Federal Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a federal district and serves as the permanent national capital. It is is filled with important and memorable places to visit. Most of the nation's monuments and federal buildings can be found in the downtown of the city. The following walking tour will guide you to the most significant federal buildings in Washington D.C.
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Federal Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Federal Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Washington D.C. (See other walking tours in Washington D.C.)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Supreme Court
  • Library of Congress
  • House of Representatives Office Buildings
  • U.S. Capitol
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • National Archives
  • Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice
  • Ronald Reagan Building
  • The White House
  • Federal Reserve Board Building
  • Lincoln Memorial
Supreme Court

1) Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Building is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is situated on the block immediately east of the United States Capitol. The building is under the jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol. On May 4, 1987, the Supreme Court Building was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Prior to the establishment of the Federal City, the United States government resided briefly in New York City. As such, the Supreme Court met there during this time in the Merchants Exchange Building. When the capital moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Court moved with it and began meeting in Independence Hall, before settling in Old City Hall from 1791 until 1800.

After the federal government was established in Washington, the court was housed in a small basement room in the United States Capitol. It remained in the Capitol until 1935, with the exception of a period from 1812 to 1819, during which the Court was absent from Washington because of the British invasion and destruction of the Capitol in the War of 1812. In 1810, the Supreme Court first occupied the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol. In 1860, the Supreme Court moved to the Old Senate Chamber (as it is now known) where it remained until its move to the current Supreme Court building.

The Supreme Court Building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert. It rises four stories (92 ft (28 m)) above ground. The cornerstone was laid on October 13, 1932, and construction completed in 1935, having cost $94,000 under the $9.74 million budget authorized by Congress. "The building was designed on a scale in keeping with the importance and dignity of the Court and the Judiciary as a coequal, independent branch of the United States Government, and as a symbol of 'the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity."

The public façade of the Supreme Court Building is made of marble quarried from Vermont, and that of the non-public-facing courtyards, Georgian marble. Most of the interior spaces are lined with Alabama marble, except for the Courtroom itself, which is lined with Spanish ivory vein marble. For the Courtroom's 24 columns, "Gilbert felt that only the ivory buff and golden marble from the Montarrenti quarries near Siena, Italy" would suffice.

The west façade of the building (essentially, the "front" of the court, being the side which faces the Capitol) bears the motto "Equal Justice Under Law," while the east facade bears the motto "Justice, the Guardian of Liberty."
Sight description based on wikipedia
Library of Congress

2) Library of Congress (must see)

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 by President John Adams. The mission was to provide books that would be needed by Congress to help them perform their duties. Thomas Jefferson reinforced the need for the Library and in 1802 signed a law that helped establish the Library’s structure and allowed the President and Vice-President to borrow books. The Library of Congress was destroyed when the Capitol was burned by British troops in 1814.

President Jefferson offered his personal library to replace the books destroyed by the fire. In 1815, Congress accepted the President’s offer and paid him around $24,000 for his collection of 6,487 books. Unfortunately, another fire in 1851 destroyed around 4,000 of the books that President Jefferson sent to the library along with another 31,000 volumes. The Smithsonian Institution, after some dissent about whether it should be in charge of the Library of Congress, transferred around 40,000 volumes to the Library in 1866.

Finally, serious expansion started, and the Library grew to 840,000 volumes by 1897. It was around this time that a sentiment developed that the Library should be a library for America. Assistance programs were set up to help those with physical disabilities have access to the books. In addition to books, the Library also houses manuscripts, sheet music, maps, sound recordings and films. It is an incredible collection.

Today, the Library of Congress has the largest collection of books and manuscripts in the world. Although it is a library for the people, only members of Congress, other high ranking officials, and Supreme Court Justices can check out books. However, anyone is free to use the books that are housed in three separate buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The libraries are all connected by tunnels, so visitors only need to go through security once.

Why You Should Visit:
A world treasure that has one of the most beautiful building interiors in Washington, D.C. and worldwide!
There are permanent exhibits (first printed book – Gutenberg Bible from 1455) as well as temporary ones at any times.

