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The White House

Washington, D.C. – symbol of democracy, a magnet to people and causes, a place of power and prestige – is inspiring and interesting. Take the time to take it all in. Washington is part history, part history in the making. The seats of power - the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court - are testaments to the democratic process. In massive, often ornate, government buildings, the work of America is conducted. Extraordinary museums hold the tangible evidence of American achievement.

Visually, Washington, D.C. is lovely. Its horizontal scale is humanizing and appealing. Open space, manicured parks, and grand avenues converging at landscaped circles serve as an elegant canvas for a range of exceptional architecture spanning over 200 years.

As architectural specimens, Washington’s museums, memorials, federal buildings and historic homes chronicle the nation’s history. Through them the story of a fledgling nation unfolds as it gained stature, prominence and identity to become a global power. As repositories of the American experience for all to see, they are fascinating and moving.

Washington did not always look as it does today. Created out of farmland, swamp and forest, it began as an artificial city – as an idea of the founding fathers to build a “federal city” amid the independent-minded states. The location was chosen in 1790 by political compromise and, upon first seeing the site on which he was to plan a magnificent city under the guidance of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the architect Pierre L’Enfant described his task as “turning a savage wilderness into a Garden of Eden.”

Although influenced by the Europe’s grand cities, the sheer vastness of the new country determined L’Enfant’s vision: “We must show the breadth of our nation with the width of our avenues and the lengths of our parks.” However, this grand vision did not materialize all at once. Growth spurts in the fledgling city were tied to key historic events, and with each crisis the city transformed itself, taking root and gaining importance and prestige.

As the plans took shape, streets were laid out and in 1792, construction began on the Georgian neoclassical “President’s House,” and the Classical Revival “house of the people,” the United States Capitol. However, the nascent capital had yet to develop an inherent identity – it was small, had dirt streets and was without sewer or water systems.

Museum of Natural HistoryIn the early city, private residences reflected the balanced simplicity of the reserved Federal architecture of the period. Wonderful examples of this distinctively American architecture can be seen in the elegant homes and in a parade of row houses, the signature residential dwellings of Washington, along the narrow, tree-lined streets in the Georgetown Historic District. Others are in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, where the first structure built was the small, simple St John’s Episcopal Church, where pew 54 has been reserved for all sitting presidents since Madison. In the 1830s, a time fraught with partisan politics, the government grew. Austere federal buildings were constructed, notably the columned Greek Revival U.S. Department of the Treasury, at the time one of the largest office buildings in the world.

By a stroke of good fortune, the Smithsonian Institute was established in 1848. James Smithson, a British scientist who had never set foot in the country, bequeathed his considerable wealth to America with the proviso that it be used to found an “establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” The first of its 16 spectacular national museums, the picturesque, medieval looking Smithsonian Institution Building, “The Castle,” was completed on the National Mall in 1855.

Civil War transformed Washington into a city teeming with people. It still had minimal infrastructure, was overrun by the military whose encampments were everywhere, by war wounded brought to rudimentary hospitals set up anywhere there was space, by runaway slaves who came by the thousands seeking refuge. It was chaotic, dirty and violent.

When America reunited there was a realization that her capital did not reflect stature. Massive efforts were undertaken to modernize the city whose population had doubled its pre-war size. Streets and sidewalks were paved; water and sewer system installed.

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, America was making great industrial strides, fast becoming a world economic player. Personal fortunes and increasing world prestige led to wholesale efforts to beautify America’s capital to become the cultural equal to Europe.

Power and wealth moved in and the Gilded Age of architecture in Washington began. Palatial homes were built on individual wealth accumulated through America’s success in the Industrial Revolution, and today entire neighborhoods showcase the grandeur of the time. The Dupont Circle Historic District is an immersion into a virtual museum of mansions in the decorative Beaux Arts, Victorian Queen Anne, massive Richardsonian Romanesque, baroque Spanish Colonial, and gracious Georgian Revival architecture. The Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, today’s “Embassy Row,” is a showcase of the elaborately ornamented Beaux Arts style, in vogue at the time.

