Since Gov. Haley Barbour took office in 2004, his clout in Washington, D.C., combined with that of powerhouse U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, has been very beneficial for Mississippi. Travel between the Magnolia State and the nation’s power center has spiked, particularly since 9/11, and the gentlemen’s collective footprint dots Capitol Hill.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, business travel from Mississippi to Washington, D.C., will morph into family vacation, as well as a combination of business and pleasure.
For readers unfamiliar with the metropolitan area, here are a few tips for visiting America’s bedrock of democracy.
A must-see experience
The U.S. Capitol Tour is a must-see, especially the ornate 180-foot high-dome. Free tickets are distributed beginning at 9 a.m. Monday-Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis at the Capitol Guide Service Kiosk located near the intersection of First Street, SW, and Independence Avenue.
Consider arriving at 8 a.m. or earlier to avoid long lines and to secure favorably timed tickets. To save grief, remember that only one ticket is given per person.
Even though the White House tour remains popular, access is limited to three rooms, and if time is a factor, perhaps consider another choice, like seeing currency printed at the rate of 8,000 sheets per hour on a guided, 35-minute tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing or viewing the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution at the National Archives or attending a public lecture in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Taking it all in
Three times daily, 45-minute tours of the Voice of America are conducted, including a visit to the newsroom and studio, or join the live studio audience for CNN’s “Crossfire” with James Carville, Paul Begala and Bob Novak at George Washington University, where tickets are free, but seating is limited and reservations must be made in advance.
Best seen in the daytime, Constitution and Independence Avenues surrounding the National Mall showcase the United States’ power and glory, featuring mammoth buildings housing the nation’s nerve centers alongside delicate cherry trees.
Best seen by moonlight: Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.
And Major League Baseball is back, too. Game and ticket information for the Nationals is online at http://washington.nationals.mlb.com.
From spires to spies
The Washington National Cathedral, which dominates the landscape of the once-swampy city by rising 676 feet above sea level, is a worthwhile stop. Featuring a 10,650-pipe organ, more than 10,000 stained glass windows, 228 angels, 110 gargoyles and a 53-bell carillon, it is the second-largest cathedral in America and the sixth-largest worldwide.
The new International Spy Museum, which highlights the world’s largest collection of global espionage artifacts, is a fun tribute to intrigue and deception, heroes and villains and history and technology. It even features a school for spies, the secret history of history and perhaps a few James Bond gadgets.
Consider dining at The Caucus Room near the White House and Capitol Hill. Owned by a group of investors, including Gov. Barbour, it is known as Washington D.C.’s “premier power dining destination.” Other notable restaurants: ESPN Zone, voted “Best Sports Bar” by Washington Post readers and featuring more than 200 televisions and a floor full of interactive games, and The Dubliner, an Irish pub known for its Reubens, hospitality and live nightly music, and located in the Phoenix Park Hotel.
Consider staying overnight at the Phoenix, located two blocks from the Capitol and one block from Union Station. Reminiscent of an 18th-century Irish manor, the historic property was named for the famed 1,760-acre park in Dublin, the largest urban park in Europe, and features period furnishings, handsome woodwork, original oil paintings and luxurious carpets. Don’t be surprised to hear the staff say “cead mile failte,” translated to “a thousand welcomes.”
Washington, D.C., is accessible by plane (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Airport), rail (Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express), bus (Greyhound) and, of course, by car.
Otherwise, it is easy to navigate around town via the Metrorail Subway System or DASH/Metrobus. Shuttle bus tours operate from Union Station.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.