Definitely go online beforehand and register for your reader card; then, when you get there, just show your ID and the world of learning is open to you.
Tours are free and about an hour long. While you can see all the areas on the tour on your own, they are explained nicely by the tour guide.
There is a tunnel that connects the LoC and the US Capitol so you can view both without going outside.
If coming from the Capitol Building, you don't have to pass through the security check again (but if planning on visiting the Capitol Building from here, you will need to go through the security check, even if you came from this building before).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8:30am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
House of Representatives Office Buildings

3) House of Representatives Office Buildings

There are four buildings used by the United States House of Representatives as offices. There are office spaces at the Capital, but that quickly became very crowded. The first building built to relive the pressure for office space was the Cannon House Office Building. This was completed in 1908 and was crowed almost from the beginning. This building is located on the south side of the US Capitol. Representatives had to rent quarters prior to this if they needed office space. This building is connected to the Capitol by an underground passage.

The second building to be built is the Longworth House Office Building. This is the smallest of the office buildings and is located south of the capitol. This building was completed in 1933. It has 251 congressional offices and suites, plus 12 committee rooms. The is a large assembly room that is currently used by the Ways and Means Committee. After this building was built, the Cannon House Office Building was remodeled and the number of offices dropped from 397 to 85 office suites, 23 committee rooms and 10 single room offices.

The Rayburn House Office Building is the newest building having been completed in 1965. It is the biggest of the Office Buildings and houses 169 representatives. This building has an underground transportation system called the Capital Subway System that connects it to the Capitol. There is also a pedestrian tunnel that connects all the Congressional Office Buildings on the Hill.
U.S. Capitol

4) U.S. Capitol (must see)

The U.S. Capitol stands at the opposite end of the National Mall from the Washington Monument. This huge building holds the House of Representatives in the south wing, and the Congress in the north wing. There are 540 rooms, five floors and the beautiful Capitol Rotunda which additionally houses art and sculptures. This artwork depicts events and figures from American history. Interestingly, both the east side and west side of the Capitol can be designated as the front, so just be aware that “front” is not the best descriptive designation here.

After much wrangling about the design, the Capitol cornerstone was laid by President Washington on September 18, 1793. The President was dressed in full Mason attire as he laid the stone. The building was completed in 1811. Portions of the Capitol were burned in August of 1814 during the burning of Washington during the War of 1812. The damaged portions were rebuilt and the Rotunda was added. Construction was completed in 1826. In the 1850s the Capitol was expanded and a new cast-iron dome was added to replace the wooden Rotunda. Several renovations and expansions have been done since then. The Apotheosis of Washington is the fresco painted on the inside of the dome and is visible through the oculus from the Rotunda floor.

The Capitol is open to visitors and the tour is free. Tickets are available at the Capitol Visitor Center and they are first come-first served. This center is new, having opened in 2008. There is a 15-minute orientation film about the Capitol that is worth viewing. A cafeteria, two gift shops, and restrooms are available.

The Capitol also has galleries where visitors can watch Congress in action. Passes are available from the offices of Senators and Representatives. If visiting when Congress is in session, be sure to contact your local official and see government in action.

First off, book your 45-min tour early to avoid missing out and to give yourself a bigger range of time slots.
You'll still have to go to the desk to pick up your ticket by showing the online receipt on your phone.
Get there 30-45 mins before your tour, due to security checks before entry (food & drinks are prohibited).
Don't miss the opportunity to see the House of Reps and the Senate in action BUT you will need more passes AND if you are not American, you will need proper ID.
Overseas visitors apply for the passes at the Senate Appointment Desk and the House Appointment Desk inside the Capitol Building (pretty easy and quick to apply).
When you've finished your visit, use the tunnel just before the exit to go directly to the Library of Congress (no additional security check).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm
Federal Trade Commission

5) Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was established in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. Its main purpose is to protect the American consumer, to prevent monopolies and investigate antitrust issues. After moving to several different buildings, the FTC was finally housed in the Apex building. It is now commonly called the Federal Trade Commission building. The building was built in 1937 and the cornerstone was laid by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt using the same trowel that Washington had used when he laid the cornerstone for the U.S. Capitol building. The commission is composed of 5 commissioners that are nominated by the President. They must be confirmed by the Senate. Commissioners are appointed to a seven year term and these terms are staggered so that there is no more than one vacancy to be appointed per year. However, commissioners may retire before their term expires and that would necessitate an appointment. There are never to be more than three members of the same political party sitting on the commission. In addition to protecting consumers and monitoring for unfair competition practices, the FTC is also tasked with providing expert knowledge regarding economic decisions the FTC makes. It was instrumental in the National Do Not Call Registry. It is also in charge of developing policies surrounding the internet, such as fraud and privacy. The building is located at 600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.
National Archives

6) National Archives

The National Archives houses some of USA's most beloved document treasures. It is home to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. These powerful documents are known as the Charters of Freedom and are housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. They are on permanent display here.

