About This Place
Although it spans a mere 61 square miles of land, the nation’s capital has the distinction of housing the most important landmarks in the nation, along with the federal offices of the three branches of government. Located along the Potomac River on the East Coast, between Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia is often referred to as simply "D.C." or "Washington."
Washington, D.C., is divided into four areas (northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest), and many of its neighborhoods exude a distinctive culture and character. Georgetown, home to Georgetown University, is a polished northwest section that draws shoppers to the boutiques and antique shops along its cobblestone streets. Nearby Dupont Circle features diverse architectural styles, with many buildings dating from the 19th century. Among the neighborhood’s eclectic lineup of bookshops and galleries, the Phillips Collection—the nation’s first modern art museum—is a top D.C. destination for art aficionados.
Capitol Hill is best known for popular Washington, D.C., attractions that include the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress, but it is also a picturesque residential neighborhood, much of it lined with stately row homes. Bright spots include Pennsylvania Avenue for shopping and dining, and Eastern Market, an outdoor food market that becomes a bustling flea market on weekends. The Adams Morgan neighborhood is distinguished by its diverse ethnic population, reflected in the area’s restaurants and nightspots. On a given block, a visitor might find a Brazilian restaurant with live bossa nova music just doors away from authentic Ethiopian fare.
A rich history is reflected in the museums, landmarks and monuments of the nation’s capital. The U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court Building and White House, three neoclassical structures that represent the federal seat of power, are leading attractions in Washington, D.C., as is the National Mall. This spacious, open park is the setting for the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National Museum of American History. The Mall, also the site of public events and rallies, is where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Less prominent attractions in Washington, D.C., include the quirky Mansion on O, which has daily tours of its 100 eclectic rooms, and the kid-friendly International Spy Museum. The block-long museum, filled with espionage artifacts, offers educational programs and author talks on spies and intelligence-gathering.
Cultural and leisure activities abound throughout the year in the district. Concerts and performances take place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, headquarters of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Ballet. The district’s 7,000-plus acres of parkland facilitate outdoor activities, notably at the nearly 3,000-acre Rock Creek Park. The park hosts cultural exhibits and recreational activities, including horseback riding and tennis. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a springtime event that commemorates the 1912 donation of Japanese cherry trees to the District of Columbia. Activities that include kimono fashion shows and martial arts demonstrations coincide with the blooming of cherry trees in three parks, including one on the grounds of the Washington Monument.