Visiting Washington

Visiting Washington, DC

Washington, DC, and the surrounding areas are full of interesting places to see and things to do for Idahoans who have the opportunity to visit.  Many important events in our nation’s history have taken place in and around this city, where history continues to be made each day. 

My Favorite Sites:

There is so much to see and do here that it is difficult to fit everything into one trip.

My time in our nation’s capital has given me the chance to experience many of the opportunities that the region has to offer, but I find that there are a few special places to which I keep coming back.  Some of my favorites include:

  1. The U.S. Capitol Building—no trip to Washington, DC, is complete without a visit to the U.S. Capitol.  If you visit when Congress is in session, you might have an opportunity to watch the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate debate legislation regarding issues facing our country.
  2. The Library of Congress—In addition to functioning as one of the major libraries in the world, the Library of Congress hosts a number of exhibitions displaying their collection of significant national treasures.
  3. Ford’s Theatre—The theatre where President Lincoln was shot is still a functioning playhouse.  The building hosts the Lincoln Museum, and the National Park Service conducts interpretive lectures on Lincoln’s death in the theatre.
  4. Arlington Cemetery—This hallowed place is where many of the brave men and women who have defended our freedom are laid to rest. 
  5. The Smithsonian Institution—There are over a dozen Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, including the Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, and the Portrait Gallery.  One of my favorite sites in the city is the American History Museum, which houses iconic American cultural treasures.

Congressional Tours:

To help you make the most of your time in our nation’s capital, my office can set up a number of special congressional tours to some of the city’s famous sites and federal buildings.  Most of these places offer public tours as well, but congressional tours are usually smaller and occur at a confirmed time.  Each tour lasts approximately 45 minutes to one hour.  When determining which tours to request, keep in mind that you will likely want to save time to visit the monuments on the National Mall, some of the many Smithsonian museums and other museums throughout the city, and the numerous historic sites and battlefields in the region.  When available, opting for a public tour instead of a reserved congressional tour of many sites can provide you with flexibility in your tour schedule.

Please keep in mind that tours are filled on a first-requested, first-served basis, and some tours fill very quickly, especially during spring and summer months.  It is particularly difficult to acquire tickets to visit the White House, as these tickets are very popular and security reasons require significant advance notice.  For the best tour opportunities, please request your tour dates 60 days in advance (six months for the White House). 

If you would like additional information about things to see and do in and around our nation’s capital, please click here.  If you are planning to visit Washington, DC, and would like to request congressional tours, please click the link below to fill out the form.  Once you have submitted the form, a representative from my office will contact you to confirm your plans.  I hope you have a wonderful visit to Washington, DC.

Popular Tour Sites:

United States Capitol
202-224-3121
Location: Located at the center of the city
Metro stops: Capitol South or Union Station
The Capitol Guide Service offers a fifty-minute guided tour Monday through Saturday, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Inauguration Day. The tour runs every ten minutes beginning with the first tour at 8:50 a.m. and the last tour departing at 3:50 p.m. The tour departs from the Capitol Visitors Center and includes a visit to Statuary Hall, the Old Supreme Court Chamber and the Rotunda.  Visitors are welcome to view the floor debates from the galleries by obtaining passes from my Washington, D.C. office.

Library of Congress
202-707-5458
Location: Jefferson Building, 1st Street and Independence Ave, SE
Metro stops: Capitol South
As the nation’s library, the Library of Congress shares resources with the American people who, through their elected representation in Congress, have created the world’s largest repository of knowledge.  Tours of the historic Thomas Jefferson building are led by docents and provide information about the art and architecture of the building and the history of the library.  General public tours are also available at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday (no 3:30 tours on Saturdays).

The White House 
202-456-7041
Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Metro stops: Metro Center or Federal Triangle
The White House has been home to every president except George Washington.  The White House offers a limited number of tours to guests who request them through congressional offices.  Tours are self-guided and are scheduled between 7:30 a.m. and late morning or early afternoon, three days a week.  The tour includes a visit to the Green Room, the Gold Room, the Red Room, and the State Dining Room.  Note:  The tour does NOT include a visit to the West Wing or Oval Office.  It is particularly difficult to acquire tickets to visit the White House, as these tickets are very popular and security reasons require significant advance notice.  For the best tour opportunities, please request your tour dates 60 days in advance (six months for the White House). 

The U.S. Supreme Court
202-479-3030
Location: 1st and East Capitol Streets
Metro stops: Capitol South, Union Station
The U.S. Supreme Court offers guided tours when the Court is not convening, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. On days that the Court is not sitting, lectures are generally scheduled every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a final lecture at 3:30 p.m.  On Court days, the lecture schedule is adjusted depending on the length of the session.  Courtroom Lectures are available only after Court adjourns for the day.  Please check the current lecture schedule by calling (202) 479-3211.  The daily schedule is also posted at the Information Desk on the Ground Floor. No tours are given during the month of August.

