Things to Do in Washington DC - page 4
Widely recognized as the oldest building in Washington, D.C., the historic Old Stone House was built in 1765 and has remained relatively unchanged since its construction. Today, a knowledgeable park ranger meets visitors as they enter the building and shares the colorful history of the capital city’s oldest structure. Travelers can take an informal tour through Old Stone House and explore the kitchen, bedrooms and parlor, which are decked out in traditional 18th century style. This unique attraction offers a peek into the daily life of early Americans that’s unlike anywhere else. The Colonial Revival Garden, located behind the house, is a popular destination for weddings, afternoon picnics, and quiet escapes from city chaos.
The life-like wax statues of Madame Tussauds Washington DC museum give visitors the opportunity to engage with replicas of US presidents, celebrities, and elite athletes. As you explore the interactive exhibits, you can learn about the creation of the wax sculptures, the history of the figures, and the story of the 18th-century artist for whom the museum is named.
Penn Quarter is a lively and compact neighborhood in eastern Washington DC; its famed for its diverse selection of restaurants, bars, museums, and sports and entertainment venues. The district is a short distance from the National Mall and US Capitol.
Hosted at the National Geographic Society’s world headquarters, the National Geographic Museum is a family-friendly institution that celebrates exploration, international adventure, and the natural world. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions showcase photographs, artifacts, and films and also include interactive elements.
Decatur House was the first private residence built near the White House. Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also planned parts of the Capitol, the building has a storied past as home to foreign and American dignitaries and enslaved people. The museum tells the stories of its former residents and, through them, of a young America.
Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg is one of the largest living history museums in America, where visitors can experience what daily life looked like during the American Revolution. Historical re-enactors contribute to the immersive experience by working in preserved historic buildings and a variety of craft shops, from blacksmiths to wigmakers.
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a Europe-themed amusement park like no other. Situated in one of the country’s most historic colonial towns, park visitors can ride a steam train through replica villages from France, Italy, Germany, and Ireland; take in a show; or ride a roller coaster at top speeds through the treetops.
Part of the Smithsonian, this intimate museum is dedicated to crafts and decorative art created in America from the 19th to 21st centuries. Originally built in 1859 to house D.C.’s first art museum, the Corcoran Gallery - which soon outgrew these digs and moved down the street - this ornate Second Empire building had become a moldering, almost-lost cause by the mid-1960s, when it was saved from demolition by President Lyndon Johnson and declared a National Historic Landmark.
In 1972, the museum was spruced up, re-named for its famous architect, James Renwick (designer of the nearby Smithsonian Castle), and re-opened as the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft collection. The Renwick has since become renowned for its rotating exhibits of inventive, detailed and even whimsical works of American art.
Docent-led tours of the Renwick’s highlights meet at the Information Desk in the lobby, offered
Monday - Friday at 12 p.m. and Saturday - Sunday at 1 p.m. Scavenger hunt materials for children are also available free of charge at the Information Desk. Set across the street from the Old Executive Office Building and the White House, the Renwick attracts a great deal of foot traffic; it’s advisable to arrive early or late in order to have the most elbow room.
Housed in a 19th-century brick building, Eastern Market hosts a busy farmers' market and flea market. On weekends, artisans and antique dealers also station themselves just outside. It’s all located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, too, which makes it an easy spot to visit while exploring the many nearby monuments, memorials and parks.
Eastern Market is now on the National Register of Historic Places. With the exception of a two-year renovation project due to a devastating fire in 2007, the market has been in constant operation since 1873. In fact, it was the first city-owned market aimed to help urbanize Washington and is now the lone surviving one as well. Grocery store chains nearly forced Eastern Market to board its windows, but local residents fought to keep the market open.
Although it would be easy to look at the 2007-2009 closure as an overall loss, several benefits did come from restoring the building after the fire. Key features – like the historic skylights – were fully restored after being hidden for decades, and, in recent years, the market has undergone a renaissance and business is booming. On weekends, Seventh Street is closed to create a pedestrian plaza, and there are even tentative plans to expand and link Barrack Row to create a community-gathering hub.
