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The Heart and Soul of America - Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is so jam-packed with attractions; it’s hardly a site that can be covered in a few days. With so many outstanding museums, cultural centers, and political destinations to visit – not to mention outstanding side trips into Maryland and Virginia – you’ll want to take at least a week to experience it all. Whether you’re after a sumptuous dining experience, a political celebrity sighting, or a tour of the White House, you’ll find it in beautiful Washington, D.C..

Start your trip to the District of Columbia by heading for the major highlights of this historic city. Visiting popular attractions like the gleaming Washington Monument with its reflection pool and milling crowds will help you get your bearings in the city. Take time to visit the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial, the territory, honing in on the sites that have strong relevance for you.

You may want to take a tour of the White House, admiring rooms that were decorated by Jackie Kennedy and taking in the presidential portraits and the famous rose garden. Georgetown University, with its stunning architecture and student spirit, is a fun place to visit for a campus tour or a picnic lunch.

And of course Washington, D.C. is known for its museums. You’ll have plenty to choose from, starting with the eighteen museums and nine research centers of the Smithsonian Institution. Pay a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, the National Air and Space Museum, and the incredible National Museum of American History. After all this history and art, the kids will love a stop to see the animals at the National Zoo.

If you have a few days left in your visit, consider a day trip into Virginia. This gorgeous state is home to sites like Arlington National Cemetery and Prince William Forest Park, a great place to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. You can pay a visit to the Manassas National Battle Park, site of the first and second battles of Bull Run, or make a longer trip to the famous Fredericksburg Battlefield or the Stratford Hall Plantation, birthplace of General Robert E. Lee.

Maryland, with its crab cakes and gardens, is another terrific family destination. The state capital, Annapolis, is home to the historic United States Naval Academy. You can take a self-guided walking tour of nineteen historic campus attractions, following an audiotape recorded by Walter Cronkite.

To get into the great outdoors, head to Calvert Cliffs State Park for a day of hiking, birding, beach combing, and fossil hunting. You’ll find more excellent bird watching in the wetlands at the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary, home of the rare albino turtle. If you’re ready for even closer under-water action, head to Baltimore for a day at the outstanding National Aquarium.

You’ll find plenty of special events going on in the Washington, D.C. area, from the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and National Cherry Blossom Festival to the Washington, DC International Film Festival and Smithsonian Folklife Festival. And of course the capital city puts on a special show for all-American holidays like the Fourth of July. You won’t want to miss the fireworks on the National Mall, patriotic concerts at the National Cathedral, and more music in the evenings on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. From parades to special events at the National Archives, this is a fabulous place to spend the grand old Fourth.
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