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Washington, D.C. Travel Guide - Sights to See
Dulles International Airport: Taxi, coach, or limo service is available to the city. The trip takes about 45 minutes. It's also possible to take a combination bus/metro trip to the city. A taxi is recommended unless you're familiar with the city. A taxi costs about $40.

Information: Available at Visitor's Center... 1st floor, Department of Commerce, 15th and E Streets... 2 blocks from White House. The center is staffed by National Park Service, and you can pick up brochures, maps, and ask for any kind of info. Tickets to white house.

The Metro: It's so easy. After one trip, you'll be a pro. The metro is identified by a tall brown pylon, crowned with the letter M. Metro maps are posted inside each station. There are different fares for different destinations. If in doubt, ask the attendant in the kiosk. To pay the fare, purchase a "Farecard" from a vending machine, with a minimum credit of 80 cents. Insert the card at the entrance gate. The time and location will be recorded and your card will be returned. As you exit at your stop, insert the card again. Your fare will automatically be deducted. If you don't have enough fare left on your card, the turnstile will flash "Stop". Go back to a machine and pay the amount indicated. Keep a supply of dollars available if you use the metro a lot. You can only get tickets from the machines... and it's primarily on the honor system.

Sightseeing Tramobile Loop: This special tram makes a loop throughout the capitol, passing all the major sights. One can buy a ticket for 1, 2, 3 days, and it's possible to get on/off as often as you want. You can buy tickets on the tram at any stop... or begin the trip at the major stops at Washington Monument, or Lincoln Monument.

U.S. Capitol: (Metro: U.S.Capitol) Elegant and regularly scheduled guided tours take visitors through the central rotunda with its hand-painted murals...and through other noteworthy areas of the building. Security will be very tight at the entrance. One must stand in line to get "Day of Entrance" tickets to return at a specified time.

White House: (Metro: McPherson) 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you get a tour, you'll enter the East Gate on East Executive Avenue. Tours are on Tue-Sat 10A-12 noon. This is the oldest public building in Washington, and the home to every president except George Washington. The tour includes 5 rooms - the Blue Room, the State Dining Room, the Red Room, the Green Room and the East Room. Tickets are available (free) at the Visitors Center from 8 AM on the day of your visit only. Go early, pick the time of your visit, go sightsee, and then return for your visit. This tour is a must, because this is your house. When it's time for your tour, you go to bleachers set up near the White House. Wait until your tour is called, then line up for the walk to the entrance. You'll be escorted by National Park Rangers. Once inside, it's pretty much self-guided, but you're roped off and can't wander away. Very impressive tour. Since 9/11 the tours are only available to school children and folks in the military.

Lincoln Memorial: (Metro: Foggy Bottom) Daily 8-midnight. This memorial was completed in 1922... designed in the style of the Parthenon in Athens. Inside is Daniel Chester's 19-foot statue of Lincoln looking out over the mall. On the walls are some of his most famous speeches. In the foreground of the Memorial is the reflecting pool.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial: (Metro: Foggy Bottom) Daily 8-midnight. Located just across from the Lincoln Memorial. This extremely impressive and very moving Memorial is essentially made up of two long granite walls which contain the names of 60,000 men who lost their lives or were reported missing in Vietnam. It's now the most visited monument in Washington. You'll see people taking rubbings of names of loved ones, plus numerous letters, notes, trinkets, and flowers they leave behind as a token of their visit. When this Memorial opened, the Vietnam Vets hated it, and felt it was not dignified and in keeping with other monuments. To appease them, a traditional "realistic" statue of a group of soldiers was erected and placed just up the hill from the monument.

Jefferson Memorial: (Metro: L'Enfant Plaza) Daily 8-midnight. Located at the bottom of 15th street SW. With its soaring white rotunda and white marble columns, this memorial reflects Jefferson's preference in architecture. Built in the form of Rome's Pantheon, the memorial features sculptures of Jefferson with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, who worked together on the Declaration of Independence. Inside is the 19 foot bronze statue of Jefferson. During the spring, the memorial is the perfect vantage point to view Washington's famous Cherry blossoms.

