Your Guide to DC: Planning a Historical Vacation in the U.S. Capitol
As you’d expect in the nation’s capital, Washington DC is packed full of all of the luxuries you would hope for in a well-developed city. Wander among the country’s greats at historical monuments and art museums, stroll down the streets of Adams Morgan, lined with colorfully painted buildings, meander the tree-lined cobblestone streets of Georgetown, or be among all the action in Dupont Circle. Whatever you’re looking for, the neighborhoods of DC have it all and more!
Rise before the sun and join joggers running the paths at the Lincoln Memorial. Get there just in time to capture amazing sunrise photos in front of the memorial’s reflection pool, where the soft pink glow of morning will be magnified. Wander along the memorial’s opposing walls, where Lincoln’s two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, are etched. Pause to admire the building’s striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.
Washington Monument and the White House
Travelers can’t possibly come to DC without stopping to see these two marbleized symbols of the free world. Take one of the Monument’s glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck for unforgettable panoramic views across the city. Housing US Presidents since John Adams in 1800, countless numbers of our country’s greatest leaders have passed over the White House’s threshold. A tour will allow you to see the State Floor, which includes the East Room, the Green Room and the Blue Room. Walk the same hallways of our nation’s greatest leaders.
US Capitol Building and Library of Congress
Observe politics in action at the US Capitol Building, where national policies and laws are created and debated. Wander the halls lined with paintings, frescoes, and sculptures depicting well-known scenes from American history, and get an up-close look at the 150-year-old cast iron dome. From the Capitol Building, walk to the Library of Congress along East Capitol Street or through the Capitol’s tunnel. At the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, three buildings house more than 164 million books, manuscripts, sound recordings, pieces of sheet music, maps and photographs.
National Gallery of Art
Pause to contemplate the modern works of artists such as Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko in the East Building. Stop to fuel up with a coffee or meal at one of the gallery’s five bars and cafes before heading to the West Building to appreciate older pieces from greats such as Sandro Botticelli and Claude Monet. Enjoy an evening of jazz at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden on Fridays in the summer, or from February to June, catch a free concert in the East Building’s auditorium and the West Building’s East and West Garden courts.
There are an astounding 17 Smithsonian Museums in DC. From giant pandas at the National Zoo to Orville Wright’s 1903 Wright Flyer at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, there is something for every area of interest.
If being inside the museums and historical buildings are leaving you with the desire for fresh air, head to the Tidal Basin, a two-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River. In the spring, blooming cherry blossom trees cast a magical pink hue. Stroll along this reflective pool and stop to people watch and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Where to Eat
Ivy City is an up-and-coming neighborhood in northeastern DC where trendy restaurants, distilleries, and breweries are opening. You’re sure to find some good eats and Michelin-certified dining, as well as the perfect spot for a walk at the National Arboretum. Stop in for a four to seven course meal with optional wine pairings at Gravitas. Exposed brick walls and natural wood and white interior create an inviting space, or choose the outdoor patio seating area. Or head over to Ivy City Smokehouse Tavern & Market and try the famous Indian Candy, an appetizer of smoked salmon with honey.
Where to Stay
To stay among all of the city’s hottest art galleries, shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and nightlife, choose one of the many luxurious hotels in Dupont Circle, such as the Swann House. Housed in an elegant 1883 Queen Anne-style mansion, this luxurious B&B offers private decks and an outdoor pool. To be in perfect proximity to many of DC’s famous landmarks, as well as a range of historical, cultural and entertainment experiences, choose a condo rental or hotel in Downtown DC. The Jefferson is a 5-star posh luxury hotel set in a 1926 beaux arts building and is less than a mile from the White House and the Washington Monument.
Living it up in the nation’s capital will be easy to do with the wide range of historical buildings, museums, galleries, quirky neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants. The only problem will be fitting everything into the itinerary!