Fun things to do in Washington D.C.

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Washington D.C.

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    Textile Museum

    by GentleSpirit Updated Dec 25, 2014

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    One of the museums I like best in this city of great museums is a smallish place just off embassy row in the Kalorama neighborhood, a few blocks up from Dupont Circle.

    The museum shows a very nice collection of tapestry, various forms of weaving from all over the world. Its has an outstanding collection of Turkish carpets and weavings from Turkey and the neighboring countries. Also some fine pieces of Molas from Panama.

    This is a good bit off the tourist circuit and one of the smaller museums. Definitely not as crowded as many of the other museums. Absolutely worth making the effort to see it

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    See the iconic Pentagon

    by Jefie Updated Oct 5, 2014

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    The Pentagon is a name that pretty much sounds as familiar as the White House. The headquarters of the US Department of Defense, it has been featured in so many Hollywood movies that the name can't help but evoke some weird kind of chill and excitement. Built in the 1940s, no less than 23,000 civilian and military employees work in the gigantic office building, and I know it will sound silly, but as I watched some of the employees leave the building, I couldn't help but think they had to be really smart to work at the Pentagon! While it is possible for US citizens to book a tour of the Pentagon as long as they do so at least 14 days in advance, international visitors do not have that priviledge and the "No Photographs" signs posted all around the building are pretty good indication that security is tight, and understandaby so. However, what all visitors are welcome to do is to stop by the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial dedicated to the 184 victims who perished when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at precisely 9:37 am on September 11, 2001. The Memorial is made up of 184 benches, one for each victim of this terrible tragedy, oriented in the direction the plane hit the building.

    The Pentagon, seen from the Pentagon Memorial At the Pentagon Memorial, Washington, D.C. Pentagon Memorial, Washington, D.C.

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    Newseum: the best museum in the city!

    by Jefie Updated Oct 3, 2014

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    We showed up at Newseum in the middle of the afternoon so we were a bit suprised when we bought our tickets that the lady should insist that they were valid for two consecutive days. I thought 3 hours would be more than enough to visit this museum dedicated to news and journalism. It didn't take long, however, before I understood why she told us we should come back the next day: there is so much to see at Newseum, and all the exhibits are fascinating! We spent quite a bit of time looking at the one featuring Pulitzer Prize photographs and the one dedicated to the FBI, stopped by the 9/11 and Berlin Wall galleries, before making our way to the 5th level to take a look at international newspapers' front pages through history and watch the film "Stories of our Lives", a collection of TV "breaking news" broadcast through history shown on a giant, 100-foot-wide screen. Because we only had what we soon realized would be limited time to visit Newseum, we had to skip several exhibits that seemed super interesting. Also, because the museum is designed so that visitors slowly make their way through exhibits from the bottom to the top floor, trying to skip ahead is not the easiest task. Next time I'm in D.C., I will definitely plan on spending more time at Newseum.

    Newseum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is not exactly cheap ($22.95 + tax) but it's worth it!

    Museum of news and journalism News from home! Radio antenna from one of the Twin Towers Sections of the Berlin Wall
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    Folger Shakespeare Library

    by Jefie Written Oct 2, 2014

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    This independent research library holds the world's biggest collection of printed works by William Shakespeare. Although it was completed before the Library of Congress, the Art Deco design of the building gives it a more modern look. Inside, however, the exhibition hall and Elizabethan theatre (an indoor reproduction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre) throw visitors back to the famous playwright's time. Its collection features over 300,000 books (some of them quite rare) and manuscripts relevant to Shakespearean studies. You need special permission to access the research rooms, but non-scholars can still immerse themselves in the world of Shakespeare by looking at the different exhibitions in the Great Hall or by attending a performance at the library's theatre (tickets available online for only $40).

    The Folger Shakespeare Library is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (noon to 5:00 pm on Sundays) and admission is free.

    Great Hall of the Folger Shakespeare Library Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
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    The Watergate

    by Jefie Updated Sep 30, 2014

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    The Watergate Complex will forever be linked with the scandal that led to Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. The complex itself is made up of five buildings, i.e. one office building, three high-scale residential buildings, and one hotel, which is currently closed for renovation. The complex was completed in 1971, and its modern design was highly controversial at the time. However, it soon became known as one of Washington's finest addresses. I was there during the day and was a bit surprised to see how deserted the place seemed to be, but I did enjoy looking at its unusual curving design, which came as a refreshing change after seeing the city's very nice, but very conservative downtown architecture.

