Washington D.C.


The Capital Building

Washington is a city of contrasts with the clean and sanitized Mall and the poorer outskirts with their high crime rates and litter.

When visiting, avoid driving into the middle of Washington if at all possible, the Metrorail (subway system) is VERY efficient and clean, providing service into the city from quite some distance away, so you can stay at a hotel on the outskirts without having to pay higher prices in the middle of the city.

The Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) airport is located just outside of Baltimore and so is quite some distance from Washington.


Most attractions are free of charge and, as such, are very busy. If tickets are required, it is recommended that you obtain them WELL in advance of your visit. The following are of particular interest:

  • Arlington National Cemetary - The burial place of many famous Americans and the grave of the unknown soldier, guarded 24 hours a day.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing - To get timed entry tickets, you may have to line up for a few hours. The tour is quite good, taking a brief video of the printing process and a view of the presses themselves. The public can purchase various products (including uncut bills) in the on-site shop.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial - One of the most modern memorials in Washington, this is a series of walls, waterfalls and quotes carved into the rocks. Very interesting insight into the man.
  • Lincoln Memorial - The famous monument of Lincoln sitting on a chair with his piercing eyes. Not a lot to see at the monument though the quotes on the walls are interesting and the monument provides a wonderful view across the Reflecting Pool towards the Washington Monument.
  • The National Archives Museum - Located just off of the mall this is a smaller museum devoted to some of the most precious American documents such as the Declaration of Independence.
  • The National Museum of American History - A shrine to American 'culture' concentrating largely on popular culture (read: television). Makes an interesting afternoon. Very popular.
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - The well-known (and loved) museum of the Smithsonian museums. With many original exhibits of rockets, planes and other air and space ephemera. Various galleries of exhibits thoughout are also worth a visit. The Star Wars exhibit was on when I visited but tickets were charged at a nominal fee and must be purchased a number of hours in advance.
  • Smithsonian National Postal Museum - A suprisingly good museum concentrating largely on culture instead of the sticky pieces of paper. If you like stamps – this is the place for you HOWEVER if you could care less and would like to enjoy a smaller, cultural, museum, this is worth a visit. The museum is located just across the street from Union Station.
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial - A modest memorial with a statue in the middle of a dome and a few quotes. A diverse and controversial life is commemorated simply in this monument. Great views across a small lake (a tidal basin). A relaxing walk around the lake, through the park, in good weather is highly recommended.
  • U.S. Capitol - The center of american federal government, the home of the house of Representatives and the Senate. Queues form for (free) entry to the building where you can browse through the various halls and sit in the visitor's galleries of both houses.
  • Washington Monument - Timed entry tickets are available free of charge from a small booth located near the base of the monument and should be picked up well before your visit. Great views of the capital from the top via a quick elevator ride. Small windows mean that photos are tricky. The history of the monument is also given in modest, but interesting, detail.
  • The White House - Tickets for tours are available but the queue is notorious – you must be in the line VERY early in the morning. Tours take in many of the famous rooms of the house.

There are continual tours of all key sites by trams which operate in the Mall area. A day pass which allows unlimited get on/get off priviledges is reasonably priced.

Close By

The NASA - Goddard Visitors Center is located near Greenbelt, north-west of Washington. Goddard is essentially a research facility though it does house some of the significant computer resources of NASA. Tours are available to the public from the visitors center which also contains some minor exhibits. Worth a visit for space enthusiasts but little in terms of rockets and space (children are NOT recommended to visit).

Further Information

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