Friday, May 27, 2011

San Francisco and Napa Valley - May 2011


From May 14-21, 2011 we were lucky enough to visit one of our favorite corners of the USA, San Francisco and Napa Valley.


We flew out from CWA to San Francisco on Saturday and flights were fine. We had a chance to visit with some colleagues on the ride in from the airport and got to our hotel early and walked around Union Square for a while, having a pretty non-descript lunch at Urban Tavern on the other side of Union Square.

The Westin Market Street is a fine hotel, and Ducca bar is a nice little spot there. We've stayed there a few times now. The workout room is nice and the placement on 6th floor means no great view, but we had a corner room with some additional space. I would like to stay somewhere else, but there's nothing wrong with the Westin Market Street.

After a little rest and walk around the area, we got ready to go out for dinner and on our way out had a drink downstairs in Ducca. I had a Perroni and Nicole had a way too much alcohol pommegranite martini. The couple next to us were heading to a gay wedding and just stopping in for a drink - the bartender said to her "Oh you are so lucky - I really want to go to one of those!" This was a very San Francisco moment.

After a nice walk up to Chinatown from our hotel, we stopped for dinner at Oriental Pearl. Great choice. Warm, friendly, dumpy looking from the outside, but then you really enjoy the food. We had vegetable pot stickers, and I enjoyed Yee Mein Noodles with Special Garlic Soy Sauce, and Nicole had Kung Pow Chicken. Great spot, great food. Then a nice walk back to the hotel in the cloudy, cool (but not rainy) conditions. Stopped in a few inviting shops to search for nuggets of cheesy Chintatown goodness and can't recall if we bought anything. A good time for sure.

It was a long day, with a 445 am CST wake up call and in bed at 10 pm PST, but it was good to be in SF again!


Sunday was my first day in the INTA meetings for this trip and involved a few meetings, though began with a good workout in the hotel's room there. We've stayed at this same hotel 3 times now and this is the first time we even thought about taking advantage of the smallish but nice enough workout room. Changes in lifestyle for the better indeed.

In a funny note from one of my meetings for work, I met with one of my colleagues from Europe who was staying at The Cleft Hotel (very modern, funky hotel lobby a couple blocks west of Union Square) and while he had been in town only 24 hours or so, he said they'd already eaten twice at David's Delicatessen immediately across the street. This is a non-descript Jewish deli which looks like a run of the mill diner, but my European colleague mentioned it was an experience they don't get in his home country. "They re-fill your coffee" he said with a degree of understated disbelief.

After the morning meeting I rode the famous San Francisco trolley up Powell Street all the way past Union Square and on to California Street. Got a couple videos of the trolley at the base of Powell Street being turned around - they don't turn so the tracks underneath them are turned on a circle that rotates while being pushed by hand by city workers. Interesting little nugget. Some good pictures too from the top of California Street looking down the sequence of cascading hills all the way to the Financial District and ultimately the bay with the Bay Bridge in the distance.

Stopped into an Irish bar, Johnny Foley, for lunch (I think that's the 2nd time I've been in that same bar in SF). It seems to be a thing with me that if I'm at a seminar in a big city that I try to stop in for lunch at an Irish pub somewhere (Boston, NYC, now SF twice).

Later we met Steve and Jayne (Nicole's friend from college who lives in SF) for dinner at the very hip Flour + Water restaurant in the Mission District. They picked us up and we had to get there right when it opened just to get a table as it was very hard to get a reservation from the few tables they actually do take reservations for.

Later that night, we had a chance to visit the Four Seasons hotel bar, which was very nice and just next door to our hotel. I had a very nice glass of wine, the name of which escapes me and Nicole had a nice pommegranite martini which she enjoyed. Four Seasons hotels are always nice and just not worth the price to stay there - so we end up having a drink there and get all the San Francisco chic we can handle for an evening.


On Monday, I was in a conference and meetings for most of the day, and I did get a chance to visit Johnny Foley's near Chinatown, as my annual pilgrimage to an Irish pub at a conference for lunch. Guiness at lunch is just plain yummy, otherwise it is forgettable. Nicole had fun with her friend Jayne who took the day off to join her on a walking tour of the 1906 earthquake sites, as well as doing getting a little retail therapy in.

