Washington DC

Washington DC Attractions

US Capitol Building

Lincoln Memorial in Wahington DC © Broderbund
The Lincoln Memorial is a beautiful white marble building of Greek Classical design situated at the western end of the Mall near the banks of the Potomac River and the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

The US Capitol Building sits on a slight hill at the eastern end of the Mall. It is a beautiful white building of classical Greek design with a large central dome, columnar porticos, grand staircase and two wings. The south wing houses the US House of Representatives and the north wing houses the US Senate. When either body is in session, a flag flies over the respective wing. The hallways and central atrium are filled with marble statues of great US statesmen, artists and historical figures and the building is full of unique architectural features. You can take a guided tour of the building for free Mondays through Saturdays from 9AM until 4:30PM, but you must first obtain a ticket from the visitor's kiosk in front of the building. The US Senate web site has a nice virtual tour of this building. www.senate.gov/vtour/index.html

The White House

The official residence of the President of the United States is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, two blocks north of the Mall near the Washington Monument. It is best viewed from the Ellipse, a large open field behind the White House, or from Lafayette Park in front of the building. (Where various protesters camp.) The White House is no longer open to the public for tours due to security considerations. www.whitehouse.gov

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is the most prominent feature of the DC skyline. It is the 555-foot (185-meter) high, white-marble obelisk at the top of a slight rise in the center of the Mall. It is best viewed from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the western end of the Mall where an inverted image appears in the large reflecting pool. You can ride an elevator to the 500-foot observation deck any day from 9 AM until 4:45 PM. Tickets are available at a kiosk near the base of the monument or they can be reserved in advance via telephone or on the Internet. Tickets are free at the kiosk, but cost $2.00 when reserved in advance. www.nps.gov/wamo

The Smithsonian Institute Museums

The Smithsonian Institution, composed of at least 17 separate facilities scattered about Washington DC, is one of the finest collections of museums in the world. Nine of the museums are located on The Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. This great photo-map of the mall is on the official Smithsonian site. http://www.si.edu/visit/infocenter/mallmap.htm Most of the museums are open 10 AM until 5:30 PM and admission is free.

The Washington Monument in Washington DC © Broderbund
The Washington Monument is the most prominent feature of the DC skyline.

The National Air and Space Museum is nearly everyone's favorite. It displays many original historic aircraft and spacecraft as well as full scale models of a Lunar Lander, a spacelab, numerous rockets and aircraft. Don't miss the Imax Theater for a spectacular film on flight and the planetarium star show.

The National Museum of Natural History contains many specimens of plants and animals from around the world plus an impressive exhibit of dinosaurs and anthropological artifacts. It has an outstanding mineral exhibit with many precious gems including the legendary Hope Diamond.

The National Museum of American History contains a diverse collection of Americana that ranges from the inaugural gowns worn by every president's wife since George Washington to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz.

The National Gallery of Art contains the finest collection of Western European art and sculpture in the New World, as well as an impressive collection of American paintings.

The Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden contains a vast collection of modern and contemporary art. It also features a sunken outdoor sculpture garden on the Mall.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a beautiful white marble building of Greek Classical design situated at the western end of the Mall near the banks of the Potomac River and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. It contains a 19-foot (6-meter) high marble statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. The Vietnam War memorial and the Korean War memorials lie on either side of the reflecting pool just before this monument and the new Roosevelt Memorial is but a short walk to the south. The Lincoln memorial is open to the public all hours of the day and night. www.nps.gov/linc/

Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson memorial is located across the tidal basin from the western end of the Mall and adds picturesque charm to the views from many locations. It is a beautiful white-marble, circular-domed structure patterned after a classic Greek temple. It contains a 19-foot (6-meter) tall bronze statue of President Jefferson. It is open to the public all hours. www.nps.gov/thje/

Other Attractions

There are so many things to see and do in Washington DC that it would require many pages to describe them all.

The Holocaust Museum, just south of the Mall presents a sobering recollection of the terrible effects of the 1933-1945 persecutions in Europe. At Arlington Cemetery, across the Memorial Bridge, you can visit the final resting-places of John and Robert Kennedy as well as thousands of statesmen, politicians and US veterans of the armed forces. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing just south of the Washington Monument offers free tours where you can see them print US dollars. The FBI Building on E street north of the Mall features free tours of its criminal laboratories including a demonstration firing of a Thompson sub-machine gun. The National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue, north of the Georgetown district, offers a pleasant diversion. The Georgetown District, northeast of the mall, is a great place to go shopping in trendy boutiques or to go eat in fashionable restaurants. 

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: The Jefferson Memorial