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Signature D.C.

Makers, Executors, and Interpreters of the Law
Signature D.C.
D.C. rocks the past and the future: Check out its ridiculous number of monuments, museums, and neoclassical and Beaux Arts buildings before exploring the multicultural neighborhoods for of-the-moment art and restaurants.
By Christian Mirasol, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Destination DC
  • 1 / 10
    Makers, Executors, and Interpreters of the Law
    Makers, Executors, and Interpreters of the Law
    The U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the White House are must-sees. The Capitol is where Congress convenes to debate issues of the day. The building is also an art gallery, with priceless paintings, murals, and statuary. Across the street, head into the Supreme Court, where the nine justices convene to determine matters of constitutionality. The White House is the official residence and office of the president and first family. You won’t cross paths with the president or his family on your visit, but it’s a fun place to see. Reservations are required for the Capitol and the White House—visit your congressperson's website to sign up.
    Photo courtesy of Destination DC
  • 2 / 10
    Sentinels to American Heroes
    Sentinels to American Heroes
    A trip to D.C. is not complete without visiting the city’s world-renowned monuments and memorials, erected to honor influential history makers and fallen heroes. From anywhere along the National Mall you can see the iconic obelisk that is the Washington Monument. Feel the presence of the country’s forefathers as you gaze up at the statues of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and read the words inscribed on the walls of their respective monuments. Admire Franklin Roosevelt’s resiliency and dedication to public service. Sit by Martin Luther King and be inspired to eliminate racial discrimination. With humble pride, acknowledge servicemen who gave their lives in the fight for freedom at moving memorials dedicated to major wars.
    Photo by Sakhi Vyas
  • 3 / 10
    Immerse Yourself in History and Art
    Immerse Yourself in History and Art
    D.C. is home to more than 200 museums, and the Smithsonian museums of Natural History, American History, and Air and Space top most visitors' lists. The newest Smithsonian addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is a hot ticket that books up months in advance, and will take you on an emotional journey from the somber realities of slavery to the celebration of sports, fashion, music, and more. Architecture lovers will appreciate the National Building Museum, and art enthusiasts will adore the National Gallery of Art, which, in addition to an impressive collection, offers summer afternoon jazz performances and winter skating in its outdoor sculpture garden. For contemporary art, head to the Phillips Collection, the Renwick Gallery, and the interactive installation space Artechouse. Lastly, take in the Newseum, which offers several floors of exhibits on the historic role of news in American culture, from its inception through today.
    Photo by Julee K.
  • 4 / 10
    Collegetown D.C.
    Collegetown D.C.
    D.C. is an academic center that boasts leading universities, including Georgetown, Howard, Gallaudet, Catholic, American, George Washington, and the University of the District of Columbia. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the United States and is well known for its men’s basketball team, which plays home games at the Verizon Center. Howard University, founded in 1867, is home to a number of historic Revival buildings, including Founders Library, which contains the largest collection of materials relating to African and African-American history and culture in the country. Every October, Howard’s Homecoming Weekend celebration brings in thousands of alumni as well as some of the biggest names in entertainment and music.
    Photo by William Perry/age fotostock
  • 5 / 10
    The Nation's Capital as a Culinary Capital
    The Nation's Capital as a Culinary Capital
    Stylish, hip, and edgy restaurants, celebrity chefs, and fresh local food are all on the menu in a city whose dining scene is no longer limited to power lunches and elegant state dinners. Score a coveted spot at Bad Saint, Maketto, Little Serow, Tail Up Goat, or Rasika for a meal with international flare, or at The Dabney for elevated flavors from the mid-Atlantic. Whaley's is a waterfront dining spot for seafood lovers, and Union Market packs the best of D.C.’s culinary creatives into an eatery of 40 permanent and pop-up vendors. For a taste of true D.C., head to the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market for Old Bay–coated crabs, or belly up to the counter at Ben’s Chili Bowl with a half-smoke.
