Founded in 1846 by British scientist James Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution has been dedicated to the expansion of knowledge and American culture for nearly two centuries. It was President James K. Polk who signed the law into effect, establishing the Smithsonian Institute after Smithson petitioned Congress in 1836. Since, the Smithsonian Institute has established nearly 20 museums and galleries, with 17 of them calling Washington, D.C. their home.
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. has a uniquely enchanting touch of history that everyone in the country should experience at least once. Whether you visit during the spring’s famous cherry blossom season or take part in one of its snowy winters, trips to the heart of D.C. are truly special.
For some, their first trip to Washington, D.C. likely took the form of a high school field trip, where classmates craned their necks up in awe at the Lincoln Memorial. No matter your age, your first time in Washington, D.C. is a cause for celebration. You will be in the midst of a place where all the nation’s history is archived, and monuments of the most important and influential historical figures are on full display. There are many places of interest and landmarks to explore, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You are on vacation, so step back, take a deep breath and follow these simple tips for your first time in D.C.
Washington DC is home to some of the most remarkable and recognizable architecture in the world. From its many monuments, memorials and museums to the numerous government, historic buildings and private residences, a diverse and eclectic array of architecture exists throughout the city. While you’re vacationing in the nation’s capital, you’ll want to include some of the city’s most iconic and interesting attractions on your itinerary. Here’s a quick guide to DC’s architectural wonders.
When you visit Madame Tussauds, take a remarkable interactive journey through American history! You will be able to stand next to each of the US Presidents. From the shortest, President Madison to the tallest… President Lincoln and President L. B. Johnson.
Explore the Rich History from the Comfort of our Tour Vehicles. Arlington National Cemetery is an enduring tribute to those who’ve dedicated their lives to defending the ideals of our nation. A visit here will leave an indelible impression on your spirit. There are more than 624 acres of hallowed ground and they’re best explored aboard Arlington National Cemetery Tours.
Resting on the banks of the Potomac River, the iconic U.S. Capitol of Washington D.C. boasts a rich history, ornate architecture, and some of the best sights in the whole country. It truly is no surprise that it attracts countless tourists every year.
Despite being so compact, the streets buzz with countless activities. From marveling at its white, stone structures, to meandering around one of its impressive museums; relaxing in the urban green spaces to dining in high scale restaurants, Washington D.C. delights history buffs and avid sightseers alike.
It doesn’t matter if you’re here on a midweek getaway or a weekend escape – there’s something here for everyone.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture chronicles America’s journey toward enshrining freedom, equality and democracy for all citizens. The museum houses a collection of more than 37,000 pieces related to a variety of areas, including slavery, segregation and civil rights as well as family, religion and the performing arts.
While government and business may initially come to mind when thinking of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital also offers couples a wide range of romantic things to see and do. Historic buildings, famous monuments, scenic landscapes and idyllic moonlight views create a beautiful setting to kindle a romance or stoke passion in a long-term relationship. When you are looking for something more than just dinner and a movie, there are plenty of options for wooing that special someone in romantic DC. Consider the following romantic destinations and activities in Washington DC.
Washington DC may be known for all things politics, but there’s far more to this city. The first urban planner of Washington DC was Pierre L’Enfant. When designing ‘Federal City,’ his aim was to surround the hub of government with beautiful public gardens, inviting spaces of serene and scenic landscaping, places to embrace mindfulness and meditation and find an escape from the urban noise. Here, the phrase ‘meet me at the mall’ means something very different than in other towns and cities. The National Mall is filled with epic green spaces for lazy afternoons, lessons on botany and horticulture and exudes history in every blade of grass. Visit DC for a taste of what makes the country tick, but stay for the lessons and beauty of the surrounding natural vistas.
So you and the girls are setting off for a weekend in our nation’s capital? Grab this handy little guide for the very best of what to do and where to shop, eat, drink and stay. You’re guaranteed to have the perfect girl’s weekend in DC!
