More Specifics About Popular Sites
Mt. Vernon is approximately 1 hour away in northern Virginia. Located on the Potomac River, estate of George Washington is beautiful and informational, offering insight into plantation life in the 1700's. There are tours available of the Mansion, the Gardens and the life of slaves. If you do not visit on the Grayline Tour the best way to get to Mt. Vernon is by car. Follow the directions for I-95 south printed in this newsletter. When you cross the Potomac River in to Virginia, take the first exit on the right after the bridge marked Mount Vernon Parkway. Turn right (south) at the light after the exit ramp and proceed 8-10 miles down the Mt. Vernon Parkway until you reach Mt. Vernon. There is a fee to get in, and hours vary with the season. Stop in the office for more information.
Arlington National Cemetery is located just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. This historic landmark was first used during the Civil War, and it has been an important part of America ever since. The memorial flame at John F. Kennedy's grave and the changing of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns (every 1/2 hour) are two of the highlights. The grounds are open to the public at no charge. There is parking available at the Cemetery, but the only vehicles allowed in the grounds are Grayline tour buses. Therefore, the best way to see Arlington is with Grayline. The Arlington Cemetery Metro Station is on the blue line of the Metrorail. For driving directions and more information on the Cemetery or Grayline stop in the office.
The Smithsonian Institution is a complex of 16 museums. The most popular are highlighted below, but all are quality museums located close to the National Mall. The Smithsonian Information Center is located in the Smithsonian Castle Building. Please note: when using the Smithsonian as a meeting place, be specific as to which entrance of which building is to be used. Also, since there is no admission to the museums, feel free to split your day with other activities or between museums, as you are always welcome to go back into any building. For information on all of the Smithsonian museums stop in the office.
The National Zoo is actually part of the Smithsonian Institute. The Zoo is home to 5,800 animals, many of which are endangered. The Zoo was the first to be established with the purpose of saving animals on the brink of extinction. The stars of the Zoo are the giant pandas, but there is so much more to see. The grounds are beautiful, and new exhibits such as the free swinging orangutans make the Zoo a favorite site among locals. The Zoo grounds are open from 8am - 8pm (6pm Sept-Apr) and the buildings are open from 10am -6pm (4:30pm Sept-Apr). ADMISSION IS FREE. You can get to the Zoo by car (there is a fee for parking) or by Metro. Stop in the office for directions and more Zoo information.
The National Air and Space Museum is dedicated primarily to the many forms of flight and to space exploration. The museum also offers a variety of Imax movies and planetarium shows. Tickets must be purchased on the day to be used. There are shows throughout the day. If you wish to see one, purchase your tickets as you enter the museum as the shows do sell out.
The National Museum of American History was at one time called the History and Technology Museum. It focuses is on American society and culture and the progression of science and technology. This building contains exhibits from cars to trains to inaugural gowns some first ladies. There is definitely something for everyone.
The National Museum of Natural History is famous for the large elephant in its lobby. Here you will find stones, minerals and gems, an insect zoo, and full size whale and dinosaur bones. As in all of the Smithsonian museums, the staff is constantly updating and modernizing the exhibits, so each time you visit you will find something new and wondrous.
Most of The Memorials are located on the west end of the National Mall opposite the Capitol Building. This part of the Mall is bordered by the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial. Even if there were no other memorials here, this would be one of the most impressive places in the country. Each of these buildings is unique and captures some of what the three men meant to this country. The Washington Monument has just reopened after extensive renovation. Go early to avoid long lines if you want to go up to the observation deck. The Jefferson Memorial is located on the Tidal Basin, which is surrounded by the famous Japanese Cherry Trees. The Lincoln Memorial is the anchor for this end of the Mall balancing the Capitol building off to the east. However, there is more to the west end of the Mall than first meets the eye. On either side of the Lincoln Memorial are the memorials to veterans of Vietnam and the Korean War.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is built into a hill on the Constitution Avenue side of the Mall, while the Korean War Memorial lies on the opposite side close to Independence Avenue. These powerful memorials have each been among the most popular attractions in the city since they opened. All of these memorials, including the new FDR Memorial, are open for visitors 24 hours a day. Furthermore, as wonderful as these buildings are during the day (and they are great!), they are transformed during the twilight of the evening and the dark of the night into almost surreal experiences. Parking is not difficult after the evening rush hour winds down after 7pm.
The White House web site provides useful infromation about how to request a tour. *Due to sequestrian cuts, White House tours will no longer be available until further notice*
The Capitol Building is located on the east end of the National Mall. Check their web site to learn more about visiting the building. The Senate office buildings are north of the Capitol, while the House office buildings are to the south. If you are going to visit a politician to pick up tickets or to say hello, be sure to get the name of the office building. Check the Metro map for the station closest to your destination.
The Washington National Cathedral is located in NW Washington, D.C. not far from American University. This has been the location of many memorial services for politicians and well known public figures. The Cathedral is open for tours or religious services. Directions and schedules are available in the office.
The Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located in NE Washington adjacent to the campus of Catholic University. In addition to the Church and exhibits this is also the location of the John Paul Cultural Center. The Shrine is open for tours and religious services. Directions and schedules are available in the office.