Set in Capitol Hill in a unique building that blends Streamline Moderne and Greco Deco, this independent research library contains the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s printed works. Endowed by Shakespeare memorabilia collector Henry Clay Folger (a former chairman of the Standard Oil Company and a member of the Folger Coffee family), the library was opened 316 years to the day after the Bard’s death, on April 23, 1932.
In addition to its permanent collections and rotating art exhibits, the Library houses the three-tiered, Elizabethan-style Folger Theater, which each season stages three of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as literary readings and lectures.
More Things to Do in Washington DC
The office of the Secretary of State is responsible for America’s relations with foreign governments and operates US diplomatic missions abroad. Housed in the Art Moderne-style Harry S. Truman Building, the State Department, as it is more commonly known, is also concerned with assisting and protecting American citizens and businesses in other countries. Here, visitors can get a peek of the opulent reception rooms.
The National Theatre first opened in 1835, supported by some of D.C.’s wealthiest patrons, who wanted their city to have a world-class theatrical institution. In the wake of the 1922 collapse of the nearby Knickerbocker movie theater during a snowstorm, the vintage limestone building was redesigned and reinforced for safety; its interior remained largely unchanged until a full-scale renovation in 1984. This renovation, quite fittingly, was overseen by a theater production set designer.
Since its original opening, virtually every great theater star has performed at the National, and a box on the left side of the stage has hosted every president and his wife; Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt were particular fans of the plays presented here. Today, the stage at this elegant, 1,676-seat theater hosts some of the biggest productions on Broadway.
See how America’s first English settlers lived at the Jamestown Settlement, where they landed in 1607. This site, now a living history museum, sits in Virginia at the heart of America's first permanent English colony and explores the history of colonial times through films, exhibits and interactive outdoor experiences.
Visitors are introduced to the settlement and interactions between the Powhatan Native Americans, Europeans and Africans who converged in the area in this time period. Outside, the museum showcases replicas of the three ships that arrived in Virginia from England in the 1600s. Visitors can also walk through recreations of the colonist forts and a Powhatan village that include demonstrators in period garb.
Formerly known as the Verizon Center, this Penn Quarter/Chinatown sports and entertainment arena is home to a few of Washington’s top teams: the Wizards and Mystics (basketball), and the Capitals (hockey). Formally sponsored by telecommunications giant Verizon Communications and now sponsored by Capital One Bank, the arena is often locally referred to, tongue-in-cheek, as the “Phone Booth.”
In addition to games, matches and bouts, the Capital One Arena regularly hosts the biggest musical acts in the world, as well as ice skating shows, the circus, and equestrian and wrestling events.
While there are several restaurants and nightlife options which are privately reserved for their own members, there are a few public eateries and/or bars on site: Hard Times Café (concession stands), The Clubhouse and The Greene Turtle (both sports-focused cocktail bars), and Dunkin’ Donuts. Additionally, it is set amidst two of the most condensed commercial districts in the city, with a slew of nearby restaurants and bars from which to choose.
The National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC is a private nonprofit organization created by Congress in 1863 to conduct research and provide its findings to the US government. Housed in a 1924 neoclassical building just north of the National Mall, the academy hosts temporary exhibitions, lectures, films, and other cultural programs.
When Larz Anderson, a wealthy American diplomat, died in 1937, his widow donated their 50-room mansion - the Anderson House - and its contents in Dupont Circle to the Society of the Cincinnati - a prestigious male-only organization for descendants of officers in the American Revolutionary War, of which Larz was a long-time active member. By 1939, the Society opened it to the public as a museum and library, showcasing the Andersons' impressive collection of Chinese, Japanese, French, and Italian art, as well as the importance of the family in American history.
The stately Anderson House was designed in the Beaux-Arts style and has been described as a "Florentine villa in the midst of American independence." The Anderson House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and is considered to be one of the city's hidden treasures. Today, the Anderson House serves as the Society's headquarters and aims to preserve Larz's legacy of patriotic service and entertaining guests and offers several free concerts a year in the grand ballrooms and on the expansive grounds.
