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Washington DC Tourism

A visit to the nation's capitol is a great family vacation.

The skyline of Washington DC is dotted with grand national monuments. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
The skyline of Washington DC is dotted with grand national monuments.

Washington, DC, Tourism

Washington, DC, tourism provides a fun and educational vacation for the whole family. The nation's capitol can provide a hearty dose of history, museums, monuments and memorials, historic buildings and fun-filled annual events.

An economical way to enjoy the city is to research the many Washington, DC, vacation packages that are available from travel agencies. These packages highlight some of the most popular tourist destinations and allow for stays in four and five star hotels within a few blocks of the capitol. Packages include air, hotel, car rental, and tickets to attractions and tours.

Government Buildings

The famous White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is open to the public for groups of 10 or more people who submit requests through their member of Congress six months in advance. Tours of The White House are self-guided and are free. Tourists should stop by the White House Visitor Center to view a 30-minute video and become familiar with the White House's architecture, furnishings, and history, and check out the White House Gardens and Grounds tour.

Those interested in our governments workings can tour the U.S. Capitol Building, home to the House of Representatives and Senate. Visitors will learn about how Congress works, how representative democracy works and how the building was constructed through films, exhibits, and the Capitol Visitor Center.

The Library of Congress is open to the public and hosts concerts, lectures, poetry readings, films, programs for children, and exhibits on Abraham Lincoln, Martin Waldseemuller's 1507 world map, early American colonization, Bible collections, and books from Thomas Jefferson's library, and special exhibits, such as one on the history of Bob Hope's entertainment career.

The National Mall

The National Mall complex includes the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam and Korean Veterans Memorials, and National World War II Memorial. The Washington Monument rises like an Egyptian obelisk, 555 feet tall. Visitors can ride the elevator to the top to view all of beautiful Washington laid out before them, and walk down the 897 steps and past the 193 memorial stones left by individuals, cities and nations. Tickets are free and tours last about 30 minutes.

An ancient Greek style marble temple encloses a huge statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Tourists can read the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's second inaugural address carved into the walls of the memorial, view murals, and listen on their cell phones to interpretive talks by rangers on the Gettysburg Address and the Life and Times of Lincoln.

The round, columned, marble Thomas Jefferson Memorial honors the third U.S. president and writer of the Declaration of Independence. Dedicated in 1943, the monument displays panels inscribed with excerpts from Jefferson's writings. Park rangers give live talks and tours several times an hour.

Museums

No Washington, DC, vacation would be complete without hitting a few of the city's renowned museums, most of which are free of charge.

The Smithsonian Institution Museums is the world's largest museum complex and research organization consisting of 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo. The various museums and exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute include American history, African-American history, law and politics, science and astronomy, animals and biology, art and photography, and film and music. Special events include the Abraham Lincoln exhibit to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth and the 1934: New Deal for Artists, which celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works Art Program.

Part of the Smithsonian complex is the National Museum of Natural History, a huge museum with exhibits on animals, flowers and minerals. Learn about evolution, forensic science, butterflies, giant squid, elephants, dinosaurs, the story of the Hope Diamond, paintings by early Western explorers into Africa and much more.

Also a member of the Smithsonian family, the National Air and Space Museum, features images from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, American flight in the early 20th century, the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, accomplishments of commercial aviation, World War II aircraft and much more.

The National Geographic Museum focuses on scientific fieldwork, expeditions and research. Exhibits showcase lions and leopards, birds of North America, the terra cotta warriors of ancient China, treasures from Afghanistan, the history of piracy and treasures of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The National Gallery of Art houses foremost collections of artistic treasures such as paintings, sculpture, graphic arts, decorative arts, photography, manuscripts, tapestries, ceramics, furniture and architecture. In the gift shop you can purchase note cards and stationery, books, prints, DVDs and reproductions.

A less traditional museum experience would include the International Spy Museum. Espionage enthusiasts will get a thrill out of the more than 200 spy gadgets on display and the revolving special exhibits. Museum admission runs $18 for adults and $15 for children aged 5-11.

Annual Events

Washington hosts the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring to view the spectacular pink and white flowers sprouting along the Tidal Basin in the city. In addition to the Bloom Watch viewing of the flowers, the festival includes a parade, lighting ceremony, marathon, Japanese culture show, fireworks, and lots of cherry-inspired food and cocktails. Events are held for two weeks in late March and early April.

The St. Patrick's Day Parade, which traverses Constitution Avenue between 7th Street and 17th Street, features floats, marching bands, police and fire departments, bagpipers and people in costume.

The place to be on July 4 is the nation's capital for Independence Day celebrations and concerts. A parade down Constitution Avenue with more than 3,000 floats, bands, performers, balloons, and military personnel begins the festivities. The Capitol Fourth Concert is performed by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Filmfest DC International Film Festival, held in April, showcases fiction, nonfiction, and documentaries, in feature film lengths and vignettes. The festival hosts lectures and question and answer sessions with film directors.

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