    As for the scandal, it is linked with the burglary that took place in June 1972 in the Democratic party headquarters located on the 6th floor of the Watergate's office building. During the 1972 presidential campaign, five men were arrested for having taken photographs of different documents and wiretapped the phone lines. The investigation that followed made it possible to establish a link between these men and Richard Nixon's Republican administration. Frank Wills, a security guard, alerted the police after noticing that some of the doors had been tampered with to prevent them to lock. Of course, Hollywood came up with a different version in the 1994 movie "Forrest Gump"...!

    Watergate Complex, Washington, D.C. Watergate Complex seen from Washington Harbor
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    America's Main Street (Pennsylvania Avenue)

    by Jefie Updated Sep 29, 2014

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    When people refer to "America's Main Street", they usually refer to the 2 km stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that extends from the White House to the Capitol. The street was an important part of Pierre Charles L'Enfant's city plans. It is known, among other things, for the presidential parades that usually take place after inaugurations, a tradition that goes back to Thomas Jefferson's second inauguration in 1805. Like Penn Quarter, the famous street has had its highs and lows. During his presidential parade in 1961, John F. Kennedy took a look around and declared the shabby area to be "a disgrace" and ordered that the issue should be fixed. So just like the White House owes a lot to the remodelling supervised by his wife Jackie, Pennsylvania Avenue owes much of its current beauty to John. Today, it is a lively but clean and safe street where people can see some of the city's landmarks such as the Old Post Office building, the city's first skyscrapper built in 1899, and the historic Willard Hotel, where you can either stay, if you can afford to pay a minimum of $479 a night, or step into the lobby for free and take a quick look at the fabulous hotel and add your name to the list of famous guests who have stayed at the Willard since it became a hotel in 1847.

    View of the Capitol from Freedom Plaza Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue In the lobby of Intercontinental Willard Hotel
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    Two historical theaters in Penn Quarter

    by Jefie Written Sep 28, 2014

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    Penn Quarter is home to at least three historically significant theatres, but perhaps none more than Ford's Theater. Built in 1863, this theater enjoyed brief popularity before President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 while attending a performance of Tom Taylor's "Our American Cousin" (Lincoln died the following day in Peterson House, located just across the street). The theater was deserted following this tragedy and fell into disrepair, but after extensive restoration, it eventually reopened. There is a small museum in the basement that features, among other thins, some of the clothes Lincoln was wearing on the night he was shot and the gun Booth used to kill the President. Visitors can then go upstairs to see the stage and the presidential box Lincoln was sitting in when the tragedy took place. Admission to Ford's Theater is free, though it does require a time pass (if you're really pressed for time you can skip the line by booking it online for $9.75 or get it for free at the theater - there wasn't any wait time when we were there).

    On a lighter note, just down the street (E street, that is) is the historical Warner Theater. Built in 1922 as a movie palace, it offered the ultimate movie experience in the capital. The theater featured a restaurant and a ballroom, and live acts performed before and after the movie screenings. By the 1970s, movie theaters had become commonplace and there was no need for a movie palace such as the Warner Theater anymore. It was closed down and, after much restoration work, it reopened in 1992 with a concert by Frank Sinatra. It has since welcome many other famous performers and a Walk of Fame extends from E Street to the theater's main entrance on 13th Street.

    View of the stage and of the presidential box Where Abe Lincoln's assassination took place Main entrance of the Warner Theater John Stewart's star on the Washington Walk of Fame
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    Walking around Penn Quarter

    by Jefie Updated Sep 25, 2014

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    Located north of Pennsylvania Avenue, Penn Quarter once was the city's main downtown core and upper-class residential area. It is home to F Street - the first paved street in the city - which, at the beginning of the 20th century, was Washington's main commercial drag. However, as the area's wealthy residents began to move away to the more peaceful suburbs in the first half of the century, shops began to shut down and, by the 1980s, Penn Quarter was mostly home to a sad collection of empty, boarded-up buildings. A successful revitalization project was initiated in the 1990s, and today the area is once again home to trendy restaurants, shops and museums. We spent half a day walking around the lively neighborhood, starting at Mt. Vernon Square. Our first stop was the Carnegie Library Building, the first public library in Washington. This "University for the People" opened in 1903 thanks to a generous donation from Andrew Carnegie. When the collection eventually outgrew the building, it was moved to the new MLK Memorial Library (not too far on G Street) and the building is now home to the city's historical society.

