American history is etched in Washington’s streets. Presidential monuments and the world’s largest museum complex bring the past alive. Book your Washington hotel, and follow this guide to the very best of historic Washington.

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    America’s story is remembered along the 1-mile National Mall. The Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, U.S. Capitol Building and Smithsonian Institution museums line the route. Visit at dawn, when Lincoln’s statue glows in the morning sunshine.

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    Location: Washington, DC, USA

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +1 202-426-6841

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    Part of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History joins the best American icons in one place. Albert Einstein’s pipe, Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves are among the exhibits.

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    Location: 1300 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +1 202-633-1000

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    photo by Difference engine (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

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    Glide over the Tidal Basin in a pedal boat to see Washington’s monuments from the water. Historic sites include the imposing Jefferson Memorial, the cherry groves and the Roosevelt Memorial. The Washington Monument and White House are visible in the distance.

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    Location: 15th St. and Maine Ave. SW, 20024, Washington, DC, USA

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    The glitter and gold of the East Room is a highlight on tours of the White House, home to every president since 1800. Visitors must submit tour requests in advance, but the White House visitor center has photo and video displays and is open to all.

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    Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 7.30 am to 11.30 am, Friday and Saturday from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

    Phone: +1 202-456-1111

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    Names etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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    Like a gash in the earth, the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial reminds visitors of the divide caused by the Vietnam war. Veterans’ families attend the memorial regularly, and visitors will find faded flowers, notes and teddy bears to remind them of the painful human cost of war.

    Location: 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245, USA

    Open: 24/7

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    Drinks and people-watching at Martin’s Tavern

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    Tucked into the colonial brick neighborhood of Georgetown, Martin’s has been a gathering place for politicos since 1933 — President Kennedy proposed to Jackie Onassis here. The tavern has become a favorite people-watching haunt and a good place for drinks and dinner.

    Location: 1264 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 11 am to 1.30 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 2.30 am, Sunday from 8 am to 1.30 am

    Phone: +1 202-333-7370

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    photo by David (CC BY 2.0) modified

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    America’s roots at the National Archives

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    America’s most important documents are on display in Washington’s National Archives. Examine the faded Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then move on to the 13th-century Magna Carta, one of only four in existence.

    Location: 701 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20408, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +1 202-357-5000

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    Look up as you pass beneath the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Tower of Faces, a staggering three stories of photographs from a Lithuanian village destroyed by Nazis in 1941. The museum recounts the tragedy of the Holocaust and addresses genocide worldwide.

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    Location: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5.20 pm

    Phone: +1 202-488-0400

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    photo by Smash the Iron Cage (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

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    The front porch of secessionist General Robert E. Lee’s house is a good spot for viewing 200 acres of tidy white gravestones. It has been America’s national cemetery since the Civil War. American soldiers and dignitaries lie at Arlington, including President Kennedy and the astronauts of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.

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    Location: Arlington, VA 22211, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 877-907-8585

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    Set among the broad lawns of the Tidal Basin, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial is best explored slowly. Read the president’s inspirational quotes and view sculptures of his likeness. The memorial recounts the challenges of the Great Depression, World War II and Roosevelt’s personal battle with polio.

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    Location: 1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +1 202-426-6841

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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