One of the country’s first institutions dedicated solely to artistic expression on the African continent, the National Museum of African Art opened to the public in 1987. The attraction boasts a collection of more than 9,000 pieces in a variety of media spanning from ancient times through the modern era. In addition to textiles and jewelry, the museum has sculptures, pottery and paintings representing nearly every country in Africa, including Arab North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Although it is one of the Smithsonian’s smallest museums, the institution has the largest single collection of African art in the United States.
Just across the street from the Memorial Amphitheater are the memorials for the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986 just a few seconds after takeoff. All seven crew members, including civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe, perished. The Columbia disintegrated during re-entry on February 1, 2003 killing all seven crew members.
Washington DC was founded in 1791 to become our nation’s capital. From the very beginning, it was a city that was steeped in history and created out of a need to establish a central location for the running of the government. And while not obvious to anyone walking the streets of this picturesque city today, it was not the first choice for the job. Instead, it was born out of a compromise between those in power during its earliest days.
After a very cold winter, the onset of spring is a welcome event in the nation’s capital. The air is getting warmer, the cherry blossoms are getting ready to bloom, and many cultural venues and attractions are beginning to offer outdoor events and activities. If you’re vacationing in Washington, DC in the springtime, you’re in for a spectacular time. Read on for some of the top things to do and see.
The Lincoln Memorial was opened on Memorial Day in 1922, 57 years after Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated.
The immense Greek Temple stands in front of a gleaming reflecting pool and is a stunning spectacle during the day and especially at night. The sculpture of Lincoln sitting inside is 19-feet tall and inscriptions related to his Presidency along with his Gettysburg Address adorn the walls that surround him.
An exquisite mural of an angel of truth freeing a slave, along with other depictions inside the memorial, are reminders of the significant changes with which Lincoln is credited . A place of inspiration and a symbol of the distinction of this extraordinary President, the Lincoln Memorial is one of the most visited sites in the area. It is also used as a gathering place for political rallies including the March of Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King delivered his famous, “I have a dream” speech.
Approximate Time to Allow: 1 hour
Learn about things to do near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Memorial.
While we all know of the popular monuments, museums and memorials that make Washington DC so famous, there are many less famous points of interest worth discovering. When you’re getting ready to visit our nation’s capital, here are a few of the city’s hidden gems you should consider including on your itinerary.
Get MORE out of your summer in DC aboard the iconic Old Town Trolley and see the best first!
The Capitol Hill Historic District was established in 1977 to preserve the area’s unique character and architecture. Capitol Hill is not only the home of the United States government, but it’s also a vibrant neighborhood. Visiting Washington DC’s Capitol Hill offers a plethora of activities for all sorts of travelers whether you’re looking for a historical tour, outdoor activities, or simply want to explore the area. The Capitol Hill neighborhood is the oldest residential community in Washington, having been established in 1805 as a place for members of Congress to live. Capitol Hill is home to some of the most iconic buildings in D.C., including the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress.
Learn about things to do near Capitol Hill in Washington DC like the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and U.S. Botanical Gardens.
As one of the busiest train stations in the world and headquarters to Amtrak, Union Station in Washington DC is home to an abundance of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and more. Its location in the center of downtown DC makes it an ideal starting point for touring the city’s many historical sites, attractions and other activities.
When heading to the nation’s capital, be ready to explore some of the most popular attractions, monuments, memorials and points of interest ever visited. Washington DC is one of the most interesting places in the world and offers an abundance of things to do and see. Plan ahead by making sure you know how you’re going to get around in the city. Read on for some of the top modes of transportation in DC.
We created this page to help guests plan a great celebration while visiting the Nation’s Capital during Independence Day. We’ll offer you some local tips on the best places to watch the fireworks and celebrate America’s Birthday!