Public buildings also heeded this elaborate trend. Mansard roofs and ornate granite distinguish the grand Second Empire Old Executive Office Building (1871-1888). Within its walls, Presidents had offices, dignitaries visited, and historic events took place. It now holds the Office of the Vice President and the National Security Council. The opulent gold-domed Italian Renaissance Library of Congress opened in 1897 with the intention of surpassing its European counterparts in style and substance.

Monuments in the MoonlightWashington was the place to be, worldly and cultured. Visitors flocked in through the magnificent gateway to America’s capital, Union Station (1907), gloriously gilded, arched and columned. Concert halls and elaborate museums housing the personal collections of America’s wealthy were built and are still in place today. The Beaux Arts Corcoran Gallery of Art (1897), opened as a public gallery to exhibit William Wilson Corcoran’s personal collection of American art, one of the most comprehensives in the world. The Duncan Phillips family opened their Georgian Revival home in 1921 to exhibit their remarkable collection to the public as the Phillips Collection, thus becoming the first museum of modern art in America. The Freer Gallery of Art (1923), a low-rise neo-Italian Renaissance palazzo, opened to exhibit its benefactor’s extensive collection of American and ancient Asian art. The Japanese Cherry trees, a gift from the people of Japan, were planted around Tidal Basin in 1912.

The size of government also increased, initiating the country’s largest public construction program. The Federal Triangle, between the Capitol and the White House, was set aside to provide buildings for new agencies, each one uniformly dressed in limestone facades, red tiled hip roofs and classic colonnades. The first congressional buildings, the Cannon & Russell Buildings were completed in 1907 and 1909 in elaborate Beaux Arts style; notables stayed at the Willard Hotel, renovated on a grand scale 1904.

Having achieved prominence and confidence, America gained historic perspective and sought to honor the contributions of those key to the American experience by building classical monuments to memorialized leaders and heroes in contemplative silence. The serenely moving Lincoln Memorial was completed in1922; the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial, in the neo-classical design first introduced to the country by Jefferson himself, was set in 1939. The highest court in the land finally found a permanent home in 1932 in the dignified Supreme Court Building and the monumental National Archives, repository of the foundations of the nation: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence was completed.

By 1941, Washington’s population was over 1 million, and the federal government kept growing. This expansion of government is chronicled in the authoritative neoclassical federal offices built at that time. The nation’s cultural wealth continued to grow as the blocks-long neoclassic West Building of the National Gallery of Art, exhibiting Western art spanning centuries, opened that year.

Bond drives in World War II brought glamour and publicity to the capital, energizing patriotism. A huge civilian work force supported the enlarging government; the massive, sprawling Pentagon punctuated America’s position as a super power. Victory in World War II firmly established Washington as the nation’s capital and the center of the world.

Washington was forever changed. In ensuing years, and with energy and purpose, more federal offices were built and additional exciting cultural venues with sleek lines emerged, offering awe-inspiring exhibits. Existing venues were enhanced or expanded, and moving memorials were erected to honor America’s 20th century heroes.

At the core of this remarkable city is The National Mall, an open 2-mile swath of green, stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. Bordered by America’s cultural icons honoring America’s sacrifice, highlighting her diversity and representing the ingenuity of her people, this national public space – open, accessible and unpretentious - symbolizes all that is America.



Month

High
(Fahrenheit)
Low
(Fahrenheit)
January- February 45° 25°
March 55° 33°
April 66° 42°
May 76° 52°
June 84° 62°
July- August 88° 66°
September 80° 57°
October 69° 44°
November 58° 36°
December 48° 28°


Washington DC Zoo

Weather

Washington's temperate climate is mild compared to many areas in the United States.


Seasons

Washington has four distinct seasons. The most popular for tourists is spring, a lovely time of year. At the first blush of the cherry blossoms at the end of March, the city bursts with activity. Throughout April, the delicate blossom can be seen on walking tours, by bike, on photo safaris, by paddle boat in the Tidal Basin. The flowering is celebrated at events, performances, exhibits, symposiums and ceremonies. Favorites are the Lantern Lighting Ceremony on the Tidal Basin, the Smithsonian Kite Festival on the Mall, and the city’s largest spectator event, the Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Summers are warm and humid, with a multitude of things to see and do. Music moves outdoors for the Hottest Smooth Jazz Festival and for the Cinco de Mayo Festival in the Sylvan Theater in the Mall. Shakespeare is performed under the stars in Rock Creek Park; splendid music is enjoyed in the coolness of the National Cathedral. Families with children in tow flock to national landmarks the children have only seen in school books, delight at the giant pandas in the National Zoo, marvel at dinosaurs in the National Museum of Natural History and enjoy productions in Discovery Theater.

