Washington, D.C.: Like No Place Else
Where else can you lobby a congressman or attend an embassy gala? D.C. is the epicenter of politics and home to the historic buildings that facilitate the daily activities of the U.S. government. The White House is naturally one such place. Visiting here is perhaps the most “touristy” thing you can do. Be sure to visit The Library of Congress on First Street, the largest library in the world, with a collection that numbers in the millions. See your tax dollars at work by touring the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, the Department of Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing (where money is printed) and the nerve center of the defense department, the Pentagon.
Viewing all of the collections housed at the Smithsonian Museums is free. Pop into the National Gallery to view a favorite painting, or spend all day strolling through the Asian art exhibits at the Sackler Gallery. It’s all there at your fingertips, the African Art Museum, Museum of American History, Museum of Natural History and the ever popular Air and Space Museum, to name a few. There are also free music concerts and events at many of these locations. Check out the Jazz in the Garden Series on Friday evenings during the summer at the Sculpture Garden.
And the Smithsonian isn't the only game in town. You'll find a museum for any subject in D.C., from the Newseum (for news and journalism) and the International Spy Museum to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Call ahead for ticket prices.
Memorials and Monuments
The war memorials on the National Mall and beyond offer an evocative lesson of American history by commemorating the service of the armed forces and acknowledging their sacrifices. These include perhaps the most famous Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, African American Civil War Memorial and the most recent addition, the World War II Memorial. Other monuments and memorials honor our country's important leaders: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial and the planned Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial.
Washington is also a city of natural beauty. In early spring, spectacular cherry trees in full bloom line the Tidal Basin. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, commemorating a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Japan to the city of Washington in 1912, draws people from around the world as it ushers in the beautiful spring season in Washington.
Running through the length of Northwest D.C. and into Maryland is Rock Creek Park. At more than twice the size of Central Park in New York City, Rock Creek has many picnic tables, a nature center and planetarium, horse-riding trails, tennis courts and more. Whether you walk, cycle, jog or drive through it, Rock Creek Park is a natural respite in the midst of the bustling city. And if you really want a dose of wilderness, take a drive to Shenandoah National Park, only 75 miles from D.C., and hike the scenic Appalachian Trail. The fall season with its colorful foliage is especially beautiful here.