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Great Falls Park, straddling both banks of the Potomac River, offers stunning views. The more attractive side of the park lies in Virginia. Rushing whitewater pours through steep, jagged crevices into a narrow gorge. Photographers, hikers, and nature-lovers find much to enjoy here. The park offers many trails, and the towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal parallels the river. Fishing is allowed, but only with a valid permit. Kayaking, canoeing and rafting is recommended for advanced outdoors-men only. The Maryland side also features Great Falls Tavern with displays of canal history. One-hour round trip barge excursions are offered on a restored stretch of the canal from April to November.
From beneath the 90-foot (30-meter) portico, visitors can gaze across an expanse of sloping lawn to the Potomac River as it flows past Mount Vernon. This 17th-century plantation house was once home to the first President of the United States, George Washington. The property was originally owned by Washington's father, Augustine, and George replaced a smaller, more modest home with Mount Vernon when he came into the property, beginning in 1758. Today, costumed guides narrate the history of the elegant mansion and of the surrounding buildings, which have been preserved to reflect the days when the first president resided here. Visitors are invited to walk around the 500-acre (200-hectare) estate, tour the buildings and participate in the "Hands-on History" exhibits that recreate farming techniques and colonial games.
Visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to take a look at Blackbird, the fastest jet-plane in the world; or the famous space vehicle Discovery that has completed 39 space missions to date. The center is an extension of the National Air And Space Museum and displays aeronautical equipment and aircrafts to the public. There are two hangars and an Observation Tower that provides a panoramic view of the adjacent Washington Dulles International Airport. Also, it is here that the Airbus IMAX Theater is located. The center also lets visitors take a look at various restoration projects. A visit to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is informative and insightful for children and adults alike.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is located just a short walk from the National Gallery of Art. The garden features sculptures from the National Gallery's collection, as well as pieces from traveling exhibitions. Sit down on a bench and marvel at the fusion of man-made and natural beauty that this garden affords. The garden also contains a large water fountain that is transformed into an ice rink in the winter, and a cafe where visitors can grab a pastry to enjoy among the sculptures and flowers.
Dedicated to free press and free speech, the Newseum showcases the history of news gathering. The displays include a video wall of live news broadcasts from around the world. Here visitors have the opportunity to anchor a news program, an exhibit especially popular with children. For a fee, children can also put their faces on the covers of famous magazines, including Life and Sports Illustrated. Interactive displays are the rule here, but there is much to see in a variety of dynamic formats. Washington visitors can also view an outdoor version of the Newseum's popular “Today's Front Pages” now on display. The museum also features the largest exhibit of Berlin Wall sections and a gallery devoted to the events of September 11th.
A popular children's institution in DC, Discovery Theater is located in the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall. Live theater performances are presented, including several original works, along with puppetry, dance, storytelling and music. These performances are excellent educational entertainment for children and might spark an interest in the arts. All performances are open to the public, however, advanced reservations are recommended for groups and families.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is located just down the street from the National Air and Space Museum. Visitors stroll up a rising, circular incline and view works by Calder, Rodin, and contemporary sculptors. Special exhibits have included works by such artists as Mircea Cantor, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Morris Louis. This unique building is home to many innovative and unusual exhibits and pieces of art. The museum's collection includes 4,000 paintings and 2,000 sculptures. Do not miss the sunken sculpture garden across Jefferson Drive. Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais is a must-see.
Along the city's waterfront is the wonderful Yards Park that opened in September 2010. A stunning example of how urban planning can play such a vital role in ensuring that city-dwellers enjoy their time in the city, this park comes replete with fountains, a pool, jogging tracks, biking trails, waterside lawns, shopping spots, cafes, bars and more. A special platform has been constructed to host outdoor events like concerts, community get-togethers, dog shows and festivals.