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Washington DC Travel Guide

Washington, D.C. (or the District of Columbia) is both an administrative district and the capital city of the world’s most powerful nation.[1] It sits at a bend in the Potomac River on a 68 square-mile site that was once marshy lowland, but now reclaimed and laid out[2] according to the 18th century design of French engineer, Pierre Charles L’Enfant.[3] Washington, DC was actually the first planned capital in the world,[4] so it comes as no surprise that it is one of the more beautiful capitals in the world with its tree-lined streets, tall connected houses of red-brick, white marble buildings, green parks, flower-filled gardens, and European-style squares and circles where streets converge and people bustle about.[5]

But Washington, D.C. is more than just attractive beauty, there is a real cosmopolitan and cultural character about it.[6] While unfortunately politics and bureaucracy have a noticeable presence, there is on the other hand a noble air of youth, dignity and sophistication about Washington, represented by the intelligence and diplomacy of its residents, the creativity of its immigrant community, the energy and vibrance of its nightlife, and the classiness of its world-class museums and art galleries. Certainly, Washington, D.C. is not merely a center for government, federal agencies, politicians, and lawyers, but a world-class city that can stand on its own two feet.[7]

Places to Visit

Adams Morgan
District of Columbia Arts Center
Meridian House
White-Meyer House

Anacostia Museum
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site


Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Franciscan Monastery
Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

Capitol Hill
Folger Shakespeare Library
Library of Congress
Sewall-Belmont House
Supreme Court
U.S. Capitol
Union Station
United States Botanic Garden
Washington Navy Yard

Cleveland Park
National Zoo
Wardman Tower
Woodley Park
Cineplex Odeon Uptown
Rock Creek Park
Washington National Cathedral
Hillwood Museum & Gardens

Constitution Gardens
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Downtown (East End)
Apex Building
Canadian Embassy
City Museum of Washington
Federal Triangle
Ford’s Theatre
Freedom Plaza
International Spy Museum
Federal Bureau of Investigation Building
National Aquarium
National Archives
National Building Museum
National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Portrait Gallery
National Theatre
Old Post Office
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Willard Inter-Continental

Dupont Circle
Anderson House
Christian Heurich House Museum
Dupont Circle
Embassy Row
Phillips Collection
Woodrow Wilson House

East Potomac Park
Awakening Sculpture
East Potomac Golf Course

Foggy Bottom
Department of State
Federal Reserve Building
George Washington University
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

C&O Canal
Cox’s Row
Dumbarton House
Dumbarton Oaks
Exorcist Steps
Francis Dodge Warehouses
Masonic Lodge
Oak Hill Cemetery
Old Stone House
Tudor Place Historic House and Garden
Washington Harbour

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
U.S. National Arboretum

National Mall
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Freer Gallery of Art
Hishhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
National Air and Space Museum
National Gallery of Art
National Museum of African Art
National Museum of American History
National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of the American Indian
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington Monument

Ben’s Chili Bowl
Howard University

Upper Northwest
Fort Reno Park
Islamic Mosque and Cultural Center
Washington National Cathedral

West Potomac Park
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
National World War II Memorial

White House
Corcoran Gallery of Art
DAR Headquarters
Decatur House
Department of the Interior
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Lafayette Square
Octagon Museum
Organization of American States
Renwick Gallery
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Treasury Building
White House

Washington, D.C. was first conceived by Congress who voted in 1785 to establish a permanent capital city instead of moving from location to location among the colonies. There was initially a real debate about where to place the capital, with northerners seeking a capital on the Delaware River and southerners wanting it on the Potomac. The latter option was chosen when a deal was struck with the north that the federal government would assume their war debts in exchange for a capital on the Potomac.[8] In 1790, Washington, D.C. was officially founded.[9] It was made its own administrative district (instead of a separate state) to avoid having the capital city of the United States in any one state.[10] The land forming the District of Columbia was originally 100 square miles and donated by Maryland and Virginia, but the 31 square miles of Virginia’s portion was returned to Virginia in 1846.[11]

For much of the first half of the 19th century, Washington, D.C. did not experience much growth.[12] Many of the public buildings were also burned by the Canadians and British during the War of 1812, including the White House, Capitol, and the Treasury building.[13] However, the Civil War triggered an expansion of the federal government, bringing more workers to the city. And after the war, an influx of freed African American slaves almost doubled the population in less than a decade. In the late 19th century, the Washington Monument was built and in the early 20th century, the memorials to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were constructed, along with the Federal Triangle, which was built in dedication to the thousands of government workers in D.C.[14]

In the 1950s and 60s, Washington, D.C. played a front line role in the African-American fight for civil rights. During the first half of the 20th century, the city was de facto segregated with white and black Washingtonians living in separate parts of town and leading separate lives. Schools, restaurants, parks, theaters, and water fountains remained segregated like the towns in the Deep South. The 1950s and 60s saw a move towards desegregation, highlighted by the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom when 200,000 people marched into town protesting for more jobs and freedom for blacks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. After his assassination in 1968, riot and looting broke out, and President Lyndon Johnson had to bring in 13,000 federal troops to occupy the city. It took decades for Washington, D.C. to recover from the stain of this event.[15]

Today, the city remains heavily populated with an African American majority who still struggle to attain equality. Residents, in fact, were not permitted to vote in presidential elections until 1961 and Washington, D.C. still is unrepresented in Congress, aside from a single nonvoting delegate. License plates throughout the city still run the popular slogan “Taxation without representation”. On the positive side, the ghetto and drug-filled slums that once ran through the city have largely been painted over and crime has dropped significantly in the neighborhoods[16] while real estate prices have appreciated substantially. Washington, D.C. is definitely a prettier city to visit than perhaps it was a few decades ago.

“How Washington D.C. Works: Washington D.C. City Guide.” < http://travel.howstuffworks.com/washington-dc-city-guide.htm>

Thompson, John, and Richard T. Nowitz. Washington, DC, 2nd Edition. National Geographic Society, 2005. ISBN: 0792238877.

Wang, Amy B., and Fodor’s Travel Publications, Inc. Staff. Fodor’s Washington, D.C 2006. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2005. ISBN: 1400015642.

“Washington, D.C.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington,_D.C.>

“Washington, DC City Guide – Overview.” < http://www.cityguide.travel-guides.com/city/136/city_guide/North-America/Washington%2C-DC.html>

[1] Washington, D.C.
[2] Thompson, 10
[3] Washington, DC City Guide
[4] How Washington
[5] Washington, DC City Guide
[6] Thompson, 18
[7] Wang, 2
[8] Id.
[9] Washington, D.C.
[10] Id.
[11] Thompson, 10
[12] Wang, 2
[13] Washington, D.C.
[14] Wang, 2
[15] Thompson, 28-30
[16] Wang, 2-3

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