With several hundred museums and dozens of significant historical buildings and monuments, it’s a challenge to plan an itinerary that makes the most of your limited stay in the Capital City. Fortunately, many main attractions are within walking distance of each other, meaning you can get a good taste of DC in a short visit.
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The Capitol Building – Home of Congress
Tours of the Capitol are an ideal way to gain an overview of key events that impacted Washington. Start your day here to avoid the crowds, with easy access from the clean and speedy metro system. (Get off at Union Station, Capitol South, or Federal Centre, all within a few blocks of the grounds.) Reservations are recommended, and can be made through your Representative or Senator’s offices, or you can book online at www.visitthecapitol.gov. Arrive 45 minutes before your tour is scheduled to begin, as passing through security takes some time. No food or drink can be carried in. The tour will last approximately an hour, beginning with a short film to acclimate you to the building’s history.
The Smithsonian – Caretakers of Global Treasures
Since the Smithsonian boasts 19 major museums within moments of the Capitol, it isn’t feasible to see them all. Instead, choose your passion and focus on the major exhibits in a single structure. The National Air and Space Museum is a favourite, featuring a piece of lunar rock for visitors to feel. Others prefer the National Museum of Natural History, with rotating exhibits offering everything from mummies to an examination of the Chilean Mine rescue. The Hall of Human Origins, the Ocean Hall, and the Hope Diamond are permanent fixtures, drawing scores of visitors from all over the world every year. Admission is always free to all Smithsonian museums, and the cafeteria cuisine is fresh and tempting, making it a great place for a lunch break before moving on to the monuments. Major Monuments on the National Mall
Continue your tour with a walk along the National Mall, a grassy space used for everything from Frisbee to festivals. You will come to the Washington Monument, the quintessential symbol of the city. Though currently closed for repair because of damage from the 2011 earthquake, you can walk around the outside and enjoy the majesty of the world’s most famous obelisk. Take special note of the change in stone colour partway up, showing where construction paused for several years, due in part to the Civil War.
Pass the Washington Monument and cross the street to see one of DC’s newer sights, the open air World War II Memorial, completed in 2004. Follow the reflecting pool, then climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where such pivotal moments as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech took place. Finally, walk through the Vietnam Memorial, where the names of 58,175 veterans are immortalised. The atmosphere is hushed and reverent, with flowers, notes, and tokens of love lining the path.
Relax and refresh with supper at the nearby Poste Moderne Brasserie, located in a 19th century former post office. As you walk in, you cross the courtyard where horse drawn wagons brought the mail for sorting. Whether inside or in the outdoor garden view seating area, you will find a peaceful end to a perfect day.