That evening I was able to join Nicole for dinner at Fino's. This place is locaetd in the St. Andrew's Hotel and has a great atmosphere - we should know, because this is the 3rd time we've been there. Each time we go to San Francisco we end up there and we are always impressed. Food there is great and the service has been outstanding on each our visits too.

After that I attended the MERITAS IP section hosted party at the Slide nightclub, which actually had a basement bar accessible by an actual slide. The place was a former firehouse or laundramat, I forget which. In any case, I had a good time talking HBO programming with attorneys from Canada, the US and England, and we all agreed The Sopranos was outstanding (though most hated the ending while I kind of liked it). Then, it was on to the Merchant & Gould hosted event at Infusion night club, just a few blocks away. The place was absolutely packed and I had a chance to meet several of the attorneys I work with at Merchant & Gould, as well as our European counsel who I had a chance to catch up with on my way out. Lots of people, packed dance floor, and tons of free drinks. Left some good tips as I recall ($20 for one drink I think to one particularly friendly/attractive member of the bar staff). I'm pretty sure she liked me...

Late night, home to the hotel sometime after 12:30, and the end of my INTA portion of the week. Now, on to the vacation!


We woke up on Tuesday morning and we couldn't pick up our rental car at the airport until afternoon, so we took a nice walk down to Ferry Plaza, checking out the few stands that were braving the cool, rainy weather to sell some stuff outside. Mostly, we wandered around the food shops inside that place, which are pretty cool. Lunch was a quick sandwhich from Acme Bread Company, some yummy combinations with good cheese and fresh arugula. A little sorbet and light stuff and we were on our way back to the hotel to get the bags, and on to the airport to pick up the car.

Eventually drove up to our place in Yountville. We stayed at Napa Valley Lodge. Nice room, view out to the vineyards, a nice woodburining fireplace that we used each night as we dozed off reading in bed. Good choice, definitely worth checking out as it is a little more affordable than the other options in Yountville. Speaking of Yountville, the street looked the same as it did when we stayed down the road on our honeymoon 9 years earlier. Very quiet, filled with great restaurants and little parks and gardens, all within walking distance. The place just screams wine country.

We did check out the St. Helena Olive Oil Company and spent far too much money on products (sauces, olive oil, etc.) that we had shipped back and realized only then that they weren't as great as they seemed when we were just excited to be in Napa Valley again. Stopped by the Oakville Grocery store and picked up a little wine for the room, all in search of the right balance of excessive drinking and great food that makes me feel like we're in a Napa Valley remake of Sideways.

As the rain poured steadily and heavily in the early evening we headed down to Botegga. This place was not there when we visited last time, but it was a great addition to the neighborhood. Very wam, inviting indoor/outdoor areas make the atmostphere great, and as we would find out the food was great too. It was absolutely packed, so we sat at the bar that night and that was fine. Nicole had the special, which was a rigatonni with rabbit and a bosco salad, whilst I enjoyed the minestrone soup (perfect considering the dreary weather outside) and a potato dough ravioli. We enjoyed a 2007 Cakebread Syrah with the meal, which was very good. We went back to the hotel as the rain continued to pour, putting a fire on in the fireplace and curling up with good books in a cozy bed.

Nice to be back in Napa Valley.


A day of wine tasting, finally. We started at Beaulieau Vineyards (BV) and went to Cakebread Vineyards in the morning. Loved Cakebread, nice tasting room and enjoyed some good wine with a couple visiting from Texas. One of the great joys about Napa Valley is everybody there, it seems, is there for the same reason - some good wine, great food, and everybody seems to be so aware that they're living the dream there. Makes tastings with perfect strangers a lot of fun.

Lunch at Pacific Blues in Yountville - just the way we left it. Simple better than bar food and no fuss kind of place on a street full of outstanding and higher end restaurants. Lunch on the deck was great as the weather finally was turning into what we were hoping for, comfortable and sunny.

Afternoon visit to Duckhorn Vineyards. Some good pictures of several lovely glasses on the wrap around porch. Great little stop there.

We drove around much of the afternoon as well. Lots of little areas to explore, including some out of the way rural areas just off the main highway in the valley.

Dinner at Rutheford Grill, which was probably the best dinner we had all week. That was a great place. I had some amazing spinach enchiladas and a little Trinchero Clouds Nest Vineyard cab went well with it and Nicole's steak was good too. Back to the room and another roaring fire in our fireplace at the end of the day. Nice way to wrap up another day in wine country.


