If you are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., a visit to the U.S. Capitol Building is a must-do. Of all the buildings and historic landmarks in D.C., the Capitol is most emblematic of the U.S. political system. Debates leading to decisions that affect the U.S. and the world at large take place here each day.
The U.S. Capitol Building is the centerpiece of the Capitol Campus. At its core, the Capitol has been home to the meeting chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two legislative branches of the U.S. Government, for over two centuries. It is also an art gallery in its own right, with priceless paintings and murals adorning the walls and ceilings, and statuary displayed in various halls.
Located within easy walking distance of the Capitol are the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Botanic Garden—all worth visiting as well. Also located nearby is the popular neighborhood of Capitol Hill, which is chock-full of cafes, restaurants, and shops—the perfect place to unwind after your visit.
I took this photo on the eastern plaza, below which is the Visitors Center. If you come to the Capitol, this will be your first view of this beautiful building. To visit the interior, you need to sign up for a free guided tour, which can be easily done online.
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People Watching at an American Landmark
Millions of tourists pass through and around the U.S. Capitol. It was wonderful to see this group of tourists pose in front of this landmark building and hear them talk about it from a non-American perspective. Eavesdropping and people watching at landmarks like this opens your eyes to how others view the United States.
I happened to be in Washington, DC, last week for a conference... the same night as the President's State of the Union address. I wondered if being in DC for the address might work to my advantage. There was no hope of getting in the Capitol to attend the event, but as I wandered around DC that night, I realized that everyone in DC seemed to be inside somewhere watching the SOTU. That left the streets almost empty, perfect for some night-time photography.
As I neared the Capitol, where the President was giving his speech, I saw dozens of police officers around its perimeter, keeping watch. So the streets weren't entirely empty... some of them were busy with police officers!
Next time I'm in DC for the SOTU (if that ever happens), I'll look for a bar full of political wonks watching the speech. That could be fun, too...
Did you know you can tour the United States Capitol for free? All you have to do is sign up on the website. We did the tour a year ago and were very impressed by the knowledge of our tour guide. A must do when visiting DC.