After a total of more than 19 hours on our feet (including entering & changing planes in New York, for which we had 4 hours), we finally arrived at our lodging in Washington D.C., the Clarion Collection Hotel in Arlington.
Tip: Plan enough time for your entry. We needed about 2 hours to stand in line and finally answer the questions of the US Customs Border Protection officer. Having a B2 visa in your pocket does not mean that you are really allowed to enter. That and how long actually decides the officer on the spot. We were lucky to have a really nice officer in front of us, who thought our plan was great and gave us the full six months of stay for it. 🥳
We are just curious whether this date changes when we leave and enter again for the first time. 🙄 Or whether we have to drive our route faster if necessary. We will let you know in any case.
Sightseeing in America’s Capital City
Well rested, first of all we explored the next 2.5 days the sights of the city. One thing right away to anticipate: This is a “must visit” for us on the East Coast. What impressed us the most was the Arlington National Cemetry. Even if it was a little oppressive feeling at the beginning to walk through the sheer mass of neatly lined up white tombstones, you are in a beautifully landscaped and peaceful place that radiates an incredible peace and tranquility.
From there, we continued to the impressive Lincoln Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – you know, the water basin in which Forrest Gump and Jenny fall into each other’s arms after a very long time. 😉 Our tour also took us past other great sights: Via the World War II Memorial & the Washington Monument it went for us to the White House, where just at that moment but actually the Marine One with its two escort helicopters arrived over our heads. So it was clear: The boss is now back home. 😊 At the end of the day, we went over the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial & the Martin Luther King Memorial back to the Lincoln Memorial, where the sunset announced itself slowly.
The next day we visited Union Station, from where we went straight to the Capitol. Although the view of the west side of the Capitol was blocked by scaffolding, we got a good impression of this massive building. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like when the Capitol was stormed. Finally, we paid a visit to the National Archives Museum – this is the building from which Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence in the movie “National Treasure. And this original Declaration of 1776, which is only 4 pages long, can be viewed here along with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution – and it’s completely free. An absolute must-see in our eyes!
We dedicated our last sightseeing day entirely to the Smithsonian. After a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, we walked through the garden of the Smithsonian Castle (which is unfortunately closed for renovations) to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Here, we were able to catch a glimpse not only of the Hope Diamond but also of a 52-foot model of a megalodon. Finally, we paid a visit to Albert Einstein and then headed off to pick up our guide for our first trip at the airport.
Feel free to take a look at our gallery to get even more impressions of Washington D.C. 😀
With Gary through the first US states
May I introduce: Gary.
Gary is originally from South Korea and emigrated with his family to Florida. Professionally, he works for Dollar & is currently stationed in Washington, where we were able to win him over for our first trip through the USA.
PS: When looking at rental car offers – and especially surprise deals – make sure to check whether they are electric vehicles, if applicable. These are not recommended for longer tours, because the network of freely available charging stations is worse developed than here in Germany – especially if you are traveling outside the major cities. And think about how you want to deal with the issue of tolls. Of course, the rental car companies offer you the various transponders (of course, almost every state has its own toll pass) and charge quite a lot of money for it. We’re currently trying out the app Uproad, which advertises that it can determine and pay the toll “on-the-way” across various states. We will let you know whether and how well this works in one of our next articles.
But now back to Gary and our tour: The next days we spent together, as the map shows, driving from Virginia through Maryland and Delaware to Pennsylvania and finally to New Jersey.
Railroad history meets Edgar Allan Poe
Our first stop took us to Baltimore. Here we walked through the “Inner Harbor” district, which was honestly rather unspectacular. So we headed to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, where the first mile of American railroad history was written. Besides the beautifully restored steam locomotive number “25” (left in the picture), with which Lincoln was driven from Baltimore to Washington D.C. (and which one or the other of you surely knows from the movie “Wild Wild West” with Will Smith), there are some well preserved historic and especially large trains (e.g. an Allegheny 1604) of the American railroad to marvel at, as well as a turntable, which is still operated by hand.
A tip on the side: Save yourself the walk out to the museum (the areas you pass through are not particularly worth seeing) and use the large parking lot on site. The rush to the museum was limited and visitors from Germany are apparently a rarity here. At least we passed Oriole Park – the baseball arena in Baltimore – on our way to the museum and were able to witness live what goes on weekdays at 1 p.m. before a Baltimore Orioles game.
To conclude our historical tour of Baltimore, we visited the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, who spent a significant period of his life here. On the whole, though, Baltimore didn’t impress us that much – especially the quality of the roads offers a large room for improvement.
V8 power at the seaside
We drove across Maryland to the southeastern end of Ocean City. Until you get to the sea, you drive through a lot of flat land with a lot of agriculture and market gardens – scenically rather boring. But when you arrive you are rewarded with a 16 km long, very wide and clean beach – but also with one hotel after the other. I can’t imagine how it must be here in high summer. For us it would be too much hustle and bustle, but the Americans seem to love it.
For us there were two reasons to stop here: 1. I wanted to go to the sea and 2. we read by chance that exactly on these days the Cruisin’ Ocean City Days are going on – as admirers of American muscle cars a great opportunity for us! You can’t imagine how much V8 power was on the road here and especially in what volume. We have never experienced anything like that. After our arrival at the hotel, we strolled through the parking lot of the gas station and restaurants across the street, where countless car enthusiasts were showing off their cars.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate on the next day, so we postponed our visit to the Ocean City Boardwalk and the Inlet Parking Lot (where we could admire numerous beautifully restored muscle cars) by one day. Afterwards we drove further along the ocean via Bethany Beach & Rehoboth Beach (resorts like Ocean City) and thus through Delaware to our accommodation in Philadelphia.
“It’s a Philly Thing”
As football fans, the city of the Philadelphia Eagles definitely belonged on our list of stops. Unfortunately, the search for accommodation did not turn out to be so easy, which is why we only stayed one night. Since we arrived relatively late, we went to bed early to be fit for the next day. Despite a squeaky bed and very sparse furnishings (1x 1.40m bed, 1x standing mirror & 1x rickety plastic shelf), we slept reasonably well in our mini-room at the Clover 2900 Apartment and Rooms in South Philly. So we packed up, looked forward to the day, and were greeted by sunshine and a very friendly street sweeper as we left. The latter asked us if the house was an Airbnb and then added, “Since two years I ask myself if this is an airbnb; some of the most scariest people I’ve ever seen came out of there.” 😱 We had no such encounter, but would not recommend the accommodation.
The first stop on our Philly sightseeing tour was, of course, the famous Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the associated statue of Rocky Balboa. From there we continued to the Benjamin Franklin Memorial at the Franklin Institute (access to the Rotunda is free of charge), via City Hall to Reading Terminal Market. There are numerous market stalls offering every imaginable delicacy: Be sure to try a Philly Cheesesteak at Spataros – THE specialty in Philadelphia! Well fortified, we continued our tour: Past the Declaration House, where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, we visited the Liberty Bell and the house of Betsy Ross, who is said to have sewn the first American flag. Before walking back to our parking spot at Love Park, we detoured to the famous Elfreth’s Alley – a historic 18th century street. Unfortunately under-maintained, this sight promises more than you actually find. It’s a pity that the history here is left to decay a bit.
After this beautiful day in Philadelphia, we headed to New Jersey where we will spend a week to have enough time for our visit to the Big Apple. 🤩🗽