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The monumental cornerstone of the United States presidency, the White House is the formal abode and headquarters of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this gleaming neoclassical structure was originally referred to as the Presidential Mansion, before Theodore Roosevelt lovingly bestowed upon it the moniker of 'White House' - a name that would go on to signify not only the physical structure, but the entire collective unit that comprised of the President and his advisers. While John Adams was the first incumbent of this official home, several leaders that followed added their own elements to its interiors, the most noteworthy being the comprehensive redecoration carried out by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of erstwhile President John F. Kennedy. Today, the central building of the White House comprises of the Executive Residence, while the rest of this colossal structure consists of a total of 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, a tennis court, a putting green, a movie theater and a bowling alley named after Harry S. Truman.
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 (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.
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.
Also known as "America's attic," for its spectacular collection of nearly 154 artifacts, the Smithsonian Institution is undisputedly the world's largest museum complex and research organization. The esteemed institution is housed in a magnificent red sandstone castle where visitors where captivating video presentations, highly-interactive touchscreen displays, antique exhibits rule the roost. Commonly referred to as the Castle, it is the final resting place of the Smithsonian Institution's founder, James Smithson with his tomb being preserved in the crypt in the north entrance. The institute's most notable exhibits include the Ford Trimotor, the Douglas DC-3, the Hope Diamond, Benjamin West's 'Helen Brought to Paris' and 'Hagar' by Edmonia Lewis.
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 through protests and rallies. 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."
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 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.
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.
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 an architect, but instead 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.