Things to Do in Washington DC - page 4
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.
Designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti in 1962, this distinctive five-building apartment and business complex beside the Potomac River was home to the political scandal that caused the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. However, as this tall, modern compound was partially funded by the Vatican, approved by the nation’s first Catholic president (John F. Kennedy), and thought to mar the city’s elegant riverfront, Watergate had been controversial for years before this scandal ever happened.
The scandal, though, made Watergate a household name. In 1972, high-level officials from the Nixon administration were sent to headquarters of the Democratic National Committee –then located on the sixth floor of the Watergate Hotel and Office Building – to burglarize the office, photograph documents and tap the phones. A subsequent investigation by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post revealed the break-in, and in 1974, Richard Nixon was forced to step down as president.
The Watergate Complex remains a series of expensive apartments and offices, but the Watergate Hotel has been closed for renovations since 2010. There isn’t much diversion here for visitors, but set near Georgetown and the Kennedy Center, it makes an easy stop on a visit to those areas or on a walk along the Potomac around Foggy Bottom.
The National Zoo is one of the oldest in the United States. With 12 exhibits ranging from the American Trail to the Reptile Discovery Center, the zoo is home to 1,800 animals and 300 species, including giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian—two of its most popular residents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Washington DC’s major transit hub, Union Station is also an architectural gem. Visited by close to 40 million people each year, the bustling neoclassical station is the terminus of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line and connects buses, Metro lines, and other commuter rails. It’s also home to many shops and services geared to travelers.
Renamed in 1998 in honor of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, this urban airport opened its doors in 1926 and is the hub for US Airways. The airport provides travelers with easy domestic escape from the nation’s capital.
Terminal A, which opened in 1941, is newly renovated, while the brightly lit and gilded halls of Terminals B and C are home to 35 gates that lead travelers to planes departing for dozens of cities across the country. Travelers on extended layovers can enjoy the artistic touches of the ever-changing Gallery Walk exhibits in Terminal A, and updated food options mean there are more places than ever for those on the go to grab a bite.
This international transit hub, which opened in 1962, is Washington, D.C.’s busiest airport, servicing some 22 million passengers every year who are heading to one of at least 125 destinations across the globe. Dulles is a hub for United Airlines and the third largest carrier for American Airlines.
The airport has one major terminal and two midfield terminals, which include Concourses A/B and C/D. All non-United flights and a majority of international ones operate out of the 47-gate Concourse A. Hungry travelers are sure to find exactly what they crave with more than 100 privately-owned restaurants and shops to choose from, and frequent fliers can relax in one of the 30 airline lounges—perfect for relaxing during an extra-long layover.
Located just south of the Jefferson Memorial, East Potomac Park is a man-made island between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. It’s also a popular but somewhat overlooked slice of nature that locals consider a best-kept secret.
Roads and paved pathways, including the popular riverside trail, draw cyclists, runners and pedestrians to the park for an easy escape from the bustling city. And there are other recreation opportunities as ewll, including an 18-hole and a nine-hole golf course, mini golf and a public aquatic center, all found within the sprawling green space.
In the spring, two types of Japanese cherry trees bloom, converting the park into an incredibly picturesque sea of pink and white flowers. The National Cherry Blossom Festival coincides with the Yoshino cherries bloom that happens about two weeks before the Kanzan cherries open.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
When it opened in 1957, this distinctive minaret-topped limestone building was the first mosque in the Nations’ Capital and the largest Muslim place of worship in the Western Hemisphere; it remains the largest mosque in the United States. Designed by Mario Rossi, an Italian architect who had already built several mosques in Egypt, D.C.’s mosque features an ornate interior with Egyptian calligraphy, Turkish tiles and Persian rugs donated by their respective countries, and around the building’s exterior, flags from all the Muslim nations of the world.
Set on Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row just past Rock Creek Parkway, a heavily-trafficked area, it’s surprising to find a peaceful courtyard garden here that is almost entirely free of street noise. Bazaars are sometimes held
Visitors are encouraged to attend services, and to arrange free tours in advance, either by email or phone. Women must wear headscarves and both men and women must keep their legs covered and shoes removed while indoors.
The largest Roman Catholic church in North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world, this unique Roman-Byzantine building is set beside the Catholic University of America. The preeminent Marian shrine in the US, the basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Designed by Charles D. Maginnis, an Irish-born architect famous for building churches all over America, construction of the basilica began in 1920 but was delayed by financial setbacks during the Great Depression and World War II. Formally opened in 1959, the basilica today boasts gilded mosaic ceiling work in the Redemption Dome and more than 70 individual chapels full of art and sacredartifacts.
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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