide to D.C. (AKA a Guide to Being Cheap)

Posted on Friday, Apr 07, 2017

While Washington is considerably more expensive to our Texas wallets, it certainly has lots of free entertainment. The majority of free entertainment is visiting monuments and museums in the area. We have been in D.C. nearly two months and I still feel like I haven't even made a dent in museum scene.
 
African American Museum of History and Culture
 
This museum should be on the top of your list to see. It is still relatively new, opening in September of 2016, so you might want to plan ahead to reserve your free ticket. 
The museum is beautifully organized and is one of the best museums I've ever been to. I would start on the bottom floor and work your way up if you're a history/chronological kind of person. We spent three hours in this museum and didn't finish all of it. 
 
Pro Tip: The food here is phenomenal. They have food from all different regions of the U.S. and if you're missing southern food this will satisfy your craving. (Warning: the food is kind of pricey.)
 
Hirshhorn 
 
Remember that one art appreciation class you took in high school? Yeah that credit won't prepare you for this modern art, but it's always a good idea to open your mind to things that challenge your thinking. It also has really cool art exhibitions that you can find on their website. A famous exhibition, Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama is currently in D.C. and it looks incredible. Visiting this exhibition has such high demand that every Monday they release free tickets, which sell out in minutes, to visit this exhibition.
 
Pro Tip: Know that if you don’t realize something is art (I’m telling you it’s modern) and you get too close to it, an alarm will sound. Not that this happened to me.
 
National Gallery of Art 
 
That art appreciation credit has definitely prepared you for the gorgeous work at the National Gallery of Art. It has all different types/eras of painting that you can get lost in. Currently, they have a whole exhibition on President Lincoln. They also have a "President's Hall" which houses portraits of the presidents.
 
Pro Tip: You can imitate the statues and make your friends take pictures of you. Everyone will think you are a mature art lover.
 
National Museum of American History 
 
This museum is filled with randomness of American history. One section is the history of the Star Spangled Banner and has the original flag. It is pretty amazing to be in the presence of a flag that is more than 200-years-old. This museum has sections on fashion, food, and transportation. One of my favorite areas has a home in which centuries of American families lived. It tells the story of each family and what their day-to-day lives were like.
 
Pro Tip: This Museum houses the First Ladies’ Inauguration gowns and other things First Ladies have donated. It also talks about the First Ladies’ evolving role in the White House, which is incredibly empowering.
 
Martin Luther King Jr. Monument
 
MLK’s memorial is a simple and powerful. I don’t want to spoil all the symbolic parts of the monument, but surrounding a statue of MLK are various quotes from his life.
 
Pro Tip: If you are in the area, you can walk around the Tidal Basin and see F.D.R. and Thomas Jefferson’s memorials.
 
Abraham Lincoln Memorial
 
This memorial is an obvious choice and always has tourists, but I have yet to lose the surreal feeling of being in Abe’s presence. This memorial has Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and second Inaugural Address inscribed on the walls, and the columns are great places to hide and digest Lincoln’s powerful words.
 
Pro Tip: Once you go up the steps, in the middle of the stairs there is a spot marking where MLK made his “I have a Dream” speech. I would also highly suggest going to monuments at night.
 
Overall, D.C. is a pretty incredible place to live. It is rich with history and opportunities to learn. If you visit, I suggest going to as many memorials/monuments and museums as possible. It’s a wonderful way to learn and experience other cultures when you are on a budget.  

Bailey Wilbanks
American Public Human Services Association
Washington, D.C. | Spring 2017