Teachers, homeschool co-ops, scout groups, history buffs… lend me your ears! If you are trying to inspire, educate or simply love this wonderful nation, consider planning a trip to its capital.
There’s no better civics lesson than a trip to Washington D.C. Of course, there are the attractions with which most people are familiar; a visit to the most prestigious address in the world, a tour of the monuments, or an awe-inspiring stop at Arlington Cemetery to witness the changing of the guards. However, Washington D.C. boasts some hidden gems as well! My goal is to shine a light on both to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
National Museum of American History
This Smithsonian is dedicated to the preservation and heritage of American History. View the original Star-Spangled Banner- the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Explore the integral role of women in our nation’s history or delve into our unique religious heritage from colonial days to the present.
National Museum of Natural History
Feast your eyes on the largest blue diamond in the world or explore ancient Egypt (even the remains of a mummified cat!) The National Museum of Natural History is a treasure trove of must-sees.
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. documents the incredible history of flight and aviation, including the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Don’t forget to rocket over to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for a close-up of the Space Shuttle Discovery!
International Spy Museum
Make it your mission to get to the International Spy Museum, an astounding collection of espionage artifacts that would make Maxwell Smart jealous! Jaw-dropping stories, interactive exhibits and interviews with real spies- awesome!
The Newseum is a high-tech, interactive museum highlighting the past, present and history of journalism. The Newseum is a “must-see” in a city of great attractions. Celebrate the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment.
The Holocaust Museum
The Holocaust Museum is America’s official memorial to the Holocaust. This is an extraordinary and powerful opportunity to learn about and remember both the victims and survivors of the systematic persecution and murder of more than 6 million Jews (reservation required).
The Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is an opportunity to explore a masterpiece of architecture in this active Episcopal Church “for all people.” Look closely- a piece of the lunar surface is housed in one of the stained-glass windows (known as the “Space Window).
The National Archives
The National Archives is a great chance to study how the actions of the Federal Government are based in our Constitution. Participants take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action. The National Archives houses the three original “Charters of Freedom,” including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
No trip to Washington D.C. is complete without a visit to these monuments to freedom and sacrifice. Stops at the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, F.D.R. Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial are powerful reminders of those who gave all for every American.
A stop at Arlington Cemetery allows you to witness the Changing of the Guard, visit John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and the Lee Mansion and pay respects at the Tomb of the Unknown. It’s a somber and incredibly moving experience for visitors.
Step back in time and experience history at Ford’s Theatre – the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Tours, educational programs and even live theatre are available in this historic venue.
House of the Temple
Here’s a unique attraction that most don’t realize should be part of the itinerary! The Masonic House of the Temple offers a glimpse into the secret world of the masons. The building, completed in 1915, is an adaptation of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Guided tours are available at this home of famous abolitionist and reformer, Frederick Douglass. Catch a glimpse of the statesman’s life and legacy.
Fort Reno Park
Civil war buffs will love this spot, part of the Rock Creek Park and the site of the only civil war battle to take place in Washington D.C. As Rock Creek is a national park, it’s a quiet escape from the bustle of the city amid majestic scenery. Ranger-led tours are available.
As you plan your trip to Washington D.C., it’s important to note that many of the attractions are FREE (we all love FREE!) There are very few destinations with so much to offer at such a low price point. It truly is a living history lesson that should not be missed. Time to get packing!