A visit to Washington DC is a journey through American history. And visiting the monuments and memorials helps bring the passion of our forefathers, leaders and visionaries to life. Luckily, you can visit any of them anytime and for free. Many of them are located near each other in the National Mall, making your travels easy and convenient.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Washington DC, Georgetown is ideally situated on the Potomac River. In early colonial times, the port served as a major commercial center. Founded in 1751 by George Beall and George Gordon, the original name was the Town of George. Since both of the founders’ first names were George and the English king at the time as well, historians dispute the source of the name of the town
Looking for the most efficient and entertaining way to visit many of the things to do in Washington DC with kids? Look no further because Old Town Trolley Tours offers parents a relaxing way to tour all the best DC attractions for kids. Parents don’t have to worry about searching for directions to the National Air and Space Museum or finding parking while traveling from all of Washington DC’s best attractions. Our hop on and hop off trolley tours allow the parents to concentrate on having fun with their kids instead of worrying about logistics. If you only have a few days to spend in DC with your family, you’ll want to make the most of your time in the city. America’s capital city is home to many memorials, museums and attractions to interest people of all ages. With these time crunch tips, you’ll be able to see the highlights, experience DC’s rich history and enjoy the most important things to do with family.
Get MORE out of your summer in DC aboard the iconic Old Town Trolley and see the best first!
When winter sets in, the city of Washington DC begins to sparkle with beautiful light displays, holiday cheer and an abundance of things to do and see. Read on for the top things to do in DC during the winter.
Located near the National Mall, the Smithsonian Institution Building was completed in 1855. Designed by James Renwick, Jr., the red Seneca sandstone edifice features a faux Norman architectural style that incorporates late-Romanesque and early-Gothic details. Although slaves were not used in the construction, they were used to quarry the stone. Colloquially known as the Smithsonian Castle, the building initially held the institution’s entire collection of art and other objects. Designated a National Landmark in 1965, its Victorian arched windows, dark woodwork and terrazzo floor evokes the serene ambiance of a house of worship. The 4.2-acre Enid Haupt Garden is situated adjacent to the Castle.
Step inside Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and discover what amazing talent lives and has lived in our nation throughout history. The first federal art collection, more than 40,000 works of art represent over 7,000 American artists who hail from every region, cultural and ethnical background of the United States. Here, visitors can view paintings, prints, photography, sculpture and more from artists who lived and worked throughout the United States, throughout the centuries.
Meet America’s most remarkable citizens face-to-face at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Stroll through the historic building, which was originally the U.S. Patent Office, and see paintings, photos, sculptures and more of famous Americans who have helped shape our nation. From the stunning exhibit of our Presidents, to photos of celebrities, scientists, entertainers, sports figures and more, the National Portrait Gallery offers a unique experience to guests of every age.
Founded by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace F. Holladay in 1981, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is dedicated to displaying works of art by women from all over the world. Their expansive collection includes pieces by more than 800 artists. View striking artwork created throughout various centuries; learn about the many different women who have expressed themselves through a diverse array of mediums.
One of Dupont Circle’s more visited attractions features a glorious collection of textile arts from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Known as one of the world’s leading specialized art museums, close to 35,000 visitors from around the world come each year to appreciate the history and beauty of the museum’s works. Guests also enjoy viewing the historic buildings in which the museum is housed and the picturesque garden behind the buildings.
open Wednesday - Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm Thursday: 10 am - 9 pm
The Corcoran Gallery was created to enhance and inspire American artists and their talents. Founded in 1869 by William Wilson Corcoran, the museum is known around the world for its collection of modern American art as well as European works including paintings, sculpture, photography and decorative arts. Today, visitors enjoy touring the vast fine art museum to view some of the world’s most magnificent masterpieces created by artists of the past and present.
For a look into American crafts and decorative arts, a stop at the Renwick Gallery is sure to please. The gallery, housed in a historic architectural landmark just steps away from the White House, provides collections and exhibits from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Take a stroll through the gallery to get a close-up look at treasures created from clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood.
