American History in DC

For United States history buffs, a visit to Washington, D.C. is a must. The US capital city houses Congress, and the President, along with the original Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Here are the top five places to see to get your fix of American history in D.C.

The US Capitol Building

Original construction on the US Capitol building began in 1793, when George Washington laid the cornerstone. The Capitol is situated atop Capitol Hill on the eastern end of the National Mall. The building has been expanded several times. The outer face is white, with a cast iron dome on top. The dome weights over 8 million pounds.

Visitors can tour the Capitol building for free.

The White House

The most famous address in America is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, home to every president since John Adams in 1800. Built from 1792-1800, the White House has experienced several restorations, including in 1814 following damage from the War of 1812. Today, the White House complex includes the Executive Residence, the West Wing, East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – the workspace for White House staff, and the Blair House, a residence for visiting foreign dignitaries.

The South Lawn of the White House is most typically photographed and shown in movies, but the White House does not have front and back entrances. The North Lawn is landscaped to look exactly as it’s depicted on the $20 bill.

White House tours can be arranged through your state representative. Current sequestration cuts have temporarily halted White House tours.

The National Mall

The National Mall is an open-air park that extends from the Capitol on the eastern end to the Lincoln Memorial on the western end. Besides these two famous sites, the Mall also houses the Washington Monument and numerous presidential and war memorials. Discover how George Washington commissioned architect and civil engineer Pierre L'Enfant to design the new capital city in 1791, which monument is the largest, and where the best spots are to take photos of the city on a small-group National Mall Walking Tour. Don’t miss the monuments and memorials lit up at night – it’s one of the most beautiful sights in Washington, D.C.

National Archives

See the original “John Hancock” signature on the Declaration of Independence, encased and preserved at the National Archives, located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The three founding documents of United States government are housed in the Archives’ rotunda room: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution. Admission to the National Archives is free.

Tour the US Capitol Building, National Mall, and National Archives, and see the White House on the VIP: Best of DC tour.

National Museum of American History

Located on the National Mall, the National Museum of American History seeks to archive and showcase artifacts that represent American cultural, political, and social history. The most famous items in the museum include the original Star-Spangled Banner flat that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem and eventual National Anthem, and Archie Bunker’s chair. Another popular exhibit, “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden,” sheds light on the personal and public lives of every American president.

Admission to the national Museum of American History is free.
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