The United States capital is a must-visit for all Americans and is also a wonderful experience for foreigners who wish to learn about America and its storied history. The beauty of traveling to Washington is that most of the sights are absolutely free! Thus, it is a great place to take a family, for a trip without a huge outlay of cash. However, the many sights are staggering to see all at once, so my recommendation is to make several trips of a short length, say three days, instead of a single long visit. Here are my favorite sights in DC.
1. Tackle the Smithsonian — This huge museum, consisting of numerous buildings both in and out of the city, is, without doubt, one of the greatest museums in the world. The most popular of the venues is the National Air and Space Museum, but there are many to choose from. Most of the buildings are along the National Mall, between Independence and Constitution Avenues, west of the Capitol Building.
2. Climb the Washington Monument — This huge obelisk, by law the tallest building in the city, sits at the center of the National Mall and provides incredible views of the city and some of the other major sights.
3. Stand in Awe at the Lincoln Memorial – Perhaps America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln is memorialized with a giant sitting sculpture and walls which contain the words of his two greatest speeches. The memorial stands prominently at the western end of the reflecting pool, facing the Washington Monument.
4. Visit the Jefferson Memorial — The writer of the Declaration of Independence is commemorated by a beautiful, circular, temple-like structure in the tidal basin, just south of the Washington Monument.
5. Make a Call at the White House — The sitting president’s residence can be found just north of the Washington Monument. Several rooms are open to the public although long lines are common.
6. See Government Work at the Capitol Building — The beautiful national capitol is where laws are discussed and enacted, the very foundation of a Democratic society based on the rule of law. The building itself is spectacular.
7. Observe Creativity at “The Awakening” — This unusual and popular sculpture, representing the emergence of Man, can be found near the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, in the tidal basin section of the city.
8. Get Emotional at the National Holocaust Memorial — This fairly new exhibit highlights the events and atrocities of the genocide carried out by the Germans in World War II. The experience is extremely moving.
9. Pay Tribute to America’s Greatest 20th Century President — The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial commemorates the man who served as America’s president for the longest time, and the man who helped the country out of the Great Depression and through the Second World War.
10. Search For Soldiers You Knew at the Vietnam War Memorial — This iconic wall, and its accompanying sculptures, allows visitors to share in the United States’ greatest military humiliation. A visit here is also a moving experience.
11. Remember America’s Forgotten War — The Korean War ended in a virtual stalemate, perhaps a preview of what would later happen in Vietnam. Finally, there is a memorial to the brave souls who gave their lives during this “police action.”
12. Visit America’s Newest War Memorial — Finally, after years of discussion and planning, there is a place where Americans can remember and learn about the greatest war of the 20th century, World War II. It occupies a prominent position, west of the Washington Monument and east of the Lincoln Memorial.
13. Visit the World’s Largest Office Building — The Pentagon, headquarters of America’s Armed Forces, is a giant 5-sided building, on the south side of the Potomac River, in Arlington, Virginia. The site provides access to Washington’s Metro system, so is frequented by thousands each day.
14. Learn About America’s First President at Mount Vernon — The estate of George Washington, just outside of Washington, has been lovingly restored and preserved, and tours pay tribute to the multi-talented leader of the Revolutionary War and the new country’s first elected official.
15. Enter a Sea of Crosses at Arlington National Cemetery — This beautiful property, just across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial, is the final resting place for many of America’s thousands of military officers and enlisted men. Visitors can observe the moving and solemn “changing of the guard” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also visit the perpetual flame at the grave of President John F Kennedy.
16. Make an Excursion to the Stephen F Udvar Center — An extension of the National Air and Space Museum, this venue is located in Chantilly, Virginia, on the grounds of Dulles Airport. The warehous displays some of the larger aircraft and spacecraft of the Smithsonian.
17. Get Natural at the US Botanical Garden — This paradise of flowering and other plants offers visitors a relaxing and peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, even though it is just below the US Capitol Building.
18. Visit One of the World’s Greatest Images – The Iwo Jima Memorial, more appropriately known as the Marine Corps Memorial, located in nearby Arlington, Virginia, is a sculpture of a newspaper photograph which spearheaded the re-emergence of the United States, after its humiliation following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
19. Honor Science at the Einstein Memorial — One of the world’s greatest minds is commemorated at this playful sculpture of Albert Einstein, on the grounds of the National Academy of Science, across the street from the Vietnam War Memorial.
20. Relive American History at the National Archives — Visitors here can see original copies of the Declaration of Independence and US Consitution, among other historical documents.
21. Stroll Around Old Town Alexandria — This Virginia suburb of Washington has preserved its city center, with cobblestone streets and vintage buildings. It makes a great base of operations for an exploration of the entire area.
22. Delve into the History of Exploration on Earth — Visit Explorer’s Hall, at the National Geographic Headquarters, for an interesting and informative journey into the world of this iconic magazine which has entertained readers for well over one hundred years.
23. Explore Intrigue at the International Spy Museum — This very different museum offers an interactive look at the life and history of the shadowy creatures we call spies. Although things could be done better, kids love the venue, and it showcases, creatively, a considerable amount of history.
24. See the Pandas at the National Zoo — Although actually a part of the Smithsonian Museum, this venue, on the outskirts of the city, is extremely popular with families because of the Panda exhibit. It is a wonderful zoological park.