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Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of many who gave their lives in service to the country. Two US presidents - John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft - are buried here. The crew of the Challenger space shuttle, civil rights leader Medgar Evers and film star Audie Murphy are among the many honored here. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, containing remains of unidentified soldiers from World Wars I, II, and the Korean War, is guarded 24 hours a day. The changing of the guard ceremony is a moving tribute to them. Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee until the outbreak of the Civil War, is located on the cemetery grounds. Visitors may walk through the cemetery or board a tour tram.
Part of the original design for the federal city, this massive open space park stretches from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. It was originally intended to be a grand avenue, and over time the Mall as we know it today cropped up. It has been the location of many historic, world-changing events throughout history including the 1963 March on Washington, the Million Man March and several presidential inaugurations. Today, the National Mall can serve as a place to remember American heroes, to celebrate freedom and to be a forum to exercise freedom in the form of protests and rallies. It is also where you will find the museums of the Smithsonian, the Vietnam Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the famous Washington Monument. Certainly any visit to Washington DC should start at the National Mall.
When it was unveiled in 1982, nothing but controversy met the design of Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War or remain missing in action. Maya Ying Lin may have been no more than a 21-year-old graduate student when she won the design contest for this memorial, but her work is now etched in the memories of countless visitors who have walked along this black granite wall filled with names.
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.
From beneath the 90-foot (30-meter) portico, visitors can gaze across an expanse of sloping lawn to the Potomac River as it flows past Mount Vernon. This 17th-century plantation house was once home to the first President of the United States, George Washington. The property was originally owned by Washington's father, Augustine, and George replaced a smaller, more modest home with Mount Vernon when he came into the property, beginning in 1758. Today, costumed guides narrate the history of the elegant mansion and of the surrounding buildings, which have been preserved to reflect the days when the first president resided here. Visitors are invited to walk around the 500-acre (200-hectare) estate, tour the buildings and participate in the "Hands-on History" exhibits that recreate farming techniques and colonial games.
Originally intended as a small reference library, the Library of Congress is now home to the second largest collection of books and reading materials in the world, second only to the British Library. The collections comprises close to a 100 million items, including rare documents such as a Gutenberg Bible, early drafts of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The splendor of the magnificent Main Reading Room is just one of the attractions worth a visit at the Library of Congress. Browse through the many excellent exhibits on display in the library's three buildings, participate in a guided tour, or attend any of the concerts, lectures and other events hosted here. The library's collection is open to all who hold a valid Reader Identification Card, however materials cannot be taken outside the library premises.
The legislative branches of the U.S. government, the Senate and the House of Representatives all meet in the Capitol Building. The building's cornerstone was laid in 1793 by President George Washington alongside other masons. The first session of government in the building was held in 1800, although the building wasn't completely finished being built until 1811. Today, visitors can view the Senate and the House from the galleries when Congress is in session. Public tours form on the east side of the Capitol and include visits to the Rotunda and other chambers.
The symbol of the city of Washington DC, this 555-foot marble obelisk on the National Mall honors the nation's first president. The cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid in 1848, but construction was not completed until 1884. About one-third of the way up the obelisk is a visible change in the marble, evidence of the onset of the Civil War. Construction was halted during the war, and when builders returned to the same quarry to complete the project afterward, enough time had passed to cause a significant change in the color.