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Washington, D.C. Tour
Washington, District of Columbia was founded on July 16, 1790 on the bank of the Potomac River in the Territory of Columbia.
The capital of the United States is now commonly referred to as Washington, D.C., the District or simply DC after the Territory—which included the County of Washington, City of Washington and City of Georgetown—was merged into a single entity in 1871.
Washington, D. C., it is said, is a company town. The “company” is, of course, the United States federal government.
Smoke-filled backrooms aside, much of Washington’s governing work is on display to the public, making the nation’s capital a great travel destination for political junkies.
The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are located in the District. Visitors can observe Congress in session and listen to oral arguments before the Supreme Court. (Tighter security measures now limit White House tours to groups with appointments obtained through embassy or Congressional arrangements.)
The U.S. Capitol building is quite literally the center of the city. The four quadrants—northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast—that divide and define the city meet at one point under the Capitol dome. The Supreme Court Building and Library of Congress are nearby.
Washington’s most-famous address is 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House is located in the northwest quadrant known as Foggy Bottom; the moniker is a reminder that much of the District of Columbia was previously swampland.
The city’s layout (streets running north-south are numbered, while streets running east-west are lettered) make sense as long as you remember the quadrants. Addresses include NW, NE, SW, SE designations, as some street intersections can occur in all four sections.
Visitors less interested in the day-to-day workings of the legislative and judicial branches of government can explore Washington D.C.’s many museums, historical sites, parks, and monuments.
From Capitol Hill, look west to find the marble and granite obelisk built to honor the nation’s first president; at 555 feet 5⅛ inches in height, the Washington Monument is the tallest structure in the city.
The 1-mile tree-filled green strip between these two landmarks is The Mall. Many of the different museums that operate as part of the Smithsonian Institution dot this boulevard. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is fun for the whole family and particularly popular with kids.
The Mall gives way to the Tidal Basin, Reflecting Pool, and the gardens and park land that are the setting for the monuments to presidents and to those who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Most of D.C.’s must-see attractions are located on or near The Mall and Capitol Hill.
Washington is not all monuments, museums and government buildings. Nature lovers can visit The United States Botanical Garden on the Mall and the United States National Arboretum is nearby. Washington National Cathedral, sixth largest cathedral in the world, is in northwest Washington, D.C.
Washington’s efficient and easy-to-use metrorail system (the Metro) is the sensible way to get to the city’s many noteworthy spots. Don't pass through historic Union Station without stopping for a visit. Union Station is also the origin point of several bus tours of the capitol including popular double decker, hop-on, hop-off tours.
For those with the time and inclination, several sites just beyond Washington D.C. are worth exploring.
Arlington National Cemetery is just across the Potomac River in Virginia. Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of the first American president, is located 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River.
Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the first major battle of the Civil War as well as a second battle a year later, is located off Route 66 about 35 miles east of the capital.
To avoid getting lost on your tour of Washington, D.C. on iNeTours.com just follow the links in the blue column on the right side of every page. Visit other U.S. and U.K. destinations with the links at the top.
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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2013 Lee W. Nelson