What the guide won’t tell you when you visit the capital of USA

About Washington DC

The capital of U.S.A, Washington D.C., houses the country’s most important monuments, memorials, museums and other historical masterpieces. While your tour guide would tell you a lot about Washington DC, we’ve handpicked certain things that he wouldn’t.

CAPITOL BUILDING

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George Washington and Thomas Jefferson announced a $500 prize to the person who can submit the best architectural design for the Capitol Building. An entry that came after the deadline by one British doctor named William Thornton was finally selected.

There is a private subway underground with 3 lines and 6 stations that connect the Capitol to the other buildings in the Capitol Complex. It is adorned with artwork of George Washington with angels and flags of all the 50 states of US. However, only those having a specific ID card are allowed to ride!

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From the times of gender segregation, separate ladies and gentlemen galleries are still labeled in the House of Representatives and Senate.

In the interior of the dome, there is a painting of George Washington sitting as a deity in heaven.

There is saying here: ‘all roads lead to the Capitol’ this is because the city is divided in 4 quadrants with the Capitol as the epicenter. In fact, DC is a planned city by Pierre Charles l’Enfant and the city plan resembles that of Amsterdam and Paris.

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WHITE HOUSE

Just like the Capitol, there was a competition to design the White House too which was won by Irish- born architect Mr. James Hoban who may have taken inspiration from the Leinster House in Dublin. The White House has one more twin – Château de Rastignac in France.

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It takes 570 gallons of white paint to cover its entire exterior surface

White House has not only housed Presidents and his family, but also various animals such as cats, dogs, horses, ponies, hamsters, guinea pigs, chickens, canaries, raccoons, crocodiles, lion cubs, a sheep, a bear, a lizard, a pig, a badger, a blue macaw, a garter snake, a hen, a rooster, a hyena, a barn owl, a rabbit, a donkey, a bobcat, a thrush, a goose, a mockingbird, an antelope, a wallaby and a pygmy hippo.

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WASHINGTON MONUMENT

The world’s tallest freestanding stone structure held together only by gravity & friction is just a massive let down to the original design by Mr. Robert Mills. His design was to have a pantheon with 30 columns commemorating the revolutionary war heroes, a statue of Mr. George Washington riding a chariot and an obelisk would rise from the center of the Pantheon.

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Pope Pius IX donated a memorial stone from an ancient temple in Rome which led to immense rage from the anti-catholic Know Nothing Party. They took the stone, smashed it into pieces and threw it in the Potomac River. This, along with the outbreak of the Civil War brought a standstill to the construction of the monument. When the construction restarted, they could not get hold of the same stone from the Maryland quarry and imported stones from a Massachusetts quarry instead. Unsatisfied with that stone, they switched to a third quarry in Massachusetts and completed the monument. So, if you look carefully, there are 3 shades of color in the monument.

The original elevator ride to the top took 20 mins and was out of bounds to women and children.  They had to climb 897 stairs to enjoy a panoramic view.

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LINCOLN MEMORIAL

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Martin Luther King made the famous ‘I have a dream…’speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The step on which he stood has been marked too.

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VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL 

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Many people agree that the design of this memorial is one of the most powerful. Yet, when it was first released, it was scorned upon by many who called it ‘a scar’ and ‘a garish wall of shame’.

More than 1400 designs were submitted and the one sent by a 21 years old student of Yale named Maya Linn got approved.

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The wall was positioned in such a way that the Capitol’s reflection appeared in the granite.

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THOMAS JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

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This memorial is based on the Roman Pantheon, just like Jefferson’s home in Monticello

The original statue was made of plaster as metal was rationed during World War II. After the war, it was replaced by a 19-foot tall bronze statue it stands as, today.

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KOREAN WAR VETERANS MEMORIAL

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19 seven feet tall stainless steel statues of American soldiers are placed between bushes to resemble the Korean terrain in the Korean War. The reflective quality of the surrounding walls creates an appearance of 38 soldiers, representative of the 38th parallel.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING MEMORIAL

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The MLK Memorial was made in China using 159 pieced of pink Chinese granite by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin.

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ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

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Every time a soldier is buried, an Arlington Lady is present. There are about 65 Arlington Ladies, and since 1973, the Arlington Ladies have ensured that no Soldier is ever buried alone.

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The Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery contains remains of those soldiers who could not be identified in the various wars. The unknown Vietnam soldier was identified by DNA testing and was returned to his family in 1998.

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Very close to this cemetery is a museum opened by the Drug Enforcement Agency where you can learn everything about the drug field – booby traps, opium dens, medicines containing something illegal, the history of heroin, narco-terrorism, drug cartels, celebrities who died of overdose and so much more! Visit it between 10 am – 4 pm from Tue – Fri.

Another museum you can visit is the Newseum where every Pulitzer Prize winning photo is displayed along with a video or placard explaining its story. You can also take a shot at giving a weather report!

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There is a tradition in D.C. called the “Running of the Interns”. Whenever the Supreme Court hands down a groundbreaking ruling, the decision is given to the interns who wait patiently outside the courtroom. They are then required to sprint 300 feet to where the network broadcasts hold their positions. Arriving at your network first is an intern badge of honor and the intern may get offers from many networks afterward.

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If you have not heard, the Washington National Cathedral has a grotesque of Darth Vader. You heard it right – Darth Vader! Apparently in the 80s, the cathedral held a sculpture design competition for kids and the winning entry got a spot in the Cathedral. It is difficult to see it with the naked eye, though.

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If you’re going to visit DC in May, try to attend Passport DC, a cultural festival where about 70 embassies open up their gates and let everyone have a taste of their culture. Food, art, dance, fashion, music, education, exhibitions and more take place here and they are all for free!

There is so much about Washington DC. that would make you feel like you’re in the most important city in the world… maybe it’s just in the air there. But one thing’s for sure, it must be visited at least once in your lifetime.

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“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

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