DC’s Most Storied Historical Destinations


In DC, where seemingly every street has a role in the city’s narrative, history is more than a diversion — it’s a way of life.

And although the District’s legacy can’t be contained to just one season, there’s a certain magic to spring, when the city is cast in a new light, and in the wake of that glow, its many historical attractions vying for their moment in the sun.

Read on for the historical DC destinations that should be headlining your list this season!

#1 National Museum of American History: Where else in the world can you find Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers, John Bull’s train, the original Star-Spangled Banner, and Bob Dylan’s jacket in one place? This monument to all things American reopened in 2008 after an $85-million renovation. The museum’s three floors hold rotating special exhibitions and artifacts on display.

➤ Learn more about the National Museum of American History right here.

#2 Library of Congress: Right next to the Capitol sits the largest library in the world, housing books, photographs, maps, and other items on more than 500 miles of bookshelves. The library itself takes up three buildings in DC and the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, and has more than 158 million items in its collection, including 36.8 million books, 69 million manuscripts, and an extensive collection of music, photographs, and film.

➤ Learn more about the Library of Congress right here.

#3 Smithsonian Castle: Informally known as the Castle thanks to its Norman-style turrets and Gothic Revival facade, the Smithsonian Institution Building is sandwiched between the Hirshhorn, the shuttered Arts and Industries Building, and the Freer Gallery on the Mall. The Castle makes a good base from which to start sightseeing trips; its adjacent S. Dillon Ripley Center hosts exhibitions, and the Discovery Theater hosts performances. Don’t miss Smithsonian’s Crypt by the north entrance to the Castle, the final resting place of Smithsonian founder James Smithson.

➤ Learn more about the Smithsonian Castle right here.

#4 National Museum of African American History and Culture: The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives, and how it helped us shape this nation. The facade of this new museum alone is worth a trip — the structure, in the shape of a bronze-colored “corona,” or crown, features exterior metal latticework that takes on a lustrous glow at night.

➤ Learn more about the National Museum of African American History and Culture right here.

#5 Arlington National Cemetery: Some 400,000 people are buried in the 624 acres of America’s most famous cemetery, including President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Pierre L’Enfant, the architect of Washington; boxer Joe Louis; author Dashiell Hammett; and former chief justice William Rehnquist.

➤ Learn more about Arlington National Cemetery right here.

#6 Folger Shakespeare Library: This independent research library has the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and hosts exhibitions on the writer’s life and times, including one of his first folios, accompanied by a touchscreen display. Open since 1932, the building features a Tudor-style interior and an Elizabethan theater.

➤ Learn more about the Folger Shakespeare Library right here.

#7 Washington National Cathedral: Stained-glass windows, Gothic spires, and flying buttresses make the Washington National Cathedral look ages old, but the grand church was actually constructed during the 20th century. Though overseen by the Episcopal Church, the house of worship welcomes people of all faiths to its impressive site on the highest point in DC.

➤ Learn more about the Washington National Cathedral right here.

Looking to browse the latest listings in between stops? Check out our lineup of the hottest homes live on the market today!

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