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Not only the abode of the Legislative Branch of the United States Federal Government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the pristine facade, elegant dome and porticoes of the Capitol Building are also a symbol of the principles held dear by the nation's founding fathers; an emblem of representative democracy. The Capitol's foundation stone was laid in 1793 by President George Washington and the first session of the United States Congress to be held here was in the year 1800, although it would be another 11 years before the neoclassical building would be complete. Interestingly, the United States Capitol Building was not designed by by Dr. William Thornton, a physician by trade living in the British West Indies. Guided tours of the Capitol offer a glimpse into the day to day working of the government and the intricacies of the majestic Capitol's rich interiors. A deep lesson in the nation's history and its electoral procedures, this monument continues to inspire awe and wonder.
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. Other than the mind-blowing collection on display, the interiors of this centuries old building is equally mesmerizing. Huge, vaulted ceilings with classic frescoes and designs, ivory pillars of Greek design and the irreplaceable heritage surrounding the place makes it one of the most iconic locations in the country.
Since 1950, Arena Stage has been a primary player in the cultural life of Washington and one of the strongest regional theaters in the country. Its highly respected resident company performs a variety of stage productions, from Moliere to the Marx Brothers, as well as significant contemporary works. Arena Stage has three distinct venues: the "in-the-round" Fichlander Stage; the Kreeger with a proscenium stage and the Old Vat Room with a cabaret-style atmosphere. The theater is located near the southwest waterfront and several fine seafood restaurants.
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (a popular porch-flower), this 446-acre (180-hectare) garden park has much else to offer. Fountains, pools and open space separate a series of focused gardens at the United States National Arboretum. The National Bonsai Collection, a gift from Japan, is a fascinating exhibit of tiny trees. Other notable sections are the aquatic garden (filled with lotuses of many varieties) and the National Herb Garden.
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.
Freed slaves first settled this area, once known as Uniontown, just after the Civil War. Today, this 1200-acre setting, including Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, is enjoyed by children and adults alike. The park offers a range of activities including tennis, basketball, roller-skating, an indoor pool and an ice skating rink. In addition, there is a recreation center, hiking trails and fishing and boating. Golf lovers will enjoy Langston Golf Course, an 18-hole course with a driving range.