The Octagon House was built between 1798 and 1800 by the same architect who designed the U.S. Capitol. It was constructed for Colonel John Taylor, a wealthy plantation owner from Virginia. It was in this house that President Madison and his wife resided when the White House was burned by the British in 1814. It was also here that President Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent, which brought the War of 1812 to an end. The Octagon House’s architectural splendor is matched only by its historical significance to our country.
Lafayette Park is a public park that was once named “President’s Park”. The square and the historic buildings surrounding it became National Historic Landmarks in 1970. In its past, Lafayette Park had many uses including serving as a race track, a graveyard, a zoo, slave market and the site for many political protests and celebrations. Most who visit are immediately drawn to the various large statues in the park.
The National Cathedral welcomes people of all faiths from around the world to worship in its exquisite ambiance. It’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world and offers a dramatic spectacle to all who visit. The cathedral’s English Gothic architecture is complemented by wood carvings, gargoyles, mosaics and more than 200 stained glass windows. A listed monument on the National Register of Historic Places, the cathedral is also the designated House of Prayer of the United States.
Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo houses more than 400 species of animals. The zoo’s founder, naturalist William T. Hornaday, developed the zoo because of his concern over the decline of many native American species. Hornaday envisioned a facility that would breed endangered American animals in captivity and educate the public about wildlife. Although he eventually left the National Zoo, it continued to grow and today is known around the world for its collection of uncommon animals.
Honoring the 16 million people who served in the United States Military during the war, the more than 400,000 who died and the countless others who supported our troops from home, the World War II Memorial is a stunning tribute to the sacrifices that were made.
To remember those who fought in the Korean War, The United States Congress approved a Korean War Memorial to be constructed in the National Mall. The memorial has several interesting aspects to it including the “Field Of Service” which has 19, larger-than-life-size stainless steel statues of servicemen from all four of the armed forces. The men appear to be a squad on patrol and are dressed in full combat gear.
Often referred to as the wall that heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial beckons visitors of all ages, races and nationalities. It was created to honor and remember the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and to help our country heal after the controversial, emotional conflict ended. The enormous black wall lists 58,209 names of those who are missing or were killed during the war.
The Lincoln Memorial was opened on Memorial Day in 1922, 57 years after Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated. The immense Greek Temple stands in front of a gleaming reflecting pool and is a stunning spectacle during the day and especially at night.
This is also the trolley stop where you transfer to the shuttle that takes you to Arlington National Cemetery. The first Arlington shuttle departs the Lincoln Memorial at 9:30 am. The last shuttle from the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery is at 3:30 pm. The last shuttle from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial is at 3:45 pm.
Opened in August of 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is located on four acres in the West Potomac Park and is part of the National Park Service. Its official address, 1964 Independence Avenue, is in reference to the year the Civil Rights Act became Law.
The FDR Memorial is located along the Western edge of the Tidal Basin, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Built in 1997, the memorial is known for its unique design, its tribute to our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and for the fact that it tells the story of America during the years of FDR’s Presidency. Four outdoor rooms portray the President’s terms in office, each with different statues and quotes. Beginning with a likeness of him riding in a car during his first inaugural speech and ending with him seated in a wheelchair, the memorial traces his twelve years of office as well as the many changes our country went through during that era.
The Tidal Basin is a beautiful part of the National Mall in Washington DC. Bordering monuments and memorials, the Tidal Basin is home to thousands of Cherry Trees that were given as a gift to the United States by Japan. Luring visitors to take a stroll or rent a paddle-boat for a tranquil break from sightseeing, the Tidal Basin is a favorite spot to many tourists throughout the year.
What many folks don’t know about George Mason, they can learn while visiting his memorial right next to the Jefferson Memorial. Known for his authorship of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, George Mason’s work and beliefs were a major influence into the writing of the United States Bill of Rights. He earned the nickname, the reluctant statesman, after refusing to sign the United States Constitution because it did not abolish slavery.
