Washington Attractions

Places to visit, points of interest and top things to see in Washington

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White House thumbnail
White House
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The White House is the official residence and workplace of the United States of America's Presidents, except for George Washington, who lived in Philadelphia, at the President's House. It is near the US Capitol House and the Mall, with the widely known address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. The very sight of the White House evokes the power and strength held by this great country. A visit to Washington D.C. will never be complete without a trip to the White House.

Originally called the Executive Mansion, it was dubbed the White House when its exterior sandstone walls were painted white. The name "White House" was made official by an Act of Congress in 1902. Construction on the White House began in 1792. It took around 8 years to complete the building, only for it to be torched in 1814. British troops burned the White House, along with the Treasury, the War Department and the Capitol. Rebuilding was undertaken by James Hoban... read more arrow
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The Roosevelt Memorial is situated along the Cherry Tree Walk near the National Mall in Washington D.C. It is a tribute to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The memorial is wide and expansive, with close to 8 acres. It is a relaxing place – with a statuary, waterfalls, alcoves and shade trees that provide a warm atmosphere for the four outdoor galleries that house memorabilia related to FDR. With Lawrence Halprin providing the design, the memorial also boasts of sculptures and art works by Thomas Hardy, Robert Graham, Leonard Baskin, George Segal and Neil Estern.

The memorial is not only for FDR but also provides us with a nostalgic trip through history during FDR's time and is aimed to provide "a memorial that will do him the honor he deserves and transmit his image to future generations." This is how Congress described the goals of the Memorial when they established the FDR Memorial Commission in 1955... read more arrow
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The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is dedicated to the third president of the United States and an American Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson. The memorial was built after Congress passed a resolution in 1934. It stands on the Potomac River's Tidal Basin, in West Potomac Park, Washington D.C.

The building is a neoclassical structure completed in 1943. It was designed by John Russel Pope and built by John McShain. Reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon, it has Ionic columns built in circular form, marble steps and a portico. Danby Imperial marble from Vermont covered its outer columns and walls while the ceiling is made of Indiana limestone. Meanwhile, the interiors have Georgian white marble for the walls and Tennessee pink marble for the floor. The pedestal with Jefferson's statue is made of Missouri gray marble. Of course, the main attraction is the 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson. The 10,000-pound statue was engraved by Rudulph Evans... read more arrow
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The Washington Monument is the tallest structure in Washington DC standing at 169.24 meters and located west of the National Mall. The monument was built in commemoration of the founding father of the country General George Washington for his military leadership in the American War for Independence. Its construction started in 1848 and ended in 1884. The following are highlights that define the Washington Monument:

• The architectural design was provided by Robert Mills, whose original obelisk design was to include a colonnade on which a statue of Washington in a chariot would stand. Inside the colonnade on display would have been thirty other statues of prominent War Heroes. Robert Mills also designed the U.S. Patent Office building and Department of Treasury building.
• The monument was officially opened to the public on October 9, 1888... read more arrow
This is the National Museum of Natural History which is administered by Smithsonian Institute, located in the National Mall in Washington DC. This is probably one of the museums where you can get to visit any day of the year except during Christmas.

It opens its doors from 10.00 am to 5.30 pm. These are the regular hours, but they offer extended hours of up to 7.30 pm on certain days. Its doors were opened to the public on March 17, 1910. Admission is free.

The museum has a collection of more than five hundred million specimens on
display. Apart from the exhibits the museum also has many reference and research materials. It is home to over 180 natural history scientists.

The following areas of the museum offer the major attractions for visitors;

• Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals: where you can get to see some of the most famous minerals and gems... read more arrow
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The National Museum of Crime & Punishment was built by John Walsh in partnership with John Morgan a businessman in Orlando. The building of the museum cost the two investors approximately $21 million, and was opened in May 2008. The museum unlike any in Washington which are managed by the National Park Services is run by a management mandated by the owners. The museums operations are strictly a business venture whereby return on investment to the owners is offered.

The museum is dedicated to providing the historical developments of criminology in America. National Museum of Crime & Punishment is defined by what it has to offer, which includes:

• Interactive exhibits that make it possible for visitors to try out some activities like placing an individual's head and hands through a pillory.
• Visitors are able to take a lie detector test.
• The museum has over 700 artifacts that are related to crime and the punishments inflicted on the perpetrators of the criminal activities... read more arrow
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The International Spy Museum is located at 800 F ST NW, Washington DC. This is a privately owned museum that was built by The House on F Street and Milton Maltz. The museum is one of the few museums in Washington which charges an entrance fee. The museum essentially is home to espionage artifacts and history. The most intriguing and captivating issues about the museum include:

• It is 68,000 square foot in size, and the moment you step in you are first briefed on what you should expect to see and learn about.
• You get to see the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on display to the public. It is home to over 600 artifacts that offer details on historical espionages.
• You get to learn the use of codes and how codes are broken in the world of spying.
• Visitors to the museum get to learn a few tricks on how spying works, the lessons are presented using videos and other simple aids such as interactive monitor tests... read more arrow
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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is located adjacent to the National Mall in Washington DC, with local offices in various areas including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. The museum offers visitors with an understanding and appreciation of the Holocaust. The museum gives a detailed historical journey of the holocaust, which is well documented.

