Weekend Breaks to Washington DC
Planning a short break to Washington DC? Check out Travel Library's recommended Top 10 Things To Do in Washington DC. It's a perfect companion for weekend city breaks to Washington DC. Once you've been you can add your own tips and suggestions to help other visitors.
Top 10 Things in Washington DC on a Short Break
Located on 1600 Pennsylvania Drive, it is the most famous address in the world. The first port of call for visitors is the Visitors Centre which has exhibits of the First Ladies who have lived there while a film that is shown is a good induction to the White House.
Built in 1800, it has served has served as official residence to all the United States presidents except George Washingston, and only because he commissioned the building but didn't get a chance to live in it as it was still under construction. It has 132 rooms on four floors and some rooms are distinguished by their names such as the Oval Office or the Lincoln Bedroom. The second and third floors are used by the President and his family for their residence and entertaining official guests. The West Wing houses the executive offices.
Various First Ladies have added their own particular touch to the White House but one in particular, Mrs Woodrow Wilson started a trend that continues. She decided that the White House's growing collection of china should be displayed and the Red Room, because of its colour scheme, came into existence. Almost every president (or State) is represented through a display of china or glassware.
The most famous resident in this memorial is President John F Kennedy who was assassinated in 1963. An eternal flame burns over his grave and next to him, lies his wife Jacquie, who died in the 1990s.
Tour buses shuttle between the major stops inside the cemetary that includes JF Kennedy's gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Robert E Lee Memorial. But you don't necessarily have to have been a president or a stateman to be be buried there. Many American war veterans and servicemen are buried here.
For information go to www.arlingtoncemetary.com
Some 10 million people visit this facility every year making it the most popular museum in Washington DC, if not in the world. The computer kiosks in the lobby that can give you information and particulars about any exhibits or subjects such as if you want to find out about the aeroplanes used in the second world war, immediately tells you that the museum is serious about its business. Tickets are only available two weeks in advance.
When you do get in, you can touch a moon rock or see the 1953 American Airlines Douglas DC7 aircraft that was the first to provide non stop transatlantic services. In a nutshell, the museum explains early flight from the time of the Wright brothers to the space age in three major exhibits which are the milestones of flight, the space race and air transportation
The museum is one of several in a complex in the city which when combined make it the world's largest museum complex. The museums, which all fall under the umbrella of the Smithsonian group, include the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.
Go to www.nasm.edu
This old cathedral has a modern touch - an elevator that whisks you to the Pilgrim Observation Gallery that displays the city from its highest vantage point. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States.
The Gothic style church took 83 years to complete, a process that was done in stages. It is truly a massive building that includes five chapels and needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Martin Luther King Jnr preached here just three days before he was killed.
There are so many official things to do in the city with its many memorials, cemeteries and other stately things that show off the American system. An apt diversion is a visit to this zoo that has been going since 1891.
As with most things in the capital, things are always a little different. The zoo is a leading research centre in wildlife conservation, breeding, animal behavior and genetics and veterinary medicine. Visitors, for instance, can visit the Think Tank section of the zoo that examines animal intelligence.
The section, Amazonia, recreates a rain forest and the animals in this tropical area include darting poison frogs and tropical tanagers. Other features are a reptile discovery centre and an African American Heritage Garden that features plants that are important in the culture of this section of the community.
This train station is listed as one of the most popular places that people want to see in Washington DC. It stands as a monument to the glorious days of when the railways stood for what the hustle and bustle of airports are today.
The station's colonnades, archways, domed ceilings make you think of ancient Rome except for the fact that the Roman empire of those days did not have the food courts and stores and airconditioning that are in the station today. The conveniences that the station had in its old past included turkish baths, a bowling alley, mortury and ice house.
The station opened in 1907 to much fanfare but fell into disrepair at one stage until a rescue plan was launched in the 1980s that saw it revived to its former glory. The station is remembered for many significant events in the city's history. In the first world war it served as a mobilisation centre
This is quite a new museum having opened in 2002 after seven years of planning by the country's experts and practitioners in the intelligence industry. It is aptly located in the J Federal Triangle where you get buildings like Edgar Hoover Building, home to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations).
There are glowing neon lights in the elevators of the museum reminiscent of something that you would get in a James Bond movie or something like that. Indeed, there are some movie set backdrops in some of the exhibits. As it unlikely that you will inside the FBI, this museum, with its insight on the world of espionage, is the closest thing.
For more info www.spymuseum.org
The magnitude of all the documents in this library is amazing and some of the items are immensely valuable like the Gutenberg Bible, the first Bible that was printed in moveable print.
The library was created in 1800 to help congressmen prepare for debates and in drafting legislation. Today, it has a collection of more than 115 million items in 460 languages making it the world's largest library. Everything in the form of print, from manuscripts, to books and newspapers and can be found including recordings.
It is said that the library collects a new item every five seconds of each working day. The general public are allowed to use materials in the library but not to take them out.
A visit to this museum usually ends in the Hall of Remembrance, a very somber room with black walls and an eternal flame. On the walls are written the names of all the concentration camps in which many Jews perished. Visitors are able to light candles, sit down, and reflect on what they have seen.
Even the design of the building was meant for visitors to think about the seriousness of what they were about to see. The building has paneless windows to give it a deathly look and there is a tower that hints it is sentry tower where someone is watching your every move.
One section of the museum, Voices from Auschwitz, is an enclosed room where visitors can listen to the oral stories of some survivors. Through photographs, narration, films and exhibits, the story of the holocaust is remarkably told. There is a section particularly geared for children. It is located on 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW.
For details go to www.ushmm.org
Accommodating 23 000 employees, this is the biggest office block in the world. Despite its vastness, any office in the building can be reached within 10 minutes because of the way in which the corridors have been constructed. The building is thus an interesting one in terms of engineering and architectural skills. It measures 6 and a half million sq ft and has 7 754 windows.
The Pentagon houses the department of Defense and some of their priceless mementos are in the building. Displayed are 7 500 paintings of the Air Force Collection that portrays the evolution of this particular wing of the defense forces. There's a Hall of Heroes dedicated to those who have received the nation's highest award in the military.
See www.defense.mil/pubs/pentagon for details
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