Babcia (n.): Polish for Grandma~Yia Yia (n.): Greek For Grandma~ See also: wise counsel; life well lived; very cool travel junkies
Category: Travel With Terri: USA 101
It’s me, Terri! Join me as I enjoy the most that the US has to offer. From epic road trips to amazing weekend getaways, our country has some of the most amazing people and I can’t wait to share it all with you.
YeeeeeHaw!!!!! We’re going to Texas!!! Recently my podcast bestie, Terri, shared her great trip to Dallas, Texas on our podcast. Her picks were so great that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share them with you! So, let’s take a trip to one of the great American cities the US has to offer. It’s time to travel to Dallas.
The Lone Star State has plenty to offer any traveler, regardless of personal interests. From history and arts to sports and ranching culture, Dallas does not disappoint. Both stadiums in Dallas offer amazing tours for the sports lover (and perhaps their reluctant travel partners as well). While Daley Plaza takes you back to the events of November 22nd, 1963 when JFK was assassinated here. Meanwhile, not far away, the Fort Worth Stockyards give you a taste of the Texas ranching tradition that thrives outside of town.
Like many metropolitan cities, Dallas is realizing the value of local food venues. With plenty of mom and pop set-ups that serve up great tex-mex as well as regional dishes like BBQ and chicken fried steak. Dallas has it’s share of yummy indulgences- they created the deep fried Oreo– so you will not be at a loss for local treats while you are in town.
Beyond things to do and places to eat, Dallas offers the traveler the very thing we all search for- the people. The Lone Star State is famous for their down to earth attitude and friendly hellos to visitors. Soak in the great accent and the cozy feeling. So, whether it’s your first visit to Dallas or you’re back to enjoy more, Dallas wants you to explore and settle in!
Washington, D.C. is part history, part culture, and part working capitol. Just as international capitals around the world like Tokyo, London, or Paris, there is so very much to see and do. Any traveler needs to accept that there is just no way to see it all in one go. So, where do you even start? I guess the same place that google maps would drop a pin: The Washington Monument.
Our National Mall is the epi-center of any first visit to the capitol. It encompasses most of the most famous monuments and almost all of the Smithsonian complex (more on that later). From the Lincoln Memorial to The Capitol Building, The Mall is a promenade that has something for everyone. It does not, however, have a superior array of restaurants to choose from.
Food trucks and McDonalds seem to rule the day on the mall, but, with a little bit of digging, you will find that there are a few hidden spots that may be better than a combo meal. Don’t get me wrong, some of the trucks that have a permanent permit mid-mall are really good, but you may want more than a park bench to enjoy your meal. A few options include the cafe at the sculpture garden, the restaurant in the Museum of African American Art, and, at the top of the Mall, the NoMa neighborhood by Union Station.
Washington, D.C. is, first and foremost, a working city with government responsibilities to accomplish daily (no matter how much we think politics brings things to a glaring stop!) Security is an unfortunate inevitably for any potential visitor. As a result, you may need to jump through a few hoops to visit some of the biggest draws in the city. Both the White house and the Capitol both need to clear tickets through your local congressman while the US Treasury and the Pentagon both need a registered security clearance. Use our direct links throughout this article to get the most up to date information and start the clearance process.
The most famous address in the country is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Visitors can arrange to take the one way tour through the public spaces on the lower level and main level. It’s important to note that you will not be able to actually enter many of the rooms on the lower level. As you can imagine, security takes precedence on any given day. And, while, rare, the possibility of tours being cancelled at the last minute is a possibility. In my opinion the 45 minute, one-way tour is well worth it if it’s Christmas time or if you have kids that have recently learned about the actual house. Otherwise, the hassle and time might be better placed on other endeavors.
Home to our most prominent politicians, the nation’s business take place here. The Capitol visitor’s Center is the place you’ll meet the intern who will be assigned to you- usually by one of the 50 statues that represent each state. The tour will take you through the lower levels, the chambers of House and Senate (if available) and the grand rotunda. Each intern has seemingly gone through tour guide school and do a great job explaining history, architecture, art, and basic politics. In my opinion, if I had to choose between the White House and The Capitol Building, I’d choose this.
Getting into the Pentagon, and Treasury both require a security screening but can be well worth your time if these topics interest you. I’d skip if you have young kids or the military or money making are not your thing.
Name a president, any president, and I will show you a monument to them. From the Tidal Basin, to the Capital, there are tons of odes to not only presidents, but to those who we lost in war, those who helped shape our country, and those who define what it means to be American. All but one of the monuments are free.
The Washington Monument stands at the axis point of the White House and the Capitol reminding each to mind their P’s and Q’s. It requires a ticket and advance reservation if you want to go to the top. I’d skip it for other venues that give you just as good of a view without the timed reservation.
