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The symbol of the city of Washington DC, this 555-foot (169-meter) marble obelisk on the National Mall honors the nation's first president, George Washington. 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 the builders returned to the same quarry to complete the project afterward, enough time had passed to cause a significant change in the color. An emblem of the United States and an icon of the nation, the Washington Monument is a moving sight, its elegant form mirrored in the Reflecting Pool of the Lincoln Monument nearby.
Part of the original design for the federal city, this massive park stretches from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. It has played host to many momentous, world-changing events throughout history including the 1963 March on Washington, the Million Man March and several presidential inaugurations. Today, the National Mall serves as a place for reflection, a memorial to American heroes, a symbol of freedom and a forum for the exercise of democracy. The Smithsonian museums, the Vietnam Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the iconic Washington Monument are a few of the most well-known of the National Mall's many iconic sites. Certainly, any visit to Washington DC should start with a tour of the United States National Mall, aptly named "America's front yard."
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.
Visitors should come prepared for an experience they're will not forget when visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the start of the tour, each visitor is given an identity card of a Holocaust victim that matches the visitor's own age and gender. Ordinary reality is skewed through off-center stairways, weird angles and the shadows of other visitors on the glass walkways overhead. An elaborate audio-visual display includes interviews, films and photographs. The Hall of Remembrance provides a calm, empty space at the end of the tour where one can reflect on the experience. The museum discourages children under 11 from attending. Admission to the museum is free. However, from March through August a free pass is required to enter the Permanent Exhibition. Passes are not required to gain entrance to the museum building, or to go to any of the smaller exhibitions, memorials, or special programming.
Tucked beside the United States Capitol in Washington is the highest authority in the US Judiciary, the Supreme Court of United States. This grandiose Corinthian structure was completed in 1935, and was laid out keeping in mind the Judicial and Court structures of the United States. The white marble facade of the building immediately inspires respect and the magnificent yet sober interiors speaks volumes about the elegance and gravitas of the country's highest judiciary.
Georgetown Waterfront was an industrial area bustling with lumber and cement factories. However, due to the efforts and suggestions of National Capital Planning Commission, Georgetown Waterfront Park has now been developed. The grassy place offers panoramic views of the Kennedy Center and the Key Bridge against the back-drop of the enormous skyline. Also worth experiencing are the park's various mini attractions like the River Steps, Labyrinth and Fountain. Visitors to the park can spend their time biking or walking around the park or simply taking in the spectacular views.
Located at the west end of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is one of the principal landmarks of Washington DC, its stately form overlooking the Reflecting Pool, a gleaming stretch of water that lays sprawled before its base. Daniel Chester French's 19-foot (5.7-meter) statue of Lincoln, seated and deep in thought, watches over the nation he helped create, alongside the carved text of the Gettysburg Address, providing a glimpse into a weighty period of American history. The memorial itself draws inspiration from the Greek architectural style, its 36 Doric columns representative of the number of states in the union at the time of Lincoln's death. Surrounded by greenery, on the banks of the Potomac River, the Lincoln Memorial makes for a soul-stirring, picturesque sight; a fitting ode to one of the nation's most revered Presidents.
Designed by John Russell Pope, this Roman-style monument to Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, is elegant and simple. Jefferson's 19-foot (5.79 meter) statue stands within, surrounded by some of his most inspirational writings. This is a perfect after-dinner destination. At night, the view of the Washington Monument across the tidal basin is one of the most attractive vistas in Washington, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
The former home of George and Martha Washington's granddaughter, Tudor Place Historic House & Garden offer formal gardens and a house full of artifacts from the Washington family. The mansion was designed by Dr. William Thornton who also engineered the U.S. Capitol. For those with an interest in early American history, but without the time to travel to the more-famous Mount Vernon, this museum within the city is ideal. Docents lead the frequent tours for a nominal price while the tours to the gardens are free of cost.
The International Spy Museum provides a unique glimpse into the innovative world of espionage and its impact throughout history and present day. The state of the art exhibits includes artifacts and spy stories from all over the world. The museum showcases espionage artifacts from the 21st century to as far back as the Greek empire. Visitors can also be a part of a movie setup and play the part of a spy, by solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles. During your visit to the museum, you'll adopt a cover identity and then lead into the briefing room to learn about the life of a spy. Highly interactive, informative and fun, a visit to this museum is well worth the price.
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.