A frequent site of nationally significant memorial services, the National Cathedral is open to worshipers of all denominations. Under construction for most of the 20th Century and completed and consecrated in 1990, this Gothic cathedral is the sixth largest in the world. Flying buttresses, gargoyles, crypts, a 98-foot (30-meter) vaulted ceiling and many intimate chapels contribute to this architectural masterpiece. The grounds invite exploration with curving walkways, well-kept hedges and spacious lawns from which to view the city.
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (Washington's favorite porch-flower), this 444-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.
The famous assassination of President Abraham Lincoln here on April 14, 1865 has placed this theater firmly in history. Opened just four years before that fateful night, the theater has now been restored to its 1865 appearance and is again a showcase for plays. The basement-level Lincoln Museum displays artifacts from the assassination, including the gun John Wilkes Booth used to kill Lincoln. Mementos from Lincoln's life are also on display. Across the street is Petersen House, the place where Lincoln died.
Originally intended as a small reference library, the Library of Congress is now home to the second largest collection of books and reading materials in the world, second only to the British Library. The collections comprises close to a 100 million items, including rare documents such as a Gutenberg Bible, early drafts of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The splendor of the magnificent Main Reading Room is just one of the attractions worth a visit at the Library of Congress. Browse through the many excellent exhibits on display in the library's three buildings, participate in a guided tour, or attend any of the concerts, lectures and other events hosted here. The library's collection is open to all who hold a valid Reader Identification Card, however materials cannot be taken outside the library premises.
The Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is the legacy of Marjorie Merriweather Post, a famous socialite and founder of General Foods. The 40-room mansion dates back to the 1920s and houses a huge collection of art, jewelry and other artifacts that belong to her. View rare Faberge eggs, historic portraits, exquisite tapestries and pieces of china. Walk through the landscaped gardens and enjoy the colorful flowers and plants.
Skirted by the surging waters of Rock Creek, the National Zoological Park is a forerunner for the title of America's finest wildlife facilities. It was created by Congress in 1889, making it one of the oldest zoos in the country. The zoo was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and New York's Central Park. The zoo is famous for its giant pandas from China but you will find all sorts of creatures, both familiar and exotic, crawling about the place. The zoo's Asia Trail gets you acquainted with fishing cats, clouded leopards and other Asian animals. In addition, the zoo is home to the Elephant Trails, Lemur Island, Cheetah Conservation and Great Cats where you can witness mighty lions and tigers in action. Birds and reptiles from across the world also call the Smithsonian National Zoological Park their home.
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.
The eight-sided, 19th-century home of John Tayloe III, a wealthy contemporary of early US presidents, offers an interesting glimpse into both history and architecture. President Madison resided here after the White House was burned in the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in the Octagon's study at the war's end. Architectural exhibits are integrated into the fine house with its period furnishings. The building itself is a masterpiece, designed by William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol and other high points of Federal-era Washington.
The White House Visitor Center spans 16,000 square feet (1486 square meters) and contains dozens of artifacts. Although it's not located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it's as close as you can get to visiting the White House without obtaining a hard-to-get tour. Besides viewing artifacts, you can also take a virtual tour of the President's residence here. Admission is free, making it a great tourist destination for those on a budget.
Built in 1922, this fabulous Beaux-Arts mansion was constructed at the behest of Mary Foote Henderson upon the designs of George Oakley Totten as a residence for the Vice President of the United States and a memorial to her son. The mansion at 16th and Fuller was instead purchased by the Spanish Embassy and maintained as the official residence of the Spanish Ambassadors until the turn of the century. With its rich architectural details and elegant design, the mansion has come to be a popular landmark and has been revived as a cultural center. The Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain hosts a vibrant and varied cultural program with a preference for Spanish themes, including film screenings, exhibitions, lectures, conferences, festivals, performances and more.
The National Archives is a bombproof, fireproof facility that protects the nation's most treasured documents. The methods used for storing the documents safely are nearly as interesting as the documents themselves. Sealed glass vaults are raised into the exhibition areas for viewing each day but sink back into safety each night. Here, you will find the most significant of our national documents--the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Among the other documents and artifacts housed here are copies of the Magna Carta and the Emancipation Proclamation, and the rifle used to assassinate John F. Kennedy.