Great visit to our absolute favorite winery - Caymus. Had one of their Cabernets (forget the vintage - remember the price -$144!) and we fell in love. Tasting with a group of doctors and their wives who really knew their wine in a great little room off the main entry to the winery. Ended up buying some of their zinfandel and having it shipped back along with some great cabernet too. Loved Caymus.

Great lunch at Tra Vigne - pizza for lunch in a great little courtyard outside the restaurant.

Afternoon drive up Howell Mountain area, some amazing little houses out in the sticks. Hills, basically one way roads and gorgeous little hidden lake, Hennessy Lake.

Bottegga for dinner again, with a little stop for appetizers at Mustard's Grill. Mustard's would be good, but we kind of opted out of it instead of giving it a fair shot at dinner, so that might be a good place but I'm not really sure. ZD cabernet for dinner and some time outstide Bottegga.


Most interesting day, Robert Louis Stevenson's State Park. Hiking around in some beautiful areas and great vistas. Stumbled on a spot where Robert Louis Stevenson himself once had a cabin while writing Silverado (not a book I'd ever heard of). We were by ourselves and had a nice picnic with a little half bottle of something yummy (2009 Frog's Leap zinfandel), a couple simple sandwhiches from Dean and Delucca and it became one of the best memories of that trip. Funny how you stumble into an experience like that on a day after you check out of your hotel and you're already thinking about flying back on Saturday. Of all the great food, great wine, amazing views, sunshine, San Francisco craziness, etc., the feeling of that little picnic with Nicole and I will be the thing I remember and cherish the most from that trip. That's the magic of travel.

Drive back down from Napa to San Francisco was traffic ridden and somewhat stressful as the rental car seemed to really exacerbate my blind spot - wide rear window placements made it hard to see. Lots and lots of cars. Did I mention that traffic? Stayed at a blah hotel in some random corner of SF, but near to the airport. Mentally prepped for a return home to see AJ and enjoy being back in Wisconsin.


All in all, a great trip. A little work, a little wine, a little food (ok lots of food), and some good times. Now, we're counting down the days to our next big trips....until then...

Ferry building on a grey Tuesday morning.

Grey views of Bay Bridge from behind the Ferry Building.

More Ferry Building. Gosh, some guy likes random views of the Ferry Building.

Beautiful entrance to Duckhorn Vineyards. Thank you for serving yummy wines on a gorgeous day.

More good times at Duckhorn. Lots of empty glasses (just samples, no full glasses people).

Beautiful vineyard view taken just outside the entrance to Caymus Vineyards.

Tasting room at Caymus. Good wine, nice little room.

Um, sign at Caymus. Yep, we did go there.

Didn't do the winery tour here, but love the grounds surrounding this gorgeous old house.

Our picnic at the Robert Louis Stevenson park - our little spot just a mile up the trail from the main park road, just us, and the lingering history of RLS himself as he had a small shack in this clearing while he researched his book Silverado.

The marker in the clearing telling us about RLS himself and his time there.

Views from trail at RLS park.

More Napa Valley views. Sigh.

Gotta have the trolley when you're in SF!

View from the street just outside Oriental Pearl, with the Transamerica Building in the background. Chinatown is fun, especially for a welcome to SF dinner on our first night in town.

Some evening glow in Chinatown.

More in Chinatown on a Saturday evening.

Chinatown entrance gate - you can see Nicole just on the right-hand side of the photo next to the don't walk signal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rick Steves

OK, I got the complete set of Rick Steves DVDs for Christmas/birthday. Great gift. Lots of European travel with my favorite somewhat dorky and yet oh-so-insightful travel guide, the incomparable RS himself.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's and Rose Bowl 2011 - LA Baby

So, with my beloved Wisconsin Badgers headed to the Rose Bowl, we decided (or perhaps I decided and Nicole conceded) that we would head out to Cali and watch our guys play a little ball in the Grandaddy of Them All and take in the sights in crazy So-Cal. Here's my posting on this great trip.
We left from Minneapolis on Thursday December 30, 2010. We drove over a bit early to MSP as it was raining (!) on the way over and we were worried about freezing rain on the roads. So, we got to Minny a bit early (ok, a lot early). To counter this, Nicole went into some paper store and had me sitting in the parking lot listening to depressing Minnesota sports radio for a frickin' hour. Seriously. An hour. Two texts and tears of boredom finally summoned her from the store and we were on our way to MSP. Flights good on US Airways, through Phoenix and then into the worst airport I've ever seen - Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA. Crazy small, rundown, crappy carpeting, just a depressing place to fly into.