Tours in Washington DC are not complete without a stop at the Jefferson Memorial. A tribute to the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, the memorial is a recognized symbol of democracy and independence. As one of the founding fathers of our country and the author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s significant impact on the shaping of our government is known throughout the world.
See where millions of dollars are printed every day. Discover all of the steps to producing currency from the blank sheet of paper to a crisp bill. As the security printer for the US Government, the Bureau is responsible for the design, printing and engraving for all US currency.
The museum serves as a memorial to the millions of people who were murdered during the Holocaust. Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. everyday, except Yom Kippur and Christmas Day. Timed passes are distributed on a first–come first–served basis.
The founder of the Hirschhorn Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Joseph Hirschhorn left an impressive legacy of art and inspiration to the American People. He had an immense passion for art. So much so that at one time he had more than 6,000 pieces in his collection housed at several private locations. It was Hirschhorn’s adoration for the arts that inspired a new museum of art in Washington DC in the late 1960’s. The Hirschhorn Gallery and Sculpture Garden opened its doors in 1974, featuring Joseph Hirschhorn’s personal collection of paintings and sculpture, which he generously donated so that all of the American people could enjoy it as much as he did.
The Museum of the American Indian is the only museum solely dedicated to the history, study and preservation of the American Indians. You’ll be instantly captivated by its masterful architecture. The curved limestone building appears to be a natural rock formation facing towards the sun and is surrounded by acres of authentic crops of the American Indian. Its very design stands out among the many granite and marble neoclassical structures in the National Mall. Once inside, you’ll be treated to an up-close look at the life, languages, history, art and traditions of the Native Americans.
For a look at how residents in Washington DC lived close to a century ago, visit historic Woodley Park. Elegant row houses and townhouses built in the late 1800s are still intact and are exquisitely framed by lush landscapes. Visitors admire the beauty of the residential area and the rich history that goes along with it. On Connecticut Avenue, the main thoroughfare, the row houses are now used as restaurants, offices and shops that serve residents and cater to visitors and travelers staying in the two large hotels on the edges of the historic district. Several dozen restaurants serve up a variety of international cuisine and fabulous shops also attract visitors from around the world.
A small but world-renown museum, the Phillips Collection, is America’s first museum of modern art. Opened in the home of Duncan Phillips in 1921, the museum offers visitors a stunning representation of the most famous works of art by internationally known artists. See paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas and Monet and gain an appreciation of modern artists by viewing the work of Braque, Picasso and Matisse. The museum, though not a part of the Smithsonian Institution, offers art enthusiasts a rare and intimate look at the many masterpieces that Duncan Phillips personally collected. It’s a wonderful museum for visitors of all ages.
open Mar–Dec | Wed–Sun: 10am-4pm Jan–Feb | Fri–Sun: 10am-4pm$
Step inside the final home of Woodrow Wilson and feel the inspiration of one of our country’s greatest leaders. In this historic home, personal artifacts, memorabilia, photographs and items are on display for all to see and enjoy. Walk into the elegant dining room where Wilson and his wife enjoyed meals and hosted family, friends and world leaders. See the main bedrooms where items that belonged to the President and his wife are still in place.
Charles Sumner fought for the abolition of slavery and for the rights of African Americans throughout his career as a United States Senator. Today, people from all over the world can gain an understanding of his efforts at the museum that bears his name. The Charles Sumner Museum and Archives is housed at the historic Charles Sumner School building that was constructed in 1872. It was here that the first high school class of African Americans graduated in 1877.
Note: The National Geographic Museum is temporarily closed as they reimagine their Base Camp experience. The Museum Store will remain open.
Just like the highly acclaimed magazine, the National Geographic Museum offers a stunning representation of the world we live in within its collection of exhibits, both permanent and changing. Adults and children will be intrigued by the colorful, interactive and extraordinary displays. From sculptures created entirely out of garbage to live frogs of every color in their natural habitats, there’s always something fascinating happening at the National Geographic Museum.