    We then headed down to H Street to take a walk through Washington's tiny Chinatown, established in the 1930s. The beautiful "Friendship Archway", a gift from the city of Beijing, is located at the corner of H & 7th Street. We then made it down to F Street to take a peak inside the beautiful National Building Museum, dedicated to "architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning". We didn't pay to visit the special exhibits (although they looked pretty interesting), but we did enjoy looking at the beautiful architecture of the museum initially built in 1887 to house the US Pension Bureau. Just across the street is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, dedicated to the thousands of officers who have died in the line of duty since 1792. Created in 1991, the Memorial is designed as two curving, 304-foot-long marble walls. Engraved on these walls are the names of those who died, and numerous flower wreaths also decorate the Memorial.

    Finally, being Canadians and therefore hockey fans, we had to stop by Verizon Center further down on F Street. Verizon Center is home to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, the city's hockey team, as well as to the Washington Wizards, the city's basketball team.

    Chinatown gate on H Street Verizon Center on F Street Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square Inside the National Building Museum National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
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    Walking along 17th Street NW

    by Jefie Written Sep 20, 2014

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    A lot of people move on to the Treasury Building after seeing the White House, a massive Greek Revival building that is famously depicted on the back of American 10-dollar bills. But I thought it was also worth walking down 17th street NW to see some of the city's finest architecture, starting with the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Built between 1871 and 1888, the building that houses the office of the Vice President and of many other people working at the White House. it attracted a lot of criticism because of its size and design. Mark Twain called it "the ugliest building in America.", while Harry Truman called it "the greatest monstrosity in America". In all honesty, I can't say that I agree with those two great men. I was rather taken with the French Second Empire style of the building, and thought it made an especially nice background to the First Division Memorial, which features a winged statue of Victory sculpted by Daniel Chester French.

    Other building worth seeing on that street include the Renwick Gallery, which was unfortunately undergoing restoration work during my visit to Washington, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the American Red Cross Headquarters, the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Headquarters (which, as a Gilmore Girls fan, I was very curious to see!), and the Organization of American States building.

    Eisenhower Executive Office Building American Red Cross Headquarters
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    Around the Constitution Gardens

    by Jefie Updated Sep 17, 2014

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    The Constitution Gardens were established in the 1970s to commemorate the 200th aniversary of the American Revolution. They cover about 50 acres and are home to several memorials. The gardens feature a small pound, at the center of which there is a small island that can be reached by crossing a wooden bridge. This island is home to a memorial that pays tribute to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial can also be found in this area. The sober memorial takes on the shape of a black wall that lists all the names (over 58,000) of American soldiers who died in this war. The names are listed in chronological order (from 1959 to 1975) and there are registries available to help people find family members. I thought it was quite moving to see parents with young children, perhaps looking for the name of a lost uncle or grand-father...

    Two more memorials very impressive memorials can be seen in the area: the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial. The first features a group of 19 stainless steel statues dispersed among bushes, representing a squad on patrol. The effect is quite moving, as are the words "Freedom Is Not Free", written on a granite wall. As for the National WWII Memorial, it lies at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool and consists of 56 columns representing each of the American states and territories. They are placed around the oval-shaped Raibow Pool, which features a fountain in its center. Although there is a wall lined with 4000 golden stars paying tribute to soldiers who died during the war, the overall effect is more like a celebration of a war that was won.

    Korean War Veterans Memorial Washington's Constitution Gardens National WWII Memorial At the Constitution Gardens
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    Woodrow Wilson House

    by Jefie Written Sep 9, 2014

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    After he left office in 1921, President Thomas Woodrow Wilson retired to a beautiful house near what was to become Embassy Row. He lived there for 3 years until he passed way peacefully in February 1924. His wife Edith continued living in the house until she died in 1961, leaving the house and all of its contents to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Edith Wilson never remarried, and she spent the years after the death of her husband preserving and honouring his memory. For this reason, she made very few alterations to the house, keeping most of its original furniture for posterity. Today, visitors can still see the bed in which President Wilson passed away, his books and several state gifts from all around the world. Visits are by guided tours only and we found the staff to be incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the history of the Wilsons.Tours are offered on the hour starting at 10:00 am (last tour leaves at 3:00 pm) from Tuesday to Sunday (admission is $10 for adults).

