Washington DC Visitors
In addition to the tours offered by my office, there are many other wonderful attractions to visit in our nation’s capital. You can find some of the highlights below, and Destination DC also has a comprehensive overview of the opportunities for touring in Washington.
The National Mall
The National mall is home to most of the memorials in Washington, DC and is managed by the National Park Service. Spanning 2.6 miles, it stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the United States Capitol Building.
A number of National Monuments and Memorials are located on or near the Mall including:
- Lincoln Memorial
- Washington Monument
- National World War II Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex comprising 19 museums, 9 research facilities, and the National Zoological Park. On the Mall are the Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, American Indian Museum, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African Art, Natural History Museum, and the Smithsonian Castle. Most museums are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and are free of charge.
Congress created the National Gallery in 1937, accepting the gift of financier Andrew W. Mellon upon his death. Today, the National Gallery’s two wings and sculpture garden, all part of the National Mall, house a varied collection of art dating from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas. The National Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m and admission is free.
The National Archives consist of the federal government’s collection of important documents. The Archives are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The National Archives Building in Washington (Archives I), located just off the National Mall, houses some of the most important of these records including the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The Archives is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from March 15 to Labor Day, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. the rest of the year.
The Botanic Garden was authorized by Congress in 1820 at the request of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences in Washington, DC. The Institute closed in 1837; however, the garden’s grounds were used to house the flora collected by the United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas. The Library of Congress took jurisdiction over the Garden in 1856, and it has been administered by the Architect of the Capitol since it moved to its present location on the National Mall down the street from the Capitol. Today, the Garden houses about 26,000 plants from the Mid-Atlantic to the rain forest. The Conservatory is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Following the recommendations of President Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust, Congress established the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Using donated federal land and private contributions, the Council created the Holocaust Museum as a living memorial to the victims of this terrible genocide. Located just off the National Mall, the Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From March to August, free tickets are required to enter the permanent exhibit. Due to the horrific nature of the treatment depicted in the permanent exhibit, it is not recommended for children under the age of 11.
Rock Creek Park, established in 1890, is one of the oldest federal parklands. Originally located on the edge of urban Washington, it has since been surrounded by the city. Today it is a refuge from the frenetic pace of working Washington and is much beloved by local joggers and nature enthusiasts. Rock Creek Park also boasts sport venues, a planetarium, an amphitheater, and a number of historic cultural exhibits. The park has been part of the National Park System since 1933 and is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
The National Zoo was founded in 1889 and has since become one of the nation’s preeminent animal parks. With a mission to demonstrate leadership in animal care, science, education, and sustainability, it welcomes over 2 million visitors each year to its 163 acre campus abutting Rock Creek Park. The National Zoo is one of four zoos in the U.S. to house giant pandas. In addition, about one fifth of the 400 species displayed at the zoo are endangered. The National Zoo is free and open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April to October and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November to March.
Established in 1864, Arlington National Cemetery is the largest national cemetery by number of interred dead. Located in Virginia overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, DC, the cemetery is on the grounds of Arlington House, a mansion constructed by President Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Park Custis and later owned by the Confederacy’s preeminent general, Robert E. Lee. Arlington Cemetery is the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy and President William Howard Taft. It is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, perpetually guarded since 1937. Arlington National Cemetery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April through September and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through March.
Headquarters of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon is one of the largest office buildings in the world. Constructed during the beginning of World War II, it is home to tens of thousands of military and civilian employees who work tirelessly to keep our country safe. Visitors to the Pentagon, which is located in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, view the immense size of the building while learning about the different military branches and significant events in U.S. military history. Tours must be requested in advance, and the Pentagon requires security information from all visitors.