Visiting Washington

More than twenty-million people visited the capital of the United States last year. Many people who live in Washington, D.C., take their visitors around the city, especially during spring and summer. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith. A visit to Washington, D.C. is our story today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

It is August. An education advisor in the Washington area, Suzy Karpel, (car-PELL) gets a phone call. Friends from the Middle West are coming to visit.

There are four members in the family. They say they want to see the city. They want to see everything. But they can stay only a day or two.

Ms. Karpel knows they cannot possibly see everything in such a short time. She knows that the weather may be very hot. She knows their feet will get tired. But she wants her visitors to have wonderful memories of their visit.

Ms. Karpel decides they will do most of their travelling by using the city public transportation system, the Metro, instead of her car. This will save time in traffic. It also will avoid the problem of finding a place to leave the car.

The group plans to see museums during the day, and visit outdoor memorials at night. That way, they will be inside buildings during the hottest part of the day. But which of the many Washington museums should they see? And what will they choose to see in each one?

The visitors have two children. So Ms. Karpel decides they should begin their visit at the National Museum of Natural History. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is along the green area called the Mall in the center of Washington.

The Natural History Museum contains objects about human cultures and mineral sciences. It also explains the biological sciences. And, it presents research about plants and animals.

The children are excited at seeing the dinosaurs, like the fierce looking Triceratops that disappeared from Earth long ago. Some huge creatures in the museum are copies. Others are bones of real creatures that scientists have put together.

One of the areas the visitors like best in the Natural History Museum is the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. Here, the famous huge, blue Hope Diamond shines brightly from a container that keeps turning so the jewel can be seen from all sides. Many people crowd into the geology hall, trying to see all the beautiful jewels. The visitors enjoy the nearby area showing uncut minerals of bright beautiful colors.

The group now walks along the Mall to the nearby National Museum of American History. This museum has millions of objects important to the development of the United States.

Some of them are well known: dresses of the wives of American presidents or the walking stick given to George Washington by Benjamin Franklin. The visitors also enjoy objects that are not as well known. One of these is the table on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in Seventeen-Seventy-Six.

Next, the group visits the National Air and Space Museum. It is the most popular museum in the world. Here, the family looks at the command vehicle of the Apollo Eleven spacecraft that first landed on the moon in Nineteen-Sixty-Nine. And they all have a chance to touch a rock from the moon.

By now, everyone is hungry and a little tired. To save time, they buy some food at an eating place in the museum.

After eating lunch, the visitors decide they do not have the time or energy to see the National Gallery of Art. Instead they visit a smaller art museum, the Freer Gallery of Art. It contains art from Asia and the United States.

At the Freer, they inspect an unusual room. It is called the Peacock Room. James McNeill Whistler painted it. Large golden birds with shining tail feathers are painted on the walls. Blue and white containers line walls covered with leather material.

The last stop for Ms. Karpel and her visitors is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. American paper money is produced in this building. Bureau workers also print treasury notes, military documents and postage stamps. The children are able to buy sheets of uncut money.

By now, everyone is ready for some quiet time and dinner. They return to Ms. Karpel's home by Metro. After resting and eating, they start out again. They will ride in Ms. Karpel's car to see the city's famous memorials.

Now it is getting dark. The visitors will do some of their sightseeing by moonlight, when the temperature is cooler.

They start at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. This memorial honors the American president who served longest in office -- from Nineteen-Thirty-Three until his death in Nineteen-Forty-Five. His memorial opened in Nineteen-Ninety-Seven. It contains four large areas. Each area represents one of his terms in office.

The group then goes to the Korean War Veterans' Memorial. It honors those who served in the Korean conflict, from Nineteen-Fifty to Nineteen-Fifty-Three.

Statues of soldiers wearing battle clothing stand in the center of this memorial. Lights shine on their faces. They look very real. They look as though they might move at any moment.

From there, the visitors walk to the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States. He led the nation through the Civil War. His memorial is a huge, white building. It is partly open so you can see from a distance the larger-than-life size statue of the president. He is seated. He looks toward a body of water called the Reflecting Pool.

Next the group walks by the black wall of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. On the wall are the names of the more than fifty-eight-thousand Americans who died in the Vietnam War. Many people leave flowers and notes at this memorial.

After all the walking, Ms. Karpel's group is glad to return to her car. Now they will drive around the Jefferson Memorial. This monument honors the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

A statue of him stands in the middle of a circular building. On this moonlit night, our visitors can see the image of the memorial in the water of the Tidal Basin.

Ms. Karpel then drives by the Washington Monument. It honors George Washington, the first president of the United States. The Washington Monument is made of white stone. Its narrow form reaches more than one-hundred-sixty-nine meters toward the sky. It is late now, and the visitors decide to end their day.

The next morning, Ms. Karpel's group is up early to get in line for free tickets to visit the White House. This building has been home to every American President except George Washington. After waiting in line, the visitors walk through five main public rooms, including the red room, the blue room and the east room. In that room, the wife of President John Adams once hung the family's clothes after they were washed. Today it is used for parties and other events requiring a large space.

Before they leave Washington, the visitors want to see the Capitol. They enter the famous building where American laws are made. They visit the large rooms where members of the House of Representatives and the Senate meet to discuss and vote on laws. And they see the paintings and statues that fill the long halls of the Capitol.

Later that day, Ms. Karpel's visitors will end their visit and fly home. They saw many interesting things in Washington. Yet there are many more places they would like to see. Among them are the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court of the United States and the National Zoo. So the visitors begin a list of places to see on a future trip to Washington. And Ms. Karpel tries to get some rest before her next visitors arrive ready to see the nation's capital.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by George Grow. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.