The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.
Commonly known as "America's attic," the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organization. Organize your tours of the Smithsonian buildings in Washington by starting at the Institute's easy-to-locate red sandstone Gothic castle. Ongoing video presentations, touch screens, maps and helpful staff members will help you create a plan to navigate the many varied museums. The building is also commonly referred to as the "Castle." The castle is also the final resting place of the Smithsonian's founder, James Smithson, as his tomb is located in the crypt in the north entrance.
Located at the west end of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is a principal landmark of the city. It offers magnificent views of the city from several vantage points. Daniel Chester French's 19-foot (5.7-meter) statue of Lincoln seated and deep in thought, along with the carved text of the Gettysburg Address, provides a glimpse into a weighty period of American history. The 36 Doric columns represent the number of states in the union at the time of Lincoln's death. Go at night for much lighter crowds.
Early morning is the time to catch the blooming water-bound plants of this park. Run by the National Park Service, the 12-acre marshland park is often overlooked by visitors who head for better-known Washington sites. As a result, the park is an uncrowded getaway. Nature-lovers and children especially will enjoy more than 100,000 flowering plants and fauna sightings.
This 52-acre park is located north of the Reflecting Pool amid the capital's many famous monuments and memorials. A beautiful place for a stroll, the paths wind through the trees taking you to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a lake and a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Steeped in history, this is a must-see on any DC tour.
The gorgeous U.S. Botanic Garden conservatory presents botanical variety, from the desert to the tropics, along a series of calm and gently meandering paths. A particular waterfall and garden display the flora of the dinosaur age. Seasonal displays include Christmas greens and poinsettias in December and January, chrysanthemums in autumn and blooming flowers at Easter. A part of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), the National Garden, was opened in October 2006 and includes the carefully-designed Butterfly Garden.