One of the best things about the Eastern Shore is our proximity to some of the East Coast’s major metropolitan regions. We are just a stone’s throw from our Nation’s Capital, and while we don’t get over the bridge as often as we’d like, the holidays offer a perfect opportunity for sightseeing while visiting loved ones. While visiting family in the Washington D.C. region this week, some of the ShoreBread staff decided to take the opportunity to make a day trip to the Nation’s Capital. Due to the blustery weather, we opted for museum tours instead of a chilly, outdoor stroll around the monument. Our short expedition took us through artistic and patriotic sights that made for the perfect holiday treat.

Our first stop left us amongst hundreds of paintings and sculptures in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art. Since admission is free at all Smithsonian museums, any of these tours is a great reprieve for those who went slightly overboard on Christmas gifts. The National Gallery was first established in 1937 by Andrew W. Mellon, one of the partners which Carnegie Mellon University is named for. This successful financier from Pittsburgh was the Head of the U.S. Treasury under three presidents, as well as an avid art collector. Mellon donated funds and his extensive art collection to the Federal Government in 1937 in hopes that the United States would have an art display to rival those of other countries.

Among the spectacular art exhibits, visitors can see the brilliant colors of original Monet paintings such as the famous Japanese Footbridge and Rouen Cathedral.  The museum also recently acquired the original Van Gogh, Green Wheat Fields, Auvers as well as some of his other works including his Self Portrait from 1889. One of the sculptures on display was the ancient Roman statue the Dying Gaul. The statue was removed from Italy in 1797 when Napoleon took the statue to Paris. On the statue’s most recent trips, it has now been taken to the museum for its first visit to America.

Outside of the museum is the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden which features a large array of modern sculptures, too big to be kept inside. The assortment of works range from a circle of stone DC trip 4chairs to others that are more abstract, causing visitors to stand back and tilt their heads to try to understand the statue’s meaning. The garden also provides great photo opportunities as well as an ice skating rink that proved too irresistible for us.

Our next stop was right across the street at the National Archives Museum which also has free admission. This organization was created 60 years ago when Harry Truman presented the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights to the American public. Since its beginning The National Archives and Records Administration has helped preserve the story of our nation.

The building in which the documents are housed was designed by the famous architect John Russell Pope, who also created the Jefferson Memorial. His incorporation of Greek architectural elements such as large pillars allows the building to blend in with its neighboring architectural structures. Its interior however has a reverent church-like design to show respect to the patriotic literature held inside.

Once inside, visitors can get a rare look at a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta, one of the founding documents for Britain’s government. There is also an exhibit dedicated to equality in our nation with displays of Amendments to the Constitution and how the amendments came about. There are also displays about the struggle faced by African Americans, women, and U.S. immigrants to gain equal opportunities throughout our nation’s history. Some displays show hand written citizen letters asking presidents to create laws to remove injustice. One interesting fact we learned was how, ironically, slave labor was used to build both the Capital building and the White House, two national symbols of freedom.

When viewing the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights, visitors enter the darkened and chilly rotunda. This room is kept dimly lit and at a lower temperature to help preserve the documents. The many years of wear and tear are visible on the papers; some are barely visible to read while others still maintain crisp details.

We enjoyed our Christmas Eve in Washington and plan to make this trip a new holiday tradition. Like other cities, it is impossible to see everything that D.C. has to offer, so we can plan to see something new and exciting every year. We had so much fun in our Nation’s Capital, we might just come back to ring in the New Year and watch Fireworks over the Potomac.