One and a half to two hours dedicated to seeing and experiencing as much of the political landscape of Washington's Mall in a brief—but concentrated—tour.
We start near the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the memorial to President James Garfield (assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker), travel past the florally sculpted water fountain, past the statue of President Ulysses S. Grant on the horse (and learn about the symbolism of the memorial horse’s stance), and then on to the memorial to Civil War sailors and marines.
We then travel past the East Building of the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art, where we can have a group photo taken next to the mirrored pyramids and fountains between the National Gallery of Art’s main building and its East Wing. Then down the special bike lanes past the Newseum, where we will read aloud the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, lest we forget, and peruse the day’s “first drafts of history”—the front pages of daily newspapers from major cities across the country.
Then past the Federal Trade Commission, where we will observe the 1930's version of President Obama's economic stimulus package (called the Works Progress Administration, or WPA) and see the muscled man restraining the powerful horse sculpture carved during the Depression by WPA artists.
Then onto Penn Quarter where we will see the Archives, the Negro College Women Building, the monument to temperance that used to be across from a liquor store and now a sports bar, and gaze up 7th Street where American Red Cross founder Clara Barton had an apartment to help people find Missing Soldiers. Many Civil War battles were fought not far from Washington, leaving many lost soldiers. (To this day the Red Cross has a Tracing Bureau for soldiers missing in the confusion of war.)
Looking up Eight Street past the Navy Memorial with the lone sailor standing watch over the map of the world, we see the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. But one of my favorite memorials is a humble block of white stone on the grounds of the Archives, the first FDR Memorial.
FDR was in his third unprecedented term as President of the United States and we were not frankly sure we were going to win WWII. He was having a small private dinner with his friend, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Felix Frankfurter, when Justice Frankfurter said something like, “You know Mr. President, if we win this war, they are going to want to make a memorial for you.” Ever the humble man, FDR may have said, “Don’t make anything any bigger than my desk because that I all I ever worked at. Make a small, desk-sized block of wood or stone and place on the grounds of the Archives, if they must make something.” We juxtapose that desk-sized block of stone with the 7.5 acres of a later FDR Memorial between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials!
Then past the FBI building and the Dept. of Justice. After 9/11 there are no more tours of the FBI building. Then past the second best view of Washington, the Old Post Office and the statue of Ben Franklin, our first Postmaster. Then past the Mayor of DC's Office, the John A. Wilson building and see the statues of people in togas with African features and the glowing red numbers of now over $3 billion paid in Federal taxes by DC residents without any Senators of voting Representatives in Congress. No wonder DC license plates say Taxation without Representation, the same cry of the original tea party rebellion in Boston Harbor.
Then past the Willard hotel, where the Berne Convention futilely preventing the Civil War, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote parts of the "I Have A Dream" speech of 1963. (and more lore of the Willard.)
We can stop at the White House for a picture. Past the Boy Scout Memorial and one of the original Stone Pierre L'Enfant laid down to map Washington. Past the obelisk of Washington Monument and explain why there are two different colored stones.
On to the WWII Memorial , a memorial with a searchable database. Past the John Paul Jones memorial, the Japanese lantern for the lighting of the Cherry Blossom Festival, past the Memorial to the DC resident who served in wars, onto the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial and the Einstein Memorial.
Back down to Ohio Drive where we will stop at the other FDR memorial, finished in the 90's. Then on to the Jefferson Memorial and past George Mason, sitting and pondering human rights (He was the author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, that became the U.S. Bill of Rights, many of those adopted for the UN Declaration of Human Rights.). Back around past the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Down Jefferson Drive past the USDA, then past the Freer and Sackler Galleries that descend 5 floors underground to some the of the worlds best Oriental Art. Past the Castle, the administrative and Information Center of the Smithsonian. Past the Hirschhorn Museum of Modern Art and the Hirschorn Sculpture Gardens. Onto to the Air & Space Museum and back to the Capitol.