For a spectacular view of the city and a journey back to the early 1900’s, the Old Post Office and Bell Tower is a must see. It was Washington’s first skyscraper, measuring in at around 300 feet from the ground. In its day, it was the largest and tallest government building in the city and was used as the post office for several years before plans for a newer, more modern facility were implemented. Thanks to the Great Depression, the classic building was saved from destruction and today visitors can enjoy an exhilarating ride in a glass elevator all the way to the top.
One can only imagine the exhilaration that Neil Armstrong felt as he took the very first steps on the moon in 1969 or the incredible thrill that the Wright brothers experienced as they took that first flight in 1903. At the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, you can get an idea of how they felt when you see first-hand the original Wright 1903 Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module which carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on their mission to the moon. These historic air and spacecrafts are among a collection of more than 30,000 artifacts at the Air and Space Museum.
No matter what time of year it is, the lush greenery and gorgeous plants are always thriving at the United States Botanic Garden. Located just next door to the Museum of the American Indian at the foot of the Capitol, the Botanic Garden is an oasis of beautiful plant life and flowers and home to 4,000 living species. The conservatory houses exhibits that focus on the importance of plants to people and on the ecology and evolution of plants.
Ever wonder if there’s any truth to the curse of the famous Hope Diamond? Or wish you could see for yourself the fossils of an ancient mammal or a dinosaur? Then step inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Millions of people come each year to get a close look at some of the world’s most intriguing, beguiling specimens that the Museum has on display.
The Library of Congress is unlike any other library in the world. The world’s largest library, it is home to more than 100 million books, maps, recordings, manuscripts, films and photos including items from Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. In fact, it was Jefferson who donated many items to the library after it was destroyed by a fire in 1814. The new building was properly named the Jefferson Building as a tribute to his generosity.
Upon arrival at the Supreme Court, visitors are often struck by the imposing marble building. Architecturally magnificent, the neoclassical structure was built in 1935 to become the permanent home to the Supreme Court. Walking along the hallway towards the Courtroom, guests are greeted by busts of all the former Chief Justices. The Supreme Court is the highest judiciary authority in the United States and hears about 100 cases each year, although more than 7,000 are submitted before them. Visitors can tour the Supreme Court building, hear lectures on the history of the court and how it works, sit in on sessions on specified days and times and view various exhibits throughout the year.
One of the most celebrated and spectacular sights on the National Mall, the Washington Monument, stands as a grand tribute to our nation’s first President, George Washington. The 555 foot obelisk is also one of the oldest and most recognizable memorials in the City. While construction began in 1848, the monument was not completed until 1884 because of financial difficulties during the Civil War.
Get MORE out of your summer in DC aboard the iconic Old Town Trolley and see the best first!
A grand symbol of the United States Government, the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill is recognized across the world as one of our country’s most prominent icons of Democracy. The striking white dome acts as a focal point to the building which welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Both a working legislative building and a national monument, guided tours are offered all day long and provide an inside look into how our United States government works.
Step inside the National Museum of American History and experience the passion, creativity and inspiration of the American people. Walk through the fascinating exhibits and collections and transport yourself through hundreds of years of history, culture and the lives of our people. Over 3 million artifacts will amaze and enlighten you, including the original Star-Spangled Banner and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.
Welcome to Washington DC! The spectacular Union Station was originally designed to be the gateway to the city and since it opened over 90 years ago, has become the most visited site in DC. Its unique architecture makes it popular for photos. Locals, tourists and even presidents make it a point to visit this magnificent historic mall and train station.
The US Navy Memorial is a truly spectacular tribute to those who served or are currently serving in the nation’s sea services. A stunning plaza paved in granite forms a 100-foot diameter of the world. Fountains, pools, flags and historic panels surround the deck of the plaza tracing the achievements of the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. The famous Lone Sailor statue stands as a representation of the men who joined the service to fulfill their patriotic duty; a striking sight, it is perhaps one of the most well-known aspects of the memorial.