Fall, crisp and glorious in autumnal color which peaks in mid to late October, is a wonderful time to visit parks and botanical gardens. Walk down the color-dappled trails of Rock Creek Park; marvel at the red blaze of the Japanese maples in the Hillwood Museums and Gardens; see fabulous specimens in full foliage in the National Arboretum. In Georgetown, the spectacular gardens at Dumbarten Oaks are a must, and be sure to seek out the D. C. Millennium Landmark Tree, a tulip poplar planted more than 200 years ago at Tudor Place and Gardens.

Winter is relatively mild, the perfect time to take in the spectacular array of indoor exhibits, permanent and changing, at the countless museums: the Hirshorn, Freer, American Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, Anacostia Museum, The Phillips Collection, the Kreeger, and ever so many more. During December, the city lights up for the holidays, with the National Christmas Tree and Pathway to Peace on the Ellipse, the season’s crown jewels.

Iwo JimaPopulation

The 2005 census population estimate for the city of Washington, D.C., the “District,” is 582,049. However, during the workweek, 400,000 additional people a day stream in to work from the outlying suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. The cross-section of Americans working in the city, combined with people from all points of the globe working in embassies, for international organizations and attending universities, lends a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the nation’s capital.

Size

The 68.39 square mile capital city, bordered by Maryland on three sides and Virginia on the fourth, was carved out of land once belonging to these two states. The Potomac River, Rock Creek and the Anacostia River, run through the city, and some of the district’s land was created by filling in the marshes along their banks. One quarter of Washington is devoted to parks, contributing to its pleasant, open feeling.

Transportation

Washington is divided into four quadrants: northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest, with the Capitol at its epicenter. You can get around D.C. by car, however parking is difficult to find and the many roundabouts and angled streets can be confusing.

The public Metrorail, convenient and easy to use, operates throughout the city, starting at 5:00am, Mon- Fri and 7am, Sat & Sun, closing at midnight Sun-Thurs, and 3am, Fri & Sat nights. Avoid the workweek rush hour. Fares are based on when and how far you travel and farecards can be purchased from machines at every station. Metrorail offers a One Day Pass offering unlimited rides. Metro Stations are marked by tall columns with a large “M” on each side, with colored strips indicating which Metro lines serve that station (Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Yellow). Another option is the D. C. Circulator, buses which circulate on three routes in and around the busy areas of downtown from 7am to 9pm. Bus stops are designated by the red and gold signs at points along the route.

When you first arrive, a great way to see the city and get around at the same time is on a narrated tour aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours ® of Washington, D.C. You’ll be entertained, get oriented and see places and details you might otherwise miss. The orange and green trolleys with great viewing windows provide a wonderful tour of all the important sights. As an added bonus, you can hop off at any of the 16 stops along the tour route to explore on your own, hopping back on the next available trolley when you’re ready to resume the tour. Purchase tickets through this website, from the concierge in hotels, or in ticket booths in Union Station and the Welcome Center at 10 th and E.

Accommodations

The list of conveniently located accommodations in Washington is long and varied. There are luxury hotels, landmark hotels, historic hotels, brand-name hotels, suite hotels, boutique hotels and charming inns. Some are pricey; others moderate. Familiar brand name hotels are plentiful. Suite hotels are popular with families; some hotels are pet friendly. Your hotel can be part of the Washington scene, where diplomats and politicians frequent, or it can simply be a comfortable retreat from days spent sightseeing.

Air & Space Museum

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by America’s magnificent capital city. Formidable sights, world-class museums, stirring monuments, verdant parks, impressive sculptures, fountains, plazas, and ornate, often majestic, architecture can be exhausting to the senses. The best approach is to focus on things that really interest you. See the city one neighborhood at a time. Don’t spend a whole day experiencing the same kinds of things. Mix it up a little: a few government institutions, some architectural treasures, a museum, a monument; pause in a park, walk in a garden, stop for lunch, do some shopping.

