The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collection includes over 50,000 items related to the history of aviation and space exploration—from historic aircraft like the Wright brothers’ original flyer and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of ’76, to a small sliver of rock from the moon. Its planetarium and IMAX movie theater offer visitors dazzling glimpses into the frontiers of flight and the far reaches of the universe.- Photo by Eric Long
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Pictured: Apollo 11 Capsule at the National Air and Space Museum
One of the highlights of the museum collection is the Apollo 11 command module, the capsule named Columbia in which astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned to Earth after their historic walk on the Moon’s surface.
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Pictured: Elephant at the National Museum of Natural History
Explore the wonders of nature in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. A massive, eight-ton elephant that once lived in Angola is the first thing visitors see on display as they arrive in the museum’s central rotunda. The halls surrounding the elephant are filled with dinosaur bones, precious gems including the famed Hope Diamond, living insects and butterflies, and much, much more. Museum scientists continue to travel the globe, gathering and studying all kinds of specimens, in order to add to both the museum’s collection, and its knowledge about the natural world.
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Pictured: National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History tells the story of America’s past and its culture through the more than 3 million articles in its vast collection. Its treasures include a piece of Plymouth Rock, gowns worn by the nation’s first ladies, a section of a North Carolina lunch counter that was the site of a historic sit-in during the civil rights movement, and the “ruby slippers” worn by Judy Garland in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Exhibits provoke insight into American music, politics, inventions, and people. The museum is scheduled for ongoing renovation between now and 2015, so certain sections and exhib
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Pictured: The Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The U.S. national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” tells the story of the raising of the American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, in celebration of a victory over British forces during the War of 1812. Poet Francis Scott Key witnessed the flag flying and wrote what would become the anthem’s lyrics. That very same flag is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where visitors may view its “broad stripes and bright stars” in a display case specially designed to prevent damage from light or humidity.
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Pictured: Lincoln Memorial statue
The Lincoln Memorial, a monument to the nation’s 16th president, recalls a Greek temple with its white columns. Inside, a 19-foot high marble sculpture of the seated Lincoln dominates the space, and some of the president’s best-known quotes are carved into the walls. The memorial’s wide marble steps have seen many historic moments, notably the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.- Photo by Destination DC
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Pictured: White House West Lawn
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW is the country’s most famous address – the location of the White House, which serves as both residence and office to the United States president. Every president since John Adams has lived in the executive mansion. Public tours are available but passes must be arranged well in advance through one’s Congressional representative’s office (or embassy, for citizens of foreign countries).- Photo by Mary A. Behre
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Pictured: West facade of the U.S. Capitol at sunrise
The United States Capitol Building, crowned with its distinctive white cast iron dome, has housed the legislative branch of the U.S. government since the construction of its north wing was completed in 1800. Capitol tour passes should be reserved in advance through the Visitor’s Center website or through the office of one of your Senators or your Congressional representative. A limited number of same day passes are available at the Visitor’s Center. All tours begin with an informative film, then continue into the Capitol’s crypt, rotunda, and Statuary Hall. Separate passes are required for the House and Senate galleri
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Pictured: Georgetown at dusk
The intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW is the heart of one of Washington’s oldest neighborhoods, Georgetown. Visitors can enjoy Georgetown at any hour of the day, from early morning jogs along the C&O Canal, to shopping its many boutiques and admiring its graceful, historic townhomes during the day, to its popular bars and restaurants after dark.
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Pictured: Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian
Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the most famous residents of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, but the pandas’ zoo neighbors represent nearly 400 different species of all sizes—from geckos, kiwis, and naked mole-rats, to elephants, gorillas, and alligators. The zoo not only provides opportunities for visitors to see animals from all over the globe, but also helps researchers learn more about conserving biological diversity, both in captivity and in the wild.- Photo by Mehgan Murphy
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Pictured: The John F. Kennedy Center at night
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts sits beside the Potomac River. This prestigious national cultural center was created by an act of Congress during the Eisenhower Administration, and opened to the public in 1971. Its multiple stages present operas, ballets, symphony concerts, jazz vocalists, musical comedies and much, much more. Tickets can be pricey, but you don’t need to be rich to enjoy a show at the Kennedy Center—the egalitarian Millennium Stage offers a free performance every evening at 6 p.m.- Photo by Carol Pratt
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Pictured: Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street
Opened by Ben and Virginia Ali in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl (1215 U St. NW) draws hungry crowds from early in the morning until late at night. Famous fan Bill Cosby makes a point of eating at Ben’s whenever he comes to town. Ben’s stays open until 2 a.m. during the week and until 4 a.m. on weekends—the late night lines are always long, but a heap of chili cheese fries really hits the spot after last call.
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Pictured: Ben’s Chili Bowl menu
Ben’s is not for calorie counters – its hearty menu features only-in-D.C. half-smoke sausages and, of course, chili. (Don’t even think of asking for the recipe!)
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Pictured: National Gallery of Art East Building
The National Gallery of Art was created in 1937, when financier Andrew W. Mellon died and left his personal art collection to the nation. The gallery has two buildings, the neoclassical style West Building, and the modern I.M. Pei-designed East Building (seen here). The National Gallery’s collection has grown over the years, and provides an overview of the Western art tradition, with works by European masters like da Vinci, Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Picasso; and American greats like Sargent, Cassatt, and Whistler. An outdoor sculpture garden also offers opportunities for art appreciation on a different scale.
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Pictured: National Archives
The National Archives preserves official documents and materials with historical significance. There are branches of the National Archives across the country, including the Presidential Libraries, which are part of the National Archives and Records Administration. But the Archives building in Washington is the only place to see some of the nation’s most significant documents: the Charters of Freedom, or the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.