Good thing is Hotel Amaranno is just a few miles from that awful hole of an airport, so the drive in on Thursday night was easy. The Hotel Amaranno is located in a residential setting and is a great little boutique hotel. Nice lobby, nice little hotel bar, and a really cool rooftop patio with views of the surrounding mountain (and strip mall), as well as a great work out room which we put to good use on Friday morning.

Since we got late on Thursday, just chilled in the hotel bar for dinner and up to the room with an early start on Friday. Of course, we got up way early on Friday (its 2 hours later to us and PCT is crazy). After a little workout and something quick to eat in the room, we drove up to the Hollywood sign on a path that Nicole got the buzz on from a high school classmate. The drive up is on Italian-style winding hillside roads just wide enough for 1.5 cars. These hills had some amazing houses perched along cliffsides and with amazing views of the little valleys and nooks on the hillsides. Some houses are huge, some are really small (less than 800 sq. ft I bet based upon what you see from the road. Of course we came around one curve to find a monster garbage truck bearing down on us - reverse down the hill and off to the side was an interesting moment.

Thses are some cool pictures. The one with the fence is the guy's house we parked in front of. When you get up to the hill, you see that there's no parking, just a very small area to park. We poked around, took a few pictures and then we were off to Santa Monica Pier.

Folks, Santa Monica Pier sucks. It is trashy, gimicky, and boring. Nice beach, but it was far too cool for swimming. Temps around 60 with nice sunshine for Friday and Saturday.

Friday night we went out for dinner with Keith and Karen and Chris and Kristi at Ago in West Hollywood. Ago is owned by Robert DeNiro, nice looking Italian spot. Food was good, not great. Fun atmosphere. Really pricy, not worth it, and the waiter added a 33% tip for himself! Yikes. Ended with $40 cab ride one way back to Burbank from WeHo and sleepy.

Saturday morning was Rose Bowl day. We spent the whole day at the Rose Bowl grounds and at the UW's Badger Blast pre-game party, which was really cool. We did not go to the Rose Bowl parade, which I'm ok with. People who went said it was ok, and I went when I was there in 1993 and it just isn't my bag. Stadium there is a dump. Great settings with the amazing houses on beautiful hilltops and sunny skies, but the actual stadium is just a crumbling piece of junk. But, the Rose Bowl game was great, exciting and the good guys did not win. TCU beat Wisconsin in a good game, 21-19. Pretty non-descript dinner close to the hotel just after the game - trying to shake off the blues of losing the game and getting crazy lost in awfully confusing streets of post-game Pasedena. It was about a 9.5 out of 10 day on game day - only could've been better if the good guys won. BUCKY DID US PROUD NONETHELESS. GREAT SEASON BOYS.

On Sunday, we spent a very rainy, cold day in LA by going to the Getty Museum. This. Place. Is. Awesome. Very cool set up with marble piazza feel to the open space connecting the various buildings on a gorgeous hilltop with a great view of the expanse of LA land. Some features included various rooms fitted with original French furniture, fireplaces, mantles, etc. from the 18th century (some with stories like "This was on the list of assets of Louis XIV at his death..."), some really amazing manuscripts with decorative illustrations and amazing penmanship (a lost art says the blogger), and many other Impressionist paintings, etc. For Sunday lunch we had a nice meal in Santa Monica at an Italian restaurant called Bravo Cucina...was actually a better overall spot than Ago on NYE. Ate so much at lunch we didn't end up eating anything for dinner. Sat in hotel room from 2 pm on - just exhausted and ready to go home after a rainy day in LA.
Overall, great trip, lots of fun. More from LA frankly than I was expecting. Not a city that compares in my mind with San Francisco, our favorite spot in Cali.
On to the next travel experience...coming in the not too distant future.

Chicago October 2010 Photos

Some pictures from our trip back in October 2010. Didn't take a ton of pictures, but had a very good time in the Windy City.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Great Weekend in Chicago

Enjoyed a great get away in Chicago over the weekend of October 22-24, 2010. This is my report on the trip recorded here for posterity's sake and so that future generations may learn from our wonderful experience in a great city (ok, so maybe that's overstating the importance of this blog which nobody reads - not even my wife).