Washington Monument: (Metro: Smithsonian) Daily, first Sunday in April - Labor Day 8-midnight. The rest of the year 9-5P. Located on 15th Street and Constitution, this monument is the centerpiece of the Mall. The 555-foot obelisk was approved for construction in 1783. Pierre L'Enfant designated the site and Washington himself approved it. However, construction was not begun until 1848...and completed in 1888. Construction was halted during the Civil War, and when it was begun again, the same marble was not available. You'll notice a change in color when you look at the monument. Today, the top, reached by elevator, has the finest views of Washington. Free "Day of Visit" tickets are available for set times.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial: This new memorial opened in 1997-98. Located between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. There were early protests that Roosevelt's disability was not adequately depicted, but that was resolved. Different from other Washington Memorials and very beautifully landscaped.

World War 2 Memorial: Opened to the public in 2004, this Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served and died in World War II. It's an oval shape with two 43-foot arches, representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Fifty-six pillars, adorned with bronze wreaths, represent the states, territories and the District of Columbia at the time of the war. Small fountains sit at the bases of the two arches. Waterfalls surround a wall of 4,000 gold stars, each one representing 100 U.S. deaths in the war. A circular garden, "The Circle of Remembrance," is enclosed by a two-foot-high stone wall. There was much controversy over the original design of this memorial because it would have destroyed the "sight-line" from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It was re-designed on a smaller scale and sunken below ground.

Korea War Memorial: Between the Lincoln and FDR Memorial. Depicting statues of "ghostly" soldiers walking across a rice paddy, reflected in a black granite wall. Probably the least effective of all the DC Memorials.

Smithsonian Museums: (Metro: Smithsonian) The "Smithsonian" is actually a very large complex of museums, whose most famous structure is "the Castle". In 1826, an Englishman, James Smithson, put an unusual provision in his will: Should his nephew die without heirs, the bulk of his estate would go to the American Government to establish "an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men". Smithsonian had never been to the US and it is not known why he chose this country for his bequest. Work did not begin on the castle until 1846. Today, the Smithsonian collections are so extensive that only a small percentage can be exhibited. While The Mall is the heart of the Smithsonian Museums, there are branches spread out all over the city - and even one branch in NYC. All Smithsonian Museums are free!

National Gallery of Art: (Metro: Archives) Mon-Sat 10-7. Sun 12-9. Located at Constitution Avenue at 4th Street NW. This museum is part of the Smithsonian. It is really two buildings, the classical West building and the newer, celebrated East building. The buildings are joined by an underground sidewalk. The National Gallery is one of the world's great museums and the collection is truly outstanding, and should not be missed. This is our National Collection of Art... and covers all major art periods - especially rich in Impressionism. The National Gallery is easy to navigate. An excellent cafeteria, downstairs.

National Museum of American History: (Metro: Archives) 14th Street and Constitution Ave NW. A branch of Smithsonian. The history of the U.S. and its people is explored in exhibitions that highlight the nation's scientific, cultural, political, and technological developments. Do not miss the original Star Stangled Banner Flag, gowns of the First Ladies, Ford's original Model T, memorabilia of our national pastimes, and a priceless instrument collection, as well as the popular items like... ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz, Archie Bunker's arm chair, and the "dummy" Charlie MacCarthy. Cafeteria.

National Museum of Natural History: (Metro: Archives/Smithsonian) A branch of the Smithsonian with a collection of more than 81 million items documenting man and his natural environment. Exhibit highlights include dinosaur skeletons and a living coral reef. See the exquisite 45.5 carat Hope Diamond. Recorded tours available. Cafeteria.

National Air and Space Museum: (Metro: U.S. Capitol/Smithsonian) Daily 10-7:30P. 6th Street and Independence Ave SW. This is the most visited museum in the world. It contains 23 galleries showcasing the evolution of aviation and space technology. Included are the original Wright Flyer from 1903, the Spirit of St. Louis, John Glenn's Friendship 7 space capsule, and the Skylab Workshop. There's also an excellent IMAX film, and a planetarium. This museum will be crowded with lots of kids, but don't miss it. Cafeteria. Another branch of the Smithsonian.

