In late October of 2015, walking professionals and advocates a like gathered in the nation's capital, Washington D.C. to rejoice, learn and commemorate the National Walking movement at the second Walking Summit. To my surprise and excitement, I rejoiced when I was told I would be attending this highly anticipated event and to have the honor to present on the Minnesota Statewide Pedestrian System Plan.
Not only was I excited to revel in everything walking, but even more so, I was ecstatic to experience one of the greatest city designs I read about while in school and the unique vision and concept of one of the greatest city planners to have ever lived, Pierre Charles L’Enfant - the city planning geek in me was beyond joy and excitement. L’Enfant’s legacy lives in the grand plan for D.C. in which the wide avenues, public squares and inspiring buildings gave way to a magnificent plan which is unlike any other city in the U.S.
After a full week of learning and rejoicing in the walking movement and 20 miles of walking later, these are the top 6 things we enjoyed the most and would visit over and over again if given the opportunity to fly again to this wanderous city.
1. The Incredible History: Library of Congress
Although, the architecture of Washington D.C. is itself mesmerizing, the work of art that is the Library of Congress deserves its own special section and acknowledgment. This research library is by de facto the national library of the United States and it is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The interior and exterior detailed art work and grand columns transform the visitor to a grand palace easily found somewhere in Europe. The building was initially aligned with that of the "Italian Renaissance" movement, however, today, it is recognized as a magnificent example of the Beaux Arts style - a heavily ornamented classical style of architecture taught during the 19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
2. The National Mall
The centerpiece of L'Enfant's plan was a great "public walk." Today, the landscape of the National Mall contains a wide, straight strip of grass and trees that stretches for two miles, from Capitol Hill to the Potomac River. Numerous Smithsonian museums border both sides and war memorials are adorned among the famous monuments to Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. From the meticulous landscapes to grand museums and memorials, the National Mall provides many things to see and do and it's all for FREE.
3. The Beautiful Architecture & Modern Art
Not only is Washington D.C. a place where a historian, landscape architect or a city planner can revel in its magnificent creations, it also provides many viewing pleasures for a self-proclaimed lover of architecture. Although the City may lack the characteristic high-rises found in other large U.S. cities, the architecture of the city provides various styles from neoclassical to modern. The building façades are constantly changing and you will find yourself marveling at every single one.
4. The Mesmerizing Neighborhoods: Adam's Morgan &….
The stylish by day and stylish by night Washington D.C. is known for its many charming neighborhoods all within a walking distance of each other, but it was to our slight surprise when we stepped into this quaint and eccentric neighborhood of Adams Morgan. Whether you're a Salsa dancing queen or a foodie, this culturally diverse community has a lot to offer - from ethnically diverse cuisine to its colorfully splashed architecture. No wonder the city planning geek in me fell in love instantly, as it was named one of the "10 Great Neighborhoods in American" in 2014 by the American Planning Association.
On the other side of the city and just a 30 minute stroll from Adams Morgan is the historic Georgetown neighborhood.
5. The Dreamy Row Houses
I left Washington D.C. completely convinced that one day I will get to live in a row house! Most D.C. residential areas of the mid-19th century such as Georgetown are filled with block after block of attached row houses, varying only slightly in size, height, style, color, and building material, but they all made us wish we were snuggled up in one of their window seat benches with a good book.
6. Walker's Paradise
Last but certainly not the least reason to fall in love with Washington D.C. is its walkability…not to mention biking, transit and so much more. It certainly is a walker's paradise with an overall walk score of 74 (out of a possible 100) with the neighborhood where we stayed Dupont Circle reaching a walk score of 98…with Minneapolis having a walk score of 65 and St. Paul with a mere 56….*le sigh*. It is no wonder that Washington D.C. is the 7th most walkable large city in the U.S. This city is a great example of how great and convenient transit can boost a city's walkability and bikeability scores.