We traveled down to Chicago by car on Friday night. OK, so, I realize I do not live in a high traffic part of the country, but the Friday evening bumper to bumper love fest on I-90 coming in to Chicago was just silly. It was 90 minutes of pure joy from O'Hare to downtown. How, people, how can we live as a society with this type of traffic?? OK, back on point. Got to the hotel (more on that in a moment) and dined at wonderful Pizano's Pizza on State and Chestnut. Great spot, jumping and busy when we got there at about 8:30 pm. Baseball games on TV and watching the Yankees get bounced from the playoffs and the whole bar erupt in joy watching them lose. No Rangers fans, just Yankee haters it seemed. The wife and I enjoyed a pizza with garlic/mushrooms (1/2)/ spinach (1/2). Great food, a couple of beers, and kind of fun to be somewhere that was still cozy, crowded and jumping late on a Friday evening.

Back to the hotel. The Talbott Hotel is a great option. Rates were $225/night and $32 for parking, which given the quality of the rooms and service, and its location (just a block from the John Hancock building and close to Michigan Ave.) was great. The service was great, the room was huge (300 plus sq. feet) for Chicago, and again the location was really solid.

On Saturday, we took the Chicago Architectural Foundation river boat tour. It rained mercilessly during our boat ride, and we froze our butts off. However, after purchasing a $2 garbage bag/poncho, we stayed dry as best we could only went below deck to stave off hypothermia for a brief time. The tour was outstanding, lots of great information and views of all the big Chicago landmarks with good details on the history of the city too. Highly recommended.

Went then for lunch at Miller's Pub. Solid, not oustanding. Menu was pretty basic, but place was crowded like they were giving away free stuff (which they were not).

After lunch on Saturday, we spent most of the afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute. If you are looking for a museum in Chicago, this is it. No disrespect to the other options (Field Museum, etc.) but the Chicago Art Institute is incredible. Just get lost in this huge, varied and fascinating place. The art runs over all periods, styles, and forms, and it is ultimately a great way to spend the afternoon.

After some shopping on Michigan Avenue on the way back to the hotel, we went to visit some friends in their neigborhood in the Lakeview area of Chicago. We went to Fiorentino's on Ashland and it was great. Stuffed gnocchi with pesto. Yummy. Lots of great stuff on the menu.

Packed up and came home Sunday morning. We definitely had a great time, and were happy to get home. Chicago 2010 - great trip, good food, great hotel.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Short Bucket List of Sorts

In thinking of places and events that I would love to go to but likely will not get to (at least not in the forseeable future), a few big ones come to mind. If anyone is actually reading this blog (unlikely, other than my lovely wife), I'd love to hear your own bucket list of places you'd like to get to but aren't in your immediate travel plans, so feel free to comment on mine or give me your own.

1. Oktoberfest - Munich. I'm a fan of THE Oktoberfest in Munich on Facebook, I have German heritage in my family, and enjoy good German beer. While Munich is definitely in my future (I will get there), I just don't know it'll be during Oktoberfest. A liter of Spaten, some polka music, and some serious German beer hall singing. That would be nice. Maybe hosting a party at home in the true Oktoberfest style is more likely.

2. Moscow. The cold, snowy, post-communist feel of a city where Stalin, Lenin, and the Czars once ruled. Red Square on New Year's Eve...that's the real dream.

3. Great Wall of China. Generally, for whatever reason, I can't really say I'm excited to visit many parts of Asia. China, does not really appeal to me. But, to imagine a cool, sunny day, standing along a lonely stretch of the Great Wall in quiet reflection upon the slaves who died in the construction of the massive structure or upon a soldier who centuries ago may have held the same lonely post awaiting a raid from far-off Mongol warriors with a wary eye ever focused on the horizon. That would be something.

Lots of other places I want to get to, but that I think are more likely that I'll actually get there. Upcoming post: places I've been that I can cross of my bucket list.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 10 Tips (Unsolicited) for Visiting DC

One of my favorite places to visit is Washington D.C. After living and working there for a summer while in school, and having visited several times, I can say I actually know a little more about this city than the average tourist. I have a few tips I have thought would share with the millions of people who faithfully read this blog on a regular (perhaps even daily) basis. My thoughts include the following:

1. Do Not Rent A Car. Like many large cities, driving in and around the District is insane, especially if you are not sure of where you are going and/or are used to the traffic. The Beltway can be maddening, and the streets in the District itself are twisted, crowded, and confusing for the visitor. Plus, the Metro is the outstanding, clean and safe. Use the Metro to get to where you're going. The only reason to rent a car is if you plan to visit sites outside of town, such as Mount Vernon (George Washington's homestead), Charlottesville (Univ. of Virginia college town), or Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's homestead), all of which are wonderful by the way.

