As the capital of the United States, Washington DC is the place where a great part of American history is made. But beyond the politics and the social studies lessons, Washington DC is a pretty interesting place to visit. Most visitors to the US capital head on to the National Mall on their stay at DC, but there’s more to DC than the Mall. We’ve listed here the top attractions in Washington DC that you may want to check out on your holiday to the capital.
Georgetown Historic District
Georgetown is the oldest neighborhood in Washington DC. In fact, this neighborhood is already in existence long before the Founding Fathers came up with the idea of a federal capital city. Georgetown started out in 1751 as a shipping port for tobacco. It became part of DC in 1871. Today, Georgetown is one of the most coveted addresses in DC, the home of many politicians residing in the capital. Definitely one of the top attractions of Washington DC, Georgetown is also a bustling center of shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. You’ll find in Georgetown a number of foreign embassies, as well as sites of historical significance such as:
- The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal or C&O Canal, a waterway formerly used for transporting coal on the Potomac River.
- City Tavern, the last surviving tavern built in the Federal style and one of the oldest buildings in DC.
- The Dumbarton Oaks Museum, a historic mansion and gardens that now houses a research institute for studying Byzantine and pre-Columbian history under the administration of the Harvard University.
- Old Stone House, the oldest house in DC, built before the American Revolution.
- Volta Laboratory and Bureau, Alexander Graham Bell’s research facility.
International Spy Museum
Fancy being a spy? Then you must visit the International Spy Museum, home to one of the largest collections of artifacts on tradecraft and espionage. The Museum traces the history of espionage and its continuing importance today. Exhibits in the Museum include a showcase of real-life spies and spymasters, a gallery of villains from the James Bond film franchise, and an interactive exhibit where visitors get to roleplay as spies.
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Starting out from Thomas Jefferson’s private collection of more than 6,000 books to replace the ones destroyed in the War of 1812, the Library of Congress now owns more than 160 million items, including books printed out before the 1500s. The Library also houses the National Film Registry, a collection of culturally significant films selected for preservation, as well as the National Recording Registry, which preserves audio recordings deemed deemed historically and culturally important.
National Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park or National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Located close to the National Mall, the Zoo is home to 2,000 animals belonging to 400 species. The Zoo is most popular for its panda exhibit, featuring pandas on loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association. Aside from the pandas, the Zoo also houses animals from different parts of the globe, including great cats from Asia and Africa, birds and reptiles from the Amazon, and orangutans from Borneo. The Zoo is one of the top attractions of Washington DC, attracting more than two million visitors a year.
The Newseum is an interactive museum that celebrates freedom of expression and the First Amendment. The Newseum contains exhibits of journalistic significance. They include a gallery on the September 11 attacks, an extensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, a database of newspapers and magazines from all over the world, a gallery that traces the history and importance of the internet, and a memorial honoring journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of the news.
Washington National Cathedral
Designated as the US’ National House of Prayer, the Washington National Cathedral is a cathedral belonging to the Episcopalian Church. It is officially known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington. The Cathedral is a grand building done in the Neo-Gothic design. Construction began in 1907 and is still on-going today. The Cathedral is often the venue of choice for state funerals, including those for presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Many presidents have also chosen the Cathedral as the venue for their presidential prayer services after their inauguration. The Cathedral is also significant in that it was where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his final sermon just a few days before his assassination in 1968.
The White House
What is a list of top attractions of Washington DC without the White House, the official home of the President of the United States and the most iconic building in DC? Home and workplace to every POTUS since John Adams, the White House sports a Neoclassical design in white painted sandstone. The modern-day White House is actually a complex of buildings that include the West Wing, the East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the Executive Residence, and the Blair House. The White House, after suffering from decades of neglect, greatly benefited from the restoration spearheaded by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy not only redecorated the mansion but also collected furniture and items that used to belong there. As a result, the White House has been designated as a museum to preserve its structure and original character, as well as to protect its contents.
Make it a point to check out these top attractions of Washington DC on your visit to the capital. Your holiday won’t be complete without doing so.