5 Best Photo Opportunities in Washington D.C.

Photo Opportunities Washington

Lee Van Grack

If you're a shutterbug looking for photo opportunities, Washington, D.C. will delight you. Whether you're traveling with family, friends or just on your own, if you find yourself in Washington D.C., make sure that you have a camera. There is no shortage of photo ops within the nation's capital.

Washington D.C. attracts tourists from all over the world, not just because of its family-friendly atmosphere and history, but also because of the city's unforgettable scenery. From the way the Washington Monument towers over the National Mall, to the way the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials illuminate the city at night, there are beautiful photo opportunities throughout the city. If you're in the capital of the United States, a camera is a must.

1. The Romantic Photo: Georgetown Waterfront

There is no backdrop more serene and breathtaking than the Georgetown waterfront. On a summer evening, it provides the utmost in romance. With the Potomac River shimmering in the background, the bright lights of Arlington, Va., on one side and the Kennedy Center and Watergate Hotel glowing on the other, you and your honey can be sure to end up with a romantic picture or two shot while spending an evening there.

I once spent a very romantic Valentine's Day on the waterfront, having dinner in front of the large glass windows at Sequoia, one of the many restaurants overlooking the water. I was drinking champagne, eating a remarkable meal and taking in the scenery of my home city. Of course, in the summer Sequoia and all the other restaurants open up waterfront patios as well.
The Georgetown waterfront is most accessible by cab. Parking is available but sparse and the closest Metro stops are several blocks away. From the train station, the waterfront is less than a $10 cab ride.

2. The Quirky Photo: The National Mall

What may get lost in the history and culture of the nation's capital is its character. However, if anyone needs a reminder of the quirky individuals who live and visit, they need not look further than the National Mall. Flanked by the Smithsonian Museums, the National Mall is a hub for locals and tourists alike. Here, visitors will find family picnics, street vendors, street musicians playing all kinds of music (including D.C.'s very own "go go" music), and people playing soccer, football, frisbee, volleyball, kickball, baseball and softball.

The greenery and foliage smack in the middle of an otherwise urban setting, people from all nationalities, and of course, the iconic Washington Monument make taking photos a necessity. The best time to take a picture is on a Saturday in spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom. The blossoms are stunningly beautiful. It's easily accessible by the Metro, with a stop right in the middle of the mall.

I remember hopping from museum to museum as a child, and stopping in between to listen to live music, grab a bite to eat on the grass or kick the soccer ball around. I still make it a point to spend a few weekend afternoons down there every year.

3. The Fun Family Photo: The National Zoo

Where else will a family photo stretch beyond the parents and kids to include a baboon, a tiger or a boa constrictor? Where do you find these great family photo opportunities? Washington D.C.'s National Zoo, of course. It is not only one of the best locations in the District for a family photo but also one of the best family-friendly places in the whole city.

The zoo, with over 400 different species of animals, provides 16 different exhibits as backdrops for family photos.

Each exhibit, from the African Savanna to the Reptile and Amphibian House, provides an array of unique photo opportunities. The National Zoo is open throughout the year from 10 a.m., but the best time to go for a family photo is during the spring or the summer when all the exhibits, including several interactive exhibits for children, are open.

I still have photos of my family and me in front of Tai Shan, the Chinese panda who spent the better part of a decade in D.C.
The zoo is accessible via the Metro at the Woodley Park - Zoo stop on the red line. No matter the size of the group you're visiting with, admission to the zoo is free.

4. The Scenic Photo: Arlington National Cemetery

No place combines the history, beauty and culture of our nation's capital like Arlington National Cemetery, located just over the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Arlington, Va. From the ever-honorable "changing of the guard" at the Tomb of the Unknowns to the vast stretches of veterans' gravestones, Arlington National Cemetery is a memorable stop on nearly every D.C. bus tour.

The cemetery, so full of history and stories of those who died for our country, is astonishingly green, and set up against the Potomac River, which makes for serene and beautiful photographs.

The cemetery is worth a visit any time of the year, but there is nothing that can enhance a picture like the cherry blossoms in full bloom in early spring. Arlington National Cemetery is accessible by driving. There is paid parking. The cemetery is also a stop for over a dozen D.C. tour companies.

The cemetery is sure to be an unforgettable trip. I will always be able to vividly recall watching the changing of the guard, which is done several times a day, with tears in my eyes, as I and hundreds of visitors looked on. Never have I been more proud of my country, and that sense of pride comes rushing back every time I look at my pictures from the cemetery visit.

5. The Classic Photo: The Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials

There is no shortage of classic photo opportunities in Washington D.C. The Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are photo backdrops that have withstood the test of time and created millions of memorable shots along the way.

Climb to the top of the Washington Monument to shoot photos overlooking the city, frame Honest Abe sitting in a chair or photograph the Jefferson Memorial surrounded by cherry blossoms; all of them are great backdrops for family photos, photos with friends or solo portraits.

These photo ops are available year round, but nothing enhances these amazing photo opportunities like the glow of the monuments at night. All three of them light up and stand out every evening. There are numerous tour companies that run night tours to all these monuments and stop for photograph sessions. If you are accessing the monuments by Metro, the Smithsonian stop is your best bet.

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