Article Overview: Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
Historic Sites In Washington D.C. More Than Just Parks has 20 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing these articles for More Than Just Parks.
Now if you’re planning a trip to our nation’s capitol then one book that I highly recommend is: A History Lover’s Guide to Washington, D.C.: Designed for Democracy (History & Guide) by Alison Fortier.
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 20 Historic Sites in Washington D.C. that you’ll want to see. These are our top 10 sites which we will provide in reverse order. We’ve got amazing monuments, fascinating exhibits, historic museums, legendary figures and so much more.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents: Historic Sites in Washington DC
Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Washington D.C.?
- Top 20 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Top 15 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Top 10 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- The Top 5 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- List Of Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Washington D.C.?
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
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We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
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Top 20 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
20. International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum focuses on the history and practices of espionage. It features a large collection of spy artifacts, as well as first-person accounts from intelligence officers and experts.
Visitors can also test their own spy skills at various interactive exhibits throughout the museum, which include activities such as remembering cover identities, cracking codes, and uncovering hidden locations.
The museum is particularly appealing to those with an interest in espionage, as seen in popular culture through movies such as James Bond.
Things To Do At The Museum
Some of the things to see and do at the museum include:
- Exhibits on the history of espionage and spycraft, including the tools, techniques, and technology used by spies.
- Hands-on exhibits and interactive displays, such as a virtual reality experience that puts visitors in the role of a spy.
- A collection of spy gadgets and tools, such as secret cameras, disguises, and encrypted communication devices.
- Displays on famous spies and spy operations, including those from the Cold War and beyond.
- Opportunities to learn about spycraft and the skills used by spies, such as codebreaking, surveillance, and covert operations.
- Special exhibitions on various aspects of espionage and spycraft, such as the role of women in espionage or the use of technology in spy operations.
Visitors to the International Spy Museum can expect a fun, educational, and immersive experience, with plenty of opportunities to learn about the fascinating world of spies and espionage.
19. Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War was a conflict fought between North and South Korea from 1950 to 1953, with the United States and United Nations forces joining the South to fight against the North’s attempt to unify the Korean peninsula under communist rule.
After the war, many American veterans returned home to a country that was not eager to commemorate the war.
However, as time passed, the perspective on the war and its significance changed, leading to the creation of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. as a place of remembrance for the Americans who served, fought and sacrificed during the war.
The memorial honors their service and sacrifice for the cause of freedom.
18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site preserves the home and legacy of Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist, writer, and orator of the 19th century.
The site includes the restored home of Douglass where he lived from 1877 until his death in 1895. Visitors can tour the home and see original artifacts belonging to Douglass, including furniture, books, and photographs.
The site also includes a visitor center with exhibits on Douglass’s life and contributions to the abolitionist movement and civil rights, as well as a short film about his life.
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site serves as a reminder of Douglass’s important role in American history and his contributions to the fight for civil rights and equality for all.
17. Ford’s Theater
Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. is a national historic site and theater that is most known for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.
Lincoln was attending a play at Ford’s Theatre when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer and actor, in an attempt to aid the dying Confederacy.
Lincoln was taken across the street to the Petersen boarding house, where he died the next morning. The theater has been preserved as a memorial to Lincoln and the events of that tragic night.
Things To See At Ford’ Theater
Some of the things to see at Ford’s Theater include:
- The Theater: Visitors can tour the theater itself, which has been restored to its appearance at the time of Lincoln’s assassination.
- The Lincoln Box: The box where President Lincoln was sitting at the time of his assassination is preserved and on display.
- Exhibits on the assassination: Visitors can learn about the events leading up to the assassination, including the motives and actions of John Wilkes Booth.
- The Petersen House: The house across the street from the theater where President Lincoln was taken after being shot, and where he died the next day.
- The Lincoln Museum: A museum located in the basement of the theater, featuring exhibits on Lincoln’s life, presidency, and legacy.
- The Center for Education and Leadership: A museum and cultural center located next door to the theater, offering visitors a chance to learn about the history and impact of Lincoln’s presidency.
Visitors to Ford’s Theater can expect a thought-provoking and emotional experience as they learn about one of the most significant events in American history.
16. Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is located at the base of Capitol Hill. It is surrounded by several government buildings that are closely connected to Eisenhower’s legacy, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Aviation Administration, Voice of America, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It’s dedicated to commemorating Eisenhower’s contributions to the country both as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II and as the 34th President of the United States.
The memorial features various sculptures, bas-reliefs and quotations from his speeches and addresses, including a bronze sculpture of him as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, a sculptural grouping of him as President, and a life-sized sculpture of young Eisenhower.
The memorial also features a transparent tapestry that features an image of France’s Normandy coastline made from artistically woven stainless steel cable, representing the peace and victory won by Eisenhower in World War II.
Through his self-sacrifice, dedication and belief in the American spirit, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial honors his significant contributions to the nation and his role as a world statesman.
Top 15 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
15. Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has the power of judicial review, which means that it has the authority to interpret the Constitution and federal laws and to determine their constitutionality.
The Supreme Court is composed of nine justices, who are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices serve for life or until they choose to retire.
The Chief Justice of the United States, who is the head of the Supreme Court, is also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It’s located in the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.
The First Monday In October
The court’s term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until late June of the following year. During the term, the court hears and decides on a wide range of cases that have been appealed to it from lower federal and state courts.
The court also holds conferences to discuss cases and make decisions on which cases to hear. The court’s decisions are final and binding on all other courts in the United States.
The Supreme Court plays a vital role in interpreting and upholding the Constitution, and its decisions can have a significant impact on the country’s laws, politics and society.
The Court Building is open to the public on a limited basis, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the building and see the courtroom, where the justices hear oral arguments and decide cases, as well as the Great Hall and the courtroom’s historic spaces.
14. World War I Memorial
The World War I Memorial honors the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, including the 116,516 who made the ultimate sacrifice. The memorial was built by the United States World War I Centennial Commission, designed by architect Joseph Weishaar and officially unveiled on April 16, 2021.
The memorial incorporates the existing memorial to Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during the war. It also includes the Peace Fountain, a cascade of water behind an excerpt from the poem “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak” by Archibald MacLeish, engraved quotes and references to the theaters, campaigns and battles in which American forces participated and exhibits about the role of the United States in World War I.
A Soldier’s Journey
The central feature of the memorial, a sculpture titled “A Soldier’s Journey”, a 58-foot-long bas-relief by Sabin Howard depicting the journey of a recurring American soldier and representing the larger American experience of World War I is scheduled to be installed in 2024.
The World War I Memorial is located at the former Pershing Park, 1.76-acres along Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 14th Street NW and 15th Street NW, across from the White House Visitor Center.
It builds on the original design of Pershing Park, which was dedicated at the site in 1981 as the American Expeditionary Forces Memorial.
13. National Mall & Memorial Parks
The National Mall & Memorial Parks encompasses some of the most iconic and historically significant landmarks and monuments in the United States. The park is home to many of the city’s most famous attractions, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, as well as many other monuments and memorials.
The park is also home to the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, which include the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and many more.
The Smithsonian museums provide visitors with a wealth of information and exhibits on American history, art, and culture.
Hoe To Many Iconic Landmarks
The National Mall is also home to many other iconic landmarks, such as the U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The National Mall is a popular destination for visitors, and it offers a wide range of activities and events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and guided tours.
The National Mall & Memorial Parks is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington D.C. and it offers visitors the opportunity to learn about American history, culture, and art while enjoying the beautiful architecture and monuments. It’s a place that embodies the national identity of the United States and its rich history.
12. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum located in Washington, D.C. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is one of the most popular museums in the United States.
The museum has a vast collection of over 126 million specimens and artifacts, including fossils, rocks, minerals, plants, animals, and cultural artifacts. The museum’s collection represents the diversity of life on Earth and the planet’s natural history.
The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including evolution, biodiversity, and conservation. Visitors can see a wide variety of specimens, such as a T-Rex skeleton, a blue whale skeleton, ancient Egyptian mummies, and many more.
Some of the most popular exhibits include the Butterfly Habitat, the Hall of Human Origins, the Hall of Fossils, the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals and the Ocean Hall.
