The Neo-Classical US Capitol was burnt down by the British in the War of 1812 but has since been restored and continues to play a major role in the US democracy experiment after 200 years. Free tours of the building can be pre-booked online or as a walk-up on the day.
One floor above the tour check-in area, an underground tunnel leads to the Library of Congress. The Thomas Jefferson Building is elaborately decorated although the actually library reading area is not accessible to the public. Instead, head upstairs to the viewing gallery for a glimpse.
There are various exhibitions tucked within the many rooms in the public area.
Across the street, the Supreme Court building opened in 1935 and visitors can view the proceedings on a first come first served basis or join a public lecture to understand more on the due process.
The US Botanical Garden offers a warm break from the winter cold, offering some 3000 plants from the tropics, for medicines, and more.
The various Smithsonian museums around the National Mall are free to enter, albeit you need to go through security and bag checks at each facility. The National Museum of the American Indian explains the plight of the various indigeneous groups, the treaties they made with the white man, the broken promises afterwards, followed by forced removal from their land.
The Museum of Natural History has a huge colection over 3 floors, with the rotunda graced by a 12-ton African elephant that first debuted in 1959.
The Hope Diamond was donated to the museum in 1958. Its history goes back to the 17th century when France's King Louis XIV first purchased it. Looted away during the French Revolution, it ended up in London, where it appeared at the Great London Exhibition in 1851. Money woes forced the owner to sell and it ended up crossing the Atlantic to New York City.
There is also an extensive collection of other gemstones and colourful rocks.
After a tiring visit to so many museums, relax along the National Mall, which has a wide green open space to enjoy.
You can also grab at bite at the visitors' center.
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