By Erik Rancatore
When it comes to taking in a city, I am the consummate planner. I need to make sure that every minute in a new city is taken advantage of with particular planning to the history of the city, as well as taking in the current culture. Washington, D.C., home to the American Nuclear Society’s annual Winter Meeting on November 10-14, provides the perfect opportunity for ANS members to blend both of these together in planning out activities outside the conference.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: You’re in the DC which means that there is history and important landmarks to see at every turn. You could spend the entire day walking the National Mall and taking in the legacy of America. From the White House, to the Washington Monument, as well as the US Capitol, you could spend your day strolling on the great lawn that holds our federal government. The nods to our military can be seen at almost every turn, with a spectacular memorial dedicated to the Second World War. If you haven’t been here before, make sure you set aside some serious time for walking around the park. While there isn’t a particular order in which you should see everything, wait to see the Lincoln Memorial at night. Not dusk – but actual dark/black out night. Lincoln’s statue is even more breathtaking at night, but make sure to enjoy the view of the National Mall from President Lincoln’s feet.
So once you feel the sheer awe of the National Mall, here are some other to-do items that should be on your list to get a true feel for the history the city has to offer:
The best-known resting place for US soldiers has to be Arlington National Cemetery. While most know of the eternal flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy, you’ll be able to walk through the grounds and find additional Presidents, appreciate generations of history, and finally see the landmark that is The Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
Make sure you take in some of the last moments of autumn at Theodore Roosevelt Island. Cars are a no-go, so enjoy the walk across a footbridge and access the hiking trails and memorials to President Theodore Roosevelt.
The oldest unchanged building in D.C., the Old Stone House, dates back to 1765. While tours are available for the house, also make sure to check out the gardens in the backyard. The site is a rare find of plush greenery in the middle of the Georgetown neighborhood.
[Editor's note: Thanks to Brian Mays who notes in comments that we neglected to mention the National Zoo, which is right down the street (within walking distance) from the location of the meeting!]
More Modern Attractions
While most of us move on to the next day’s news each day, the Newseum keeps the history of the media in a beautiful seven-level interactive museum. Relive moments of history, see sections of the Berlin Wall, even the Unabomber’s shack are all on display.
If you want to take a break from being a nuclear engineer for a while, try your shot at being a spy. The International Spy Museum hosts an interactive exhibit in which you are given the tricks of the trade in a Hollywood-style scenario.
Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, is a perfect blend of eerie and beautiful. With waterfalls cascading and statues surrounding the garden grounds, you’ll have a wonderful time meandering to the music of drum circles that form weekly.
City Nights, City Lights
For night owls, the U Street Corridor provides the perfect blend of nightclubs and music venues in a nine-block Victorian-era neighborhood. A staple in the D.C. music scene, this neighborhood boasts a rich history and played host to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Make sure to stop in at the 9:30 Club.
Meanwhile, historic homes and foreign embassies surround the upbeat nightlife over at Dupont Circle. The Eighteenth Street Lounge lets you enjoy a cocktail in the former mansion of Teddy Roosevelt.
For more information on the 2013 ANS Winter Meeting including speakers, topical meetings, meeting program and registration information, see ANS brings leaders and legends to speak at November meeting. For fantastic dining options for meeting attendees, see Washington offers great dining for ANS members at Winter Meeting. The ANS Winter Meeting is bookended by two important events sponsored by the ANS Young Members Group – see Prepare to Meet Your Lawmakers – YPC and Capitol Hill Day, Nov 9 & 14.