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WASHINGTON SIGHTSEEING - ATTRACTIONS WASHINGTON DC

Washington SightseeingWashington Sightseeing – Listed below is our opinion of the top 10 attractions in Washington. Needless to say, narrowing down this list to only 10 sites was quite a challenge. We cheated a bit, because the National Mall includes nearly every Smithsonian museum as well as other sites. This list is by no means fully inclusive and at best use it as a starting point to figure out your own top 10 attractions in Washington.

1. National Zoological Park
2. Georgetown
3. Eastern Market
4. U.S. Capitol
5. Rock Creek Park
6. White House
7. Arlington National Cemetery
8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
9. International Spy Museum
10. National Mall

National Zoological Park

The National Zoo is a beautifully planned 130 acre park, housing a variety of animals. The National Zoo is particularly known for its natural habitat exhibits. Of particular note is the Think Tank, an exhibit on animal interaction and intelligence. Check to see if the Orang-utans are being studied for a particularly interesting show. In addition the Amazonia exhibit is a mini-ecosystem designed to recreate the rainforest. It’s particularly thrilling to watch the monkeys scamper along the path. Most animal activity takes place either early in the morning or at dusk. In order to get the best views, its best to visit the zoo at this time (you can also miss most of the crowds as well). It’s also worth noting that a visit to the Zoo can entail a lot of walking up and down hills. In the summer, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, bring a hat and plenty of water. 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, 202/673-4800, www.nationalzoo.si.edu, Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan.

Georgetown

With its cobblestone streets, and its impeccably groomed row houses, Georgetown is a beautiful, quaint neighbourhood. It is also a shopping mecca. From the hip to the avant garde, the shopping in Georgetown is hard to beat. It is also home to Georgetown University and scores of celebrities and Washington politicians. Also within Georgetown is the C& O Canal, a recreational area with historical spots along the way. It’s easy to hike, bike or even ride along the canal in a historic canal boat. Check out the Georgetown visitor center at 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, 202/653-5190 for more information.

Only a few streets connect Georgetown to the rest of the city, and the there is no metro stop in Georgetown, which can make accessing Georgetown feel like you are leaving Washington behind. It all adds to the charm that is Georgetown. M Street and Wisconsin Street are the major thoroughfares and both are full of eateries, trendy bars, boutiques, bookstores and cafes.

Eastern Market

Eastern Market is the heart of Capitol Hill. It was once a covered market that supplied most of Washington’s food. Now it has been divided into the South Hall and the North Hall. The South Hall has food stands, bakeries, flowers stands and delis. The North Hall is an arts center with crafts offered for sale. The weekend is when Eastern Market is truly at its best with many additional food vendors, craftspeople and a large flea market. Located at 7th St and North Carolina Ave SE, 202/546-2698, www.easternmarket.net, Metro: Eastern Market.

U.S. Capitol

This is both the political center of the United States and the geographical center of Washington. The Capitol sits atop a high hill overlooking the National Mall. Construction originally began in 1793, but midway through construction in 1814, the British marched on Washington and burnt the Capitol to the ground. The government finally rebuilt it in 1855. The House and Senate wings were added two years later and in 1863 the final touch; the 19ft Freedom sculpture was finally added to the top of the Capitol dome.

The House of Representatives meets in the south wing, the U.S. Senate in the north wing. It’s easy to tell when either body is in session, as a flag is raised above the appropriate wing. If Congress is in session, you can view them in action. If you are an US citizen, call or visit your senator’s or representative’s office (202/224-3121). If you are a foreign visitor you will need to request a pass from the House or Senate appointment desks on the Capitol’s 1st floor. As a result of security concerns, the Capitol can sometimes be closed to the public. www.aoc.gov Metro: Capitol South.

Public tours are also given and timed tickets are given on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is a kiosk at First Street and Independence Avenue SW. Tickets are given out one per person beginning at 9:00AM. Needless to say in the summer, lines for these tickets can be very long.

Rock Creek Park

For a break from the hustle and bustle of Washington, find your way to Rock Creek Park. It’s a slice of green lush wilderness set in the middle of Washington and can be a welcome break. The park snakes through Washington and widens beyond the city’s northern boundaries into Maryland. In the park you will find miles and miles of trails for hiking, biking, or simply a leisurely stroll. On the weekends the main roads which cut through the park are closed allowing bicyclists, runners, roller bladers and just about any other non-motorized person control of the road.

Within the park you can visit the Nature Center for exhibits, guided nature walks, and other programs. The Nature Center is also home to the Planetarium. The Planetarium has a number of shows including a Night Sky program which is particularly interesting. Outside the Nature Center are stables where you can engage in horseback riding. In the summer you should pick up an events calendar for Carter Barron Amphitheatre, a 4000-seat outdoor theatre where many concerts and plays are held. Many of the events at Carter Barron are free to the public.

