Washington, D.C. Tourist Attractions
District of ColumbiaRoughly half way down the Atlantic coast of North America, at the junction of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, is Washington DC (District of Columbia), federal capital of the United States, situated on the left bank of the Potomac.
The city is the central element in a conurbation with a population of 3.75 million which also includes five counties in Maryland and five in Virginia, in which the hundreds of thousands of federal employees live. Almost 70% of the inhabitants of Washington are Afro-Americans, who live mainly in the south-western, south-eastern and north-eastern quadrants of the city, while the north-western quadrant is mainly occupied by whites. Behind the sumptuous façade of Washington, within a short distance of the Capitol, is another world of poverty and unemployment.The city was founded and built for one purpose alone, to provide an independent place for the work of government. The site selected, 100 miles/160km above the outflow of the Potomac into Chesapeake Bay, has a climate which does not make work particularly agreeable in summer, when it is so hot and sultry that most of the staff take off their jackets except when they are working in their air-conditioned offices. Accordingly the best times for a visit to Washington are spring and autumn.Washington DC strikes visitors as an atypical American city, for there are no skyscrapers, which indeed are prohibited by law. The townscape of Washington is one of Classical-style buildings, some of them of giant size, laid out along the avenues of enormous width which have earned Washington the name of the "city of magnificent distances". Most of the 20 million people who visit Washington annually are Americans anxious to see the incarnation of American democracy in stone and the sites which are so familiar to them from schooldays and television. Foreign visitors may be surprised to discover how freely accessible - though strictly controlled - even such sensitive areas of government as the Capitol are. They will also find an abundance of museums, some of which are among the most important of their kind in the world.Washington DC is the seat of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) and of the President of the United States. Over 350,000 people - from drivers to the White House Chief of Staff - are employed by the Administration, and tens of thousands more work in various national and international organizations (the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the International Monetary Fund) based in Washington, as lobbyists or in various services dependent on government.Washington has little industry, but there are in the city, in addition to five universities, various research institutes and laboratories concerned with electronics, space travel and armament projects, so that Washington's population has the highest percentage of qualified researchers of any American city. The city's second most important source of revenue - after the work of government - is tourism.Culture is represented in Washington by theatres like the National Theatre and orchestras like the National Symphony Orchestra, housed in the extensive John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. More important, and perhaps of more interest to visitors, are the city's numerous museums, headed by the National Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution. Washington also has the National Archives and the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. Nor should the culinary world be forgotten: the city's eating-places range from the hamburger stand by way of a variety of foreign cuisines to gourmet French restaurants.HistoryAfter breaking away from Britain in 1776 the young United States had at first no capital and in consequence Congress met in eight different places. In 1789 New York became the capital, but a year later gave place to Philadelphia. Congress then passed the Residence Act, which provided for the establishment of a 10-mile square Federal District responsible only to Congress, and authorized President George Washington to select a site for the new capital. Washington chose an area on the Potomac River near his country house of Mount Vernon and commissioned Major Pierre-Charles L'Enfant (1754-1825), an officer of French origin who had been dismissed for insubordination, to prepare a plan.L'Enfant's plan provided for two commanding buildings as "poles" of the layout, the Congress House (Capitol) and the Presidential Palace (White House), to be linked by a wide avenue. By 1800 the Presidential Palace and the Capitol were so far advanced that Congress was able to meet and President John Adams to take up residence in the new buildings in August. Washington suffered a severe setback, however, in 1814, during the British-American war, when British troops took the city and burned down the Capitol and the White House. For many years the new capital was to remain a wish rather than a reality, and Virginia was able to take back the land which it had made over on the right bank of the Potomac.It was only after the Civil War and the influx of tens of thousands of former slaves that fresh stimulus was given to the development of the capital, mainly due to the energy of Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, and L'Enfant's plans were brought out again. The Washington Memorial, which had been begun in 1848, was completed in 1884, and the much derided city, less than half finished, gradually became the imposing capital of the United States. The appointment in 1901 of the MacMillan Commission on the development of Washington, an Act of 1915 which laid down limits on the height of buildings, the Public Building Act of 1926 (which provided for the construction of magnificent new government buildings), the influx of government officials during the two world wars, the restoration of Pennsylvania Avenue during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy and the opening of the Metrorail system in 1976 were further milestones in the development of the city. Since 1961 citizens of Washington have been able to take part in the election of the President.Sights: Layout of the cityThe townscape of Washington today largely reflects L'Enfant's ideas. The Capitol and the White House are set in a network of streets intersecting at right angles, across which cut thirteen diagonal avenues named after the thirteen founding states. From the Capitol four streets radiate to the points of the compass, dividing the city into four quadrants - Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), South-west (SW) and Southeast (SE). The north-south streets are numbered, the east-west streets named after the letters of the alphabet. A special position is occupied by the wide Mall running between Capitol Hill and the Lincoln Memorial, which was designed to open up the layout of the capital.The principal tourist sights lie almost exclusively in the north-western quadrant, along the Mall and in the immediately surrounding area, and can be seen on foot. The three other quadrants are of little interest and are areas not without danger, certainly not to be visited after dark.
