Washington, D.C.: the United States’ Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States. It’s located on the Potomac River and borders the states of Maryland and Virginia. You definitely shouldn’t miss any of the great sights and museums the city has to offer. But before we get to the top 10 places of interest in Washington, D.C., we’ve gathered some more general information for you.
Washington, D.C., in a Nutshell
Washington, D.C., is in a subtropical climate zone. Thanks to the continental influences, however, the different seasons are still very distinct from one another. Generally, the climate is comparable to that of Western and Central Europe, although the summers in Washington, D.C., tend to be a bit hotter. The water temperature, on the other hand, is nice and cool, which makes the city ideal for swimming. The best time to visit Washington, D.C., depends entirely on your preferences. There’s a good chance of snow in the winter, whereas the summers are usually dry and warm.
The food culture in Washington, D.C., is very diverse, but recipes from the American South are especially popular. For example, the Half Smoke – a beef hot dog – was invented here. There’s also a lot of crab fishing in the area. We recommend trying the blue crabs, which you can eat with or without their shell.
You can also try a traditional type of cake, although it might need some getting used to. It’s made from crabs, eggs, and vegetables, which are then pressed together into a crab cake. For drinks, you’d traditionally have lemonade with lots of ice or a Mint Julep, which contains bourbon, mint, and syrup.
As the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., has a good public transport system. The busses, the trams, and the subway will take you basically anywhere in the city. This makes it great for backpacking, as most sights and museums are only a few minutes away from the nearest station.
We wouldn’t recommend hiring a car in Washington, D.C., because of the frequent traffic jams and difficult parking situation. But there are many other ways of exploring the city, for example with a hop-on hop-off double-decker bus.
Generally, the subway is the quickest and most popular way of getting around in Washington, D.C. Another advantage is the detailed travel information provided at every subway stop, which make it easy for visitors to navigate the city.
If you’re planning on exploring Washington, D.C., all day, we recommend getting a day ticket or the Metrorail and Metrobus Unlimited Pass.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Washington, D.C.
As the US capital, Washington, D.C., is an especially diverse and culturally rich city. Here are the top 10 places you definitely shouldn’t miss!
The Capitol on Capitol Hill is where the Congress, comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives, is located. With millions of visitors every year, the Capitol is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US. Its construction wasn’t completed until 1826, although sessions of congress were already taking place there before then.
The White House in Washington, D.C.
Probably everyone has heard of the White House – the home and head office of the American President. The building has a unique layout. There’s not only the central building with the Executive Residence, but also the West Wing with the Oval Office, the East Wing, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The whole complex is huge. The White House has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, eight stairways, three elevators, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a private cinema, and a bowling alley. There’s also a basketball court, which was added a few years ago.
The Lincoln Memorial
36 columns surround this temple, making it look like a temple. They symbolize the 36 states that made up the United States during Lincoln’s presidency. The memorial’s north side shows Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, whereas the south side displays the famous Gettysburg Address. Inside, there’s a marble statue of Lincoln himself.
The memorial at the end of the National Mall was constructed from 1915 to 1922 to honor the man who was President during the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved people.
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is a white marble tower on the hill of the National Mall, with the straight line connecting the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
This monument was erected in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Construction started in 1848 and ended in 1884. Don’t miss the monument’s reflection in the Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool!
The Jefferson Memorial
The building with the columns underneath the white dome is the Jefferson Memorial. It’s located directly on the bank of the Potomac. It’s mostly famous for its 19.5 ft tall bronze statue of the third US President.
The Memorial is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, one of the country’s founding fathers. He wrote parts of the Declaration of Independence, before later becoming President himself.
National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History has more than 126 million artifacts and more than 8 million visitors every year, making it the most popular natural history museum in the world! You definitely shouldn’t miss this fantastic institution.
The National Museum of Natural History covers more than 33,000 m2 and houses plants, animals, fossils, minerals, and meteorites, as well as countless exhibits from the history of human cultures. The artifacts include everything from prehistoric tools to the First Lady’s wardrobe.
The museum can be dated back to at least 1846. The National Hall, where the museum is now, opened in 1910 and has been devoted to natural and cultural history exhibitions ever since. The museum is open 364 days a year. It only closes on Christmas Day (December 25th).
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was founded in 2003 and opened in 2016. It’s dedicated to the culture and history of Black Americans.
The museum’s collection covers important periods of African American history and origins. It deals, for example, with the history of slavery, the Reconstruction era, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights movement of the 1950s, 1960s, and of the 21st century.
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum was founded in 1946 and is currently based in three locations, although only two of them are open to the public. These are the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
The museum is on the National Mall. You can see many exhibits from the history of air and space travel here, including the Spirit of St. Louis and even some real moon rocks. There’s a seemingly infinite number of artifacts, so you definitely won’t run the risk of ever getting bored here.
The National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration Building, and the museum administration are both located on Constitution Avenue NW on the north side of the National Mall, between 7th and 9th street. The building includes a museum as well as the National Archives and Records Administration, which is responsible for the United States‘ archives.
The National Archives include more than 3 billion documents, including the three most important ones in US history – the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. You can (and should) see all three in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.
Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is a church in the US capital. It’s considered a memorial by the National Register of Historic Places and is often called the United States‘ “national prayer house”. The cathedral is also the official seat of the archbishop.
After almost 83 years of construction, the cathedral was finally finished in 1990. Its architecture is very remarkable. There’s a strong Gothic influence on the final design, which includes pointed arches, vaults, stained-glass windows, and elaborate ornamentation.
Festivals in Washington, D.C.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year, more than 1.5 million visitors come to Washington, D.C., to marvel at the cherry blossoms. The National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year between March and April and boasts more than 3,000 trees for you to admire.
The events at the festival honor both American and Japanese culture, thus strengthening the bond between the two countries.
Passport DC is a festival taking place every May. It celebrates the capital’s unique and thriving international culture. One of the festival’s highlights are the open days put on by the city’s embassies on the first two Saturdays of the month. They allow you to explore a foreign embassy and learn more about its native culture. Isn’t that awesome?
This festival takes place every June to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Capital Pride includes the Pride Parade, the Festival, and many concerts. It’s always an unforgettable experience!
In this article, we’ve introduced you to the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. Our recommended sights will make your trip to this wonderful city very special!
Washington, D.C., has an incredibly diverse cultural life, and it’s the perfect destination for a city trip. Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!