Washington DC is the capital of the United States and was founded in 1796. Named after one of the founding father’s George Washington, it was Washington who commissioned Parisian Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design the Capital. L’Enfant began work in March 1791 on the designs and based his plan on European cities such as Paris and Amsterdam, with broad streets and avenues.
The Capital is very different from a lot of other American cities because when walking around you can always see the sky line. This is because in 1910 a law was passed making it illegal to build any sky scrapers and because of this law buildings can not be higher than the width of the street that they front. This means that Washington is a low, sprawling city, with the tallest building being the Washington Monument that stands at 555 feet (169m) tall and is a building that you can see from where ever you go.
Washington sits on the Potomac River and borders Maryland and Virginia on the East Coast and in the district of Columbia. Because of its position in the country it has cool Winters with light snow fall and hot and humid Summers. Spring and Autumn are always pleasant times to visit the city as it is always generally warm and so is a good time to go.
Washington DC – 5 Things to Do
When visiting Washington, it is a good idea to have a plan of things that you would like to do and see so as not to just wander aimlessly around. Although there are often obvious things that people would like to see such as taking a walk down to Pennsylvania Avenue and looking at the White House, Washington has a lot more interesting things on offer that are well worth a visit.
1. Library Of Congress.
The Library of Congress was established in 1800 by a bill passed by President John Adams. It is the World’s second biggest Library by collection size after the British Museum and has more than 158 million items. Although the library officially serves Congress it is in fact the National Library.
Tours can be taken throughout The Thomas Jefferson Library, one of three Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill. This building was finished in 1897 and is one of the most beautiful buildings in the capital and inside it is decorated to honour literature, learning, knowledge and intellect. Inside you will discover two of the greatest treasures that the library has, a printed Gutenberg Bible which was first printed around 1455 and a hand written Mainz Bible. Tours can be taken daily around the Library and it is a tour well worth taking.
2. Washington National Cathedral.
Washington National Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic designed Episcopal Church. It is closely modeled on English Gothic styles of the late 14th Century. It is the 6th largest Cathedral in the world and the 2nd largest in USA. Construction began in 1907 when in front of then President Theodore Roosevelt the foundation stone was laid. It was completed some 83 years later when in 1990 in front of President
George Bush the final finial was placed. It is located in the north west quadrant of the city on Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenue.
It was has been designated as the National House of Prayer by United States Congress and it is a magnificent building to behold. Inside the building is richly decorated and it has a mass of architectural sculpture, wood carvings, leaded glass and mosaics. Its stained glass windows are breathtaking with over 200 in all. A trip to the top of the tower leads to the highest point in DC. The Cathedral is well worth taking a visit to and all though it now charges for admittance since an earth quake in 2011 has left repairs to be paid for, it is a small amount to pay to see and experience such a wonderful structure.
3. Washington Monument.
This commanding obelisk of marble and granite was built to commemorate George Washington and towers over the Washington skies. The tallest building in Washington at 555 feet, it is also the tallest stone structure in the world. It is situated on the National Mall and construction began in 1848.
A ticket to the Monument will give you access to the top, where you will get a bird’s eye view of the Capital.
An express elevator will take you to the top in 70 seconds, where when you get to the top you will be 500 feet off the ground. On the decent the elevator slows in preprogrammed parts of the Monument to afford views of parts of its interior. This towering structure is a must see experience when
visiting the Capital.
4. The National Mall.
The National Mall is situated in Down Town Washington and contains many Monuments and Museums. At one end you have the Lincoln Monument and at the other you have the US Capitol Building and the distance between the two is 2 miles. The Mall has approximately 24 million visitors a year and is the most visited National Park in America. The Memorials and Monuments in the Park all honour the fore fathers and heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to serve America.
The mall is home to 10 museums from the Smithsonian Institution as well as National Gallery of Art and the US Botanic Gardens. This huge space is used for public events so can get very busy, but it is also a place to go to walk among the landscaped gardens and green spaces or to visit the Reflection Pool that lies in front of the Lincoln Monument. There are plenty of places to eat in the Mall area and it is certainly a place that will keep you entertained and informed for a good while.
5. The US Botanic Gardens.
If you are looking for a respite from the traffic and noise of the City then head to the US Botanical Gardens on the National Mall. Here you will discover plants from all over the world and beautiful gardens to stroll through. The gardens are a great place to escape to if it is cold or raining, especially if you visit the heated rooms for more tropical plants. The US Botanical gardens are the oldest Botanical
gardens in America and they are open everyday of the year.
They are a must see place if you are visiting Washington just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to wander through the grounds sampling some of the world’s most beautiful plants.