National Museum of African Art: (Metro: Smithsonian) Independence Ave SW. This branch of the Smithsonian is the only museum devoted to the art and culture of Africa. Permanents exhibits show the central place of art in many African societies.

National Archives: (Metro: Archives) Apr 1-Labor Day 10-9P. Labor Day-Mar 31 10-5:30P. Constitution Ave between 7-9 Streets NW. This is a handsome building in the style of the Parthenon, and houses America's most precious documents... the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. You are able to walk by each of these priceless documents but can spend only a few seconds in front of each. As you walk in line, you'll see numerous other important documents. In addition, you can research your family history in the Research Room.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: (Metro: Smithsonian) Daily 10-5:30P. Independence Ave at 7th St SW. This cylindrical museum contains a remarkable collection of 19th and 20th century Modern Paintings and Sculpture.

Freer Gallery of Art: (Metro: Smithsonian) The Freer houses one of the finest collections of Oriental Art in the world, with works from the Near and Far East. Also in the collection are works by late 19th and early 20th century American Artists, including Whistler and Homer. Whistler's famous "Peacock Room" is here.

National Building Museum: (Metro: Judiciary Square) Judiciary Square between 4th and 5th. This is the only museum devoted to architecture and the building arts. It's housed in the historic Old Pension Building designed by General Montgomery Meigs in 1881. The magnificent Great Hall of this landmark has been the site of Inaugural Balls since Grover Cleveland's first in 1885. Renovation has restored the building's original Victorian elegance. Do drop by and see the Great Hall, if nothing else. Mon-Fri 10-4P. Sat-Sun 12-4.

National Postal Museum: (Metro: Union Station) Located in a restored Post Office across from Union Station. This is a relatively undiscovered museum and well worth a visit. It houses the history of the mails... from pony express to the present. It may not sound great, but this writer loved this branch of the Smithsonian, especially the "hands on" exhibits.

Corcoran Gallery of Art: (Metro: Farragut West) 17th and New York Av NW. This is the city's largest and oldest private gallery and contains an excellent collection of American Art. Tue-Sun 10-4:30. Closed Mon.

The Phillips Collection: (Metro: Dupont Circle...and a 10 min walk) Tue-Sat 10A-5P. Sun 2-7P. Closed Mon. 1600-1612 21st St. NW This was the first modern art gallery in the U.S. and contains a wonderful and famous collection of Impressionist art. Well worth the time it takes to reach it.

Old Post Office Pavilion: 1100 Pennsylvania Av and 12th NW. This is a splendid example of Romanesque architecture, which is crowned by a 315-foot clock tower. It's a former city post office with has been lovingly restored... and now houses federal offices, restaurants, shops and boutiques around an elegant courtyard. Take the glass-enclosed elevator to the observation tower for splendid views. A good place for fast ethnic foods at lunch.

Library of Congress: (Metro: South Capitol) This is the nation's greatest collection of almost everything printed in the U.S. The main building is ornate and lavishly decorated with murals. In addition to printed material, there are exhibits, concerts, and poetry readings. Mon-Fri 8:30-9:30 PM. Cafeteria.

Supreme Court: (Metro: Capitol South) 1st St and Maryland Ave NE The highest court in the land, where the nine president-appointed justices rule on Constitutional matters. The massive classical building was built in 1935. Court is in session 2 weeks of every month Oct-Apr. Open Mon-Fri 9-4:30 P. Tours arranged through your congressman's office.

National Portrait Gallery: (Metro: Gallery Place) Located at 8th and F Street NW. This is the nation's official picture album. If you want to know what anyone looked like, you'll find it here. Also you'll find the Time Magazine Cover collection here. Daily 10-5:30 PM.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing: (Metro: Smithsonian) Tours Mon-Fri 9-1:45P... at 14th and C Streets SW. The tours are self-guided and take 25 minutes. They depart continuously during visiting hours and show one a glimpse of the process of producing money. Go early. Vast crowds and kids!