11. U.S. Capitol
The United States Capitol is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government. It is located in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall.
The building was completed in 1800 and has been the meeting place of the U.S. Congress since then. The dome of the Capitol is a prominent feature of the building and is visible from many locations in Washington D.C.
The building has undergone many renovations and expansions over the years, and today it is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public for tours.
Top 10 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
10. African American Civil War Museum
The African American Civil War Museum, also known as the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, is a museum and memorial in Washington D.C. that is dedicated to the history and legacy of African American soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.
It was founded in 1999, and is located at the historic U Street neighborhood of Washington D.C. The museum features exhibits that highlight the contributions of African American soldiers and sailors, and provides a comprehensive look at their experiences during the Civil War.
The museum also features artifacts and documents from the period, as well as interactive exhibits and educational programs.
The African American Civil War Memorial, located outside the museum, honors the 209,145 African American soldiers and sailors who fought for freedom during the Civil War.
Things To See & Do At The Museum
Some of the things to see and do at the museum include:
- Exhibits on the role of African American soldiers: Visitors can learn about the experiences and contributions of the approximately 200,000 African American soldiers who served in the Union army during the Civil War.
- Artifacts and memorabilia: The museum features a collection of artifacts, including uniforms, weapons, and personal items belonging to African American soldiers, as well as documents, photographs, and other historical materials.
- Interactive displays and multimedia exhibits: Visitors can engage with hands-on exhibits, videos, and other multimedia displays that bring the history of African American soldiers to life.
- Talks and lectures: The museum offers a variety of talks, lectures, and events, featuring historians, scholars, and other experts who discuss the history and legacy of African American soldiers during the Civil War.
- Genealogy resources: The museum provides resources and support for those interested in tracing their family history and genealogy, including information on how to research African American soldiers who served during the Civil War.
Visitors to the African American Civil War Museum can expect a rich and inspiring experience as they learn about the role and contributions of African American soldiers during one of the most significant events in American history.
9. Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 88.5-acre island located in the Potomac River in Washington D.C., United States. The island is a national memorial dedicated to the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.
The island is located within the Potomac River and can be accessed by a footbridge that connects it to the Virginia shore. It’s a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers, and visitors interested in learning about Theodore Roosevelt and the natural history of the Potomac River.
It features a 17-foot bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the center of a stone plaza, which serves as the focal point of the island. The island also features a variety of hiking trails that wind through the dense woods and wetlands, providing visitors with an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the island.
There’s also an array of wildlife like deer, foxes and many species of birds, and a visitor center that provides information about the island’s history and ecology.
8. World War Two Memorial
The World War II Memorial is a national memorial in Washington D.C. that honors the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II, and the more than 400,000 who died. The memorial was dedicated on April 29, 2004, and is located on the National Mall, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The World War II Memorial is a large, circular plaza that features a central fountain and two 43-foot tall arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of the war. The arches are inscribed with the years “1941” and “1945,” marking the beginning and end of American involvement in the war.
The plaza is surrounded by 56 granite columns, each representing a U.S. state or territory, and two stone pavilions, one representing the Atlantic and one the Pacific theater. Each column is inscribed with the name of the state or territory and the number of its fallen.
The memorial also features a Freedom Wall with 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war.
The World War II Memorial is a popular destination for visitors to the National Mall, and it is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
7. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial honors the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The memorial is located on the western shore of the Tidal Basin, near the National Mall, and covers 7.5 acres. It was dedicated in 1997, by President Bill Clinton, and is the first presidential memorial to depict more than one term of office.
The memorial is made up of four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR’s four terms in office, and each room is designed to represent the time period of that particular term.
The first room represents the Great Depression, with statues of the president seated, and a sculpture of a breadline. The second room represents the New Deal, with statues of the president and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and sculptures of rural and urban workers. The third room represents World War II, with statues of the president and a map of the war. The fourth room represents the post-war era, with statues of the president and a sculpture of the United Nations.
The memorial also features a waterfall, a pond, and a series of inscriptions of some of President Roosevelt’s famous quotes. The memorial is a popular tourist destination and it’s open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
6. The Washington Monument
Dedicated to America’s first president of the United States, George Washington, the Washington Monument is a large obelisk-shaped monument located in Washington D.C., United States. It is located on the National Mall, near the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool.
