Thanks for coming back for part two of our blog about Washington D.C. In this section we’re going to talk about the US Government buildings that you should check out on your trip. If you didn’t read part one yet, please go back and check it out. (Washington D.C. Part One)
Naturally, there are a lot of government buildings in Washington D.C. (The United States has a lot of government, it needs a lot of buildings.) I’m just going to point you to a few that I really think are great places to visit.
The White House is the most iconic residence in the USA. (Which is funny, because you think it’d be more colorful. The Blue House has a nice ring. My wife says the plain color is tasteful, but what do I know.) This is where all of the presidents since John Adams have lived and worked, and as such it is stock full of artifacts from the highest echelons of American history. It is well worth a visit, but beware, you must have reservations for a tour to be allowed access, and it is a very tightly controlled facility.
The Supreme Court Building and the US Capitol Building are the headquarters of the Supreme Court and the congress respectively. When the Supreme Court is not in session most of the public areas of the building are available for tours. It really is a fantastic building if you like architecture, and I highly recommend going for the tour. When the Court is in session, it is possible to get tickets to see the Supreme Court in action, however it is difficult to get in, and it is definitely not for kids, because any disruption is cause for immediate removal from the building. The Capitol Building is much the same. Tours are available of the chambers of the Senate and the House, and I took that tour as a child and I remember being in awe the I was standing where I would be able to see such high government officials. (I know, I was a weird child.)
The National Archives is one of the most fantastic buildings in D.C. It is where all of the important documents of the government are stored, and most importantly it is home to the Charters of Freedom. (Which totally sounds like an old school superhero team.) The Charters of Freedom is the collective name for the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These three documents defined what America would be, and how she would function. Amazingly, in the world of technology that we live in, we have access to the contents of these documents anytime, and I would recommend that they are well worth studying, but seeing them in person is a really mind-blowing experience. They are written in elaborate cursive, on huge sheets of paper, (or paper-like substance) and sunken in counter-tops to protect them from degradation, and as you stand there hunched over trying to figure out whether that letter is an “S” or and “F” you really find yourself fascinated that you are looking at a document written and signed by the men who made America. (Sidenote: The last time we were there I was commenting to my wife on just how huge the documents are and a guy standing next to me said “Yes, this is what we should still do. If everything the government wanted to enact had to be handwritten on twenty by forty inch sheets in triplicate before it could be voted on, they’d probably be a lot more careful.” I had a great laugh, so thank you civically minded stranger.) The National Archives also contains many other classic documents, like a copy of the Magna Carta, the Emancipation Proclamation, treaties, military records, inauguration speeches, and many more documents that helped shape America.
Be sure to join us for part three where we talk about the best free thing in America, the Smithsonian Museums. (Washington D.C. Part Three)