August 24, 2009

Free to See in Washington, DC

Museums, monuments, gardens and government buildings. As a tourist destination, Washington, DC opens the treasures of our country for all to see - for free!

No matter where you're from, you will pay no admission to visit the Smithsonian Museums, the United States Capitol building, the Library of Congress, the US Botanic Garden and other wonderful places.

The Capitol Building is a "must-see" for anyone visiting Washington. The guided free tour takes you into the halls and corridors that you cannot visit on your own. Outside of the tour, the exhibit that describes the Legislative Branch is well done and interesting. A cafe on the ground floor provides a variety of choices from grilled burgers and hotdogs to a large salad bar, sandwiches, and entrees with side dishes.

When you've finished your visit in the Capitol Building, you can take the tunnel connecting the building to the Library of Congress. When it comes to architecture, I love the inside of the Library of Congress. Marble, mosaics, art and artifacts give this building a palatial feel while touring the exhibits or using the library (with a pre-arranged visitor card). The interior is dramatic! I could spend hours studying the intricate details of the interior architecture. But, there are so many more places to visit.

The Smithsonian Museums line the National Mall on both sides. Admission to the museums is free, but special exhibits, such as IMAX theatre experiences, do charge a fee.

Children will love the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. The Natural History Museum has a live butterfly exhibit (admission fee), as well as exhibits on mammals and ocean life. Gems, such as The Hope Diamond, are also on display. A cafe on the ground floor has many healthy and tasty choices for lunch. The sandwiches, such as turkey on a whole grain baguette, is large enough for two people to share.

The Air and Space Museum is filled with aviation and space fun! Lindberg's Spirt of St. Louis airplane is there as well as space capsules, early airplanes and loads of information. The IMAX and planetarium shows and the flight simulators may be enjoyed for a fee.

The United States Botanic Garden and Conservatory are also along the National Mall, near the Capitol. For gardeners especially, hours can be spent wandering through the paths of the native gardens, the butterfly habitat, the rose garden and the many sections of the conservatory. The Conservatory houses rare and exotic plants, orchids and jungle plants.

White House Tours require a six month reservation that must be arranged through a member of Congress. However, you can walk outside the fence at the White House that includes a view of the vegetable garden and bee hive on the lawn. President Obama and family were supposed to be leaving for a vacation to Martha's Vineyard. However, I snapped a zoomed photo (not shown here) of a dog crate being carried into the White House! Could it be that Bo, the First Dog, was inside that crate?

There is so much to see and so much to do. I could easily spend a week in Washington, but I was in DC for only two days as I was also taking in the Old Town of Alexandria, Virginia and George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Location: Washington, DC; August 2009
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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