Pentagon: (Metro: Pentagon). One of the world's largest office buildings... and headquarters for the Secretaries of the Defense Department, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Tours include Commander-in-Chief, Executive and Time-Life Corridors as well as Hall of Heroes. Must call 10 days ahead for a tour. No public restrooms.

Woodrow Wilson House Museum: (Metro: Dupont Circle and 10 min walk). 2340 Street NW. This is Wilson's retirement home from 1921-24. On display are the original furnishings and memorabilia, presenting a picture of upper middle class life of the 1920's. Tue-Fri 10-2PM. Sat-Sun 12-4PM. This is a very interesting museum and you just might be the only person there. To enter, you might have to ring the doorbell.

National Museum of Women in the Arts: (Metro: Metro Center) 13th Street and New York Av NW. Tue-Sat 10-5P. Works by women artists spanning four centuries, highlighting women's contributions to the history of art. Cafeteria.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: (Metro: Foggy Bottom). New Hampshire Av at Rock Creek Pkwy. Drama, dance, music and film in six theatres. Home of the National Symphony, Washington Opera, and the American Film Institute. Free tours daily 10-1PM. It's a nice tour. Restaurant and Cafeteria.

FBI Headquarters: (Metro: Federal Triangle). E Street between 9th and 10th. A fascinating look at crime fighting techniques used by the FBI. Free one-hour tour takes you into crime laboratories; past photos of the 10 most wanted fugitives and to a live firearms demonstration, viewed from behind glass. Mon-Fri 8:45-4:15 PM.

Teddy Roosevelt Memorial: On Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac. This island is accessible by footbridge only...and is a wildlife refuge with nearly 2 miles of trails. A 17 foot bronze statue of Roosevelt can be seen in Statuary Gardens.

Arlington National Cemetery: (Metro: Arlington Cemetery) This is our largest national Shrine... overlooking Washington from its high perch above the west side of the Memorial Bridge. In addition to the thousands of servicemen buried here, one will find the graves of John, Robert, and Jackie Kennedy, William H. Taft, Joe Louis, Oliver W. Holmes, and the astronauts who died in a space explosion... as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Be sure and see the very moving ceremony at the tomb of the Unknowns. At the top of the hill, above the Kennedy graves sits Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee. Do take the tour through the house for an insight into the way the family lived. Lee left this house at the beginning of the Civil War and did not return. Daily 9:30-4:30.

Iwo Jima Statue Marine Corps Memorial: Route 50 near Arlington Cemetery. This is the largest bronze statue ever cast..78 feet, commemorating all the marines who have died in battle since 1775. Felix W. de Weldon created the piece from a famous war photograph showing the flag being raised on Mt. Suribachi during WWII. Unless you're on a tour, or take a taxi, you probably won't get to this memorial.

Ford's Theatre and Lincoln Museum: (Metro: Metro Center) 511 10th Street NW. This beautifully restored theatre remains historically significant as the place where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. See the box where it occurred. Self guided tours. Downstairs is an excellent Lincoln museum, which contains objects, related to the Lincolns and to John Wilkes Booth, including the clothing Lincoln was wearing, and Booth's gun. Across the street from the Theatre is the Peterson House where Lincoln died. You're able to see 4 rooms plus the bedroom where Lincoln died, including the visible dried blood on the pillowcase.

U.S. Navy Memorial: (Metro: Archives) Pennsylvania Ave between 7th and 9th Streets. This is a living memorial dedicated to all who have served in the Navy since 1775. From Memorial Day-Labor Day, the Navy Band and other service bands perform nightly concerts in the Memorial's amphitheatre. A visitors center is adjacent to the Memorial.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: Near the Navy Memorial, this new memorial is dedicated to all officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. The design is derivative of the Vietnam Memorial... with names engraved on a wall. You'll see notes and little trinkets left behind by those who have visited. A visitor's center is adjacent.