National Capital Parks-Central
Georgetown Historic District
The popular Georgetown Historic District features a variety of shops, restaurants, and various entertainment venues. It is also home to Rock Creek Park and the Keeger Museum.
White House Area
Capitol Hill Neighborhood
Dupont Circle District
Foggy Bottom Historic District
Upper Northwest Neighborhood
National Capital Parks-East
National Capital Parks East consists of 13 park sites, parkways and more than 8,000 acres of historic and recreational parklands from Capitol Hill to the nearby Maryland suburbs.
Official site: www.nps.gov/nace/
Address: 1900 Anacostia Drive SE, Washington, DC 20020-6722, United States
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens offers a natural marsh with 44 ponds containing thousands of water plants including lilies, lotuses, water hyacinths and bamboo. The plants bloom from April to September.
Official site: www.nps.gov/kepa/
Address: Anacostia Avenue & Douglas Street NE, Washington, DC 20019, United States
National Museum of Crime & Punishment
The National Museum of Crime & Punishment features historical artifacts typically found in a traditional museum, combined with dynamic interaction. The history of crime and punishment in America, encompassing everything from pirates, Wild West outlaws, serial killers and gangsters to white collar criminals hiding behind computer technology. Along the way, the National Museum of Crime explores crime-fighting and crime-solving techniques as well as the consequences of committing a crime.
Official site: crimemuseum.org
Address: 575 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States
Embassy Row, located along Massachusetts Avenue NW between Sheridan Circle and Observatory Circle is home to most of the 170 foreign embassies found in Washington.Most of this area is also known as the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District in the National Register.
Battleground National Cemetery
Battleground National Cemetery was set up after the battle of Fort Stevens in 1864. The entrance to the cemetery is flanked by two Civil War vintage guns. With over 900 casualties, this cemetery was specially created for those who fought and died. Four granite pillars were raised in memory of the four volunteer companies who fought at Fort Stevens.
Address: 6625 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20240, United States
Fort Dupont Park
Fort DuPont Park is one of the largest parks in Washington, there are many seasonal activities available for visitors. The 376 wooded acres feature old roadways, oak, beech, and maple trees. Fort Dupont Park is named for the Civil War earthwork fort located within the park.
Official site: www.nps.gov/fodu/
Address: National Capital Parks - East H.Q., 1900 Anacostia Drive, SE, Washington, DC 20020, United States
The Tidal Basin is part of West Potomac Park and home to thousands of Japanese cherry trees. A Cherry Blossom Festival is held annually around bloom time, which occurs between mid-March to mid-April. Paddle boats can be rented on the east side of the basin.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial consists of four outdoor rooms which trace the events of the 12 years that FDR governed the country. Visitors can see ten bronze sculptures of the man, his wife and depictions of the Great Depression and WWII, read his words carved into granite walls and walk along the numerous garden paths.
Address: 1850 West Basin Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States
Upper Northeast Region
The Upper Northeast section of Washington is mostly residential. It is found along 12th Street, Michigan and South Dakota Avenues NE. It is home to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Franciscan Monastery, the National Arboretum and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is constructed entirely of stone, brick, tile and mortar without structural steel beams, framework, or columns. Considered to be the largest church in the Western hemisphere, the Shrine is a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception features a large collection of contemporary mosaics and noteworthy stained glass in more than 65 chapels.