1) Spend a day (or more) in The National Mall. The splendid 2-mile long iconic lawn in the heart of the city, as accessible to visiting tourists and Sunday strollers as it is to millions of marchers and festive gatherings, is bordered by the most well-known of Washington’s museums and monuments. Here there is something for everyone. While you can walk from one end to the other, it’s not possible to take in all 10 of the Smithsonian Institution Museums located on the Mall in one visit. Admission to the museums is free and collections spectacular, but lines can be long. Between museums, stop for a bite to eat in museum cafés - by a man-made waterfall, in a 6 story high atrium, in a sculpture garden; find the unusual in museum shops. Start early by getting information to plan your day at the Smithsonian Information Center, “The Castle.”

You only have to look up as you enter the popular National Air and Space Museum for a hint of the excitement to come. There, suspended above you is the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer, the Apollo Lunar Module and more! Exhibits in galleries, thrilling IMAX films, workshops and simulators tell the story of man’s fascination with air and space.

From exterior to interior, the National Museum of the American Indian expresses the spiritual connection of Native-Americans to nature. Exhibits beautifully convey the culture and contributions of native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

Dinosaurs loom, precious gems glitter, and insects fill a zoo in room after room of fascinating of the earth’s artifacts in the Museum of Natural History.

An immense, esteemed collection of centuries of Western art makes the National Gallery of Art a true treasure. The neoclassic West Building displays the works of famous masters of the Middle Ages, including the only da Vinci painting in the western hemisphere. From Picasso to Pollock, the greats of 20th century art are displayed in the contemporary East Building.

For an astounding collection of contemporary art, visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Go underground to experience the role of art in African culture in the National Museum of African Art, and Asian art in the Sackler Gallery.

2) Visit the touchstones of American democracy: The U. S. Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court. Feel the significance of the seat of America’s democracy, the U. S. Capitol, as enter the familiar, lavishly decorated, domed Rotunda, surrounded by great events in American history depicted in enormous paintings. You’ll be surprised by the interesting choices states have made to represent them in sculptures in the National Statuary Hall. For an opportunity for a guided tour, arrive early to stand in line for the limited number of timed tickets distributed daily, first come, first served . For passes to the House and Senate Galleries, you must contact the office of your senator or representative to make arrangements prior to your visit.

The White House, symbol of America’s presidency, whose stable presence as the executive branch of America’s democracy transcends the occupant in residence at any given time, is one of the most recognized buildings in the world. Requests for limited admission must be made at least 2 months in advance through your senator or representative’s office. They will explain the detailed procedure, which includes Secret Service clearance. Keep in mind that Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue, provides a perfect view the lovely presidential residence.

“Equal Justice Under the Law” boldly carved in granite in the pediment above the marble columns of the main entrance of the serenely impressive Supreme Court Building, speaks to the magnitude of the work conducted here. If the highest court in America’s judicial system is in session, you could hear a case being tried by waiting in line for the limited number permitted to enter on a first come, first served basis. Call Supreme Court Information in advance for procedures to obtain these tickets. When court is not in session, you can tour the building and attend a free lecture.

DC Ducks3) See Washington from the water. Go amphibious aboard the D. C. Ducks for a unique, fun and wonderful perspective of the capital by land and by sea on the 90 minute narrated tour. Enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Washington Cruisesor the sleek, glass sided Odyssey III, whose great windows offer a fabulous view. Rent a paddleboat for a spin around the Tidal Basin; ride the barge on the C&O Canal. Keep in mind that many of the water craft operate only from late spring through fall, so check in advance for schedules.

4) See Washington by Moonlight – It’s truly spectacular! Seeing the monuments and memorials bathed in white light aboard Old Town Trolley Tours ® is awe-inspiring.

