Explore > District of Columbia > Welcome to District of Columbia
welcome header

Welcome to the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., is teeming with iconic symbols like the Capitol, White House and Lincoln Memorial — but that’s not all you’ll find in the nation’s capital. Nestled along the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, this compact district of just 68 square miles is bursting with life, thanks to hip restaurants, insightful museums and stunning parks. You may come to D.C. for the history, but you’ll leave with an appreciation for the city’s distinctive flair.

In 1791, George Washington commissioned French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design the city. His vision of a spacious urban area lives on at the city’s core in the National Mall, with its wide, tree-lined paths and sweeping views of spectacular monuments and memorials that pay tribute to American heroes and forefathers. One of the most visited national parks in the country, the National Mall will excite and astound you.

Walk, Run or Bike into the Past

Stretching over two miles, the National Mall is a virtual east-west axis connecting the city’s most popular attractions. Start at the west end, where you’ll find the iconic Lincoln Memorial. Featuring a colossal marble statue of Abraham Lincoln deep in thought amid 36 Doric columns symbolizing the states of his era, the shrine to the nation’s 16th president is a captivating space. Abe’s weathered visage gazes eastward at the magnificent Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which runs 2,000 feet along the axis.

From this vantage point at the top of the monument’s stairs, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” in 1963. Fittingly, just a short walk to the southeast of the monument lies the stunning Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, home to an imposing statue of the Civil Rights leader along with some of his memorable quotes etched in stone.

Other nearby memorials include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean Veterans Memorial. At the east end of the pool sits the World War II Memorial, with its circle of 56 granite columns representing unity between the U.S. states, territories and District of Columbia.

Following the axis of the reflecting pool and the World War II Monument stands the Washington Monument, a 555-foot tower honoring America’s first president. The reflection of the majestic obelisk shimmers on the pool’s surface, creating one of the city’s most memorable vistas.

Standing at the very east end of the mall is the U.S. Capitol Building, the famed domed building where Congress debates and passes bills. Tours of the Capitol are free if you make a reservation in advance.

The First House

Less than a mile north of the Washington Monument stands the White House, the official residence of the president. You can also stop by the White House Visitor Center to explore intriguing exhibits on the famous building and dig into the lives of previous presidential families.

The city also is home to many world-class museums, making it so much more than a history lesson. Gawk at dazzling collections of gems and minerals at the National Museum of Natural History.  Satisfy your fascination with flight at the National Air and Space Museum. Take in approximately 141,000 works of art dating back to the Middle Ages at the National Gallery of Art. Or gain valuable insight into the life, history, and culture of African Americans at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. If you’re in town in spring, be sure to meander along Tidal Basin to see pink cherry blossoms envelop the landscape.