Introduction to Washington, D.C.
The nation's capital, D.C., is Washington, D.C. The specific city of Washington is part of the District of Columbia ("D.C."), the federal district encompassing the city. Washington is surrounded by the states of Virginia (to the west and southwest) and Maryland (on its other sides). Principal thoroughfares servicing the Washington area include Interstate I-495 (also known as the Capital Beltway); Interstates I-66, I-95, I-295, I-395; and U.S. Route 50. Public transportation in the city is provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates a regional subway (Metrorail) and bus (Metrobus) system. The Washington area is served by three major airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport located in Arlington, Virginia; Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia; and Baltimore-Washington International Airport located just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Educational institutions in the city include the Catholic University of America, Georgetown University and Howard University.
Named after the nation's first president, Washington houses the core of all three branches of the U.S. federal government. The city also serves as the headquarters of several national and international institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Although the city has a mayor and a municipal government, Congress has the ultimate authority over the city and district, whose residents do not have elected representatives in either branch of the federal legislature.
The genesis of Washington's designation as the capital of the newly formed United States of America came about in 1790 when Congress directed a new capital site to be located along the Potomac at a site chosen by President Washington. In December of 1800 the seat of government was transferred from Philadelphia to Washington and President John Adams became the first inhabitant of the White House. The layout of the new city was originally formulated by Maj. Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer. The city came under attack during the War of 1812 when British forces set fire to several public buildings, including the Capitol, the White House, and the Treasury building in August, 1814. During the Civil War, in July of 1864, Confederate forces made a brief raid into Washington and were later repelled, culminating in the Battle of Fort Stevens.
Washington, D.C. Attractions
Washington is home to dozens of national landmarks and attractions. The National Mall, which connects the White House and the Capitol buildings, is an open area containing several structures including the Washington Monument. Located nearby are other significant points of interest including the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, District of Columbia War Memorial, Albert Einstein Memorial, and the historic Franciscan Monastery.
The National Archives and the Library of Congress serve as repositories for thousands of historic documents of importance to the nation, including the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.
The city is also home to a significant number of museums, many of which are part of the world-famous Smithsonian Institution. Among the museums in the city are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum.
Washington is also a major center for the performing arts. Among its principal venues are the Lincoln Theatre and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet, and the Washington National Opera.
Other points of interest in the District of Columbia include the following:
- Blair House
- Folger Shakespeare Library
- Ford's Theatre
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and the Frederick Douglass Museum
- International Spy Museum
- National Building Museum
- National Geographic Society
- African American Civil War Memorial
- Discovery Creek Children's Museum of Washington
- DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Museum and Library
Washington is home to several sports franchises encompassing just about every major professional sport. Teams representing the city include the following:
- Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball): Nationals Park
- Washington Redskins (National Football League): FedExField (Landover, Maryland)
- Washington Wizards (National Basketball Association): Verizon Center
- Washington Mystics (WNBA): Verizon Center
- Washington Capitals (National Hockey League): Verizon Center
- D.C. United (Major League Soccer): RFK Stadium