Washington D.C. Things to Do Tips by richiecdisc
Washington D.C. Things to Do: 2,600 reviews and 5,556 photos
Lincholn Memorial at sunrise
If you have ever pondered who was the United States' greatest president, look no further. Well, at least most popular. It seems odd that the first president that was assassinated was its most popular in the course of history but then again, there are always those who love to hate what others love, right? Abraham Lincoln has quite a pedigree from freeing the slaves to a self-taught pundit of some very quotable phrases. Add to that, his memorial on the National Mall is by far the most popular and hallowed. None other than Martin Luther King Jr. chose it to give his “I have a dream” speech.
Though they proposed this tribute to the great man soon after his death, lack of funds delayed it until Congressional approval in 1910 and a lengthy construction that began in 1914 with it opening to the public in 1922. Designed by Henry Bacon in a neoclassical style much like a Greek temples, its key features are thirty-six columns, representing the number of states when Lincoln was killed, inscriptions of his renowned Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, and most of all, a massive 19 foot 175 ton statue of the country's 16th President.
This was perhaps the top thing on our itinerary photography-wise. With its eastern orientation, it is perfect fodder for an early morning shoot when the sun just comes up over the horizon. Since it opens at 8:00 AM, this best accomplished during the shorter days of fall and winter. We arrived around 7:30, got some shots from the outside and were able to shoot some more atmospheric ones from the outside looking in before anyone else had arrived. We had been there the night before and it is quite stunning as it is very well lit but it is also fairly busy. If I was to plan it all over again, I would have my first view of it in the early morning hours when the statue's peaceful, contemplative stance seems more in line with its surroundings.
Address: 23rd Street, NW
Directions: Located at the western end of the National Mall, facing the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, and Capitol Hill. Metro Stop: Smithsonian.
up as close you get without a tour
While The White House is no Buckingham Palace, it does lend an air of pastoral grace to its somewhat monumentalized surroundings. Oddly enough, its first inhabitant, Thomas Jefferson, is rumored to have lost a competition he entered incognito to design it to an relative unknown Irish immigrant. He later made many structural changes but the building standing today bears perhaps little resemblance to either as most it burned down during the War of 1812. It was during this reconstruction that it was painted white and over time garnered its moniker.
The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Tours of the White House are currently limited to parties of 10 or more people, requested through one’s Member of Congress and will be accepted up to six months in advance. These self-guided group tours will be scheduled approximately one month before the requested date, from 7:30am to 11:30am Tuesday-Saturday, excluding Federal holidays. For the most current tour information, please call the 24-hour line at 202-456-7041. The National Park Service operates the White House Visitor Center, located at 15th and E Sts., NW, open daily from 7:30am until 4:00pm. Metro stop: McPherson Square
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Directions: Metro Station - McPherson Square
cool shops on M Street in Georgetown
Looking at Georgetown today, it's hard to see past the trendy colorful neighborhood that attracts tourists and locals alike but it's historical past dates back to 1761 with a lifeline tied tightly to tobacco. Named after King George, its past has not been all illustrious: going from prosperous shipping center, to a fashionable living quarter, to refuge of freed slaves, to one of the city's worst slums, to home to John F. Kennedy, and finally to the dining/shopping retreat it is today.
This was high on our list of places to see in the DC area. It's impressive old brick houses, colorful shops, and charming streets are a delight to stroll around. A bonus for us was it being home to the best beer bar in the DC area, the trendy Pizzeria Birerria.
Directions: Metro Stop: Foggy Bottom
Post Office Pavilion interior
Built in the late 1890s, the Old Post Office Pavilion is the last in the Richardsonian Romanesque style constructed in the District of Colombia. Its 315 foot clock tower is its key feature and makes it the tirde tallest building in DC. Though it does house one of the nation's oldest post offices, its immense size ensures that only a portion of it is utilized in this capacity. Though Federal offices take up a part of the massive structure, most tourists will know it for its shops and sizable food court that offers up some of the least expensive eating options close to the National Mall. Staffed by National Park rangers who offer free tours of the clock tower, views from its 270 foot observation deck rival those from the Washington Monument with a lot less hassle in the busy tourist season.
Address: 1100 Pennsylvannia Avenue
Directions: Metro Station: Federal Triangle
A Capitol Reflection
The United States Capitol Building is one of DC's iconic symbols for good reason. One of the country's most impressive buildings from an architectural viewpoint, its importance is not merely symbolic. Home to both the Senate and House of Representatives, the cornerstones of the checks and balances theory behind US government, the Capitol Building is more so the seat of US policy making than the White House. Theoretically a good thing though in recent months one might reconsider.
