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Top Rated Attractions in Washington DC

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National Gallery of Art

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.

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National Mall

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."

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Lincoln Memorial

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.

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Smithsonian Institution

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.

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Sidney Harman Hall

The Sidney Harman Hall is a majestic 774-seat theater in the heart of Washington DC and forms a part of the Harman Center of the Arts. Suitable for dance and music events, organizers can choose from the proscenium, thrust, semi-arena or bare stages, depending on the show. Acoustically designed to suit dramas, plays and even live chamber music concerts. The venue along with the Lansburgh Theatre on the 7th Street is owned by the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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.

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