5) Visit the Memorials. Appreciate the greatness of America’s leaders in the somber Lincoln Memorial, the graceful Jefferson Memorial and the human-scaled, harmonious FDR Memorial. Contemplate the sacrifices of others at the moving Vietnam Memorial, the new World War II Memorial, and the Korean Memorial. To honor those who have served, be sure to include a memorable visit out to Arlington National Cemetery. The Holocaust Memorial Museum on the Mall graphically sends a sobering message so intense that it is not appropriate for children under 12.

6) Spend a day at Mount Vernon. Grace, beauty and history combine in this historic American home, the estate of George Washington. Glimpse into the life and lifestyle of the first president and gain insight into the agrarian life in the young republic. There is a full service restaurant on-site, a food court, and a gift shop which sells, among other mementos, seeds of some of the estate’s heritage plants.

7) Visit the Parks and see the Gardens. Washington’s many green spaces, parks and gardens provide a quiet refuge for locals and visitors alike. Inside the glass-walled U. S. Botanic Garden on the Mall, 4000 living plants are displayed by biosystems: desert, oasis, jungles. The outdoor gardens are glorious. Walk through woodlands and down nature trails and have a picnic in vast Rock Creek Park which follows Rock Creek as it meanders through Washington from Maryland on its way to the Potomac. When in Georgetown, spend time in the lovely formal gardens Dumbarten Oaks. Visit the National Arboretum along the banks of the Anacostia River in NE D.C., where natural woods are interspersed with exhibit areas of plants from around the nation. For a pleasant respite from warm spring and summer days, bask in the cool serenity of ponds laced with water lilies and lotus in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

8) Washington National Cathedral. You can wander through this massively beautiful Gothic cathedral on your own or enjoy the informative free tour. Don’t miss the medieval, walled Bishop’s Garden or the magnificent view of Washington from the Pilgrim Observation Gallery. If you happen to be there on Monday or Wednesday at 12:30 pm, treat yourself to a memorable half hour of interesting facts about the 10,650 pipe organ and a hear the great pipes perform in short organ recital.

9) Experience great city views from special vantage points. The city’s low scale and open space offers unique opportunities for grand vistas. From the Jefferson Memorial, the view of the city over the Tidal Basin is wonderful. On a visit to Arlington Cemetery, be sure to stop by the fine Arlington House for the view of the monuments from across the Potomac River. Climb to the top of the Washington Monument for a spectacular view from 550 ft. above the city. Experience an awesome 360° view from the rooftop terrace of the Kennedy Performing Arts Center. Better yet, go there in the evening and treat yourself to the view and dinner in the Roof Terrace. The nighttime view from the clock tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion is equally spectacular.

Library of Congress

As if by instinct, first time visitors to D.C. head for The National Mall, a comfortable, welcoming place, despite its vastness. You could easily spend an entire vacation here. America’s treasures and achievements are on display in awesome museums, lined one after the other down the lawn. National monuments and memorials are moving, accessible and touchable.

Washington, however, is a vibrant city with much more to see and do beyond the incredible Mall. The best way to really experience the “District” and get a true feel for the city is to visit its distinct neighborhoods, one at a time. Each has a unique character, with clusters of important places within walking distance of one another. You’ll discover special places, get a sense for the history and feel the flavor the city.

CAPITOL HILL.

Distinguished government buildings in which the work of America’s democracy takes place, row houses and handsome homes, many expressing the wonderful architecture of the 19 th century, radiate from the U.S. Capitol, purposefully planned up on a hill by Pierre L’Enfant. Meander down “The Hill’s” charming streets on the way to see the Library of Congress, the Russell and Cannon Congressional Offices, and the Supreme Court Building. Celebrate women’s history at the Sewall Belmont House and Museum, one of the oldest houses on the Hill; wander through the ivy and lavender in the Elizabethan garden of the Folger Shakespeare Library and Garden; find shops and food in magnificent Union Station. Don’t miss the hustle, bustle, color and finds in Eastern Market, the last of Washington’s 19 th century markets to remain in continuous operation, at their outdoor Farmer’s Market and Arts and Craft Fair on Saturdays and the Flea Market on Sundays.

Jefferson Memorial DOWNTOWN.

With the White House as its centerpiece, the downtown area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the District, wonderfully combining the old and the new. Having undergone a renaissance, the area bustles with the activity of stores, over 200 restaurants and active night spots.