Washington National Cathedral: Mt. St. Alban, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves NW. A spectacular 14th century Gothic Cathedral and the 6th largest in the world. Magnificent view of Washington from the tower. Mon-Sat 10-4:30 P. You probably won't see this unless you take a taxi, or learn to use the bus. After many years the Cathedral was finally finished in the last year.

St. John's Church: Lafayette Square. This is often called the Church of the Presidents because every President since James Madison has sat in Pew 54 on some occasion. Mon-Sat 8-4P. The building is not particularly impressive, but it's historic.

National Museum of American Art: (Metro: Gallery Place) 8th and G Streets. The permanent collection contains over 30,000 works spanning 250 years of American Art. Contains work by the earliest American artists up to the present artists.

Renwich Gallery: (Metro: Farragut West) 17th St at Pennsylvania NW The Renwick features exhibitions of American crafts, design and decorative arts. The Grand Salon and the Octagon Room are furnished in styles from the 1860's. This museum is more interesting than it may sound.

Arts and Industries Building: (Metro: Smithsonian) 900 Jefferson Dr SW. This museum recreates the ambiance of the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, and the exhibits represent an extensive collection of Victorian Americana. Highlights include working steam engines and other machines of the era.

National Zoo: (Metro: Woodley Park) More than 3000 animals including the giant pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing (a gift from China). Daily Apr-Oct 8A-8P.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: 1050 Independence Av SW. International loan exhibitions and a permanent collection of Asian and near Eastern Art.

Armed Forces Medical Museum: Walter Reed Medical Center. This museums displays exhibits on the evolution and effects of disease. May-Nov Mon-Fri 10-5 PM.

Decatur House: (Metro: Farragut West) 748 Jackson Pl NW. This elegant Federal style home of naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and built in 1819. It's now a national Historic Landmark near the White House and has been the home of many of the nation's leaders. Mon-Fri 10-5:30 PM.

Old Stone House: (Metro: Foggy Bottom) 3051 M St NW This is the oldest surviving house in Washington... 5 rooms, built in 1765. Wed-Sun 9:30-5 PM.

Department of the Interior Museum: (Metro: Farragut West) C Street between 18-19. Exhibits depicting the origins and early development of the National Park Service, including artifacts, geological samples, stuffed animals and lifelike dioramas. Mon-Fri 8-4P. Cafeteria.

National Geographic Society Explorer's Hall: (Metro: Farragut West) Exhibits of scientific expeditions. Mon-Sat 9-5P. Sun 10-5P.

Textile Museum: (Metro: Dupont Circle) 2320 S St NW Founded in 1925, this elegant museum features more than 10,000 textile items and 1000 rugs. Tue-Sat 10-5 PM Sun 1-5PM.

U.S. Holocaust Museum: Located next to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, this somber and moving museum tells the story of the Holocaust through artifacts, films, photographs, and oral histories. Daily 10-5:30. Advance tickets are recommended. .

U.S. Patent Office/Museum: This is worth a visit primarily to see the "Great Hall" where Lincoln's Inaugural Ball was held. There are also replicas of most major patents.

Navy Yard: 9th & M Streets SE. The oldest Naval facility in the U.S. The Navy Museum houses thousands of warships, weapons, etc. Mon-Fri 9-4. Cafeteria.

Dumbarton Oaks: 1703 32nd St NW. A splendid 19th century mansion near Georgetown. Contains an extensive Byzantine collection, garden and Music Room. 10 acres of formal gardens. Museum open Tu-Su 2-5P from Apr-Oct. Gardens open 2-6P Apr-Oct.

Lafayette Square: Pennsylvania and 16th St NW. Meticulously landscaped square named after Marquis de Lafayette's triumphant visit to America in 1824. The equestrian statue is Andrew Jackson. One bench here has a plaque to Bernard Baruch because he sat there so often.

Union Station: This working train station has been restored to all of its Beaux-Arts splendor and houses 125 stores, restaurants, food court, cinema complex, and money exchange. The beautiful interior is well worth seeing.

Old Executive Office: Highly decorative restored Victorian interiors with beautiful stained-glass rotundas. Saturday 9-11:30... Advance security approval required.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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