My husband, an active duty Marine, was stationed at Marine Barracks 8th and I in Washington DC from the moment I met him. I was a college student who met a handsome Marine through a friend of a friend who just went head over heels. 8th and I has played a big role in our relationship … not only has it been our first duty station but it has been our only duty station.
8th and I is unique as it is a mainly ceremonial Marine Barracks. There is no base, so the option for base housing becomes two of the local Air Force bases if you so choose, or living out in town in D.C. or the outlying suburbs.
D.C. is a very popular military city with one Marine Barracks, the Navy Yard, two Air Force bases and an Army base with many other bases less than an hour away. Chances are on the Metro train you will see someone in uniform going to work at the Pentagon, or if you venture into Southeast D.C. on a Friday night high and tight haircuts will be taking over the bar scene.
Living in D.C. is an incredible opportunity, and there are a few things you must add to your “to-do” if you get stationed here. Chances are you won’t be here long and you may not come back - so make these D.C. military to-do's happen!
Must-Do Number 1: Sightsee Like a Tourist
I’m serious. Yes, sometimes it is fun to think, “I live here! I can come down to this monument anytime I want. There is no rush.” But there is, because most people just never bother!
If you are stationed here you better take a weekend to explore the National Mall. Throw on some comfy sneakers, grab a water bottle and your camera and go -- maybe even take a Frisbee or a football along with a picnic lunch to just people watch. See the monuments, the Washington, the Lincoln and the Jefferson. Pay your respects at the Vietnam, Korean and World War II Memorials. Honestly, you could visit dozens of times and never tire of it.
And I haven’t even started on the Smithsonian … free museums! Air conditioned, informative and amazing museums are all along the Mall. Try and tour the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress and when they reopen it, the Washington Monument. You live there, you have no excuse not to.
Must-Do Number 2: Take Part in Holiday Festivities
I mean every holiday… not just “the” Holiday Season.
DC and a lot of the suburbs do fabulous Saint Patrick’s Day Parades. Every Halloween there is trick-or-treating on Embassy Row (I totally did it in college dressed as Peter Pan, I’m not going to lie) and the Drag Race in DuPont Circle (yes, as in Drag Queens racing in heels), as well as a parade beforehand.
The Fourth of July is crazy, but you should do one “Capitol Fourth” experience. Get there early, bring plenty of water and a blanket, and sit on the Capitol lawn and listen to the free concert. I have heard Huey Lewis and the News, Reba McEntire and Josh Groban that way! Plus, be shocked and awed by the fantastic firework show that follows.
Make sure you go see the Cherry Blossoms in the spring. It may be overrun with tourists but the trees are beautiful and not to be missed. They also have parades, street fairs and other activities throughout the Cherry Blossom season.
Go ice skating at the sculpture garden gallery where they freeze the fountain every year, and rent skates out pretty cheap. Of course the DC Christmas Tree lighting is spectacular if you can get tickets.
One of my favorite, but most solemn activities, I have done in D.C. is the Wreath Laying at Arlington Cemetery. Do it. You can also lay roses in the cemetery on Memorial Day.
Must-Do Number 3: Visit Georgetown Cupcake/DC Cupcake
Georgetown Cupcake is worth trying at least once! Their red velvet cupcake is out of this world. I would love to have it on a daily basis, preferably in an IV permanently attached to my arm in a never ending supply. Get there during off hours, like a random weekday afternoon or early on a weekend, and line isn't too bad. I never waited more than maybe twenty minutes. Caution, if you go on Valentine's Day the line is literally five hours long. All day.
Must-Do Number 4: Explore the Suburbs
Visit Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, in Alexandria. While you’re in the area, plan on having dinner on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. Afterwards, visit the dueling piano bar at the National Harbor across the river in Maryland; you can even take a water taxi there to have absolutely no parking worries.
Go to Baltimore, Md. for the day and explore the Inner Harbor. Visit the shops in Tysons Corner, Va. Go hiking at Great Falls (Virginia or Maryland side)! See a show at Wolf Trap in Va. Pick a random place to have dinner and try something new; you can find everything from Ethiopian to Fusion to Greek to Italian – U Street in D.C. is a great place to start, especially for brunch. D.C. is a city that loves brunch. Watch sites like Groupon and Living Social to find great deals and not break the bank.
Must Do Number 5: Sunset Parade
And of course, attending a summer Sunset Parade at 8th and I or the Iwo Jima Memorial is a must-do. This is your chance to see the very impressive Silent Drill Platoon flipping and throwing their rifles and hear the President's Own Marine Band. Head over to my blog My Marine and Me for a lot more information on that.
Allie is a 20-something wannabe actress, aspiring writer, sometimes baker, Cirque du Soleil performer (ok maybe that one is a stretch) and a proud Marine Corps wife. She blogs at My Marine and Me where she tries to keep her family and friends in the loop of her somewhat crazy life.