Be sure to check in to the WWII Memorial and find your way to the poignant Vietnam Memorial that still packs quite the emotional punch. The tidal basin also holds some amazing tributes to FDR, MLK, and Jefferson. It’s where you’ll get the best view of the…
Each Spring, Washington gains a pink glow as trees all over the city wake up from their winter nap. The tidal basin is the premiere location for cherry blossom season and is the original home to the 3,020 trees gifted from Tokyo in 1912.
One of the largest museum complexes in the world, the Smithsonian Institute offers such a wide array of topics to explore. Eleven of the over 20 Smithsonian sites line the side of the National Mall. They include the most popular like the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Air and Space. A&S is, by far, the most crowded and has the longest security line. These days, many museums are in some sort of remodeling process and you should check the website to know exactly what to expect. No matter which ones you choose, there’s just no way to get to all of them in one go. Check out this video to see all your choices.
One of the best small museums in the city, Nat Geo has three parts. First, enjoy the interactive, ever changing exhibit to the left. Then pass through to the secondary revolving exhibit which has plenty of art and artifacts. Lastly, pop out the back door to the permanent display of Nat Geo covers that illuminate amazing moments in history. I consider this stop the best rainy day pick possible. Get a sneak peak at what an exhibit looks like with Jane Goodall by clicking the video below.
If you could only do one thing in Washington, D.C., pick this. This world class museum depicts the horrible events leading up, during, and after Hitler’s maniacal final solution. This state of the art facility walks you through the difficult facts with compassion and helps young minds grasp the severity of the Holocaust in terms that they can understand. It is a must do.
Other Museums To Consider
National Gallery: a world class collection of art ranging from ancient sculpture to modern art. A great stroll to get out of the heat with a super cool tunnel that lights up as you go from one building to the next.
National Botanic Garden: in the shadow of the capitol this venue gives a visitor just the right amount of respite from the busy city. Stroll through the quiet exhibits which include model trains during the holidays.
Library of Congress: Our national library has more to see than just a big fancy book room. Check out exhibit on the Gutenburg Bible, Bob Hope, The Gershwins and more.
Supreme Court: Our country’s highest court is open to see the chambers when not in session. Little more than the room itself, law buffs will look in awe at the setting of so very much history.
Law Enforcement Museum: the thin blue line is honored here with major events in history and memorials to the fallen. Well worth the time as way to view contemporary issues through another lens.
Our nation’s performing arts center is a treat whether you attend a show or simply tour the 1971-built facility. Broadway caliber stars and shows are often found in house with plenty to choose from off the busy calendar. The spaces are appointed with gifts from around the world in a feat of diplomacy headed up by Jackie Kennedy. Tours are available from trained volunteers daily. Also, there is a huge kids calendar to enjoy. Be sure to check out the hilarious in house production “Shear Madness” for a little interactive theater fun.
Other theaters of note include the National Theater and Ford’s Theater. both are worth tickets to a show but I’d pass on any sort of facility tour. On the other side of the river, you’ll find…
Find your patriotic spirit as you visit this national icon of the fallen. Arlington is open 24/7-365. These hallowed grounds honor veterans from every American conflict from the civil war to present day military actions. The most famous resident-JFK- is also here. Most visitors make their way around the site by tram but you can hike up to points of interest like the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier or the 9-11 pentagon memorial. Arlington is a lesson in humility and pride and well worth the visit.
You can get involved with Arlington (or any national cemetery close to you) by registering as a volunteer with Wreaths Across America. This organization lovingly places a wreath on every gravestone each holiday season. Please be mindful of stones or coins left on gravestones as they represent very recent visitors.
Venturing further away from the city center…
Washington is made up of some really great neighborhoods who are proud to show off their little slice of the capital with fin activities and seriously great food. Here are just a few…
Located next to the Navy Yard in Anacostia, the NYTS gives you a thrilling two hour clinic for anyone who’d like to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Don’t worry! there are plenty of harnesses and nets to keep you and the kids safe!
Just around the corner is the Anacostia Riverfront with tons of great restaurants and plenty to do including taking in a game or tour at Nationals Park or kayaking on the Anacostia River. Kayaking and boating on the Potomac are also options all along the river. Toward the south side of town on the river is…
George Washington’s home is open for tours in any season. The property does a great job of telling its story through animated storytellers and well thought out exhibits in the visitors center. The house itself, is interesting if sparse in that we-are-just-getting-this-country-started way. With lots of events and plenty of outbuildings to explore, Mount Vernon is a great family option and may be just the right remedy if you don’t get that perfect tour up on Pennsylvania Ave.
