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History Lover's Guide to Washington DC


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Hi, I'm Madigan!

Madigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

For United States history buffs, there’s no better bang for your buck than a visit to Washington DC. In the country’s capital, memorials to past conflicts and triumphs stand alongside working political hubs like Congress and the White House. Here are the top six places to get your American history fix in DC.

The US Capitol Building

The US Capitol Building.
Capitol Hill is the home of the US Senate and the House of Representatives.Photo Credit: Nature's Charm / Shutterstock

Crowning Capitol Hill, the home of the US Senate and the House of Representatives is almost always buzzing with legislative activity. Free tours can be booked online in advance. Same-day passes are often limited, so it’s smart to plan ahead.

The National Mall

The National Mall at sunrise.
This open-air park is visible across the city thanks to the towering Washington Monument.Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

This open-air park extends from the US Capitol on the eastern end to the Lincoln Memorial and is visible across the city thanks to the towering Washington Monument. Discover the best photo ops on a small-group National Mall walking tour, and don’t miss seeing the monuments and memorials lit up at night.

The White House

The White House and its gardens.
The White House has been home to every president since John Adams.Photo Credit: Luca Perra / Shutterstock

The most famous address in America is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, home to every president since John Adams. For US residents, White House tours can only be arranged through the visitor’s state representative. For foreign travelers to the US, a White House tour can be requested through the visitor’s embassy in Washington DC. With or without a reserved tour, the White House’s South Lawn can often be seen on bus and walking tours.

National Archives

The National Archives in Washington.
See the Declaration of Independence plus other historic documents at the National Archives.Photo Credit: Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

See John Hancock’s original signature on the Declaration of Independence, plus other historic documents like the Bill of Rights and US Constitution in these climate-controlled archives. Many guided tours include reserved access, for a smoother visit without the wait.

National Museum of American History

Springtime around the National Museum of American History.
This free museum showcases historic artifacts like the original Star-Spangled Banner.Photo Credit: Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Located on the National Mall, this free museum showcases American history and culture through artifacts like the original Star-Spangled Banner (the flag that inspired the country’s national anthem) and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz film. Book a private tour for deeper insight into highlights of the museum’s nearly 2 million objects.

Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery on a sunny day.
This cemetery is the final resting place of soldiers dating back to the Civil War.Photo Credit: Juan Camilo Jaramillo / Shutterstock

Across the Potomac River but connected to central DC with a Metro stop, this hallowed burial ground is the final resting place of soldiers from armed conflicts dating back to the Civil War. The peaceful landscape is huge, so guided tours provide an efficient way to locate prominent grave sites like John F. Kennedy’s Eternal Flame, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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