Official site: www.nationalshrine.com
Address: 400 Michigan Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20007, United States
Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center has five galleries of interactive exhibits as well as rotating special exhibitions. The galleries include themes such as Faith, Imagination, Wonder and Community. Visitors are welcome to leave their own messages through an audio or video recording, in writing or by creating a computerized drawing.
Official site: www.jp2cc.org
Address: 3900 Harewood Road NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States
The Arboretum features more than 400 acres of introduced and local trees, shrubs, flowering plants found in the Eastern U.S. including magnolias, boxwoods and azaleas. There is a herb garden, a bonsai collection, an administration and research center, and areas to picnic.
Official site: www.usna.usda.gov
Address: 3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002-1958, United States
The monastery is surrounded by 44 acres of wooded land with replicas of Holy Land shrines along its tree-lined paths. They include the Grotto of Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Roman Catacombs.
Official site: www.myfranciscan.org
Address: 1400 Quincy Street NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States
Anacostia Park is a multi use park near the Anacostia River. Hundreds of acres are available for ballfields, picnicking, basketball, tennis, and the Anacostia Park Pavilion has some 3300 sq.ft for special events.
Official site: www.nps.gov/anac/
Address: National Capital Parks - East, 1900 Anacostia Drive SE, Washington, DC 20020, United States
Capitol Hill Parks
Many of these parks, managed by the National Capital Parks-East, evolved from the original design in 1790. They are there to provide greenspace within the City of Washington.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
Mary McLeod Bethune lived in this townhouse until her death, was her last home in Washington, DC. This site is a tribute to her life and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
Official site: www.nps.gov/mamc/
Address: 1318 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005, United States
Washington Concert Opera
The Washington Concert Opera was founded in 1986 and has performed 35 operas. International works are regularly presented in the piece's original language. A screen with subtitles translates the action on stage.
Official site: www.concertopera.org
Address: 1808 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 101, Washington, DC 20009, United States
This neighborhood is found southeast of the Anacostia River. It was named after the original Native American residents.
Naval Historical Center (Navy Museum)
The Naval Historical Center features ship models, uniforms, medals, photographs and fine art. It is located in the former Breech Mechanism Shop of the old Naval Gun Factory. Many of the exhibits encourage hands-on learning, especially the periscope and gun mounts.The origins of the Center go back to 1800, when President John Adams instructed the first Secretary of the Navy to compile a collection of professional books. Over 130 years this upstart collection evolved into the Naval Records and Library department, charged with documenting naval history.Southeast Washington's Navy Yard became the Navy's historical headquarters in 1961 when the yard was turned from an industrial facility into an administrative center.The several branches of the Navy's historical department were amalgamated under one roof in 1982 in a building named after Captain Dudley W. Knox, one of the driving forces behind the Navy's commitment to historical documentation.
Official site: www.history.navy.mil/branches/org8-1.htm
Address: 805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington, DC 20374-5060, United States
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is the home of the African American abolitionist, diplomat, essayist, and U.S. Marshall. The visitor's center run by the National Park Service features the 17-minute film "Frederick Douglass: Fighter for Freedom".
Official site: www.nps.gov/frdo/
Address: 1411 W Street SE, Washington, DC 20020-4813, United States
ESPN Zone includes several Sports Bars and restaurants, sport arcade games in an entertainment family fun center.
Official site: espnzone.com/washingtondc/
Address: 555 12th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority operates a wide-reaching subway and bus system called the "Metro." The transportation service covers the District of Colombia, two counties in Maryland and three in Virginia along with the Virginian cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. It is the second largest rail system and the fifth largest bus system in the United States.The Metrorail system has five lines, 86 stations, and 103 miles of line. The Metrobus service has 12,301 bus stops and 335 routes on 176 lines. Train lines are named for colors: red, yellow, orange, blue and green.
Official site: www.wmata.com
Address: 600 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States
US Marine Corps Museum (closed)
The Marine Corps Museum on the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard is closed to the public as of 15 April 2005.
Black Fashion Museum (Closed)
THIS ATTRACTION IS NOW CLOSED.The Black Fashion Museum began in New York City in 1979. The museum serves as a repository for antique and recent garments that have been designed, made, and/or worn by people of color. Slave dresses to clothing by distinguished Black people are displayed.
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