Now that Wendy and I are about one week shy of our 11th anniversary of moving to the Washington, D.C. area, I think we can pretty solidly qualify as locals. We've gotten to know the lay of the land, what's fun and cool, and what most tourists really enjoy (we've determined this so we can take friends and family out when they visit). As a result, we can sometimes provide some decent tips for tourists visiting the city.

Since I work downtown, I tend to pick up a handful of interesting tips and pieces of advice for people coming to the area. Occasionally, I even have a tip or two that I really enjoy and take advantage of myself.

Marine One, the President's official helicopter and limousine of the sky, is his primary mode of transportation from The White House's south lawn to nearby destinations, including Andrews Air Force Base. The fleet of helicopters that make up the HMX-1 "Nighthawks" squadron, consist of several different styles of helicopter, but each have a signature white top (their nickname is actually due to this signature element of their design and are known generically as "White Tops"). You can learn more about the squadron on the Wikipedia page for it or on Marine One's official website.

Watching these helicopters majestically land on and take off from the south lawn of The White House is really a stunning thing (especially due to the precision necessary, only a 3' margin of error), but being fortunate enough to catch the event without an official invite and known schedule from the Presidential Administration is pretty difficult. The whole event only takes a couple of minutes, and if you aren't standing in exactly the right place, you'll probably miss it. 

As a tourist, the key is knowing what to look for to make sure you are in the right place at the right time. From my many times seeing the event, and my twice daily walk along Constitution Ave. between The White House and the Washington Monument, I've noticed a little tip that I can pass along to help you see this very cool event.

If you are walking or driving along Constitution Ave. NW, and you notice a Pentagon, Naval, or other Fire Department vehicle parked on the bottom of the Ellipse at 16th St., a squadron helicopter is either on the lawn or will be landing within about five or ten minutes, just enough time to walk to the ideal spot to watch. The whole thing is a wonderfully choreographed event with the utmost of safety, security, and fanfare. 

A few days ago, while walking to the bus from the office, I noticed just such a truck so I decided to stop and watch the arrival and departure. Even though it was really overcast, here's what I got to see.

If you're at all interested in this post, or are as fascinated as I am with things of this sort, you need to check out the special on Marine One that National Geographic did a few years ago.

Fortunately for the general public, this tidbit of info is public knowledge and something the Secret Service/Park Police will let you know if you happen to be walking by at the right time. So the next time you visit D.C., if you want to see something really special, keep your eyes peeled and you might get a chance to see this very cool event.

Comments 1


Laurie Kazimer
8/5/2011 at 6:09 PM
Have seen this twice when in DC. So cool!!
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