There are also public vaults that can be visited. This vault holds over 1,000 records relating to the American democracy. Some of Abraham Lincoln’s telegrams that were sent to his general’s are here, as well as handwritten notes by George Washington. There are an additional five vaults that take their names from the preamble to the Constitution and deal with law, citizenship, war, firsts and keeping records for future generations to enjoy.

The William G. McGowan Theater shows an informative film about the National Archives and another film on the Charters of Freedom. There are also various exhibits in the Lawrence F. O’Brian Gallery.

The National Archives and Records Administration is located at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between 7th and 9th streets. The Rotunda entrance is on Constitution Avenue. Admission is free however; a ticket can be reserved during the busy tourist season. The cost is a $1.50 and is nonrefundable. The entrance for those with tickets is the special events door on Constitution Ave.

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice

7) Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building is one of the more recognizable buildings in all of Washington D.C. It is trapezoidal in shape, having been built at the intersections of Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, 9th Street and 10th Street NW. The physical address is 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. It is part of the Federal Triangle, and is very close to the National Archives, and the Internal Revenue Service Building. You can also get to the location quickly from the National Mall, or the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

Historically speaking, the Department of Justice was needing a home. The United States also needed a place to house the Attorney General’s Office. The offices were completed in 1935. In 2001, the Congress of the United States passed legislation to rename the location after Robert F. Kennedy, who was the 64th Attorney General of the United States.

In addition to the fact that the place has a unique shape, the building is a wonderful example of a style of architecture known as “classical revival.” The architectural firm that designed the building, Zantzinger, Borie and Medary of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also made good use of the modern art deco style that is seen in many of the buildings in the area.
Ronald Reagan Building

8) Ronald Reagan Building

If you want to take in a site in Washington D.C. that is a bit more modern in nature, you may want to visit the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. It is located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, not far off the Federal Triangle.

This example of modern historical architecture also houses many international businesses, and conference space. Interestingly, the location has also become famous as a place to hold wedding receptions. The building also houses a first class food court, and a wonderful Italian Restaurant (called Aria’s Italian Restaurant).

You may also want to visit the building on a day when the famous Capitol Steps Comedy troupe is performing. The group is famous for its music and plays based on political satire. There are also many free outdoor music events held here throughout the summer months.

The Ronald Reagan Building represents a first of a kind approach in federal buildings, by housing both governmental offices and private sector businesses. There has been some tightening of security in the building, however, since the incidents of 9/11. Still, there is plenty of reason to go and visit the location during a visit to Washington D.C.
The White House

9) The White House (must see)

The White House is both home and office to the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., it symbolizes America. While it is not the first home of American presidents, it has been the home of every American President since John Adams moved in during his presidency in 1800. The design was made by James Hoban and building was started with the laying of the cornerstone in 1792. Each president since then has added their own touches to the people’s house, some big and some small.

That original White House was burned in 1814, almost to the ground, by British troops during the War of 1812. Designing and rebuilding soon began and was completed by 1817. The South Portico was added in 1824 and the North Portico was added in 1830. The West Wing came during an addition that began in 1901 and then later the Oval Office was added. A fire in 1929 damaged the West Wing but the damage was repaired. In the 1930s, a second story and basement were added and the oval office was moved to its present location.

By 1948 the building was in need of a serious overhaul to keep it standing after several additions had been made over the years. Load bearing beams were added and a complete dismantling of the interior was undertaken. Most of the glorious handcrafted work was lost during this process of reconstruction. In the 1960s Jacqueline Kennedy oversaw an extensive redecoration of the White House to bring back some of the artifacts that had been lost over the years and return it to its grander days.

Today the White House has six stories, 132 rooms, and such amenities as a tennis court, swimming pool, bowling alley, and of course the First Garden. Since the attacks of 9/11, the White House is no longer open for tours except on a very limited basis. All those wanting a tour must ask their Congressional representatives to put them on a list and have background checks completed prior to the tour.