The National Gallery of Art DC was created in 1937. Through the generosity of Andrew W. Mellon, a financier who was also a public servant, the Museum gained its first collection. Mellon had a passion for art and his large collection of old master paintings, sculpture and other works were intended for all of America to enjoy. After his death, Congress accepted his collection and thus the National Gallery was born.
Journey back in time as you view the original founding documents of the United States written by the patriots who created a nation conceived in liberty. Established in 1934, the National Archives is the repository for the priceless documents that have shaped American history and defined our democracy. These include the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which are collectively known as the Charters of Freedom. The Archives also contain other treasured heirlooms like an original copy of the Magna Carta from 1297, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty signed by Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The Treasury Building took 33 years to build from 1836 – 1869. It was primarily designed by the same man, Robert Mills, who was the architect of the Washington Monument. At the time of its construction, the Treasury Building was one of the largest office buildings in the world. It served as a barracks during the Civil War and a temporary White House for President Andrew Johnson after President Lincoln’s assassination. Built in the Greek Revival style, Treasury was the first Departmental building in the nation’s capital thus influencing the design of many of the others.
Since 1800, the White House has been a symbol of the United States government, the president and the people of America. It has also served as the home of every U.S. president except George Washington. Remodeled and restored many times over the years, the White House is recognized around the world as an emblem of American democracy. For many, the most famous room in the residence is the Oval Office where the president conducts business and meets with his advisers. Maintaining a stately presence in the nation’s capital, the White House is one of most significant landmarks in Washington, D.C.
A lasting tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation, Arlington National Cemetery is visited by millions of people each year. These hallowed grounds are where more than 400,000 service men and women and their family members are laid to rest. There are nearly 30 funerals held each day, honoring those who have given their life to defend the values and ideals of America. If you’re planning a vacation to Washington DC, a visit to Arlington is something you must do.
At the White House Visitor Center, people from around the world can learn about the amazing history of the White House and the United States Presidency. Discover facts about the architecture and furnishings of the White House, the first families, social events, and relations with the press and world leaders. Visitors can also watch a 30-minute video, entitled “Where History Lives” and see six historical exhibits. A gift shop offers a variety of souvenirs and mementos related to the White House and Washington DC. Park ranger talks, military concerts, and special traveling exhibits are also of interest to guests and available at different times.
Completed in 2011, the park traces the eastern bank of the Potomac River from the Key Bridge to 31st Street, NW. The urban open space is a link in 225 miles of parkland that stretches along the river from Cumberland, Maryland to Mount Vernon in Virginia. The park features a promenade with panoramic views of the Kennedy Center, the Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island. It also has sloping grass hills, shade trees and a mixed-use pathway as well as an interactive fountain, scenic overlooks and stairs to the river. Part of the park, Wisconsin Avenue Plaza, is a gateway to the Potomac River.
Founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Georgetown University is the nation’s oldest Catholic institution of higher education. Its campus includes Healy Hall, a nationally registered historic building named in honor of former university president Patrick Healy who greatly expanded the school after the Civil War. Research suggests that slave-born Healy was of mixed Irish and African-American ancestry. The school enrolls over 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 130 countries. Georgetown is the alma mater of numerous presidents, Supreme Court Justices and other leaders as well as royalty, aristocrats, dignitaries and diplomats from foreign nations.
Constructed for Thomas Peter and his wife, a granddaughter of Martha Washington, Tudor Place is a Federal-style mansion. Money bequeathed by George Washington was used to purchase the property, which encompasses a city block on the crest of Georgetown Heights. The manor home was built in 1815 by William Thornton who also worked on the U.S. Capitol. The Peters hosted the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 during his tour of the U.S. Robert E. Lee stayed at the property during his last visit to Washington before his death. Located at 1644 31st Street, NW, the home is open to the public.
