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Best Historic Locations in Washington DC

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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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Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of many who gave their lives in service to the country. Two US 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, is guarded 24 hours a day. The changing of the guard ceremony is a moving tribute to them. Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee until the outbreak of the Civil War, is located on the cemetery grounds. Visitors may walk through the cemetery or board a tour tram.

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When it was unveiled in 1982, nothing but controversy met the design of Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War or remain missing in action. Maya Ying Lin may have been no more than a 21-year-old graduate student when she won the design contest for this memorial, but her work is now etched in the memories of countless visitors who have walked along this black granite wall filled with names.

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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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Because of its close proximity to the White House, St John's has become known as the "Church of the Presidents." In fact, since its establishment in 1815, every chief executive has attended services here; some on a regular basis. Pew 54 has been designated the "Presidents Pew." It was designed by Henry LaTrobe, who also did the restoration of the U.S. Capitol and White House after the War of 1812. In the 1870s, the plain glass windows were gradually replaced with exquisitely crafted stained glass depicting presidents and other notable parishioners.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Not only the abode of the Legislative Branch of the United States Federal Government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the pristine facade, elegant dome and porticoes of the Capitol Building are also a symbol of the principles held dear by the nation's founding fathers; an emblem of representative democracy. The Capitol's foundation stone was laid in 1793 by President George Washington and the first session of the United States Congress to be held here was in the year 1800, although it would be another 11 years before the neoclassical building would be complete. Interestingly, the United States Capitol Building was not designed by an architect, but instead by Dr. William Thornton, a physician by trade living in the British West Indies. Guided tours of the Capitol offer a glimpse into the day to day working of the government and the intricacies of the majestic Capitol's rich interiors.

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Abolitionist Frederick Douglass purchased this 21-room home, making him the first African-American to buy a home in an area then restricted to whites. Known as Cedar Hill, the home became the nation's first Black National Historic Site. The original furnishings are in large part the ones Douglass himself owned. They include the 1200-volume library of this self-taught man. Also on display are gifts given to Douglass by such contemporaries as Mary Todd Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

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The monumental cornerstone of the United States presidency, the White House is the formal abode and headquarters of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this gleaming neoclassical structure was originally referred to as the Presidential Mansion, before Theodore Roosevelt lovingly bestowed upon it the moniker of 'White House' - a name that would go on to signify not only the physical structure, but the entire collective unit that comprised of the President and his advisers. While John Adams was the first incumbent of this official home, several leaders that followed added their own elements to its interiors, the most noteworthy being the comprehensive redecoration carried out by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of erstwhile President John F. Kennedy. Today, the central building of the White House comprises of the Executive Residence, while the rest of this colossal structure consists of a total of 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, a tennis court, a putting green, a movie theater and a bowling alley named after Harry S. Truman.

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This historic neighborhood is lined with trendy boutiques and fine restaurants. The abundant nightlife in Georgetown draws both locals and visitors. Just wander down busy M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and explore the eclectic shops, or stop in for a pint at one of the numerous pubs overflowing with college kids. After you get your fill of the hoopla, stroll off the main strip onto the tree-shaded streets filled with Georgian and Victorian townhouses that are home to many politicians and celebrities.

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