Centrally located Lafayette Square, a place with a long tradition of gatherings for causes, will give you a great view the White House, whose access is limited. Nearby are some of the city’s oldest Federal style buildings: the “Church of the Presidents,” St. John’sEpiscopal Church, the Decatur House, a wonderful house museum, and the unusual Octagon House, whose rooms are restored to the Federal period. While in the neighborhood, take time to see wonderful American art in the Corcoran Gallery, where you can lunch onsite in the Café des Artistes. Admire the grand Executive Office Building; stop by the Willard for sumptuous Afternoon Tea; walk a few blocks to the Old PostOffice Pavilion and Tower to browse the shops and munch in the food court; attend a performance in DAR Constitution Hall, the largest concert hall in D.C., or visit their museum of artifacts from early America.

PENN QUARTER.

Technically part of downtown, between Pennsylvania Avenue and New York and Massachusetts Avenues, with the White House on one end and the Capitol on the other, its recent revitalization has created a mixed-use hot place to be. Condos, apartments and hotels share space in renovated historic structures and newly constructed buildings with boutiques and trendy shops, fantastic restaurants, from fast food to super expensive, and theaters and galleries to create a renewed vibrancy. With tiny Chinatown at its heart, Ford’s Theater, the Petersen House, the popular International Spy Museum and the newly re-opened, spectacular National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum are nearby. Contributing to Penn Quarter’s popularity is the nightly draw of the Verizon Center, an active sports and entertainment venue. Every Thursday, April through November, join locals at Freshfarm Markets to indulge in regional seasonal foods.

FOGGY BOTTOM.

Between Lafayette Square and Georgetown, along the once marshy, sometimes misty, banks of the Potomac River, is one of the District’s oldest 19 th century areas. At one time very industrial, it was home to German, Irish and African-Americans who worked in the neighborhood gas works and breweries. Today the constant activity of students at George Washington University energizes the area and patrons are drawn in great number to stellar productions held on the various stages at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

You can admire an important collection of Western art in the impressive Organization of American States building, or tour the magnificent Department of State Reception Rooms by reservations only. In the summer, walk over to Thompson’s Boat Yard and try canoeing on the Potomac River.

GEORGETOWN.

Spend a day wandering down charming Georgetown on shady brick sidewalks admiring the remarkably intact collection of 18 th century architecture along the way. Established in 1751, it was a thriving tobacco port town on the banks of the Potomac River long before the capital city was created. Despite its inclusion into the District, it has retained much of its Federal era ambience and distinct character.

Georgetown is the place to be - fashionable, historic, picturesque, lively, intellectual and genteel. Elegant fashion, wonderful antiques, art, handcrafted accessories, and furniture fill unique shops. Visit historic house museums – the Old Stone House, the oldest structure in D.C., Dumbarton Oaks and Tudor Place. Be sure to check on tour times. A walk through lovely, formal Dumbarten Oaks Gardens is a rare treat; a ride on a mule-drawn barge along the C & O Canal, a special experience. Mingle with locals in Georgetown Market, an active market since 1865.

Fine restaurants tucked down quaint streets, serve everything from burgers and barbeque to soft-shell crab and oyster and champagne stew. Enjoy al fresco dining, nibble on scrumptious pastry at a neighborhood bakery, stop for delightful afternoon tea, indulge in elegant places with wonderful menus where the famous often dine. After dark, stop by one of Georgetown’s hot night spots, places to mingle, see and be seen.

DUPONT CIRCLE.

With its splendid collection of mansions and row houses covering a wide breadth of important architectural styles, this fashionable neighborhood is a sight to see. Grand, elaborate homes line Massachusetts Avenue. commonly known as Embassy Row. Colorful flags announce the country whose embassy sits behind walls and formal gardens in mansions once belonging to the wealthy of America’s Gilded Age. Art aficionados browse through the largest collection of art galleries in the city; shoppers revel in eclectic boutiques; bibliophiles can get lost in wonderful bookstores. The Woodrow Wilson House, the only presidential museum in Washington, offers a glimpse into life in the capital in the 1920s; Visit the Phillips Collection, holding a treasure of impressionist art from Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas and more; stop in the trendy cafes, coffee bars and wonderful neighborhood restaurants; pause at the Arts of Ocean Navigation Fountain in DuPont Circle, lyrically depicting the Sea, Wind and Stars.

