The Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of the soldiers who gave their lives in service to the country. Two of America's former 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, are protected by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment or the Old Guard 24 hours a day. The changing of the guard ceremony is a moving tribute to them.
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 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.
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."
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.
Built in 1840, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is both a beautiful and historical place of worship. St. Matthew is the patron saint of civil servants, so it is no wonder than this cathedral is one of the most prominent cathedrals in the United States' capital. Each year, the special "Red Mass" is held for the Supreme Court justices, President's cabinet, members of Congress, and - sometimes - even the President himself. This "Red Mass" is so named for the color of the vestments worn by those holding the mass. This famous cathedral, which was designed by New York architect C. Grant La Farge, was also the place where President John F. Kennedy's funeral was held in 1963.
DC Improv books local and national comedians; several comic giants, including Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld and Rosie O'Donnell, have brought the house down. This is a large club, with over 50 tables scattered in front of the stage. Shows often sell out, especially for national acts, so it is wise to buy tickets in advance. The menu includes items such as salads and Mexican entrees. Beer, wine and cocktails are available as well.
Farragut Square is the epicenter of corporate Washington DC, so don't be surprised to see lots of serious-looking people walking about. The square though, is filled with an upbeat ambiance where picnickers can enjoy the sounds of street musicians in summer. On Thursdays in the summer months, the square hosts free jazz at lunchtime. A statue of Civil War Admiral David Farragut stands in the middle of the square, spyglass in hand. Farragut coined the phrase “Full speed ahead!” during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
With its funky shops and trendy restaurants and bars, Dupont Circle is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Washington. Its cosmopolitan air draws visitors both young and old. Once a neighborhood of old money and the nouveau riche, Dupont Circle today is home to artists, intellectuals and young professionals. The neighborhood's turn-of-the-century mansions and brownstones, formerly home to prominent families, today house art museums, restaurants, embassies and fun shops. Dupont Circle is also home to the Phillips Collection, one of the city's foremost art museums with paintings by Renoir, Degas and Cézanne.
If you are looking for a spooky time during your visit to the United States' capital, look no further than DC Ghost Tours. The tour company specializes in the hauntings of Lafayette Park and Capital Hill, and revels in scarring and engaging their audience with stories of murder, intrigue, and the paranormal. The tours generally last 90 minutes and are predominantly outside, so bring a jacket for those cooler evenings. Be sure not to wander too far off from the group... or you might find yourself face-to-face with one of Washington DC's infamous ghosts.
Black Cat is the place to come to see the latest local bands. This club features rock, pop and rhythm-and-blues artists and has been known to book some big names, such as Morphine and The Foo Fighters frequently. Live acts perform in the main space while an eclectic mix of young party animals hangs out in the Red Room. Light fare is available, and the bar has microbrews on tap.