The USHMM relays largely on the federal governments budget for funding.

Highlights of the USHMM

• It was opened in 1993.
• Ninety percent of the visitors to the museum are not of Jewish decent.
• So far the museum has seen over 29.5 million people visit it since inception.
• The museum is open from 10:00am to 5:30pm, but also offers extended hours in peak season.
• Its doors are open to the public throughout the year, closing on two occasions only, Christmas and Yom Kippur.
• At the museum you can get to meet some holocaust survivors who can give you first hand information about the holocaust, there are ninety one survivors at the museum... read more arrow
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The National Air and Space Museum has been in existence for 35 years. The museum's operations are conducted in two locations; The National Mall and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is found on the grounds of Washington Dulles International Airport. Both locations are home to a wide range of aircrafts and spacecrafts.

Important features of the National Air and Space Museum:

• It provides a chronology of the evolution of aircrafts and spacecrafts
• It holds the largest collection of aircrafts and spacecrafts in the world, with over 50,000, such that the museum is only able to display about ten percent of its aircrafts at any one time.
• It opens its doors at 10:00am and usually closes at 5:30pm. However there is extended hours lasting up to 7:30pm in summer.
• The museum operates for 364 days of the year, closing for Christmas only... read more arrow
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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national memorial that honors the American military men and women who served in the Vietnam War. This includes all the servicemen and women who survived, died or went missing during the war, as there are some who are still unaccounted for. The memorial is located in Washington DC and has been in existence for 29 years.

The memorial is made up of three separate parts, namely:

• The Vietnam Women's Memorial
• The Three Soldiers Statue and
• The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Of the three parts The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall remains the most popular with visitors.

Highlights of The Memorial

• The Memorial Wall's was designed by Maya Lin.
• The original 58,175 names on the wall's typesetting were done by Datalantic.
• The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, a nonprofit outfit was used to raise the funds for the construction of the memorial... read more arrow
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The Korean War Veterans Memorial was a privately funded memorial which was officially opened on July 27, 1995 in Washington DC to honor those who survived in the Korean War and then handed over to the National Park Services.

The following aspects about the memorial distinguish it from any other memorial:

• The memorial's groundbreaking was done by President George Bush Senior, while its opening was presided over by the then President Bill Clinton and the President of the Republic Korea, Kim Young Sam.
• It honors the survivors of the Korean War which lasted for three years between 1950 and 1953.
• The memorial is constructed in a way that it consists of a circular structure where the circle represents the pool of remembrance in a grove of trees and a triangular structure which intersect with it.
• The structure of the memorial tries to show case the war field with 19 lifelike statues of infantrymen.
• A 164 foot long granite wall, dark in color which depicts the range of combat and support troops who served in the war... read more arrow
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This is one of the most popular playhouses in Washington. It also happens to be the same building where President Abraham Lincoln was shot in. This is why it is regarded as an historic theater. Although it has undergone some renovations in recent years, its historical value has not been eroded. After the most recent renovation the theater was reopened to the public in February 12, 2009. A visitor to the theater gets to see and learn about the following:

• The historical shooting of President Abraham Lincoln, by John Wilkes Booth.
• What the then President Abraham Lincoln was doing at the theater (he was watching a comedy, Our American Cousins).

Apart from that Ford's theater is home to the Lincoln museum. A tour to the theater is free, but a ticket is required for a visitor to gain entry... read more arrow
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The USA is known for honoring it great men and women. Albert Einstein was a great scientist whose discoveries have helped modern scientific innovations. America honored him by having his memorial that has a bronze statue. The statue has Einstein seated with some manuscripts in his hand. The following are the highlights about the memorial:

• It was unveiled in April 22, 1979 during the National Academy of Sciences' annual meeting.
• Three equations of some of his important contributions to science are engraved on the bench where his statue seats.
• The figure is 12 feet in height.
• The statue's dais has over 2,700 metal studs embedded on it representing the astronomical features' locations in space.

Other notable inscriptions that immortalize Einstein's life include three quotes from him inscribed on the back of the bench... read more arrow
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Octagon Museum is located In Washington, D.C., very near the White House. It is recognized for being one of the first great homes to be built here and is a landmark of the cultural, political and architectural history of America. It was designed and built in 1801 by William Thornton, the U.S. Capitol's first architect, for the Tayloe family and was known as an important building of its times.

