Washington, DC, is the capital of the United States of America. On January 20, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in in the capital as the country's 44th president. According to much of the world, America's face began to change as it stepped into the light of a new tomorrow.
President Obama and his young family moved into the White House and he took on the role of the most powerful man on the planet.
Washington, DC (formally the District of Columbia), was founded on July 16, 1790, on the northern bank of the Potomac River. It is bordered by Virginia and Maryland and is a serious but attractive city.
All three branches legislative, executive and judiciary of the federal government of the United States are located in DC, as are many of the nation's best known and revered monuments and museums. It hosts 174 foreign embassies, the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Pan American Health Organization, Inter-American Development Bank and Organization of American States. It is also the headquarters of trade unions, lobbying groups and professional associations. It is truly a global city.
Tourism is booming in DC. And the new President's energy and the excitement around his appointment are just part of the reason.
Ben's Chili Bowl
This U Street landmark has been a favourite since 1958, and keen to prove DC is as much his home as anyone else's, President Obama joined the lunchtime rush for one of Ben's classic half-smoked chilli dogs. The owners are used to politicians and celebrities dropping in, but swear the President's visit was unscheduled.
It's a great place to stop for chilli, vegetable burgers, tuna sandwiches, submarines and chilli-cheese fries, all accompanied by a delicious milkshake.
Pre-Obama, 17 million people each year visited this important place in America's history. Numbers are expected to grow considerably. For more than 220 years, the Capitol Building is where America's past, present and future have been debated and decided. It is representative of democracy, a symbol of freedom and a temple of liberty.
Capitol Hill is also a national stage as it is the place where presidents are inaugurated; it is from where they are farewelled, is where marches are held and where independence is celebrated. Tours are free but you do need to book.
Looks like, sounds like, but is it?
It had to happen. There are Obama look- and sound-alikes popping up all over the place, but Ben met a pretty convincing one. Larry Graves is one of the growing numbers of people making a dollar because they resemble the Commander in Chief.
His mirror told him it was obvious same size, left-handed, similar skin tones and hair and many people are convinced that they are looking at or talking with the "real" person.
It was put to the test at Washington, DC's World War II monument and people told Larry where they were from, that they had voted for him, wished him well. It's a bit sad really, but Larry eventually owns up.
There is so much to see in Washington, DC. Many places are free to visit, including the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, Iwo Jima Memorial, Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial, National Zoo, Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, Washington Monument and of course you can go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and see the White House. A quick trip over the Potomac River will take you to the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Washington, DC, the capital of the United States.
The United States Capitol is open for tours from 8.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Tours run between 8.50am to 3.20pm. They are free but bookings are strongly recommended.
V Australia has fares to Los Angeles.
- Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
- Adelaide $1295
- Perth $1595
The fares are available for a limited time only so log on to www.vaustralia.com.au for further details.
Connections to Washington, DC, are available.
Reston Limousine Travel Service hire starts at $360 for three hours, the minimum rate for a six passenger limousine. Rates vary with vehicle type and itinerary. Call or e-mail them for a quote.
Prices correct at August 27, 2009.
For further information
Capitol Building Tours
Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Ph: +1 202 667 0909
Obama Look Alike
Cast of Thousands
Obama Walk Itinerary
Ph: +1 703 478 0500
Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. From January 2009, Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.
Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.
Time zone: Washington DC is GMT -4.
Currency: The American dollar.
International dialling code: +1.
If you are planning a trip to the US, we've found a great book with lots of useful information. America Over Easy covers national parks, camping and shopping as well as providing time-saving tips, great places to eat, how to make significant savings and where to find free attractions. It has an excellent fold-out map for road trips and has been put together by American-born now Australian-resident Mark Sheehan who has 25 years' travel experience. Available from New Holland publishers and at book stores for $19.95. For more information, visit www.newholland.com.au.