The Monumental Core of Washington, D.C. is so rich in sights that visitors may be tempted to look no farther. But many delights lie within easy reach of the city center. The Michigan Avenue NE area near North Capitol Street is home to the stunning Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; the U Street NW corridor is a historic town center for the African-American community; Bethesda is filled with every kind of restaurant; the Southwest waterfront is busy with commercial fishing activity; while Old Town Alexandria has a beautifully restored downtown area and fine galleries.

National Cathedral Schools

Like a medieval cathedral, National Cathedral is surrounded by some of the most prestigious prep schools in the city. St. Albans’ alumni include Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and broadcast journalist Brit Hume. The all-girls National Cathedral School is alma mater to a number of Rockefellers and Roosevelts. Sidwell Friends School, just up Wisconsin Avenue, educated Chelsea Clinton, the Nixon daughters, and Nancy Davis Reagan.

  1. Washington National Cathedral

    This noble hand-crafted church is so faultless that the cathedral seems to have belonged on its elevated site forever .

    Washington National Cathedral
  2. Arlington Cemetery

    A visit to this solemn burial ground brings conflicting emotions – pride in the determination of defenders of freedom, pleasure in the presence of its great beauty, but dismay at the loss of so many lives marked by the arrays of headstones .

  3. Mount Vernon

    Without a doubt the finest current view of George Washington the man, and of the agrarian plantation life that was an important stream leading to the revolutionary break with Great Britain .

    Mount Vernon
  4. Old Town Alexandria

    This lovely old city center, across the Potomac just beneath the capital, retains the charm and hospitality of its illustrious past while giving visitors all modern conveniences, including a metro station (King Street on the yellow and blue lines). Alexandria is noted for its historical and archeological museums, Gadsby’s Tavern, the evocative system of Civil War forts and defenses at Fort Ward, and its captivating residential architecture, civilized shops, and restaurants.

    Lee-Fendall House Museum, Old Alexandria
  5. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

    This mammoth basilica, dedicated in 1959, incorporates more than 60 chapels and oratories that retell the diverse history of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Conceived in the grand style – it is the largest Roman Catholic church in the western hemisphere – the building combines Byzantine and Romanesque features, creating an intensely decorative but substantial effect. The interior is simply overwhelming in its grandeur, whatever your faith. There is also a cafeteria on the site, which is convenient because there are few nearby restaurants.

    • 400 Michigan Ave, NE

    • Open Nov–Mar: 7am–6pm daily; Apr–Oct 7am–7pm daily

    • Dis. access

    Altar, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  6. U Street, NW

    For much of the 20th century, U Street, NW was the main street of this bustling and prosperous African-American neighborhood. Opened as a movie theater in 1922, the Lincoln Theater has now been refurbished and presents performances of every kind. Next door is the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, turning out great simple food for capacity crowds. The legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington played his first paid performance at True Reformer Hall at the junction of 12th and U Street, NW. The poignant sculpture and plaza of the African-American Civil War Memorial commemorates African-Americans who served in the Civil War.

    Duke Ellington Mural, U Street
  7. Southwest Waterfront

    This is a wonderful place for strolling, summer and winter. The diversity of Washington is on parade, the sailboats, yachts, and houseboats are picturesque, and the seafood – both cooked and raw – at the Southwest Fish Wharf is a showcase of what’s best in eastern waters. The Fish Wharf is the current raucous embodiment of colorful markets that have flourished here continuously since about 1790. It is famed for its crabs, oysters, and clams, and also specializes in river fish not widely available elsewhere, such as perch and bass.

    • Water St, SW

  8. Bethesda, Maryland

    Locally, Bethesda is best known for its enormous quantity and range of restaurants, most of them clustered into a lively downtown area that still retains the atmosphere of a traditional town center. The high-end employment offered by Bethesda’s world-renowned biotechnology industry, however, has also generated a spirited music, performance, and arts scene catering to its cultured and wealthy residents. The city is especially strong on public art. Its streets and parks spotlight distinguished contemporary works in every style, by way of sculpture and stunning painted murals.


    Mural, Bethesda Avenue
  9. Great Falls

    About 15 miles (24 km) north of Washington, D.C., the Potomac is rent by magnificent waterfalls over the crags and sluices of the eroded river bed. In the state of Virginia, Great Falls Park is reached from Old Dominion Drive (Route 738). It provides spectacular overlooks above the river, fine hiking trails, and the ruins of a small 19th-century town. On the Maryland side, the Great Falls area is part of the C&O Canal. The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center offers canal rides, hiking, and ranger-led tours and remarkable river views from the overlook on Olmstead Island.

    Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center

    • 11710 MacArthur Blvd

    • Open dawn–dusk daily

  10. National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

    This new display and restoration center for some of the museum’s magnificent collection of historic aviation and space artifacts  opened in December 2003 near Dulles International Airport. Two giant hangars with accompanying support buildings provide over 760,000 sq ft (70,611 sq m) of much needed extra display space.

    • South of main terminal at Dulles International Airport, near intersection of rtes 28 & 50

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