Cherry Blossums

February

Chinese New Year Parade –
Ring in the Chinese New Year with fun, food and parade in Washington D.C.’s Chinatown. Traditional firecrackers, drums and colorful dragon dancers will delight visitors. Celebrations concentrate on H Street NW, between 5th and 8th streets. Depending on the moon, the Chinese New Year may be celebrated in January.

March

National Cherry Blossom Festival -
an annual celebration in Washington, D.C., commemorating the March 27, 1912, gift to the city of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. Mayor Ozaki donated the trees in an effort to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and also celebrate the continued close relationship between the two peoples. The famous trees signal the coming of spring with an explosion of life and color surrounding the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin in a sea of pale pink and white. The two-week festival is kicked off with an opening ceremony, followed by a dizzying array of activities and cultural events. Every day there is a sushi/sake celebration, classes about cherry blossoms, a bike tour of the Tidal Basin. Art exhibits figure heavily during this time, such as photography (both local and Asian), sculpture, animation, and various cultural performances throughout Washington, D.C. Japanese comedy, kimono fashion shows, art exhibits, dance, singing, martial arts, merchant-sponsored events, and much more can be seen during this time.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Celebrate Irish history and it’s importance in the United States. The first St. Patrick's Day Parade in Washington, D.C. was held in 1971 and traveled along Massachusetts Avenue from Dupont Circle to the statue of Robert Emmet. Since then, this annual affair has grown from what was little more than a leisurely stroll by a few hundred participants to what is now being called "The Nation's St. Patrick's Day Parade."

Smithsonian Kite Festival -
Founded by aviation pioneer Paul E. Garber (1899-1992), the festival, one of the kite world's premier events, features kite fliers from across the U.S. and the world. Traditionally a part of the festivities at cherry blossom time in the Nation's Capital, the Smithsonian's colorful Kite Festival is one of the most popular annual events held on the National Mall.

April

Earth Day Celebration -
Earth Day is an annual observance held to increase public awareness of the environment. International musicians are featured in concert to celebrate global awareness.

White House Easter Egg Roll -
President Hayes was the first to host the Easter Egg Roll for children on the White House lawn. The original site was on the grounds of the United States Capitol. Congress ended the tradition after a particularly active Easter Egg Roll in 1876. At the request of several children, President Hayes brought the event to the White House in 1878. The tradition continues today in the same spirit with the invitation to all families.

May

Arlington Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony –
Honor those who fought and died for the freedom of America. Wreaths are placed at the John F. Kennedy grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Keynote speakers, often the President of the United States, follows with a memorial service at the Memorial Amphitheatre.

National Memorial Day Parade -
The National Memorial Day Parade is an annual event in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the American Veterans Center in association with America Supports You and the White House Commission on Remembrance and with the support of more than 40 veterans and military organizations. The event honors all those who have served our country in uniform from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and seeks to educate American's about the sacrifices made by those who served to secure the liberties we enjoy today.

July

Fourth of July Celebration -
America's Independence Day Parade takes place late morning on July 4th, right on Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street before a street audience of over 300,000 spectators. The Parade consists of invited bands, military and specialty units, floats, and VIP's and is a patriotic, flag waving, red white and blue celebration of America's birthday. Evening events include music, food, picnicking and of course, the famous fireworks show. Viewing of fireworks is best from the Washington Mall.

September

National Black Family Reunion -
The Black Family Reunion Celebration is a two-day cultural event that is recognized as the largest, most significant family event in the nation, attracting more than 500,000 people each year! The 3-day festival celebrates the enduring strengths and traditional values of the African American family.

Kennedy Center Open House - This annual, daylong indoor and outdoor event celebrates the Kennedy Center's birthday with more than 30 free performances of music, dance, and theater, plus many other events and activities for the whole family. National Frisbee Championships

December

National Christmas Tree Lighting -
The National Christmas Tree is a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, planted on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. on October 20, 1978. The lighting of the tree by the President of the United States is the central event in the annual Christmas Pageant of Peace. The annual Christmas Pageant of Peace takes place each year from early December through January 1, on the Ellipse south of the White House grounds.

