Washington D.C. Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Washington D.C.

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 American values!
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Washington D.C. Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Washington D.C. Introduction Walk
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: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: irene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The White House
  • Ford's Theatre
  • Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • U.S. Navy Memorial & Naval Heritage Center
  • Newseum
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • U.S. Botanic Garden
  • U.S. Capitol
  • Library of Congress
The White House

1) 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
Ford's Theatre

2) Ford's Theatre (must see)

Ford’s Theatre is where President Abraham Lincoln was shot while viewing a theatrical performance on April 14, 1865. However, this building did not start out as a theatre. It was built in 1833 to house the First Baptist Church of Washington. The church used the building until 1861 when they moved to a new building. John Ford bought the building and with renovations, turned it into a theater. The building was destroyed by fire in 1862 and soon rebuilt.

The newly built Ford’s Theater opened in August of 1863. It was huge and had seating for over 2,000 theater patrons. On that fateful April day, President Lincoln, his wife and a group of friends, went to the theater to see Our American Cousin. The country was still feeling the keen sting of the Civil War; in fact, General Lee had surrendered less that one week before. John Wilkes Booth, feeling anger at the loss of the Confederacy, entered the Presidential box and shot the President in the head. President Lincoln died the next day at a home across the street from the theater, the Petersen House.

Congress reacted to the assassination of President Lincoln by purchasing the theater and passing a law that the building could never again be used as a theater. The government then used the building for various purposes such as storage and office space. In 1893 part of the building collapsed killing 22 people. The fire, assassination and building collapse made some believe the building was cursed. Repairs were made to the building and it was used until 1931.

In the 1940s there was recognition that a very valuable historical legacy was being lost. It was not until 1955 that Congress passed a bill that the theater could be restored. In 1968, Ford’s Theater was once again opened as a theater. Today both the theater and the Petersen House are preserved together as a National Historic Site at 511 10th Street, NW in Washington, D.C.

Sit in the back of the theater; that way, when they open the door to the Peterson House across the street you can be one of the first in line.
Both the Peterson House and Ford's Theater have gift shops, with the former perhaps a better shop than the latter.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

3) Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

If you are tired of the all the “usual” museums in Washington, you might want to try Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. While there are political figures portrayed in wax in the museum, there are entertainers, cultural figures, sports stars, and of course presidents. The original Madame Tussauds wax Museum is found in London. Madame Tussaud was a wax sculptor who was born in France in 1761. Her mother worked for a physician who was skilled in wax sculpting and taught young Anna the skill. In 1835 Madame Tussaud was married and living in London. She opened a museum to house all her wax figures.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museums are found world wide. The Washington museum features the likenesses of all 44 Presidents. A new gallery was just open that features 14 rooms and allows for an interactive experience. Captain Jack Sparrow is also just arrived at the museum.

Additional characters include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Rosa Parks, Buzz Aldrin, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Beyonce, Ella Fitzgerald, and Hillary Clinton. There is someone here for everyone.

The museum is open 365 days a year and it does charge a fee to enter. The museum is located at 1001 F Street NW which is at the corner of 10th and F Street. Parking is available.

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Smithsonian American Art Museum

4) Smithsonian American Art Museum (must see)

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C. with an extensive collection of American art. The museum displays a variety of American art that covers all regions and art movements found in the US. The museum has two innovative public spaces, the Luce Foundation Center for American Art and the Lunder Conservation Center. The Luce Foundation Center is the first visible art storage and study center in Washington, D.C. It presents more than 3,300 objects in 64 secure glass cases, which quadruples the number of artworks from the permanent collection on public display. The Luce Foundation Center features paintings densely hung on screens, sculptures, crafts and folk art objects arranged on shelves, and miniatures and medals in drawers that open. Large-scale sculptures are installed on the first floor. The Lunder Conservation Center is the first art conservation facility that allows the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of preservation work.

The covered courtyard makes a great place to enjoy a snack (bring your own or visit the café) or just for a rest stop.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11:30am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
U.S. Navy Memorial & Naval Heritage Center

5) U.S. Navy Memorial & Naval Heritage Center (must see)

This memorial is dedicated to all those who have served and all those who are currently serving in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines. The memorial was years in the planning stages and was finally dedicated in 1987 which coincided with the 212th birthday of the U.S. Navy.

Interestingly, the memorial was the dream of Pierre L’Enfant who served with General George Washington. President John Kennedy revived the plan and the naval memorial finally started to become a reality. It still took many years of dedicated fundraising and a final push by Admiral Arleigh Burke to bring the project to fruition.

One of the most touching tributes to sailors everywhere is The Lone Sailor, a piece of artwork done by Stanly Bleifeld. Artifacts from eight different U.S. Navy ships were included in the casting of the statue. The statue looks out over the Granite Sea which is a replica of Earth’s oceans. 26 bas-reliefs depict important events particular to the world’s navies. There are also famous sayings from naval personnel over the years which is a must see. Inside the Naval Heritage Center, there are rotating exhibits and a film featuring the Blue Angels.

