Signature D.C.

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Signature D.C.
D.C. features impressive monuments and memorials, outstanding museums, and lovely neoclassical and Beaux-Arts buildings along its grand boulevards. Its neighborhoods are cultural centers, and are home to innovative culinary and local arts scenes.
By Christian Mirasol, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Destination DC
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    Makers, Executers, and Interpreters of the Law
    The U.S. Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and 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 White House.
    Photo courtesy of Destination DC
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    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 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 statue of Thomas Jefferson and read the words of Abraham Lincoln 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
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    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. Art and architecture lovers will appreciate the National Gallery of Art, which in addition to an excellent art collection also offers summer afternoon jazz performances and winter skating in its beautiful outdoor sculpture garden. Head to the Spy Museum for sheer fun and a glimpse into the secretive world of spies. If you have time, take in the Newseum, which offers several floors of exhibits and interactive displays on the historic role of news in American culture. It also happens to have a pretty cool 4-D movie and a great terrace from where you can get an amazing view of the Capitol.
    Photo by Julee K.
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    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 Verizon Center. Howard University, founded in 1867, is home to a number of historic Revival buildings, such as 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
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    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. For a special meal, score a spot at the Bad Saint, The Dabney, Maketto, or Crane & Turtle. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is the dining spot for seafood lovers. For a truly unique sandwich, head to ChurchKey on Sundays between noon and 8:00 p.m. and order the New Luther. The sandwich is not on the menu so only those in the know get to enjoy this incredibly tasty fried chicken delight. For a taste of true D.C., belly up to the counter at Ben’s Chili Bowl, order a half smoke, and soak in the African-American history of the city.
    Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman/Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
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    Bring on the Night with a Magical Performance
    Whether it's a Broadway show, experimental theatre, or jazz performance, D.C.'s venues make performing arts 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.
    Photo courtesy of Destination DC
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    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 cobblestone streets lined with old trees and elegant Federal-style townhouses. Walk along the famed C&O Canal towpath; come late afternoon, make your way to the harbor front 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. If you want to rub shoulders with politicos, then explore Capitol Hill, which is especially lively on weekends with its outdoor flea market at Eastern Market.
    Photo by Julee K.
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    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 to the south of it, Constitution Gardens, will be their first introduction to the city’s green spaces. Not to be missed are tiny Bartholdi Park and the U.S. Botanic Gardens. Both located just to the south of the Capitol, they are perfect resting spots between visiting the Capitol and the Mall's museums. Right across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House is Lafayette Square, a great lunch spot. Joggers and cyclists, don’t despair—D.C. has you covered. Be sure to check out the C&O Canal Towpath, Crescent Trail, or Rock Creek Park—all have extensive jogging and cycling trails.
    Photo courtesy of Eric Long/Smithsonian Institution
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    A Pantheon to U.S. and World Figures
    In addition 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 many of the public parks, squares, and circles where statues of renowned military leaders, including George Washington, Philip Sheridan, David Farragut, William Tecumseh Sherman, Marquis de Lafayette, and Simon Bolivar, 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
    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, 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 over 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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