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.
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."
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.
Also known as "America's attic," for its spectacular collection of nearly 154 million artifacts, the Smithsonian Institution is one of the the world's largest museum complexes and research organizations. The administrative office of the esteemed institution is housed in a magnificent red sandstone 'castle', that also houses a visitor information area and research chambers. Within this building is also the final resting place of the Smithsonian Institution's founder, James Smithson, with his tomb being preserved in the crypt in the north entrance. Apart from the main building, the institution features as many as 17 museums and galleries within its sprawling complex that represent exhibits across the myriad fields of science, history, zoology, and art. Some of the most notable Smithsonian landmarks include the Natural History Museum and the African American Museum.
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.
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.
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 the most prominent cathedral 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.
This well-regarded resident company is a significant part of the cultural life sponsored by the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. Theater J makes a unique contribution to Washington theater by cultivating issues especially important to Jewish culture. An urban perspective and a commitment to social and moral questions often figure prominently in the plays produced here. The company presents comedies, dramas and musicals drawing from nationally and internationally known works and featuring classic and contemporary plays.
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.
With its funky shops and trendy restaurants and bars, Dupont Circle is one of the hippest 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 bigger names, such as Morphine and The Foo Fighters. Live acts perform in the main space while an eclectic mix of pierced party kids hangs out in the "Red Room". Light fare is available, and the bar has microbrews on tap.