This historic 22-acre burial ground is a prime example of the 19th-century rural, or garden style, cemetery. It is the final resting place of numerous politicians, entrepreneurs, diplomats and military personnel, including Edwin Stanton, Katherine Graham, Dean Acheson and General Thomas Jessup. The cemetery grounds feature a number of Victorian style monuments including the Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel. The Gothic Revival chapel is the work of James Renwick who also designed the Smithsonian Castle. Sitting atop the cemetery’s highest ridge, it is built from black granite and trimmed with the same red Seneca sandstone used to construct the Castle.
In 1808, the Dumbarton Street Methodist Church acquired property at Mill Road and 26th Street, NW in Georgetown. The Mount Zion United Methodist congregation lease and later purchased the eastern section of the property as a burial ground. Initially interring the remains of both black and white citizens, it was used almost exclusively by the African-American population after 1849. The Female Union Band Society acquired the western section of the property in 1842 as a place to bury the remains of free African-Americans. Abandoned in 1950, the graveyards were combined as a single cemetery and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Housing the Swedish and Icelandic delegations to the U.S., the House of Sweden was designed by Gert Wingardh and Tomas Hansen. Featuring a glass front, the building incorporates numerous Swedish symbols, such as matching native Swedish maple and marble, which relate to the climate and culture of the Scandinavian country. Situated on the Potomac River, the contemporary Scandinavian design reflects Swedish values of openness and transparency. The embassy was dedicated by King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia in 2006 and enabled the embassy staff to relocate from a rented space. The following year, Gert Wingardh was awarded the Kasper Salin Prize for his design work.
Built in 1895, the stairway connects Prospect and 36th Streets with M Street, NW in Georgetown. The 75 steps were featured in the scene from the hit 1973 horror movie “The Exorcist” in which the character Father Karras fell to his death down the steps from a nearby house. The steps were covered in foam padding to protect the stuntman who had to film the iconic sequence twice. A plaque recognizes the steps as a D.C. landmark and important piece of the city’s movie history.
Situated in Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate that was part of the 1702 Rock of Dumbarton land grant from Queen Anne. It was the Washington, D.C. residence of Senator and later Vice President John C. Calhoun from 1822 until 1829. Edward Linthicum named the greatly enlarged residence The Oaks in 1846. When the Bliss family acquired the property in 1920, it was called Dumbarton Oaks in honor of its two historic names. They also renovated the residence into the current Colonial Revival architectural style. In addition to the landscaped gardens, the museum features a collection of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art.
Located at 3051 M Street, NW, the Old Stone House is the oldest building situated within in the District of Columbia still on its original foundation. Built in 1765 from locally quarried blue granite, it was initially preserved under the belief that George Washington once slept there. The building housed a car dealership when it was purchased by the federal government in 1953. A rare example of pre-Revolutionary War-era architecture, the National Park Service opened the home for public tours three years later. The furnishings on display include a clock manufactured by John Suter, Jr. who was one of the building’s early owners.
Is there really such a thing as invisible ink? Is someone watching you through a camera in their buttonhole? For answers to these questions and a million other secrets about the fascinating world of spying, stop by the International Spy Museum. Discover the truth and myths about microdots and invisible ink, buttonhole cameras and submarine recording systems. Examine bugs of all sizes and kinds, and ingenious disguise techniques developed by Hollywood for the CIA. Trace the history of 50 years of spy technology, developed by agencies from the OSS to the KGB.
The chilling story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination comes to life in the very place he was mortally shot on April 14, 1865. After being closed for 103 years, Ford’s Theater was restored and reopened in 1968. Serving as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln and his love of the performing arts, the Theater is a live, working theater that plays host to a variety of plays by some of the country’s most talented playwrights, actors and artists. Ford’s Theater is also home to The Lincoln Museum, which gives visitors a look at the elaborate conspiracy planned by actor John Wilkes Booth, a supporter of the Confederate States of America, to assassinate the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State.