The Best Places to Visit in Washington, DC Searching for the best things to do in Washington?
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia is the capital of the United
States and it is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast. The District
is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland to the northwest, Prince George’s County
to the east and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia to the south and west.
Washington is a great place to learn about the history of America, from viewing precious
documents to seeing Congress in action. Dozens of museums abound in the central area. An
efficient subway system makes it easy to get around the city and see most of the top tourist
attractions in Washington D.C. The White House serves many purposes. It is
where the President works and lives with his family. It is also the symbol of the United
States to the rest of the world. It is where the President officially meets with leaders
of foreign nations and hosts them at state dinners. The site for the White House was
selected by George Washington, first president of this new nation, but President John Adams
was the first to live in it. It was burned by the British during the War of 1812, but
later reconstructed. Self-guided tours are available for visitors who plan ahead. They
must request a tour through their congressman’s office 21 days to six months in advance. The Washington Monument is probably one of
the best-known obelisks on earth. Built during the 19th century, it is a monument to the
military achievements of George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Standing more
than 550 feet (170 meters) high, it is the most prominent structure in Washington, D.C.
It’s viewable 24 hours a day, though it’s not possible to get to the top for stunning
views of the capital. The monument has been closed since it was damaged in an earthquake
in 2011. A reopening date has not been scheduled yet. The United States Capitol is where Congress
meets. Sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives are open to the public when
the bodies are in session. Visitors need free passes, which can be obtained from their congressmen’s
office. At the same time, they can also get passes to tour the Capitol building, as guided
tours do not include visiting legislators in action. The Capitol was one of the first
buildings constructed by the fledgling U.S. government following the Revolutionary War.
Construction began in 1793, with legislators meeting there for the first time in 1800.
Central to the Capitol building is the rotunda, which lies under the dome. This is where honored
citizens, such as presidents, lie in state. The U.S. government likes to separate church
and state, so it doesn’t have a formal national cathedral, but if it had one, it would have
to be the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of
Washington, which is considered the spiritual home of this nation. More commonly known as
Washington National Cathedral, this Neo-Gothic structure is the sixth largest cathedral in
the world. Funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford were held here.
The Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to the US’ third president, Thomas Jefferson, and
incorporates many of his thoughts on architecture. Its formal style resembles the Pantheon in
Rome. This design created a controversy because some felt it looked too much like the Lincoln
Memorial. The debate was settled by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone
in 1939. Located on the National Mall, it features a statue of Jefferson looking toward
the White House, and is intended to memorialize Jefferson’s views as a statesman and philosopher.
Because Japanese cherry trees had to be torn down for the memorial, it now hosts Washington’s
annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The Supreme Court of the United States is
the highest federal court of the United States. Established pursuant to Article Three
of the United States Constitution in 1789, it has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over
all federal courts and state court cases involving issues of federal law plus original
jurisdiction over a small range of cases. Although the Supreme Court does not offer
guided walking tours, visitors are encouraged to tour public portions of the building on
a self-guided basis and take advantage of a variety of educational programs, including Courtroom
Lectures, a Visitor Film, and court-related Exhibitions. In addition to the Courtroom, portions of
the first and ground floors are open to the public. Highlights include the John Marshall
statue, portraits and busts of former Justices, and two self-supporting marble staircases.
The Lincoln Memorial is a stunning tribute to the 16th president of the United States,
Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated as he attended a theatre performance. A mammoth
statue of the seated president is surrounded by a Greek Doric style temple. The memorial
was dedicated in 1922, with Lincoln’s last surviving son, Robert Todd, in attendance.
Located at the west end of the National Mall, the memorial is where Martin Luther King Jr.
gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. It also has been featured in several
movies ranging from 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Nixon to an episode of the
Simpsons. The Library of Congress is today the largest
library in the world. But it had more humble beginnings, being founded in 1800 to house
early documents of the United States that were transferred from Philadelphia to Washington,
D.C. For the first 100 years, it was mainly a reference library for Congress, but today
is home to 158 million items that include 36 million books in 460 languages and 69 million
manuscripts. It has the largest collection of rare books in North America. The library
is open to the public, but potential users are asked to check the library’s list of
holdings on online before they come to make research materials more easily findable when
they arrive. The main reading room is known as the Sacred Room, and is absolutely stunning.
Minutes from Washington D.C. on the Potomac River, Old Town Alexandria delights travelers
from all over the world. A nationally designated historic district founded in 1749 that George
Washington called home, Old Town Alexandria hums with more than 200 independent restaurants and boutiques alongside
intimate historic museums and new happenings at the waterfront. Old Town’s cobblestone streets
and red brick sidewalks attracts everyone from presidents to pet lovers. At the heart
of it all is bustling King Street, a walkable mile recognized as one of the “Great Streets”
of America. Visitors can also enjoy the free King Street Trolley or take advantage of our Key
to the City museum pass for discounted access to 8 historic sites.
The gem at the heart of the Museum of Natural History is a state-of-the-art cinema and an
80,000sq ft brushed steel and granite Discovery Center housing a cafeteria and exhibition
space. The rotunda, too, is an impressive structure, dominated by an eight-ton African
elephant. In 2003, the museum’s restored west wing opened its glistening, 25,000sq
ft Kenneth Behring Hall of Mammals, featuring interactive displays alongside 274 taxidermied
animals striking dramatic poses. The David Koch Hall of Human Origins tells the story
of evolution, examining scientific evidence and providing striking representations of
early humans, while the Sant Ocean Hall examines the world’s oceans through items from the
museum’s collections, as well as research in marine science. The museum is a real magnet
for children: its Dinosaur Hall has an assortment of fierce-looking dinosaur skeletons.