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The National Mall in Washington, DC is within walking distance of a whole host of inspiring federal monuments, landmark buildings, and outstanding Smithsonian museums. It’s the perfect place to begin your sweeping tour of America’s capital city. Arlington’s National Cemetery, Alexandria’s mix of wildlife, arts, and inventions, and Fredericksburg’s old-fashioned attractions come together nicely for an interesting DC-Virginia getaway.
Start your Capitol tour at the National Mall, a two-mile-long grassy stretch of parkland located in the heart of Washington, featuring DC’s most renowned points of interest. Several major monuments and a Federal Landmark Building are located here, with the west and east ends bordered by the Lincoln Memorial and white-domed U.S. Capitol Building, respectively. The Reflecting Pool and several war memorials are situated between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, which stands like a sentinel at the middle of the National Mall lawn. Within easy walking distance are a number of Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Gallery of Art, and U.S. Botanic Gardens, and all are well worth visiting. Other standout DC attractions include the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where you can see U.S. paper money being produced; the Jefferson Memorial; National Zoological Park; and C&O Canal National Historic Park, where you can take a ride in a mule-drawn canal boat.
From Washington DC, take I-395 south into Arlington, Virginia. Just outside DC, Arlington National Cemetery is a hallowed burial ground for more than 285,000 honored dead, including President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Continue on I-395 south into Alexandria, for it’s time to dig out your binoculars. Bird watching, anyone? Alexandria’s Huntley Meadows Park is prime territory for observing more than 200 feathered species, as well as furry ones such as deer, fox, beaver, and otter. The park encompasses forests, wetlands, and (as its name implies) meadows. There’s a boardwalk and observation tower, and a consulting naturalist is on-site to address your questions.
At the three-story Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, you can interact with working artists in 82 studios and browse through six fascinating galleries that display ceramics, photography, and mixed-media art. Find out if you have what it takes to become an inventor at Alexandria’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Museum, where surprising facts and helpful tips about useful everyday inventions are presented. The museum’s exhibits are designed to “record, share, and preserve” America’s inventive spirit.
South of Alexandria, pick up I-95 south to Fredericksburg. For a handy overview of the city of Fredericksburg, then and now, consider taking a narrated trolley or carriage tour. If you’d like to step back in time at your own pace, visit George Washington’s Ferry Farm, the site of Washington’s childhood home. Also take a peek at the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, a preserved pharmacy and doctor’s office that dates back to the 1700s.