A Washington D.C. travel guide – Magnificent museums and an American history lesson
Get your bearings
The National Mall marks the centerpiece of Washington, home to the capital’s finest monuments and museums as well as the seat of modern government. Northwest lies Foggy Bottom and George Washington University. Further west, in Georgetown, political players live in beautifully-tended colonial brick homes and visitors shop in sophisticated boutiques and wine shops. North of the Mall, U Street is Washington’s traditionally African-American neighborhood, and is still home to an Ethiopian community. West of U Street Adams Morgan keeps younger residents hopping at bars and nightclubs.
America’s history is carved in white marble along the National Mall. It recalls the nation’s most inspiring presidents, remembers its most difficult wars and serves as home and office space to the government in the White House and the US Capitol. The National Archives hold original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery reminds visitors of history’s human cost. The grounds are the final resting places of soldiers from the Civil War to the present. President John F Kennedy and astronauts are also buried here. Watch congressional leaders in debate and tour the US Capitol building.
Washington is a city packed with museums, most of them near the National Mall. The Smithsonian Institution represents the world’s largest museum complex. Its 19 museums and the National Zoo are free. America’s most cherished emblems are displayed at the National Museum of American History, including Abraham Lincoln’s hat and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves. The 1903 Wright Brothers’ Flyer and Apollo spacecraft draw crowds to the National Air and Space Museum. The Newseum documents the media. The International Spy Museum recreates secret tunnels and explains the fine art of code-breaking.
Portraits, pottery and porcelain
Stand face-to-face with America’s most well-known figures — Henry Ford, Elvis Presley and Barack Obama — at the National Portrait Gallery. Native American paintings, pottery and clothing are the focus of the National Museum of the American Indian. The Freer and Sackler Galleries display Asian jewelry, porcelain, calligraphy and textiles from Japan, China, Iran and Turkey.
Visitors can relax on their Washington city vacation in Potomac Park. Bordering the Potomac River and the National Mall, the park includes the Jefferson Memorial, Washington’s famous cherry trees and East Potomac Golf Course. The National Zoological Park in the Woodley Park neighborhood contains thousands of exotic animals including giant pandas.
French bakeries, bistros and wine bars line M Street in sophisticated Georgetown. Penn Quarter, immediately east of the White House, has earned a reputation for fashionable restaurants and diverse cuisine from India, Lebanon, the Philippines and New Orleans. In U Street, the centre of African-American culture, modest family-run Ethiopian restaurants like Dukem fill the air with the smell of spicy wot stew and the sound of traditional music. Ben’s Chili Bowl, also on U Street, is a Washington favorite, serving up chili “half-smoke” sausages. Expect a line.
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