Once a year Washington, D.C. celebrates its international community by putting on an event known as Passport D.C., where embassies from around the world open their doors to the public for tours, music, wine (or in some cases rum!), food, fun, and entertainment. This was my first time visiting and it was so much fun! They even have passports that you can purchase and receive a commemorative passport stamp at each embassy you visit.
My personal favorite embassies were Trinidad and Tobaga, which had awesome island music, jerk chicken, and dancers. This was definitely a great spot to get started as it got our energy levels up and excited for the rest of the day. Another favorite was Australia, which did have a very long line, but I think it was worth it. They offered delicious samples of free food including lamb and pastries and free wine samples. The Philippines was awesome too, and they had great entertainment with dancers and an amazing photography exhibit that had me itching to go scuba diving again soon (no wonder I liked that one, huh?) And finally, I also really enjoyed Kazakhstan, which had beautiful interiors and very informative tour guides. They also had a photography display which showcased beautiful land and seascapes I would never have known even existed.
Some tips for the savvy traveler from my experience.... Bring water and wear comfortable sneakers. You will walk a lot!! No kidding, my friend and I walked over 5 miles (I logged in over 12,000 steps on my fitbit in 4 1/2 hours!) Some of the lines tend to be long as well, so wearing comfy shoes will help with that. Bring cash as most places only accept cash instead of credit cards. The parking garages filled up quickly, so if you decide to drive and park, go early to make sure you can get a spot. Also, stop by the tent set up at Dupont Circle where you can receive a free map and purchase your "passport." The map will come in handy and will let you know which embassies are participating and which ones have special events going on. There are a ton of embassies that participate, but with only 6 hours for the entire event (it runs from 10am-4pm), there's no way you can visit them all, so if there's a particular embassy you want to visit you can refer to the map and plan your day that way. Of course, you can just wing it and head either way up Massachusetts Avenue and run into embassy after embassy with tons of food and entertainment, which is what I did. Oh, and how could I forget to mention...don't forget your camera!! I always go back and forth about bringing my camera with me to events like this because it's heavy and I ask myself if I really want to lug it around with me all day, and then if I do, how many lenses should I bring, and should I bring a flash, and yadda yadda yadda. You can see how I can get carried away and sometimes just think the heck with it, I'll leave my camera at home. After some thought, I decided to bring my camera and one lens, no flash. After all, I do want to be a travel photographer so I should get used to carrying it with me at all times (especially at amazing cultural events like this one!) I decided I would give myself a purpose though, and my mini self-assignment was to photograph a minimum of two people shots, two detail shots, and two overall/wide shots. By giving myself an assignment I could take it more seriously and feel like I had a purpose. I had fun with it and by the end I realized I had a lot more people shots than anything else, but that's ok because I think people are the most interesting :)
Overall it was a great experience and I highly recommend checking it out in 2015!