To be, or not to be … the world's finest collection of Shakespeare materials and Renaissance books, manuscripts and art? To be, of course! The library's esteemed reading rooms are only open to scholars and researchers, but other rare materials are meant to be actively used. So ask a librarian any burning questions lingering from high school English, or consult its online catalog, Hamnet, when you go.
The library of Congress is big – the biggest in the world. To avoid getting lost (although not always a bad thing), opt for a one hour tour of the Jefferson Building, where you will learn about Thomas Jefferson's life, works and influence on the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. Other tours are available, including one on the history of the music division and on the history and collections of the library itself.
Lincoln Park may as well be called Dog City – this is where Capitol Hill pups and their owner residents come to play, jog, and relax. Get the most out of it by finding a place to sit and people watch over a sack lunch. There are also two monuments to revel, of President Abraham Lincoln and Civil Rights Activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune's statue, unveiled on her 99th birthday in 1974, was the first monument to honor a black woman in a D.C. public park.
You can find metro, Amtrak, VRE and MARC trains here headed to Virginia, Maryland and beyond. From the outside, Union Station may look like many other old federal buildings in downtown Washington, but its $160 million revamp in 1988 was the largest public/private restoration project ever completed in the U.S. Check its website for details on the station's storied history (sneak peak: President Truman headed to Philadelphia with 18 other trains from Union Station for the Army Navy football game in 1951).
The best way to arrange a tour at the U.S. Capitol is not the day of but in advance, either online or through a representative. It's worth the effort: you'll see the passageways that members take to and from sessions, rare historic documents, and a view of the chambers where votes and debates take place. Leave with a newfound appreciation for this significant building and a better understanding of the U.S. legislative system.