The entire tour is self-paced, so you might want to brush up on your White House history ahead of time to maximize your experience (War of 1812, etc). You will only be visiting the East Wing, so that will limit how much you will need to research.
If you're you don't get a tour time, don't be heartbroken. Stand in front of the White House and take a group photo, then head over to the Visitor Center and use the interactive displays where you can see the same rooms.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Federal Reserve Board Building

10) Federal Reserve Board Building

The Federal Reserve Board Building, which is located at 20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, was built in 1937 to house the offices of the Federal Reserve Board. The famous structure now also bears the name of one of its former Chairmen, Marriner S. Eccles. (the name was changed by an act of Congress in 1982.)

The architecture of the building was quite daring for its time. The designer and architect, Paul Philippe Cret, used a bold, very modernistic, interpretation of classic Beaux-Arts styling to come up with the unique view of the Federal Building. Cret had actually studied art and design at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France. The architect kept the very classical styling of the Beaux-Arts style in the columns of the building, then went in a completely new direction with the building’s ornamentation. The look is very clean and elegant.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the new Federal Reserve Building on October 20, 1937. It still stands to this day as an important contribution to American architectural history and design theory. Classic examples of this architectural style can be found in the marble ornaments that decorate the doorways, and the design of the Federal eagle that adorns the fireplace in the board room.
Lincoln Memorial

11) Lincoln Memorial (must see)

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most famous monuments and historical places in the United States. It is a nationally recognized location that was built in honor of Abraham Lincoln, who was the 16th President of the United States, during the bloody years of the Civil War. The monument is a fine example of a classic Greek Doric temple. Even the sculpture of the President is done in Olympic Godlike fashion. Two well-known speeches of the former President are also engraved there: the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

The Lincoln Monument Association was formed two years after the death of the President. Planning for the memorial, though, stretched out until 1901. The Lincoln Memorial Bill was signed by President Taft in 1911. Interestingly, the entire monument was built for $2 million. Today, the site is still famous as the location for many historic speeches, like the “I have a dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King. It has also been the site for many famous protests. The Monument is cared for by the National Park Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The monument is open 24 hours a day.

Why You Should Visit:
The most visited memorial in the National Mall for a reason; it is beautiful and offers a fantastic view of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.

Go first thing in the morning (probably before 9am) or later in the evening (when the lights are turned on) to avoid the crowds.
Right on the steps, look down on the floor for the "I have a dream" block. It's where MLK, Jr. stood when he gave his most famous speech.
Pack your food and water (in the summer) because the food at the refreshment stands is not very good and somewhat overpriced.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Washington D.C., USA

Create Your Own Walk in Washington D.C.

Create Your Own Walk in Washington D.C.

Creating your own self-guided walk in Washington D.C. is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Art Galleries and Museums Tour

Art Galleries and Museums Tour

Looking for inspiring and notable art venues? Washington D.C. is well-appreciated for the wide range of art museums and galleries that it offers. Take this self-guided tour and discover the treasures hidden by these art institutions.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Washington D.C. Introduction Walk

Washington D.C. Introduction Walk

Washington D.C, capital of the United States, is a cocktail of politics, cosmopolitan energy and multiculturalism manifested in a thriving and diverse dining, nightlife and shopping setting. The city is renowned for its historic neighborhoods, world-class museums, memorials, beautiful gardens and arts venues. Take this self-guided walk and discover the city which defines some of the greatest...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
Georgetown Walking Tour

Georgetown Walking Tour

Georgetown is an area located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River waterfront. Despite its proximity to downtown Washington, this former port has preserved its own distinct character. Many of the buildings along the tree-lined streets are over 200 years old. Take this walking tour to reveal all the secrets of Georgetown.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Gardens and Parks Walking Tour

Gardens and Parks Walking Tour

If you are looking for getaway spots from the hustle and bustle of politics and city life, this walking tour in Washington D.C. offers plenty of opportunities for that. There are many large parks and gorgeous gardens where you can admire beautiful flowers, landscape and even learn various historical facts.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Historic Monuments and Memorials Walking Tour

Historic Monuments and Memorials Walking Tour

Washington D.C. is a city of historic memorials and monuments that commemorate key chapters in American history. They are dedicated to all the noteworthy generals, politicians, statesmen and artists who played a major role in shaping the American nation. This walking tour will offer you a glimpse into the history of the U.S.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
Nightclubs Tour

Nightclubs Tour

Washington D.C. offers a great nightlife. You can dance all night long in any of the clubs from its liveliest neighborhoods, playing rock, hip hop, punk, jazz, country, gospel or alternative music. Make sure not to miss such an exciting opportunity by checking out the tour below with the suggested music and dance clubs.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.6 Km or 4.1 Miles

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