The town of Alexandria is just north of Mount Vernon and can be just the place for you to enjoy a little of that revolutionary era charm in addition to famous Georgetown. Expect these neighborhoods to have that feel but be full of modern shopping and eateries.
Answer this riddle: “Central Park is to NYC as ___ is to WDC”. Rock Creek Park on the north side of the city offers plenty for anyone who gravitates to urban outdoor settings. Home to plenty of sporting events including fun (charity/awareness) runs and locals enjoying a bit of nature, RCP is most famous for the national zoo. Pandas have been the marquee event at the zoo since the 1970’s. There is no doubt that those black and white fur balls are the star of the show. Expect the zoo to be completely walkable and doable in one afternoon. Be sure to skip the restaurants inside and opt for some of the yummy choices on the walk back to the metro.
Also up on the north side of town are The National Cathedral and The National Basilica. Both well worth a look if not on your first visit then on your second. You’ll most likely be far more familiar with the Cathedral as it is often where senior statesmen are eulogized on TV.
Getting in, out, and around
I’m gonna keep it real: WDC is the biggest pain in the you know what when it comes to driving and parking!!! Between double the rush hour, the ever traffic filled beltway, and motorcades that often put a screeching halt to anyone who is trying to get from point A to point B. Hop on hop off buses clog up the streets and parking is an expensive nightmare. There I said it. It’s all true.
I will, however, say that the metro system is a dream to use for any beginning traveler and will get you from one landmark to another far quicker than your own wheels. For tips on using the Metro, click the link. If you do need to drive, I highly suggest the handy app: spot hero. It will at least let you get to a guaranteed spot and will lock in a price for you. Here are some more great resources to help you inspired and planned for your big trip to the nation’s capital! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!
To be honest, it’s a really long drive. To be more honest, it’s totally worth it! Arriving in West Yellowstone is its own sort of homecoming. As you come through the mountains and the vistas open up, snow mobile tracks seem to be more prevalent than tire tracks in these parts. The main thoroughfare through town drops you in the center of things. Take a right and you’ll find plenty of shops and lodging and to the left, you’ll find sleepy entrance to the world’s first national park.
West Yellowstone may be sleepy but it is the perfect launching pad for so many true American experiences. So, lets settle in and get started.
Come on in and stay awhile!
Our choice for accommodations is the retro-lodge inspired Three Bear Lodge. This rustic lodge has been welcoming visitors since 1932. Our lodge offered us all kinds of experiences from simply using the dining room for some good home cookin’. Look for the hotel to also be able to arrange activities like snowmobile tours, coach tours into the park, and access to local skiing. Modest rooms give you a cozy home base to get out into the great outdoors!
Canyon Street and Yellowstone Avenue
The heart of this little hamlet that was developed for park visitors has plenty of charming shops and eateries to get you acquainted with national park life. Artist’s Shops sell pottery, canvases, and photography representing the natural wonders of the flora and fauna in the area. Think moose. Our favorite stop is the Book Peddler and Cafe where we were able to enjoy a little reading and pastry.
Eagle’s Store is the general store for all of your needs. Be sure to check in at the old fashioned ice cream counter and gas up before heading into the park.
Fine dining is not on the menu in West Yellowstone but you will find some seriously great options to keep your belly full. And the choices range from The Euro Cafe with Yellowstone’s take on European cuisine (passport holders may want to pass on that one). For a great mid day sandwich stop check out Ernie’s Bakery and Deli. One of the best picks in town is Wild West Pizza who will deliver even in the snow.
Get out and explore the great outdoors. That’s why you’ve arrived after all! Here are our picks for getting started in the right direction.
Eco tours are a great way to enjoy an area and be part of the solution! West Yellowstone has plenty of options. Check out the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to learn about the regional conservation efforts in support of these majestic creatures.
For more resources and inspiration, check out these picks!
Saddle Up To Jackson Hole
Two to four hours south east of West Yellowstone is majestic (yet bougie) Jackson Hole. With moose in the front yard and the Grand Tetons framing your view, Jackson Hole offers a little something for everyone. If you’re a foodie, go here. If you’re a shopaholic, check it out. Maybe great American art is your thing, Jackson Hole is for you. Jackson Hole is also the epicenter for all things huckleberry.
With high end galleries and plenty of glitzy snow bunnies, Jackson Hole is a draw winter or summer. As a springboard for plenty of outdoor sports, the community is tourist central and includes some great activities like:
The Rustic Inn is full of cozy cabins with great bathrooms and deep sleep mattresses. You feel super homey during your stay. It’s perfect for families and breakfast is included. (For the super bougie stay, check out Teton Village. America’s version of a ski chalet is where you will find the wealthy enjoying the winter.)