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The second president, John Adams, was the first to live in the White House in 1801. Originally called the "Executive Mansion," it earned the nickname "The White House" after its marble exterior was whitewashed to cover burn marks from damage by the War of 1812. Student and military veteran group tours are available with advance notice. The White House occasionally closes without notice for official functions.
Take a trip back in time and explore the much celebrated American history at the National Museum of American History. Rich in displays that depict the American journey through the ages; it resides inside a gallery that portrays the emergence of the American national anthem along with other innovative and cherished artifacts. Housed within this multi-floor building are exhibition halls and rooms that illustrate the glorious and doom days of America.
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 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.
The dinosaur skeletons on the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History are sure to please the kids. But there is something here for everyone. The famous Hope Diamond is on display as well as a live coral reef, a walk-through mine and an insect zoo with thousands of live specimens. The Discovery Room encourages kids to touch, smell and taste the exhibits. If your feet need some rest, sit back and enjoy a film in the museum's Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater in the National Museum of Natural History.
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.
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.
Visitors should come prepared for an experience likely to be difficult to 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. From March through August a free pass is required to enter the Permanent Exhibition, The Holocaust, a chronological history. Passes are not required to gain entrance to the museum building, or to go to any of the smaller exhibitions, memorials, or special programming.
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.
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.
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.