The nation’s capital is brimming with history, intellect and political power. The dozens of museums and memorials here make it easy to trace the country’s political history, and tours of the White House and the Capitol also give glimpses into today’s political workings. The city is alive with energy, and much of it comes from the relatively young population of bright political staffers who fill the offices of lawmakers from across the country. Although Washington, D.C., lives and breathes politics, there is so much more to see and do here. The Smithsonian Institution is one of Washington’s showpieces. The collections at the Smithsonian’s amazing museums cover the entire world throughout history. Must-sees include the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum. The National Zoological Park is also part of the Institution, and its pandas are a favorite among visitors both young and old.
Most of the Smithsonian Institution is on the National Mall, as are numerous memorials, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You’ll also find a dazzling array of art museums and galleries and other specialty museums in Washington, including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Spy Museum. And just outside of Washington are the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery; tours of both are worth taking. The District, as it’s known by those who live in and around Washington, is also home to excellent parks and gardens, along with some magnificent architecture. There is also a thriving arts community here, and the restaurant scene has flourished in recent years, as many brilliant chefs – including José Andrés, Robert Donna and Eric Ziebold – have elevated dining to new levels.