This fall, the Inside Self-Storage World Expo moves to the spectacular venue of Washington, D.C. Having lived and worked in the Washington metro area for many years, it’s my pleasure to share with you the many wonderful places to visit in this history-rich area. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to improve your business and explore the nation’s capital!
During Oct. 5-8, industry professionals will gather at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center, a 300-acre waterfront destination bordering a mile-long stretch of the Potomac River in National Harbor, Md. The focal point of the harbor area, the Gaylord is the largest non-gaming hotel on the Eastern seaboard.
Just 10 miles from downtown, the hotel is readily accessible from three local airports―a mere 7 miles from Reagan National, and 45 minutes from Dulles and Baltimore Washington International.
There are so many free or low-cost attractions that will appeal to everyone’s interests, young and old. It will require some planning to take maximum advantage of all the region has to offer, but it will be worth your effort.
The White House
No matter what your politics, visiting the White House can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Public tours are available for groups of 10 or more, but you must submit your request through the office of your state’s member of Congress. These requests are accepted up to six months in advance. You can call the Capital’s switchboard (202.225.3121) to be connected directly to your House of Representative member or Senator.
Self-guided White House tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays), and are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis approximately one month in advance of the requested date. Since the number of daily visitors is limited, I encourage you to submit your request as early as possible. All White House tours are free of charge, but they can be cancelled at any time by the White House staff based on circumstances. For more info, visit https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml or www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.
Visitor’s Center and Capitol
The White House Visitor Center is on the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets. The center is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., and provides info on many White House subjects including architecture, furnishings, first families, social events, and relations with the press and world leaders. You can even watch a 30-minute video. Allow yourself 20 minutes to an hour to explore the exhibits. The White House Historical Association also sponsors a sales area. Restrooms are available, but there is no food service.
There are also guided tours of the U.S. Capitol. Tours need to be scheduled in advance through the Capitol’s registration system or by contacting the office of your Representatives or Senators. Many Congressional offices offer their own staff-led tours to groups of up to 15 people, and most can assist you in booking a general tour.
The guided tour includes “Out of Many, One,” a 13-minute film that illustrates how the United States established a new form of government. The video also highlights the vital role Congress plays in the daily lives of Americans, and introduces the building that houses the U.S. Congress. The Capitol Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For details, visit www.visitthecapitol.gov.
Library of Congress
You also might want to consider a visit to the Library of Congress. The tour offers an hour-long docent-led tour of the historic building. The Library was founded in 1800 and is the oldest federal-cultural institution inthe nation.
On Aug. 24, 1814, British troops burned the Capitol building, where the Library was housed, and destroyed the Library's core collection of 3,000 volumes. Responding to an offer to help restore this resource, Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950 in January 1815.
During your tour, you’ll learn about the building’s symbolic art and architecture, and view the grandeur of the Main Reading Room. Professionally trained docents discuss the Library’s history, collections (including the Gutenberg Bible), and the services provided to Congress and the nation. The Jefferson Building West and the Library of Congress Experience are open Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit www.loc.gov for information.
Smithsonian Institute and Holocaust Memorial
No trip to the Washington, D.C., area is complete without visiting the Smithsonian Institute, the world’s largest museum complex that comprises 19 museums and nine research centers. While it’s impossible to see all the Smithsonian has to offer in a single day, try to visit at least a portion of this vast establishment.
The Smithsonian houses fascinating exhibits such as the African Art Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery, the American History Museum, the American Indian Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Natural History Museum and Portrait Gallery. The Smithsonian also operates the National Zoological Park. Visiting hours vary, so check the website: www.si.edu.
Another museum to consider visiting is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which houses photographs, artifacts, film, letters and a survivor registry. You’ll find information at www.ushmm.org.
Places Honoring Fallen Soldiers
More than 4 million people visit the Arlington National Cemeteryevery year, and there are nearly 100 graveside services conducted each week. The Visitors Center, located by the entrance, offers maps, guidebooks, exhibits, information services (including grave locations), a bookstore and restrooms. The cemetery does not provide wheelchairs or strollers. It’s open every day at 8 a.m. Visit www.arlingtoncemetery.org for details.
If you’ve never experienced the power and honor of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, plan a side trip to these hallowed grounds that honor the 58,248 men and eight women killed or missing in action in Vietnam. The Memorial consists of three parts: the Three Soldier’s Statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with the names of fallen or missing soldiers etched into two, black granite walls. Find information at www.nps.gov/vive.
The iconic Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are all must-visits if this will be your first time in the D.C. area. All are maintained by the National Park Service. The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are open 24 hours a day. The Washington Monument is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Details are available at www.nps.gov.
If you’re up for a sightseeing adventure, there are many to choose from, including the 90-minute DC Ducks land-and-water tour that departs from Union Station (www.dcducks.com). Capitol River Cruises on the Georgetown Waterfront offers a 45-minute sightseeing tour from the Potomac River (www.capitolrivercruises.com).
Other tours include Tourmobile (Tourmobile.com), Old Town Trolley Tours (Trolleytours.com) and Open Top Sightseeing (Opentopsightseeing.com), which offer hop-on, hop-off narrated tours year-round, along with night tours of the monuments and memorials. The routes of Open Top and Old Town Trolley include stops at neighbourhood attractions like the Washington National Cathedral (Nationalcathedral.org) and National Zoological Park (www.nationalzoo.si.edu).
Washington, D.C., is one of the most visited cities in America. Its official website, Washington.org, contains a wealth of information and helpful links to help you make the most of your trip. There is also a direct link for The National Harbor complex at Nationalharbor.com. Also remember that once there, you’re only a two-hour drive from Colonial Williamsburg (History.org) and Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello (Monticello.org).
I look forward to seeing you at the ISS Expo in D.C.!
Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. He has served for a number of years on the Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board, is a moderator on the SelfStorageTalk.com online community and is faculty member of the Self-Storage Training Institute. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com.