There is no other place where the history of a nation can be found summed up in the span of three kilometers in the capitol of one of the most powerful nations in the world. The Mall - the long rectangular green space in downtown Washington, DC, borders countless government buildings, memorials and museums, a time capsule of the United States' history from start to present. And, not only do the attractions allow you to explore the US in depth, they are easy to navigate and free.
The beginning - 100 AD
The Smithsonian Institute is an opportunity to examine the world before political history. A trip to the Smithsonian can be overwhelming with 19 museums to choose from. However, a visit to the Institution Building, known as "the castle," helps set your priorities straight.
One of the more popular museums, the American Museum of Natural History, looks at the evolution of the world in all of its natural forms. The museum's 18 exhibition halls hold more than 126 specimens depicting people, places, animals and plants. It also houses the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, the biggest and most notorious diamond in history.
1200's - Present
In development of art, the Smithsonian's National Gallery contains an astounding collection. The West building, with its pillars and magnificent rotunda, was built in 1923 and contains famous works from the 13th to the 20th century including the only Da Vinci in North America. The East building, which opened in 1978, is modern and cubic, housing contemporary collections from photography to sculpture.
1700's - 1900's
The National Museum of American History completes this Smithsonian-narrated timeline, examining US accomplishments through diverse items such as Lewis and Clark's compass and Kermit the Frog. The museum is closed for renovations until the fall of 2008, but some of the highlights are on display at the National Air and Space Museum, allowing visitors a glimpse at American History.
The government buildings reflect the history of an emerging nation. The problem with many of these sites is that they are not only plagued by tourists, but also by school groups. Early is the operative word to visit many of these attractions. This is particularly the case with the National Archives. The Declaration of Independence (1776) and The Bill of Rights (1791) are viewed by 400 people per hour, yet lines can form around the block.
1793 - Present
Even with the declaration of independence in 1776, there was no set United States Capitol at the time and not until 1793 that it found its permanent home in Washington, DC. The legislative wing of government, the Capitol building, has gone through many modifications, making it quite different from its original form. The Capitol building offers tours daily, but with ticket booths opening at 8:30 a.m., they quickly sell out. Regardless, the building that runs a nation is still worth seeing, and walking up the steps to the fountain is exhilarating, knowing the decisions made and the political battles fought in this arena.
1817 - Present
The White House has also undergone many changes. The British burned down the original house on Pennsylvania Ave. in 1812, but it was refurbished and rebuilt in 1817. Since September 11th, tours no longer run here, but people settle with peering through the gates across the lush grounds towards to the president's headquarters.
1939 - 1975
The West end of the Mall marks the history of the 20th century wars fought by the United States. Starting with the fountains at the World War II Memorial and ending with the famous Vietnam Memorial with its engraved names of soldiers, it constitutes a solemn tribute to the bleaker parts of history and a visible reminder of the many sacrifices made by US citizens.
Through these myriad historical offerings, we may get a glimpse at the astonishing and riveting history that is housed along the Mall in Washington, DC. A visit is not only a chance to reflect, but an opportunity to discover.
Jennifer Ford is originally from Winnipeg and attending Carleton University. She has been published in the Winnipeg Free Press and Carleton's student paper, The Charlatan.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
"We welcome our readers' input and personal travel tips. To share feedback on this article, please click below."
Others have made submissions which you may find of interest:
View Article Comments
Meet Great Writers
On These Pages|
Search For Travel Articles
Informative articles organized
by your favourite writers.
Destination Index by Author