American Indian Museum

One of the most rewarding aspects of a visit to the nation’s capital is that a majority of the incredible breadth of magnificent things to see and do are free. Government institutions, all 16 of the Smithsonian museums, the national memorials, and many lovely gardens and parks are open to the public at no charge.

The only thing to keep in mind is that the demand to experience this incredible array of cultural, historic and governmental venues is so high that many require either advance reservations, have a first come, first served, timed admittance, or you may have to wait in long lines to get in. Be patient. The result is worth the wait.

There are free events throughout town throughout the year. Local newspapers and magazines publish lists of events, restaurants and happenings throughout time. The Washingtonian and the Washington Post are two of the most recognizable ones, but there are many you can pick up in places around town. In these you’ll find schedules of popular events and hidden finds, some free, some not.

For a delightful evening, you might want to go to Dupont Circle neighborhood on the first Friday of each month to visit the many galleries hold opening receptions from 5 pm to 8 pm. You can see a wide range of original art, enjoy a glass of wine and nibble on food. Look for a list of galleries and directions to them in Galleries Magazine.

During the summer months,
Washington offers a special treat enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Free summer concerts, performed by elite military bands, classical ensembles and jazz groups, take place somewhere in the district every afternoon or evening every day of the week. Offering a wonderful, relaxing respite from a hectic day of sightseeing, most are held outdoors, where sitting on a blanket in an absolutely lovely environment to enjoy music is one of Washington’s most memorable experiences.

A local favorite takes place on Friday nights in the summer.
Join locals and bring a blanket to the lawn around the grand reflecting pool in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden for the Summer Evenings of Jazz performed by top jazz artists.

Embassy Row

Washington’s restaurants offer just about everything imaginable, from every part of the world, at every price.

On the House side of Capitol Hill, rub elbows with locals and pols at the Hawk and Dove, Tune-Inn and Bullfeathers. All have a pub-like atmosphere, serve salads, sandwiches and burgers, and may be a bit crowded weekdays at lunchtime.

Try a restaurant in the Penn Quarter. There are many! You’ll find Legal Seafood (there’s one in Foggy Bottom too); Clyde’s, a gigantic, gilded, local DC upscale bar and grill; Rosa Mexicano, with its veil of water flowing over a giant cobalt blue tile wall and expansive Mexican menu. Savor the flavors of Indian dishes in the sensuous Rasika, where a president or two has frequented. Get Tex-Mex at Austin Grill; tasty Middle Eastern tapas at Zaytinya; delicious Italian creations at Galileo; Asian fusion at TenPenh, For something faster, try the mini burgers and great salads and pizzas at Match Box or at popular Five Guys Burgers enjoy great burgers, hot dogs and fries.

Try brunch at the Starfish Café on 8 th Street SE; super margaritas and great Mexican food at La Lomita, way out Penn Avenue just before the bridge over to Anacostia. Families on the run should stop by Manhattan Deli at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday but Sunday, you can get mounds of food at reasonable prices.

Savor distinctive flavors at numerous ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan, D.C.’s multi-cultural hub. You’ll find Brazilian feijoada, spicy Ethopian stews, Spanish carne asada and churros, epanadas, yucca and menudo from Mexico and El Salvador. The list goes on to include wonderful Peruvian, Middle Eastern, Thai, French and Italian cuisine – and pizza and burgers too. While there, enjoy the scene, eclectic boutiques and bookstores.

Georgetown has notoriously good restaurants. Clyde’s is a local favorite; 1789 presents and excellent American menu in an elegant townhouse; the very upscale Citronelle gets rave reviews. Tucked in and among the picturesque streets you’ll find great ethnic restaurants-Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Turkish.

For a fun, tasty and really local experience, have breakfast or lunch on Saturdays at Eastern Market. Be prepared to stand in a line that snakes around the corner (it’s worth the wait) and to know what you want when you finally get to the counter. . If you have tickets to Ford’s Theater, enjoy the before 7 pm, pre-theater menu at Café Doc’s, straight out of the south of France. To see the glitterati, dine at Café Milano in Georgetown.