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Washington DC Travel and Tourist Information
Washington, D.C. - Overview and Essential Travel Information

The capital of the United States of America is a city live with contradiction and irony. Beautiful monuments to our history exist steps away from what are indeed very poor areas. The city that professes to lead the free world is not allowed to govern itself, and has a history plagued with corruption. Of the United States but not a state itself, the District of Columbia occupies a unique niche in American culture, the city whose purpose by design (for better or worse) is to rule.

Historical monuments, museums, and government buildings abound in Washington. Around the Mall, a park in the center of the city, you can find the US Capitol building, the museums of the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Across the Potomac river in Virginia are the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Just to the northeast of Washington in Maryland, an easy car ride away, is another great city, Baltimore. The Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are easily accessible. The city and the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia have an active and exciting night-life. There are clubs, bars, and theaters to satisfy any taste and restaurants of nearly every type in existence.

Although technically located in the South, Washington is a very cosmopolitan city and in fact bears little resemblance at all to the rest of the US. To most Americans DC is a fascinating place to visit, teeming with politics, diplomacy, history, and scandal. Those of us who live 'inside the Beltway' by choice wouldn't have it any other way.

SIGHTS

If Washington D.C. Museums are your thing, then D.C. just might be your idea of heaven on Earth. And most of them are FREE! After growing up in the D.C. area, this editor was highly outraged to find out that, in the rest of the world, museums usually charge you to get in. Not here. If you are interested in American history, art, science, or even the postal service, we've got you covered.

The heart of Washington, not to mention the location of many of the city's sights, is the National Mall. This 146 acre park stretches nearly two miles from the U.S. Capitol Building in the east to the Lincoln Memorial at its western end, with the Washington Monument located between them. Museums and various Federal buildings line the Mall to the north and south. On the north side, facing the Washington Monument, is the White House, home to the President of the United States. Marches on Washington, 'I have a dream...', Million (Whoever) Marches, they all happened here. A place of protest and political rallys, but also a nice place for a family picnic or seeing the fireworks on the Fourth of July. The cherry blossom festival is a big annual event on the Mall.

The Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the Mall is a shrine to the nation's sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. It was built to resemble a Classical temple. Lincoln led the U.S. through its only civil war and was assassinated soon after the war's end, on April 14th, 1865. The defeat of the Southern states, which had seceded from the United States ('the North'), ended the institution of slavery in America. John Wilkes Booth, a noted actor and a Southern sympathizer, shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his 'I have a dream' speech, promoting civil rights for blacks in America, from the steps of the memorial.

GETTING AROUND

First warning: Washington D.C. is divided into 'quadrants' (although the area is not split equally four ways). They are called Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southwest (SW), and Southeast (SE). Some streets have counterparts on all four sections, so it is imperative to always know which one you are going to. All D.C. addresses have the suffix after them.

GETTING THERE

By Train

Amtrak is this editor's favorite way to travel. Sure, it's slow but you avoid all the headaches of air travel. There is frequent service to Washington's Union Station from various places, including Chicago, New York, Florida, New Orleans, and Boston. The new Acela Express line offers high speed service (with the accompanying high ticket prices) up and down the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston.

Information provided by cctraveler2 at travelpost.com