Washington DC is the capital city of the United States of America, boasting a sophisticated landscape full of neatly-manicured lawns, neo-classical monuments and majestic state buildings. As you'd expect from the capital city of the world's most powerful country, Washington showcases some of the world's best art galleries, restaurants, nightlife and museums. If you time your visit with Springtime, you're in for a real treat as the pleasant weather is perfect for sightseeing and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. If you prefer your holiday weather to be balmy, opt for a Washington summer break, when the city itself is less bustling and crowded. During the summer months, there's also a great selection of parades, festivals and outdoor concerts to enjoy including the Source Festival, Capital Fringe Festival and Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The city is the premier place to get a sense of the rich heritage of the United States, as everywhere you go you'll find icons of America's past and present.
No holiday here would be complete without a trip to the legendary White House, probably the most famous residence on Earth. You may have seen The White House many times on TV, in the news and in movies, but nothing quite prepares you for taking in its splendour in person. Make sure you bring a good camera to get shots of the building through the railings at the southern side, and make the most of your visit with a stop at The White House Visitors Centre, where you can learn more about famous first families, the architecture and the building's rich heritage. Culture vultures will enjoy a visit to The Smithsonian, a world-class collection of fifteen museums and art galleries. Most of the buildings have free entry and are ideal for families holidaying in Washington, with child-friendly exhibits about the first moon landings and the chance to see the actual Apollo 11 command module and the astronaut's spacesuits.
Things to Do
When it comes to keeping visitors entertained, Washington has it all, from historic buildings and monuments to state-of-the-art science exhibits and bustling modern art galleries. Throw in some striking architecture, scenic buildings and a buzzing nightlife scene and you have a world-class entertainment destination befitting the world's most powerful nation.
The most famous and best-loved president is arguably the nation's 16th, Abraham Lincoln. Symbolising America's values of integrity, diversity and freedom, the Lincoln Memorial has been one of the capital's main tourist draws since the 1930s and continues to stand as a symbol of race relations. Shaped like a Greek Doric temple, the building features a huge sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two of his best-known speeches, the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. The memorial has also served as the site of other famous speeches including Martin Luther King Jr's 'I have a dream' speech in 1963.
Politics and Power
If you love learning about culture, Washington is a fantastic holiday destination for getting a sense of the United States' political power base. With the three pillars of US government, the Supreme Court, Congress and the President, all based in Washington, the capital has a palpable sense of importance and history in the making. You can also see other famous buildings here including the World Bank, State Department and the Pentagon.
Culture and the Arts
Washington has some of the world's best art galleries and performance theatres including the Folger Theatre, the National Theatre and the Kennedy Center, perfect for catching a show while you're in the capital. The Smithsonian is a must-visit for families and culture lovers visiting Washington, with everything from giant pandas to spacesuits to see and learn about. You won't want to miss a trip to the National Zoo, one of the few places outside of China where you can see majestic giant pandas and support their conservation.
History in the Making
There's a lot of history crammed into Washington DC's relatively compact confines. The well-designed layout of the capital makes it ideal for shorter breaks and flyby-visits, as in just one day you can see John Hancock's Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, take a trip to the infamous Watergate building and see the Star Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History.
There's so much man-made wonder and heritage in Washington that it's easy to overlook the city's sites of natural beauty on your visit. If you're craving outdoor pursuits including running, horseback riding and bicycling, visit Rock Creek Park, the capital's premier destination for sports and outdoor activities. Maximise your time at the park with a trip to the old mill and the place of a famous Civil War battle, Fort Stevens.
Calendar of Events
Washington boasts a stellar roster of events around the year, with a few particularly special events that draw in the biggest crowds year-in, year-out. Events and festivals here incorporate some of the city's most iconic buildings for unforgettable holiday experiences.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival. Taking place annually between the end of March and the middle of April, this popular festival sees the capital welcome springtime with a kite festival, fireworks, cultural exhibits concerts and a spectacular parade. This annual tradition began following Japan gifting the United States with 3,000 cherry blossom trees in 1912 and gives you the opportunity to see Washington bathed in rosy blossom and spring sunshine.
White House Easter Egg Roll. If you're visiting Washington in the springtime with your family, you won't want to miss the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House Lawn. This fun-filled event takes places each April on Easter Monday, with a morning of story-telling and cuddly Easter Bunnys. This is a free event with tickets distributed on the Saturday before as well as early on the Monday morning.
Memorial Day. For a more sombre event experience that pays tribute to the brave people who died serving in the United States armed forces, visit Washington at the end of May. Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday each May and is marked with wreath-laying ceremonies, a motorcycle rally named Rolling Thunder and a free National Symphony Orchestra concert that takes place at the Capitol's West Lawn.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Every summer between late June and early July, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage showcases the best of United States culture with daily dance and musical performances, storytelling and cultural displays.