When people think of Washington, D.C., one of the first places that comes to mind is Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is the seat of our government, the place where people of all walks of life come together to create ideas that will make our nation a better place. A highlight of any trip to Washington is going to visit the Capitol Building and it is no different for the delegates who attend Citizenship Washington Focus. We didn’t use the term Wednesday in our weeks at CWF, instead, it was Capitol Hill Day. As someone who visited Capitol Hill at least eight times last summer, I want to give you a few tips about making the most of your time on Capitol Hill.
The first thing you should do for your day on Capitol Hill is schedule appointments with your Congressmen/women or Senators. For the best use of your time, schedule all of your appointments on the same day. Allow at least an hour (preferably an hour and a half) between appointments, this way you have plenty of time to talk with your representative, take pictures, and get from one location to the next. Sometimes unique opportunities pop up, please take advantage of these! You never know if you will get another chance to ride through the underground tunnels under the Capitol Building or see Senators in action from the Senate House gallery. You can always call your representative’s office and they may be able to reschedule a later meeting.
When you plan the order of your meetings, pay attention to who you are meeting with, representatives or senators. Their office buildings are on opposite sides of the hill, so it is better if you schedule one side and then the other. The best place to start is on the south side, where the House of Representatives’ offices are. This side is closest to the bus drop off area. Then you can work your way over to meet with your senators. This is the best use of your time on the hill and will reduce how tired you are at the end of the day!
At some point you will need to eat lunch. Each office building has a reasonably priced cafeteria in the basement, but some can get a little crowded with staff and other guests. Another place with a large selection and reasonable prices is the restaurant at the Capitol Visitor Center. It has plenty of seating for everyone and is air-conditioned (which is appreciated in the summer). However, if you’re in a pinch or don’t have enough time to make it to the Visitor Center, grab a bite in any of the office cafeterias.
You’ll also want a tour of the Capitol Building. Your Congressman’s office might schedule one as part of your meeting and you can request it through them. Otherwise, you can schedule your own tour once you are in the Capitol building or online. While you’re in the Capitol building, check out Exhibition Hall, which has the history of both the House and Senate with short videos.
Often times you will have some free time in between meetings, here are a few places close to the Hill that you can visit in between your meetings:
The US Botanic Garden is a great place to take a break. The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) calls itself a “living plant museum” which is unique among all of the other Washington, D.C. museums. Visitors can walk through multiple ecosystems within the garden seeing living examples of the many different plants located on Earth.
You can also take the underground tunnel from the Capitol Building to the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress holds the spot of the largest Library in the world and includes everything from books to recordings to newspapers, photos, and maps.
Another place you can check out is the Supreme Court Building, where you might be able to take a peek into the chamber where the judges sit. In addition to the Courtroom, you can see different exhibitions about the supreme court.
The Post Office Museum is only a ten-minute walk away. It’s free of charge and a low traffic museum with lots of interesting items. The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is located in the historic City Post Office Building and has many items related to Postal History, but also other unique items, like planes, a dog named Owney, and wagons.
Once you finish all of these activities, you’ll definitely be hungry for dinner. Head off to Union Station (near the Post Office Museum) and grab some dinner from their food court. You can get some shopping done if you finish dinner early. Take the metro home from Union Station or have your own bus pick you up there.
Hopefully these tips help make your Capitol Hill Day as smooth as it can be.
Enjoy your visit to Washington, D.C.!
Written by: Ariana Campbell, CWF PA 2016