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.
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.
Fall has begun and with it comes cooler temperatures and the vibrant changing of the leaves. It’s a great time to visit our nation’s capital, as there are numerous fall activities and festivities, outdoor attractions, and natural scenery to enjoy. Here are some of the top picks for fall fun in DC.
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.
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.
Our nation’s capital is one of those places every American must visit at least once in their lifetime. History abounds on every corner and an abundance of interesting attractions and sights offer something for people of all ages. Keep yourself and the family cool with this helpful list of things to do in DC during the summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Come to Dupont Circle to see the upscale, trendy neighborhood that is home to young professionals, academics and artists. Chic shops, boutiques, delightful restaurants, and fabulous architecture are also why Dupont Circle is a popular place to linger. Turn-of-the-century mansions and quaint brownstones that were once home to the most wealthy and prominent are now home to galleries, museums, bookstores and even foreign embassies. When you visit, take a moment to relax by the fountain in the center of the circle; it’s a favorite gathering spot for locals and travelers as well.
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.
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.
Have you heard the news? Now you can see, hear and report it at one of Washington DC’s most exciting new museums. The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue offers visitors a look at news like never before—significant, defining moments that span 5 centuries, through the past, present and up to the second. Throughout the 250,000 square foot, high-tech structure are seven different levels of galleries, demonstrations and interactive exhibits. Learn about the many different publications, people and technologies that bring the news to life in the News Corporation News History Gallery.
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.
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.
Journey back to the days of the Pony Express and see first-hand how the mail was delivered in colonial America, through times of war and into the present day. At the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, visitors learn about the amazing history of the American postal service and how it evolved to become what it is today. Located on the lower level of the old Post Office Building just next door to Union Station, the building was constructed in 1914 and served as the Washington DC post office until 1986.
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.
One of the newest museums in the area, The Marian Koshland Science Museum, offers cutting-edge exhibitions that serve to enlighten visitors about the numerous studies conducted by the National Academies and to instill a better understanding of the immense impact science has on all of our lives. Many temporary exhibits and several permanent ones create an environment of eagerness and interest as visitors learn about such topics as global warming, the application of DNA, infectious diseases and their origins and the Wonders of Science. A great experience for adults and children, interactive, hands-on exhibits and displays and many other educational presentations make the Marian Koshland Science Museum a favorite stop in the city.
The National Gallery of Art 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.
12Stop 12open Shuttle to Arlington National Cemetery begins at 10:40am
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a visit to Ford’s Theater, a stop at the Petersen House is most definitely in order. It is in this house that Abraham Lincoln died after frantic doctors worked to save him throughout the night. The house, now a National Historic Site, has been restored to its original condition and even the bed on which Lincoln passed away is much like the actual one. Now furnished with period pieces, guests can see the front parlor where Mary Todd Lincoln spent the night with her son, Robert and the back parlor where Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton held a cabinet meeting and questioned witnesses. Visitors can take self-guided tours to see the solemn, yet intriguing Petersen House.
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.