A thriving metropolis of monuments, museums and breathtaking architecture, Washington DC is the capital city of the United States. The city is situated on the northern banks of the Potomac River, and is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland, a location that was chosen by George Washington himself. Strategically located between the southern and northern states, it was designed by Pierre L’Enfant, a French architect in 1791, and its expansive tree-lined streets, parklands and stately buildings, gives it a distinctively European ambiance.
Colloquially referred to as “DC”, the district population swells from over half a million of permanent residents to just over a million during the working week. The entire metropolitan area however has a population of well over 5 million. There is so much to see and do in America’s capital, that it can be overwhelming. There are a few key highlights that should not be overlooked in even the shortest of stays though.
First, there is DC’s famous Mall, a beautiful parkland that stretches for a couple of miles and contains most of the city’s most iconic monuments. These are all easily accessible on foot and a great time to be there is either in the spring when the cherry trees are blooming, or in the wintertime, when the Christmas lights are out. The most dramatic monuments are there for all to see including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol; and, a visit to the White House is of course an absolute must.
The National Zoo is also a highlight with its 2000 animals that collectively represent 400 species. Built in 1889, this huge parkland is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Without a doubt the zoo’s most popular exhibit has been the giant pandas and new exhibits are constantly being added with one of the more impressive being Amazonia, a reproduction of a South American rainforest that is surprisingly authentic.
Other key museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution include: the National Air and Space Museum, where you can see the Wright Brothers’ original ‘Flyer’ from 1903; the National Museum of the American Indian, containing exhibits that are designed to portray indigenous culture and customs in both traditional and contemporary contexts; and the National Museum of Natural history with its exquisite displays of dinosaur fossils, insects and a spectacular I-MAX theatre.
For a change of pace, visitors can head to Georgetown, an upmarket inner-city neighbourhood that is a great place to enjoy shops, restaurants and some lively nightlife. Stroll down the cobblestone streets, lined with cafes, antique stores and eclectic wares or enjoy views of the Potomac River in the many waterfront parks.
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