Nature Center information: 5200 Glover Road NW, 202/426-6828 or 202/426-6829, www.nps.gov/rocr, Metro: Friendship Heights.

White House

The White House is the icon of the American presidency. Every US president since John Adams has lived in this house, making it America’s most famous address. Unfortunately, since September 11 it is no longer open to the public. However it is nevertheless a breathtaking view. While you cannot tour the White House, a visit to the White House Visitor;s Center yields exhibits, and a video tour. Each month you can also watch a free performance of the re-enactment of former presidents. Occasionally the grounds of the White House are open to the public for special events. Check with the White House Visitor’s Center for more information. 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 202/208-1631, www.nps.gov/whho, Metro: McPherson Sq.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is located right across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. On its 600 acres, there are over 245, 000 graves providing a poignant counter point to the monuments and memorials in Washington. There are many of America’s celebrities buried amongst the rows and rows of white-stone markers. Obtain a map at the Visitors Center to help guide your way through out the cemetery or take the TOURMOBILE to visit the sites of most interest to you. Some of the highlights of the cemetery include the graves of: President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Kennedy, Joe Louis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Museum is unlike any other museum in Washington. Its steel and concrete façade is designed to evoke the death camps. The exhibits in the museum leave many visitors in tears and few visitors to the museum are unmoved. There are a number of permanent exhibits on display. In particular, the Hall of Remembrance is designed for quiet reflection. In addition, the Wexner Learning Center offers texts, archival photographs and films via a touch screen computer. The exhibits are rather graphic and for some younger visitors a trip to the ‘Remember the Children’ exhibit, which is considerably gentler, may be more appropriate.

In order to access the exhibits you need to obtain same-day passes. These are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis and are time designated. 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, 202/488-0400, www.ushmm.org, Metro: Smithsonian.

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is among the newest museums in Washington. Spy fans can get their fill of spy artifiacts, anecdotes and interactive displays. From the beginning, visitors are invited to adopt a cover and play the role of a secret agent. Within the museum you can identify disguises, listen to electronic bugs and spot hidden cameras. Though the focus of the museum seems to be primarily on the Cold War, it is still pretty impressive. 800 F St NW, 202/393-7798 or 866-SPYMUSEUM, Metro: Gallery Pl-Chinatown, unlike other Washington museums, admission is $13 for an adult.

National Zoological Park

The National Zoo is a beautifully planned 130 acre park, housing a variety of animals. The National Zoo is particularly known for its natural habitat exhibits. Of particular note is the Think Tank, an exhibit on animal interaction and intelligence. Check to see if the Orang-utans are being studied for a particularly interesting show. In addition the Amazonia exhibit is a mini-ecosystem designed to recreate the rainforest. It’s particularly thrilling to watch the monkeys scamper along the path. Most animal activity takes place either early in the morning or at dusk. In order to get the best views, its best to visit the zoo at this time (you can also miss most of the crowds as well). It’s also worth noting that a visit to the Zoo can entail a lot of walking up and down hills. In the summer, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, bring a hat and plenty of water. 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, 202/673-4800, www.nationalzoo.si.edu, Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan.

National Mall
No trip to Washington is complete without a trip to the National Mall. Frankly, I think it would take a fair amount of planning to visit Washington without ever stepping foot on the National Mall and with gardens, many many museums and monuments why would you want to avoid it? In addition to all the buildings on the Mall, in the summer you may be able to catch a concert, festival or protest on the Mall.

The Mall is essentially a 400ft wide green space stretching 3 miles from the Potomac at one end to Capitol Hill at the other end. The Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol anchor each end. It is lined with gravel paths and is fringed by museums and scattered through out it are monuments to all things American. The western half of the Mall incorporates the Reflecting Pool, the Tidal Basin, the Washington monument and other monuments. The eastern half of the mall includes nine museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, the National Sculpture Garden and the United States Botanic Garden. Most of the sites are closest to the Smithsonian stop on the Metro.

Gardens on the Mall: Constitution Gardens, National Sculpture Garden, United States Botanic Garden.

Memorials on the Mall: the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the District of Columbia War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial (with the iconic 2000ft Reflecting Pool stretching in front), the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

Museums on the Mall: The museums of the Smithsonian Institution are the highlight of any trip to Washington. With 14 museums and the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian alone is responsible for millions of visitors. Most of its activities are free. Begin your visit with a trip to the Smithsonian Castle which is the information center for all of the Smithsonian’s Museums. The museums on the mall include the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (dedicated to Asian art), Arts and Industries Building, Freer Gallery of Art (dedicated to Asian art), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (dedicated to modern art), National Air & Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, and National Museum of the American Indian.

 

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