The Bureau of Engraving & Printing
202-283-2646
Location: 14th & C Sts, SW
Metro stops: Smithsonian

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing provides the public to see how United States currency is printed.  The tour is closed on weekends, Federal holidays and the week between Christmas and New Years Day. During peak season (March through August), the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (door closes at 3:00 p.m.) during March and 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. April through August. During non-peak season hours the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Additional tour information, including ticket distribution information, is available on the BEP website.

The Kennedy Center
202-467-4600
Location 2700 F Street, NW
Metro stop: Foggy Bottom-GWU

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center located in Washington D.C. The Kennedy Center produces and presents theater, dance, ballet, orchestral, chamber, jazz, popular, and folk music, and multi-media performances for all ages. The Kennedy Center offers free guided tours Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m.  until 5:30 p.m. Free performances are available every night at 6:00 p.m. A calendar of all the performances offered at the Kennedy Center is available on their website.

The Pentagon
Location: 1400 Defense Pentagon
Metro stop: Pentagon

The Pentagon, the world’s largest office building, and the center for our nation’s defense, offers ninety-minute free public tours Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Advanced reservations are required and requests must be made through a Congressional office. Visitors are required to provide security information for clearance. Reservations can be made through my Washington office and must be requested 90 days in advance. I also suggest that you visit the Pentagon Memorial while you are at the Pentagon.


Monuments and Memorials

Arlington National Cemetery
703-607-8052
Location: Memorial Drive and Hwy 110
Metro stops: Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is America’s largest national burial ground with more than 600 acres of landscaped hills. Arlington Cemetery provides all Americans the opportunity to honor the nation’s war heroes. The Cemetery is open daily October through March from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and April through September from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier can be viewed every hour on the hour and every half hour during the summer months.   See the Amphitheater, the Custis-Lee Mansion, and the graves of Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.

Washington Monument (Closed for Repairs)
202-426-6840
Location: On the Mall at 15th Street NW
Metro stops: Smithsonian

The Washington Monument is the most prominent structure in Washington, D.C., and one of the city’s early attractions. It was built in honor of George Washington, who led the country to independence and then became its first President. The Monument is shaped like an Egyptian obelisk, stands just over 555 feet tall, and offers views from the top of the Monument in excess of thirty miles. Admission to go to the top of the Washington Monument is free but does require a ticket. If you would like to reserve a ticket in advance, you may reserve tickets through the Washington Monument website for a small fee. Same day, timed tickets are also available and can be obtained from the Washington Monument Lodge, located along 15th Street, in Washington D.C., beginning at 8:30 a.m. each morning. There is a limited number of tickets and during peak season, the line for tickets forms at 7:00 a.m. so please plan accordingly. Please be aware that during the peak season of April – September, tickets are frequently reserved months in advance. Your wait will be rewarded by a panoramic view of the nation’s capitol from the top of the Monument.  Open daily except July 4th and December 25th, summer hours 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., remainder of year 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Jefferson Memorial
202-426-6822
Location: South end of the Tidal Basin at 14th Street
Metro stops: Smithsonian

The Jefferson Memorial was built in honor of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.  You may rent paddleboats at the Swan Boathouse and cruise the Basin.  Open 8:00 am to Midnight every day but Christmas.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
Location: Between the Potomac River and the Cherry Tree Walk of the Tidal Basin
Metro stop: Smithsonian

The FDR memorial is a tribute to both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and also the era he represents in American history.  There is a sequence of four outdoor rooms, each representing one of FDR’s four terms in office.   Park ranger talks and tours are available daily, please visit the FDR Visitor Center for the schedule.

Lincoln Memorial
202-426-6895
Location: West Potomac Park at the foot of 23rd Street
Metro stops: Foggy Bottom, Smithsonian

This monument honors Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president. The east front of the Lincoln Memorial overlooks the Reflecting Pool, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol.  Open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
202-634-1568
Location: Henry Bacon Drive and Constitution Ave NW, on the Mall
Metro stops: Foggy Bottom, Smithsonian

The Vietnam Wall is constructed of black granite to honor all Americans who served in the Vietnam War.  Over 58,000 names are inscribed in the black granite wall in chronological order.  Open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

The Pentagon Memorial
Location: Southwest side of Pentagon
Metro stop: Pentagon

The Pentagon Memorial is a permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people killed in the building and on the American Airlines flight on September 11, 2001. The Pentagon Memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2008, by President George W. Bush. The Memorial is open 7 days a week year-round. Prior to your visit to the memorial, I suggest that you visit the memorial’s website to learn about the significance of the architecture and design of the memorial as each component is significant.

