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Best Landmarks 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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One of Washington's newest memorials, the Korean War Veterans Memorial pays tribute to the many who fought in the Korean War. Located near the Lincoln Memorial, this monument features statues of 19 soldiers carefully making their way through unknown terrain. Photographic images on a 164-foot granite wall pays tribute to the thousands of others who contributed to the war; nurses, mechanics, crew chiefs and support personnel. Inscribed on the wall are the words: "Freedom Is Not Free."

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The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is an impressive memorial honoring the life of the important civil rights activist. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked to create equality and world peace, and he has inspired millions. The memorial is based around justice, hope and democracy. It includes a 30 foot (9 meters) statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. along with quotes from some of his addresses and sermons.

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Designed by John Russell Pope, this Roman-style monument to Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, is elegant and simple. Jefferson's 19-foot (5.79 meter) statue stands within, surrounded by some of his most inspirational writings. This is a perfect after-dinner destination. At night, the view of the Washington Monument across the tidal basin is one of the most attractive in Washington, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

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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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Dedicated on May 29, 2004, the World War II Memorial is the first national memorial to honor “Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice,” as the announcement stone proclaims. The design by architect Friedrich St. Florian marks the Pacific and European Theaters of World War II with magnificent arches and remembers the 400,000 Americans who died with 4,000 stars along the Freedom Wall. It is located on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

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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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