The Capital City of the United States, Washington DC offers an array of activities for history-buffs and museum-goers. It is one of the most visited cities in the world with over 20 millions visitors annually. Washington DC became the capital in 1790, after both New York and Philadelphia had their time in the spotlight. As a first time visitor to Washington DC, I wanted to to see it’s most famous attractions, and spent a total of three days here. Here are the my top sights to see in Washington DC
1. See The Original Declaration Of Independence
The National Archives Museum is home to the original Declaration of Independence, along with the United States constitution and Bill of Rights. The museum features several other historical artefacts including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.
The National Archives is free to visit and open 10:00am to 5:30pm. Tours are available and can be booked via the website, there is a booking fee of $1.50 per person. Booking a tour in advance will get you in before the doors open to the general public. This means you’ll have a shorter line to see the Declaration of Independence before the crowds appear. If you do book onto a tour, make sure you enter through the “Members Entrance” and not general admission. I missed the start of my tour due to waiting in the wrong line! It’s also worth noting that no large bags or backpacks are allowed inside the National Archives Museum.
2. Explore The Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian National Museum Of Natural History is the most visited natural history museum in the world with 7.1 million visitors. The museums collection houses over 126 million specimens. My favourite section of the museum was the “Hall of Human Origins” which documents human evolution through the years.
The Smithsonian National Museum Of American History displays items that represent American heritage and it’s history. Among the items on display is the top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, April 14th 1865.
Make sure to visit the Star Spangled Banner exhibition, displaying the original flag that inspired the United States national anthem.
The Star Spangled Banner, or Garrison flag, was the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.
This flag was the inspiration behind Francis Scott Key’s poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry” which eventually became the national anthem of the United States, The Star Spangled Banner.
3. See The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is one of the biggest icons of Washington DC. Built to commemorate the first President of the United States, George Washington.
During my visit (August 2018) The monument was under refurbishment and therefore closed to visit. Check the website for updates as the monument is free to visit and takes you to the very top, but tickets need to be reserved online for the summer season.
One of the best views of the Washington Monument is over at the Lincoln reflecting pool. Just like that iconic scene in Forrest Gump, you’ll be able to see the beautiful reflection of the monument mirrored in the water. (what is it with Forrest Gump? First Savannah, then Monument Valley, now DC!)
4. National World War II Memorial
Dedicated to the Americans who served during World War II, this memorial is located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln reflecting pool. On a hot day it is okay to come and sit by the pool with your feet in the water, but there is a strict no swimming policy.
5. The Lincoln Memorial
This monument honours the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The statue of Lincoln inside the memorial sits at 19 feet tall. On the wall on the left side is a inscription of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
Lincoln is by far my favourite U.S. President, I’ve wanted to see this Monument since seeing the Planet of the Apes, and after watching Great Moments With Mr.Lincoln (thank you Walt Disney)
The Lincoln Memorial sits at the western end of the National Mall and is free to visit. Make sure to visit during the day, and at night when it lights up.
6. Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Memorial pays tribute to those who served in The Korean War. This is one of many memorials in this area. Others include the Vietnam War Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.
7. Tour The United States Capitol
The Capitol Building sits at the Eastern end of the National Mall. It is home to the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. Tours are available to book through the Capitol website and are free except for a $1.50 booking fee. During the tour we were given a overview of the history of the building and the beginnings of the United States. The tour leads you through the famous Rotunda where you’ll learn about it’s construction and the meaning behind it’s design. You’ll also pass by the centre of Washington DC marked by a gold star on the floor.
At the Capitol gift shop they sell “toothpick holders” you’ll notice they look at lot like shot glasses…
8. Library Of Congress
After your tour of the Capitol head to the Library of Congress. There is a tunnel walkway that leads from the Capitol to the Library.
The library displays an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible, something not to miss. The Gutenberg Bible, named after it’s creator Johannes Gutenberg, was among the earliest major books printed using movable metal type in Europe.
9. Visit The White House
The big attraction of Washington DC and what most people come to see, is the White House. The White House is the official residence of the United States President, and has been for every President since John Adams in 1800.
The White House is viewable from both the front and the back. New barriers have been erected outside the White House, meaning you can no longer get photos from the railings.
Tours are available for the White House, but if you’re not from the United States it can be very difficult to book. I’ve heard that the UK Embassy in Washington DC does not book tours of the White House. I’ve seen people have had luck by contacting the DC congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and using this link. As far as I know, you need to enter a DC postal code, which means you can put your hotels postal code as long as it’s within Washington DC.
If anyone has any luck getting a tour of the White House through this method, who is from the UK (or elsewhere) please let me know in the comments. This is one of the things I missed out on during my trip.
10. See The Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is located a bit further afield from the main attractions of the National Mall. The walk here took us around 20-30 minutes (From Washington Memorial) but is far less crowded. This memorial is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and one of the founding fathers; famous for writing the Declaration of Independence.
If spending some time in Washington D.C. and you’d like to venture further there are some amazing day trips right at your fingertips!
Have you ever been to Washington D.C.? What are your must-dos?
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