The Korean War Memorial
Location: National Mall, near Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Wall
Metro stop: Smithsonian

The Korean War Memorial stands as a memorial to those who fought in the Korean War. The public may visit the memorial 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Park Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily.

World War II Memorial
Location: National Mall, between Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument
Metro stop: Smithsonian

The World War II Memorial commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the victory of “the Greatest Generation.”  The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day. Park Rangers are on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily to answer any questions.


Museums, Galleries and Theaters

Smithsonian Museums
202-357-2700
Location: National Mall
Metro stop for most of the Museums: Smithsonian
As the world’s largest museum complex, it holds over 139 million artifacts of American history.  Most museums are free of charge, although some parking charges may apply.  Open year round from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Please visit the Smithsonian website for individual museum details, special exhibits and locations.

  • African Art Museum
  • Air and Space Museum
  • Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, Virginia, near Dulles International Airport)
  • American Art Museum/Renwick Gallery
  • American History Museum
  • American Indian Museum
  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  • National Zoo
  • Natural History Museum
  • Portrait Gallery
  • Postal Museum
  • Smithsonian Castle

Ford’s Theatre and Lincoln Museum
202-426-6924
Location: 10th Street between E & F Sts
Metro stops: Metro Center or Gallery Place or Archives

The building and museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  The Lincoln Museum was recently renovated and offers a spectacular history of President Abraham Lincoln, Ford’s Theatre, and the events leading up to the assassination of President Lincoln. The Peterson House, where President Lincoln died, is across the street and free tours are also available. Ford’s Theatre continues as a working theater and offers performances throughout the year, the most popular of which is A Christmas Carol, which is performed annually during the Christmas season. A performance and event calendar can be found on the Theatre’s website.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
202-488-0400
Location: just south of Independence Ave SW between 14th St and Raoul Wallenborg Place
Metro stops: Smithsonian

The Holocaust Museum serves as a national repository for Holocaust related artifacts and materials and is the United States’ official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.  The museum has a permanent exhibition, The Holocaust, in addition to rotating temporary exhibitions.  Passes are required for the Permanent Exhibition for a nominal fee.  This exhibition is recommend for those over the age of 11.  Open 7 days a week except on Christmas and Yom Kippur from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

National Gallery of Art
202-737-4215
Location: National Mall between 3rd and 7th Sts, NW
Metro stops: Smithsonian or Archives

The National Gallery of Art complex includes two buildings, the classical West building and more modern looking East building, as well as the Gallery’s outdoor sculpture garden.  The West building houses an extensive collection of European art from medieval times through the 19th century, while the East building focuses on more contemporary art.  Open year round Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Washington National Cathedral
202-537-6200
Location: Massachusetts & Wisconsin Ave NW
Metro stops: Tenleytown Station to “30” series Metro bus

The National Cathedral is the second-largest Gothic cathedral in the United States.  From the Cathedral, you may view the nation’s capitol or simply enjoy the peaceful gardens and the beauty of the architecture.  Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, except during services and special events.  Worship services are held throughout the week and on Sunday.  Tours are from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 to 4:00 p.m. Several types of tours, including a highlights tour and an art & architecture tour, are offered. More information is available on the National Cathedral’s website.  

Smithsonian National Zoo
202-673-4717
Location: 3001 Connecticut Ave, NW
Metro stops: Woodley Park Zoo or Cleveland Park

Visit the new panda exhibit, see the orangutans swing or tour the heritage gardens and wetlands.  This visit takes a minimum of three hours; parking charges are per hour.  The National Zoo is free and open every day of the year, except for Christmas. Animal exhibits are open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day April through October. From November to March, the animal exhibits are open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day.   

Botanic Gardens
202-225-8333
Location: Independence and First St, SW
Metro stops: Federal Center SW or Capitol South

At the foot of the Capitol, under 29,000 square feet of glass and surrounded by ornamental pools, the United States Botanic Garden has more than 8,000 different types of exotic fruits, flowers and plants. The Conservancy is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, including weekends and holidays. The National Garden is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily through September 6th. After September 6th, the National Garden is open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.