Col. John Tayloe III, an entrepreneur with political ambitions, bought this plot for his home. It was built between 1799 and 1801 and was the first house to be built in the area, complete with parks, avenues and streets. Considering Tayloe's political ambitions, it was necessary for him to live close to the White House. In 1817, The Octagon became the permanent residence of Col. and Mrs. Tayloe and their 15 children... read more arrow
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An interactive museum of journalism and news, the Newseum is situated at Washington, D.C. This seven-storied, 250,000-square-feet museum has 15 theaters and 14 galleries. Its Berlin Wall Gallery displays the largest collection of parts of the Berlin Wall outside Germany.

There are galleries on other topics too, such as the September 11 attacks, news history, world press freedom, the First Amendment and the history of the radio, TV and Internet. The museum's first location was opened to the public in Rosslyn, Virginia, in April 1997, where visitors were taken in free of cost.

In five years, it had over 2.25 million visitors. It is funded by the Freedom Forum, a non-partisan foundation that is dedicated to "free press, free speech and free spirit for all people." Today, this monument has become one of Washington's most highly visited destinations with its high definition TV studios that host news bulletins including ABC TV's This Week... read more arrow
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Headquartered in Washington, D.C., USA, the National Geographic Society (NGS) is one of the world's largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions. Its areas of interest span geography, natural science, archaeology, conservation of the environment and world history and culture. Its mission is to "increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources." It is governed by a Board of 23 trustees comprising stalwarts from the fields of education, business, government and conservation.

The NGS funds and sponsors scientific research and exploration. It publishes the world famous journal, National Geographic and other publications, books, maps, school products, web and film products in various languages... read more arrow
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The National Gallery of Art is a national art museum, located in Washington D.C. It was conceived, established and endowed by the famous collector Andrew W. Mellon in 1937. Architect John Russell Pope designed its neoclassical marble building and opened it to the public in 1941.

Its collection comprises two major schools of painting—American and
European—besides graphic arts, sculpture and decorative arts that range from the 12th century to modern times. It includes works of Andrew W. Mellon, and the Samuel H. Kress Collection, the Widener Collection, the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection of prints and the Chester Dale Collection.

Its original collection comprised 21 masterpieces, formerly owned by Queen Catherine II of Russia. It was bought in the 1930s by Mellon from Leningrad's Hermitage Museum and comprises the Annunciation by Jan van Eyck, Raphael's Alba Madonna and Titian's Venus with a Mirror... read more arrow
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The West Potomac Park is one of America's national parks and is situated in Washington, D.C., right next to the National Mall, and west of the artificial inlet of the Potomac River, the Tidal Basin shore and the Washington Monument. It includes parkland extending south of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument grounds.

The park is the memorial site of many landmarks such as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, the D.C. War Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, George Mason Memorial, besides also being the grounds of the Constitution Gardens, Reflecting Pool and Rainbow Pool. It also has several playing fields but is very famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring.

The West Potomac Park has 1,678 cherry trees which blossom ever spring and is at the heart of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, comprising the Akebono variety with light pink blossoms and the Yoshino variety, which is white in color and appear in fine clusters... read more arrow
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The Smithsonian National Zoological Park or the National Zoo is one of America's oldest zoos and a member of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum and research complex globally. It was founded in 1889 to provide leadership in science, animal care, education, visitor experience and sustainability.

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park has two campuses: one, a 163-acre park in northwest Washington, D.C., and the other, a 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia.

These two campuses have over 2,000 animals of 400 species of which one-fifth are endangered. Usually, these species are exhibited at Rock Creek Park campus where you can see giant pandas, big cats, Asian elephants, birds, great apes, insects, reptiles, amphibians, aquatic animals and small mammals, apart from about 40 endangered species.

This zoo registers a maximum of two million visitors from all over the world annually, free of cost... read more arrow
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As the name suggests, this was built in Washington D.C. in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the United States' 16th President. The memorial is designed by Henry Bacon, with artworks by Jules Guerin and Daniel Chester French.

The structure is built in the tradition of the Greek Doric temple, with 36 columns, each standing at 37 feet. It is made of Yule marble and Indiana limestone. What will greet you upon entrance is an enormous sculpture of Abraham Lincoln gazing pensively towards the Washington Monument. This statue is made of white George marble and is 6 meters in both height and width. Other notable items in the memorial include the President's Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address.... read more arrow
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Atop Capitol Hill stands the majestic US Capitol Building, one of the most popular tourist stops in Washington, D.C. This is where the US Congress is housed. It is built in the Neoclassical tradition. Its huge dome is a symbol of "grandeur, simplicity and convenience", as President George Washington put it when the first design was submitted. This grand dome (which stands at a height of 180 feet) is made of close to 9 million pounds of iron and caps a 96-foot wide hall.

The Capitol stands overlooking the Potomac River, with great views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. It is at the National Mall's eastern end.

The area where the capitol now stands used to house a barracks, fort, hospital and bakery. This was during the Civil War. President George Washington started this project in 1793. The Capitol itself has had an eventful background since then... read more arrow

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