Construction of the monument began in 1848, but was interrupted by the Civil War and was not completed until 1884. The monument is made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss and it stands at 169 meters (555 ft) tall, making it the tallest stone structure and the tallest obelisk in the world. The monument’s interior is lined with marble, and contains a spiral staircase with 897 steps leading to the observation deck at the top.
Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the monument, where they can enjoy panoramic views of the city.
The Washington Monument is a popular tourist destination and a symbol of the United States and the capital city. The monument grounds also feature a small museum, which displays artifacts related to the history of the monument and George Washington.
The Top 5 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
President’s Park (The White House)
The White House is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington D.C. The White House was designed by Irish-born James Hoban and was built between 1792 and 1800. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams.
The White House is a large mansion with a neoclassical architectural style, and is made of white-painted Aquia sandstone.
The White House has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the residence. It also includes the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, and the Situation Room, where the President conducts official business.
It also has a beautiful garden and a swimming pool, a tennis court, a putting green, and a bowling lane.
The White House is open to the public for tours, but tours must be scheduled through a member of Congress and are available only on certain days. The White House also offers virtual tours and online exhibitions to the public.
Visitors can see the East Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, the Green Room, the State Dining Room, and the China Room, which are some of the most famous rooms in the White House.
4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington D.C., dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the country’s third president.
The memorial is located on the south bank of the Tidal Basin, near the National Mall. It is a neoclassical structure made of marble, with a large statue of Jefferson inside.
The statue is 19 feet tall and is made of marble. The Memorial has a circular shape with a dome and a portico with six Ionic columns.
The interior of the memorial features inscriptions of some of Jefferson’s most famous quotes. It is open to the public and is a popular tourist destination in Washington D.C.
3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The Memorial is located in the Tidal Basin area, adjacent to the National Mall, and is the first memorial dedicated to a non-president and the first to an African American in the National Mall.
The Memorial features a 30-foot statue of Martin Luther King Jr. carved out of granite, which depicts him emerging from a Mountain of Despair to lead the nation to a better future.
The statue is surrounded by a “Stone of Hope” which is a granite boulder that symbolizes the “mountain of despair” and the “stone of hope” that King referenced in his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Memorial also features inscriptions of quotes from King’s speeches and sermons, as well as a 4,000-square-foot inscription wall with 14 quotes from King’s speeches and writings.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a popular tourist destination in Washington D.C. and is open to the public year-round.
2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors members of the U.S. armed forces who served in the Vietnam War.
The memorial was built to recognize the sacrifices and contributions made by the veterans of the Vietnam War.
The Memorial consist of three parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the main memorial wall which is the most iconic part of the memorial.
The wall is made of black granite and is inscribed with the names of over 58,000 service members who died or were missing in action during the war. The names are listed in chronological order of their deaths, allowing visitors to find the name of a specific service member.
The Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, and it is a popular tourist destination in Washington D.C. It serves as a place of reflection and a symbol of the sacrifices made by those who served in the Vietnam War.
1. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The memorial is located on the National Mall and is considered one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States.
The Lincoln Memorial is a large, Greek Doric style temple, with 36 columns representing the states of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death, and a statue of Lincoln sitting in the central chamber.
The statue of Lincoln is 19-foot-tall and is made of white marble. It depicts the President sitting in a chair with a contemplative expression, with his left hand holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and his right hand resting on his knee.
The interior of the memorial features inscriptions of Lincoln’s famous speeches, including the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address.
The Lincoln Memorial is a popular tourist destination and it has served as a site for many historical events, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the Civil Rights Movement.
The Memorial is open to the public year-round, and it is a symbol of unity and freedom for the United States.
List Of Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Lincoln Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- President’s Park (White House)
- Washington Monument
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- Theodore Roosevelt Island
- African American Civil War Museum
- U.S. Capitol
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- National Mall & Memorial Parks
- World War I Memorial
- Supreme Court of the United States
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
- Ford’s Theater
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- International Spy Museum
To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
National Parks In Washington D.C.: 40 EPIC National Parks In Washington D.C.