I spent yesterday doing the "tourist thing" in Washington DC (never mind that it's only 30 miles south of me). Some of my wife's relatives were in town, so we accompanied them on their siteseeing. It was a nice enough day - temps in the mid 80s and low humidity (not at all like a typical August day in this area!).
We started off at Union Station, walking over to the Capitol. Around that (which was a pain - the visitor center construction has made navigation of the capitol problematic) we went to the Mall. It's a pretty long way from the capitol down to the Washington Monument. We had my wife's uncle, his daughter, and her daughter (who is my daughter's age; they hit it off well), and my brother in law along. The kids complained about how far off the Washington Monument was, and truthfully, it's a long walk. We probably should have taken a break at the Smithsonian, but we went by the monument and on to the memorials.
The new WWII memorial is very nice - well done, and reminiscent of a lot of the Civil War era monuments I've seen over the years. The designers are to be applauded, IMHO - it fits in very well on the mall. If you stand just in the center (in front of the water) you get a great view of the Washington Monument (and the capitol dome behind it) on one end, and the Lincoln memorial on the other.
From there we walked down past the reflecting pool to the Licoln memorial. Now, I've been to this one many, many times - but it still awes me every time I see it. It's a serene place, no matter how crowded it gets. People really do quiet down once they get inside - it's got the air of a temple. Two things really strike me every time I go - the texts of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. They are short, elegant, and to the point. Contrast them with any speech you hear today - either political or business - and ask yourself why no one manages to pack so much meaning into so small a space.
From there we hoofed it over to the nearest (5 blocks) metro station. That took us past the State Department building - and boy does it look dreary compared to the Mall architecture. It's got all the charm of a 1960's high school. We went back to Union Station, where we caught a twilight tour of the monuments. I can't recommend this tour enough - it takes you to the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War/Vietnam War/WWII Memorials, and past a lot of other interesting things in the city. It set out at 7, and went to about 10:30. Well worth it - I especially liked the view from the Jefferson Memorial to the White House. Apparently, FDR had all the trees cut down between the two spots so that he could always see it. Like the Lincoln Memorial, it's a very contemplative place.
Even though we had already seen the WWII memorial, it was beautiful at night - worth seeing again. The Korean War memorial was a little haunting at night - the statues of soldiers on patrol really rise up at you. We skipped the Vietnam Wall, since we were running short on time (and they are doing maintenance on it anyway). That took us back to Union Station
Now, we had purchased round trip rail seats on commuter rail in the morning - and the last train was leaving at 10:35. We got to Union Station at 10:31. We had to convince other people on the tour bus to let us off first (they were pretty nice about that), and then run to track 15. We got on the train with less than a minute to spare, which was good - our other option was a cab back to the train station.
All in all a good day, even if it was a little tiring.