Stretching over nine miles long and one mile across through the center of the city, this 1,754-acre forest park is one of the most distinctive and beloved features of Washington, D.C. Encompassing a leisurely, winding, and sometimes creek-side drive and numerous paths for walking and biking, Rock Creek Park provides a series of relaxing opportunities to sidestep a purely urban experience of the Nation’s Capital.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Rock Creek Park is home to a few of D.C.’s best-preserved historical buildings and smaller parks: the water-powered Pierce Mill, built in the 1820s; the elegant Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights, which features a 13-tier manmade waterfall; and Georgetown’s 18th-century Old Stone House, a small museum and the oldest building in the city.
To acquaint yourself with the flora and fauna of the park – especially if you’re traveling with children - visit the Rock Creek Park Nature Center (5200 Glover Road, NW), which includes a wall-mounted beehive under glass and a small planetarium. The Center is free to enter and open Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; not accessible by Metrorail or bus, the Center offers a free parking lot.
Three Metrorail stations, all serving the Red Line, provide access to sections of Rock Creek Park: Pierce Mill can be accessed via Van Ness or Cleveland Park, and the park’s main walking and bicycle paths are just down the hill from Woodley Park-National Zoo.
During his time as president, Abraham Lincoln spent a significant amount of time at the Soldiers' Home, now known as President Lincoln's Cottage. On his commute to and from the White House and the Soldiers' Home, Lincoln witnessed the devastating effects of the Civil War and formulated many of the opinions that would become his policy and speeches. Most notably, while at the Cottage, Lincoln composed much of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln's Cottage opened to the public in 2008, and before that in 2000 it was designated the President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument. The cottage sits on a hill overlooking the city, providing a unique perspective into how Lincoln saw the city below him in his time. A tour here walks visitors through Lincoln's formation for the Emancipation Proclamation, shows the house where he and his family resided and tells the history of the site.
Located in northwest DC, Adams Morgan is celebrated for its charming rowhouses, vibrant dining scene, eclectic cultural mix, and trendy sensibility. Situated along the buzzy 18th Street corridor, the neighborhood is known for its nightlife, though its coffee shops, vintage stores, music venues, and bookstores are a daytime draw.
The National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is the place to begin your exploration of historic Gettysburg. After watching a short orientation film, check out the Civil War artifacts on display, and marvel at the iconic 360-degree cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Set on a hill overlooking Alexandria, the towering George Washington Masonic National Memorial honors the nation’s first president as well as the history and heritage of the Freemasons. The 9-story neoclassical structure and the museum within it tell the story of Washington and the contributions his Freemason fraternity made to the United States.
Set on more than five acres in Georgetown, this historic Federal-era was home to six generations of the Peter family from 1805 to 1984. Thomas Peter’s father was the first mayor of Georgetown (81 years before Washington, D.C. became a single voting district) and his wife Martha, the granddaughter of First Lady Martha Washington; the young couple were considered D.C. royalty in the early 19th century, when this neoclassical estate was designed for them by William Thornton, architect 0f the U.S. Capitol.
During the Peter family’s subsequent 179 years in this formal home, they put together an impressive collection of American and European decorative arts, including over 100 treasured items bequeathed by George and Martha Washington. Tudor Place today is a well-preserved example of upper-class life in the 19th century, and looks almost as though the Peters just went out for a walk – and will soon return.
Visitors are welcome to tour the gardens by themselves for $3, but the house is open only by one-hour-long, docent-led tours that generally embark on the hour. Tudor Place considers their house tours best suited to children ages 5 and over; families with younger children are advised to call in advance.
Virginia’s Monticello is the sprawling Thomas Jefferson–designed estate turned UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. Its extensive gardens and impressive buildings inspired by French villas are popular with history buffs and visitors looking to delve into America’s past and the life of America’s third president.
The esteemed Phillips Collection houses one of the most prized collections of artwork in Washington DC. The collection features work from such renowned artists as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Mark Rothko. The collection is known for its intimate feeling, as though visitors are stepping into a home, rather than a museum.
Founded by Duncan Phillips and Marjorie Acker Phillips in 1921, The Phillips Collection is known for its role in bringing modern art into the mainstream in America. It is America’s first museum of modern art. It began as a small, well-curated collection of family art and has grown to include more than 3,000 works of art by American and European impressionist and modern artists. The museum hosts a variety of events every year, including special displays and exhibits. There is a coffee shop on the premises to enjoy before or after perusing the museum.
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- Things to do in Niagara Falls & Around
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