Newseum
888-639-7386
Location: 555 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Metro stops: Archives/Navy Memorial or Judiciary Square

The Newseum is an interactive museum of news and journalism. The Newseum’s Berlin Wall Gallery includes the largest display of sections of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. The Today’s Front Pages Gallery presents daily front pages from more than 80 international newspapers. Other galleries present news history, the September 11th attacks, the First Amendment, world press freedom and the history of the Internet, TV and radio. There is admission fee and the current admission rates are posted on the Newseum website. The Newseum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Spy Museum
202-EYE-SPY-U (202-393-7798)
Location: 800 F Street, NW
Metro stops: Gallery Place/Chinatown

The Spy Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. April through October and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. November through March. The last tickets are sold one hour prior to closing. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. There is admission fee, and current rates are posted on the Spy Museum Website

Museum of Crime and Punishment
202-621-5567
Location: 575 7th St, NW
Metro stops: Gallery Place/Chinatown

The Museum of Crime and Punishment, which opened in 2008, houses interactive exhibits that allow visitors to explore the world and history of criminals and those who seek to bring them to justice. The museum hours vary by day and by season, so please check the website for details. There is an admission fee, and current rates are available on the Museum’s website.

Folger Shakespeare Library
202-544-4600
Location: 201 East Capitol Street, SE
Metro: Capitol South or Union Station

The Folger Library is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials.  The Folger Theatre hosts a number of events each year, including plays by Shakespeare and others.  Tickets for performances and events can be purchased on the library’s website.  The library is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed all federal holidays.

Corcoran Gallery of Art
202-639-1700
Location: 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW
Metro: Farragut West

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is the largest privately supported cultural institution in Washington, D.C. The museum’s main focus is American art. The Corcoran is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except on Thursdays when the museum is open until 9:00 p.m. The museum is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. There is an admission fee for this museum. Admission pricing and special exhibit information is available on the Corcoran Gallery’s website.

Phillips Collection
202-387-2151
Location: 1600 21st Street, NW
Metro: Dupont Circle

The Phillips Collection is an art museum founded by Duncan Phillips. Among the artists represented in the collection are Renoir, Courbet, El Greco, Braque, James McNeill Whistler and Winslow Homer. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with extended hours on Thursdays until 8:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On the first Thursday of the month, the museum offers a lively mix of jazz performances, food and drink, gallery talks, films and more. There is an admission fee for this museum and the current admission rates are available on the Museum’s website.


Day Trips

Mount Vernon
Location: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia 22309

Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, was the plantation home of the first President, George Washington, and is the burial place of Washington. The 30-acre estate offers tours of the mansion and the beautiful grounds. The estate also holds a museum and education center that tells the detailed story of George Washington and offers a unique view into his life. Mount Vernon is open seven days a week, every day of the year, including holidays and Christmas. There is an entrance fee for Mount Vernon.  Please visit the website for current rates and operating hours.

Gettysburg
Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg is the site of one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War and is where President Lincoln gave his memorable Gettysburg Address.  Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania, approximately two hours from Washington, D.C. Please visit the Gettysburg website for directions, operating hours and seasons, and fees.

Monticello
Location: 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Monticello, located approximately 2 ½ hours from Washington, D.C., in central Virginia, is the estate of Thomas Jefferson. Tours of the home, gardens and plantation are available year round except for Christmas Day. The standard operating hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. March through November and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. December through February. Extended hours are offered during peak visitation periods throughout the year. There is an entrance fee for Monticello.  Please visit the website for current rates.

Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown

The Historical Triangle, located in southern Virginia, is comprised of the colonial communities of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. Colonial Williamsburg is a large living museum of early American life. Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The third point of the triangle, Yorktown, is where General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington in the last land battle of the American Revolution. Please visit the websites for more information on events and directions.


Lincoln’s Cottage
Location: 3700 North Capitol Street NW

President Lincoln’s seasonal home during the Civil War is the most significant historic site directly associated with President Lincoln’s presidency aside from the White House. Lincoln’s Cottage is open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Cottage is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee for the Cottage, and the current admission rates are available on the Museum’s website.

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis is the capital of the state of Maryland and home to the United States Naval Academy. Annapolis boasts beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay and multiple historical sites, including the Maryland State House, which is the oldest in continuous legislative use in the United States. Please visit the website for information on attractions, maps, and events.


Transportation and Maps

Metro

The Washington, DC, metropolitan area boasts a top notch subway system known as the Metro. It provides a quick, inexpensive way for visitors to get around the DC metropolitan area. Please visit the Metro website for a map of the Metro system as well as a fee schedule.

Amtrak

Washington’s Union Station is located a few blocks north of the U.S. Capitol.  For more information regarding train schedules and ticket prices, please visit the Amtrak website.

Tourmobile Services

Guided Tourmobiles offer several tours of Washington, D.C. Please visit the website for details on tours and rates.

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