The U.S. Navy Memorial is open 24 hours a day. The Naval Heritage Center is open Monday through Saturday in the summer from 9:30am to 5pm. It is closed Sundays and Mondays in the winter and also during Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year ’s Day.

The majority of the Heritage Center is downstairs, underground via an entrance in a building behind the fountain memorial.
It's not a big center but it's well represented. An added bonus is that they have quiet and clean restrooms.
Sight description based on wikipedia

6) Newseum (must see)

The Newseum is an interactive museum of news and journalism located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. The seven-level, 250,000-square-foot museum features 15 theaters and 14 galleries. 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 topics including news history, the September 11 attacks, the First Amendment, world press freedom and the history of the Internet, TV & radio. It opened at its first location in Rosslyn, Virginia, on April 18, 1997, where it admitted visitors without charge. Its mission is "to help the public and the news media understand one another better" and to "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society".

Why You Should Visit:
Great 'newseum' for everyone interested in history and the media; one of the few where you have to pay, but worth the price.
The guided tour is very informative and highly recommend for adults and the view from the 6th story balcony is one of the best in DC.

Don't miss the Pulitzer photo collection, the VR experience, the studio tour and the history of how newspapers shaped the nation.
Don't worry, they have the ticket valid for two consecutive days – plenty of time to enjoy each exhibit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm; Sun: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Gallery of Art

7) National Gallery of Art (must see)

The National Gallery of Art is a national art museum, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The museum was established in 1937 for the people of the United States of America by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, with funds for construction and a substantial art collection donated by Andrew W. Mellon. The Gallery's collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder.

The Gallery's campus includes the original neoclassical West Building designed by John Russell Pope, which is linked underground to the modern East Building designed by I. M. Pei and the 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden. Temporary special exhibitions spanning the world and the history of art are presented frequently.

Why You Should Visit:
The collection is presented in a conventional way but very effectively – you can just start at one end and travel to the other, then back again.
Between sections are little garden spots with fountains, ideal to make a stop and soak the atmosphere.
There are audio guides and tours available free of charge and there is no entrance fee.

Come as early as possible and start in the West building. Be the first one to go upstairs to the central atrium for the best photos of the amazing space with massive columns and fountain under a Pantheonic dome.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-5pm; Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Air and Space Museum

8) National Air and Space Museum (must see)

The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution is a must-see for all aviation and space aficionados. It houses the largest collection of planes and spacecraft in the world. This is one of the most popular of the Smithsonian museums, so plan to go early and spend a day.

The original inception of the museum began in 1946, although some of the pieces in the museum are from the 1876 Centennial Exposition. At that time the name was to be the National Air Museum. As man ventured to the heavens and landed on the moon, the name was changed to include “Space”. In fact, the exhibition hall was opened by Director Michael Collins who has been to space on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The Spirit of St. Louis that Charles Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic is displayed here along with Wright Flyer that made its famous flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 piloted by Orville Wright. The Apollo 11 Command module is here too. The Bell X-1, Mercury Friendship 7, and SpaceShipOne are also on display. More conventional aircraft include a DC-3 and a 747. Even the USS Enterprise from Star Trek fame is here.

Why You Should Visit:
Great for learning and teaching kids and adults about the science behind flying.
You learn about commercial or military jets, new technology and early technology.
The motion-based, VR, flight simulators are amazing and the Planetarium shows have awesome visual effects.

They also have audio tours and guided tours – you can check the information counter for more info.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Admission is free
U.S. Botanic Garden

9) U.S. Botanic Garden (must see)

The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a botanic garden on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle. The Botanic Garden is supervised by Congress through the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. The USBG is open every day of the year, including federal holidays. It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States. The USBG proper consists of three locations: the Conservatory, Bartholdi Park, and the Production Facility. The historic Lord & Burnham greenhouse, built by the Architect of the Capitol in 1933, contains eight garden rooms under glass, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space. In 2001, the Conservatory re-opened after a four-year renovation that required it to be completely dismantled and rebuilt using 21st-century building standards.

Why You Should Visit:
It's less about seeing how plants grow than making use of the benches, tables, and chairs that the park has to offer – not to mention wonderful views of the Capitol.

If you're packing a lunch for your DC tour, be sure to eat it here.
Come during Christmas, too! The trains and mini wooden versions of world landmarks are worth the extra crowds.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
U.S. Capitol

10) 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
Library of Congress

11) 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

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.
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
Federal Buildings Walking Tour

Federal Buildings Walking Tour

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.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 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
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
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
History Museums Tour

History Museums Tour

Washington D.C. is well-known for its world-class museums. The Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, maintains most of the official museums in Washington, D.C. and the entrance is free of charge. Explore some of the most outstanding ones by taking this walking tour.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.1 Km or 3.8 Miles

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