    Inside President Wilson's house in Washington President Wilson's library Woodrow Wilson House on S Street, Washington
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    Take a tour bus?

    by leics Written Jul 30, 2014

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    I have only ever taken one hop-on, hop-off bus on my previous travels (in San Francisco, because it was windy and chilly and I was very tired). I much prefer to explore on foot, using my own eyes, ears and researches.

    But Washington was hot & sticky (at least for me, a Brit) and I hadn't quite realised how spread out its sights and sites were. So when the opportunity arose for me to take the Big Bus hoho bus, starting from Union Station just a couple of minutes' walk from my hotel, it seemed sensible to grab it with both hands.

    And I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd expected the information to be somewhat dumbed-down (my own prejudices coming to the fore, I'm afraid) and that buses would be few and far between and packed with other visitors (it was, after all, mid-July and high season). I am happy to admit that I was wrong.

    I spent the day taking three of the four routes on offer, only getting off to change buses, rehydrate or go to the loo. Two of the routes had taped commentary which was of an acceptable standard...certainly audible and containing enough relevant information of interest to no-US visitors. But there is no question that the tour with live commentary was much more enjoyable and informative, not least because human beings can react to the present in a way that no machine ever can...and can answer questions if and when they arise.

    Buses arrived regularly (I observed at bus stops on the day, and on the day after, as well as catching buses myself) and all the staff I encountered were courteous and pleasant in manner. As it was so hot I sat on the open upper deck (good views of the architecture, especially in Georgetown) and really rather enjoyed the whole day.

    You can buy tickets from staff at any of the bus stops on the routes (route map on weblink below) but it's cheaper to buy in advance online. There are 24 and 48-hour tickets available. If you have difficulty walking long distances I'd suggest you get the 48 hour ticket, simply because the National Mall and its sites is not particularly well-served by the Metro. You'll definitely need to walk.

    Big Bus is not the only hoho tour operator in Washington DC and so I cannot properly compare value. But, for me, it was a good option and I do't think you'll be disappointed if you choose it.
    .
    None of the above is influenced by the fact that Big Bus originated as a UK company, of course. :-)

    From the bus: the Mall From the bus: Jefferson Memorial From the bus: Arlington From the bus: Georgetown canal
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    Watch jumbo jets land right over your head!

    by HumblyServingChrist Updated Jul 4, 2014

    For something a bit more unorthodox than the typical D.C. experience, my uncle and aunt (who live in nearby Alexandria, took us to Gravelly Point Park, which is located close to the start of the landing strip at Reagan National Airport. Here, we sat on the grass while massive jumbo jets came screaming in for a landing right over our heads! The experience is comparable to the effect produced in U2’s “Beautiful Day,” video, in which the band is shown on a runway with planes landing right above them.

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    Night Tours

    by solopes Updated Jun 16, 2014

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    Our package, in some towns allowed an extra, called "Night tour". As the day was almost lost because of the rain, we decided to go (as a matter of fact we always use to go, no matter the rain or the sun...or the price).

    It gave us a different approach with the whole exhaling tranquility in contrast with the rush during the day.

    Washington DC - USA Washington DC - USA Washington DC - USA
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    International Spy Museum

    by aphrodyte Updated Feb 21, 2014

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    Opened in 2002, the International Spy Museum provides interactive exhibits and contains the most extensive collection of spy artifacts ever displayed.

    The International Spy Museum's mission is to educate guests about espionage in an engaging way. With audio, visual and interactive components. They displayed over 200 real life Spy materials such as historic photographs of captured spies, spy tools in use, and dead drop sites utilized in various countries. They currently have and interactive exhibit Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains… where guests can meet Bond’s villains, uncover their evil schemes, and explore their exotic lairs and weapons.

    We also became spies during the Operation Spy mission. Which was very fun!
    Plan ahead and allow 2-3 hours for a good experience.
    The gift shop was a treat and we bought a few "spy" equipment.

    Hours
    February 18 - March 21 10:00am - 6:00pm
    March 22 - April 11 9:00am - 7:00pm
    April 12 - 19 8:00am - 8:00pm
    April 20 - August 31 9:00am - 7:00pm
    July 4 9:00am - 6:00pm
    September 1 9:00am - 6:00pm

    Ticket Prices
    Adults (ages 12-64) $20.95
    Senior (ages 65+), Military, Law Enforcement $15.95
    Youths (ages 7-11) $14.95
    Children age 6 & under Free

    ticket counter the enigma machine interactive displays
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Washington D.C. Things to Do

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