2. Fly into Ronald Reagan. Unless you're staying somewhere else outside of town to the North, for example, avoid Dulles and fly into Ronald Reagan National Airport. It is somewhat hectic but runs better than the other options. The Metro stop is right outside of baggage claim, so skip the cab and just hop on the Metro to get to your hotel (unless you've got a ton of luggage).

3. Understand The Scope of the Smithsonian. Don't think you're going to "see the Smithsonian" while you're there. Understand that the Smithsonian is actually comprised of 19 separate museums and 9 research centers in many separate buildings, most of which are in DC but some of which are outside of town. Focus on the big ones, such as Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, etc. (each of these are located close to one another around the National Mall), and try to tackle them.

4. Don't Forget the National Zoo. Even if you do not have kids with you, consider a trip to the National Zoo. Actually part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo is accessible and fun, though it does not rival some of the well-known zoos (e.g. San Diego). Accessible with a brief walk from the Metro, take a stroll in the area and visit the 2,000 or so inhabitants of the Zoo.

5. Grasp the Distance Between Monuments. On a map of the National Mall, the Capitol Building looks like it is a stone's throw from the Washington Monument, which in turn looks awfully close to the Lincoln Memorial. True, you can stand just about anywhere in the National Mall and see all three of these attractions. However, in truth, there's quite a walk from one end of the National Mall to the other. Actually, it is about 2 miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It will not look like it when you are there - trust me, the size of these structures makes them seem closer than they really are. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly.

6. Consider Staying Oustide the District. When I worked in Washington D.C., I lived in an apartment in Alexandria, VA, about 8 miles from the District and a short train ride away. Old Town Alexandria is charming, much slower paced, but offers easy access to both Ronald Reagan National Airport and the District and its main attractions such as the National Mall. On our last trip, my wife and I used Alexandria as our home base. While there are many safe, enjoyable places to stay in the District, consider the easy, affordable (generally) charm offered by Old Town Alexandria as a base of operations (especially if you're going to have a car rental - again, parking and driving in the District is not worth it).

7. Take Care In The District After Dark. Many large US cities should have the same warning attached to them. However, if you are in the District after dark, you will want to know where you should or should not be as a tourist. Stick to well known areas and those that are more upscale and tourist friendly (e.g., DuPont Circle; Georgetown; certain areas in Foggy Bottom) and you will be fine. Wandering around looking for a Metro stop after dark without a good idea of where you're going, however, is not a good idea.

8. Know The Weather. Weather in Washington D.C. can vary widely depending upon the season, or even the time of day. Summers are generally very humid and warm. If you're from Texas or Florida, it feels relatively comfortable - to the rest of us it feels oppressive. Winters can be cold and may include severe winter storms with snow. So, for example, if you are visiting in June, understand that a 2 mile walk from the Capitol to the other side of the National Mall may be a brutally hot experience.

9. Beware the Fourth of July - But Definitely Go! OK, a word of caution first. The Fourth of July on the National Mall is insane. Simply insane. There's 750,000 or so people crammed onto the mall from early in the morning until well afer the fireworks are over, plus trying to get out of the District when the fireworks are over and back out to the 'burbs in Maryland or Virginia is just about impossible. Count on a crowded, long wait at a Metro stop afterwards. However, with all that being said, if you have the chance to go, you should do it. Definitely, do it. Seeing the fireworks light up the sky over the National Mall as they wash alternating green, red, and blue light over the famed monuments and the endless sea of people is unforgettable. The experience far outweighs the burdens that come along with the event.

10. Enjoy What You Can See, Don't Worry About the Rest. It is a big, amazing, overwhelming place. Living there for several months I still had so many things I didn't find the time to enjoy. Don't let the things you don't see detract from the experience of what you are seeing. Pick your battles, get to the things you want to see the most and enjoy them without concern for what you're missing. True of any trip, I think, but seems perfectly appropriate when discussing Washington D.C.

I think these are a handful of thoughts that can help any first time or return visitor to capitol of the United States enjoy their trip.