The impressive 19th century neoclassical architecture was designed by a no namer who won a $500 competition and building commenced in 1793 though not completed until 1813 after which it partially burned down. The present structure which has cone through considerable renovation over the years clocks in at over 175,000 square feet!
The Capitol is located on Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. Visitors must obtain free tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, at the Capitol Guide Service kiosk located along the curving sidewalk southwest of the Capitol, near the intersection of First St., S.W., and Independence Ave. Ticket distribution begins at 9:00 a.m; the capitol is open from 9:00am to 4:30pm, Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Address: East Capitol Street and 1st Street NW
Directions: Metro: Capitol South, Union Station
the stunning Library of Congress
While it is true that the National Library is the largest library in the world with over 90 million archived materials and serves as the research arm of the United States Congress, even these impressive facts miss the sheer beauty of the building's exquisite interior. As the oldest federal cultural institution it has a storied past from Thomas Jefferson selling his massive personal collection of books to the United States to give the then new enterprise a massive boost to losing over half of its collection to a massive fire some 50 years after its inception. Originally part of the Congressional building of the day, it was decided to build it a separate and much safer (read, fire-proof) house of its own.
A good friend who had recently visited DC prior to us suggested we not miss this national treasure and she was very much right. It was perhaps our favorite place in DC. It's a magnificent and elegant building and one cannot help being in awe walking around its various rooms and hallways. It's one of the more impressive man made things I have seen in the US. It is open to the public for free and you can even use its resources by applying for a free library card. Free tours are even given. Amazing.
Address: 10 First Street, SE
Directions: Metro: Capitol South. Next to the Supreme Court, just behind the Capitol Building.
one of the many stunning pieces at NAG
While the National Gallery of Art is not part of the Smithsonian Institute, it is free despite being one of the largest and most impressive collections of art in not only the United States but the world. Thanks to the generous donation of Andrew W. Mellon's collection upon his death in 1937, Congress created the ambitious endeavor for the people of the United States. It opened in 1941 though an additional building was added in 1978 to help house the growing collection.
While it may not be the Louvre, this is no two hour walk through. In fact, two hours will be a very cursory visit through a small portion of the sprawling collection. If you have something you want to see, you might want to map out your trip or plan to spend an entire day to fully see even one building.
This was very high on our list of places to visit and we spent about four hours in a very well-planned exploration. It was one of the main things that had us wishing we had a week in town rather than four days!
Address: 401 Constitution Avenue Northwest
Directions: 3rd & 7th Streets at Constitution Avenue
The Constitution & Declarion lie here
The National Archives are where the country's most valuable documents are stored and serves as a research resource center for advanced scholars as well as those with less prestigious credentials. Just imagine, only 1 to 3% of all documents in the United States are considered important enough to store them here. Want something more concrete? Well, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are here. Oh, and one of the few original copies of Magna Carta too! Prior to the National Archives formation in 1934, each branch of government was responsible for archiving their own documents. The building is one of the city's more ornate as well as state of the art, especially at the time of its construction, as special air-handlers were necessary to ensure the safety of the perishable goods it was to house.
This was a definite if brief stop. We found it kind of amusing that there was such a big line for the US treasures while the Magna Carta garnered only a short glance by most passing by.
Address: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Directions: Located between 7th and 9th Streets.
stunning sculptures at Hirhhorn
People tend to forget just how many great art museums there are in Washington, DC and it is not confined to indoors either. The Hirhhorn Museum is the Smithsonian Institute's showcase of contemporary art and though many forgo an actual visit, few completely ignore all of its pieces as the outdoor Sculpture Garden portion of the collection is right on the National Mall and those strolling by cannot help but be drawn to some stunning pieces.
The idea of a second visual art component of the Smithsonian was mandated by Congress in the late 1930s to complement the mostly European collection at the National Art Gallery. Uranium magnate Joseph Hirshhorm donated his sizable collection and the outlandish building now showcasing it was completed and opened in 1974. As with all Smithsonian museums, admission is free and with it being right on the National Mall, it's easy to make at least a brief stop if time allows.
With only four days in DC and so much to see, we did not get into the museum proper but did enjoy the Sculpture Garden. The Burghers of Calais is particularly stunning.
Directions: Right on the National Mall.
Quite possibly the most popular of the Smithsonian Institute complex, The National Air & Space Museum houses the largest collection of air and space craft in the world. Needless to say the building is massive to house such large historical artifacts and the overall effect of seeing so many large planes and even space capsules is a bit daunting.
This was not high on our list of places to visit but it is nearly impossible to not want to at least have a peek and even a peek at this huge collection takes a couple of hours. Due to the size of both the building and attractions along with the great natural light that comes through the largely glass construction, it is a great place for photography.
Directions: Right on the National Mall.
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