    Photo by Anna Meyer
  • 6 / 10
    Bring on the Night with a Magical Performance
    Bring on the Night with a Magical Performance
    Whether staging a Broadway musical, experimental theater, a jazz performance, or a punk rock show, D.C.'s venues make performing arts and music lovers very happy. The Kennedy Center is D.C.’s premier performing arts center, catering to music, dance, and theater buffs of all ages. Be sure to check out the center’s schedule of free daily performances that take place on Millennium Stage. History nerds will be captivated by a performance inside Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. If avant-garde performances are more to your taste, the ever-funky Woolly Mammoth Theatre is your venue. Jazz lovers will want to tap their feet inside famed Blues Alley, where the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Wynton Marsalis have graced the stage. D.C. also has a punk rock past, with the 9:30 Club playing a central role to its rise. The venue continues to book the best up-and-coming local and touring acts of today.
    Photo courtesy of Destination DC
  • 7 / 10
    Explore D.C.’s Neighborhoods on Foot
    Explore D.C.’s Neighborhoods on Foot
    Each of D.C.'s neighborhoods has its own unique character and vibe; nearly all lend themselves to being explored on foot. Head to Georgetown and saunter along cobblestoned streets lined with old trees and elegant Federal-style town houses. Walk along the famed C&O Canal towpath; come late afternoon, make your way to the harborfront for a fun happy hour. For a more hip vibe with international flair, Dupont Circle (with Embassy Row nearby) is the destination to be. Stroll neighborhood streets and admire the beauty of former mansions that are now embassies and consulates. For the tastemakers, head to 14th & U streets, where you can browse blocks of boutiques like Salt & Sundry and enjoy brunch at one of the area’s hot spots like Le Diplomate or the Barcelona Wine Bar. If you want to rub shoulders with politicos, then explore Capitol Hill, which is especially lively on weekends with its outdoor flea market at the Eastern Market.
    Photo by Julee K.
  • 8 / 10
    Take in D.C.’s Parks and Gardens
    Take in D.C.’s Parks and Gardens
    One of D.C.'s best features is the parks and green spaces dotted across the city. For most visitors, the Mall and, just south of it, Constitution Gardens will be their introduction to the city’s green spaces. Not to be missed are tiny Bartholdi Park and the U.S. Botanic Gardens. Located just south of the Capitol, both are perfect resting spots between visiting the Capitol and the Mall's museums. A bit off the beaten path, the Capitol's original columns stand among the National Arboretum's gardens of azaelas, bonsai, and more. Between Adams Morgan, the U Street Corridor, and Capitol Heights is the historic hilltop Meridian Hill Park that once served as an encampment for Union troops during the Civil War and is now a community gathering spot, especially popular on Sundays during the weekly drum circle. Joggers and cyclists, don’t despair: D.C. has you covered. Be sure to check out the C&O Canal Towpath, the Tidal Basin Loop, the Capital Crescent TrailRock Creek Park, and Roosevelt Island—all have extensive jogging and cycling trails.
    Photo courtesy of Eric Long/Smithsonian Institution
  • 9 / 10
    A Pantheon to U.S. and World Figures
    A Pantheon to U.S. and World Figures
    In addition to monuments to presidents, D.C. is filled with hundreds of statues of exceptional individuals who have influenced American and world history. Locating statues is a great way to explore the city beyond the usual landmarks, so map a route that will take you to some of the public parks, squares, and circles where statues of renowned military leaders, including George Washington, Philip Sheridan, David Farragut, William Tecumseh Sherman, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Simon Bolívar, can be seen. In other areas, especially the Mall and Embassy Row, luminaries such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Winston Churchill are honored. A local favorite is the oversized statue of scientific genius Albert Einstein—kids love to climb all over him!
    Photo by Christian Mirasol
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    Sacred Structures
    Sacred Structures
    D.C. may not seem religious, but it has many historically and culturally significant houses of worship. Across from the White House is St. John's Episcopal Church, where every president since Madison has worshipped. D.C. is also home to the world's sixth-largest cathedral, the Washington National Cathedral. Marvel at its 14th-century-style Gothic architecture of flying buttresses, pointed arches, and stained glass windows. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has more than 70 chapels and gorgeous ceiling mosaics. It's the largest Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere. Downtown, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is the seat of the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and where President Kennedy's funeral Mass was held.
    Photo by Julee K.
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