Washington DC is the capital of the United States of America and prominently showcases all that America is proud about, from its great leaders to its model style of government to its wealth. It is a city of incredible monuments and world-class museums. The architecture and scale of the buildings is awe-inspiring. There are obviously many possible candidates for this category, but I have listed my favorite ten below, to be followed shortly by a photo album.
1. Washington Monument – The world’s tallest obelisk, at 555 feet, is the tallest structure in the city (by law). Construction began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884, when it became the tallest structure in the world until eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The elevator to the top brings visitors to an observation area which provides dramatic views in all directions.
2. Lincoln Memorial – Patterned after the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, this tribute to one of America’s greatest presidents contains Daniel Chester French’s imposing statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. On the south wall of the monument is Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, and on the north wall is the text of his second inaugural speech.
3. Jefferson Memorial – This dramatic structure is attractively isolated in a section of the Tidal Basin and was designed using elements from the Pantheon in Rome and Jefferson’s own design for the rotunda at the University of Virginia. Inside is a 19-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. There are also several inscriptions of famous Jefferson quotes and a biography of his life.
4. National Air and Space Museum (part of the Smithsonian Museum) – This is the most popular venue in the immense Smithsonian museum and contains the largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world. Some of the most famous of the displays include Lindburgh’s Spirit of St Louis, a model of the Voyager spacecraft which surveyed the outer solar system, the Command Module of Apollo 11, which brought the first humans to the moon, and many other significant milestones in the history of flight. There is also an annex, the Stephen F Udvar-Hazy Center, located at the Dulles Airport, which contains some even larger pieces of aviation history, such as, the Enola Gay, a B-29 Bomber which carried the atomic bomb that leveled the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and an Air France Concorde, the first supersonic passenger plane.
5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – This symbolic group of four "rooms" depict the United States’ longest serving president and his many accomplishments. The sculptures and inscriptions recall the many years of turmoil which his presidency spanned, from the Depression to World War II. This memorial was only completed in 1997.
6. The White House – This is the official home and workplace of the American president and has been since the presidency of John Adams in 1800. It was burned down in 1814 by the British during the War of 1812, but was reconstructed and enlarged. The residence today contains 132 rooms over its six floors of living space. The infamous West Wing is the nerve center of presidential operations and contains the Oval Office, the president’s office.
7. The Capitol Building – This symbol of American democracy was built in the late 18th century and has a central section which includes the dome and rotunda and two wings, one for each chamber of Congress, north is the Senate, south is the House of Representatives. The present dome was added in the 1850’s. The statue of Freedom tops the dome. This is where legislative activities of the United States take place.
8. Vietnam War Memorial – This commemoration to one of America’s most embarassing wars consists of three parts, The Three Soldier’s Statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, the most famous section. Maya Lin designed the wall, which contains the names of soldiers who were killed in the war or were classified as "missing in action." A registry assists visitors in finding the location of loved ones or friends.
9. World War II Memorial – This is the most recent addition to the National Mall and commemorates the conflict which occupied the attention of the United States from 1941 to 1945. One end (the southern) is dedicated to the Pacific campaign and the other (northern) deals with the European Theater.
10. National Museum of Natural History (part of the Smithsonian Museum) – This immense museum contains over 125 millions specimens of wildlife from around the world. Its gem and mineral collection includes the Hope Diamond and the Star of Asia Sapphire. It is the second most popular of the Smithsonian buildings.
Other sights considered:
Korean War Memorial
National Holocaust Memorial
Arlington Memorial Cemetery