Washington D.C.

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Both historic and hip, this all-American town is full of sightseeing-musts from historic government sites and colorful, ethnic enclaves to worthwhile architecture. All wonderfully accessible by foot and Washington D.C.'s excellent public transport, visitors will also find plenty of cafes and green spaces to reflect after a long day of sightseeing.

Things to do in Washington D.C.

Capitol Building

At the heart of American politics lies this domed structure. During your tour, pay attention to the Rotunda with its paintings depicting America's beginnings. Get there early to avoid fierce lines.

Capitol Hill, DC, 202-225-6827, www.aoc.gov
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Crime and Punishment Museum

This hands-on museum displays artifacts of Wild West outlaws and notorious Prohibition-era gangsters (Bonnie and Clyde's getaway car; Al Capone's jail cell). Visitors can test gun-slinging skills in a shooting gallery, pursue criminals in a high-speed chase simulator, attempt to outwit a lie detector, see the America's Most Wanted studio, and explore an authentic CSI crime lab.

575 7th St., NW, DC, 202-393-1099, www.crimemuseum.org
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Cruise the Harbor

  • See Washington from a unique perspective aboard a 600-person ship operated by Spirit City Cruises. Lunch cruises are both physically and intellectually satisfying - during the 2-hour journey guests enjoy the upscale buffet of hearty American cuisine, while a guide points out historical landmarks, including the Washington Monument, General's Row, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and Jones Point Lighthouse.

6th & Water Streets SW, Pier 4, DC, 866-302-2469, www.spiritcitycruises.com/dc/bridge.jsp
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Explore the C&O Canal

The historic C&O Canal originates in Georgetown and runs to Cumberland, Maryland; its scenic, shaded pathways can be explored on foot, by rented bicycle, or by an old-fashioned mule-drawn boat (the Georgetown Visitor's Center is the best place to find information about these activities and secure a seat on one of the boats). You'll feel like you've left the city even though you're just a stone's throw from one of Washington's most happening neighborhoods.

1057 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, DC, 202-653-5190, www.nps.gov/choh
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Holocaust Memorial Museum

Don't expect to speed through this moving museum. You'll benefit from taking your time, especially when it comes to the heartbreaking collection of thousands of shoes from death march victims.

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW, DC, 202-488-0400, www.ushmm.org
Tags: things to do | culture | history

Library of Congress

For the ultimate academic experience, visit the library. Comprised of three buildings, the unrivaled collection includes material in almost 500 languages. The earliest made baseball card is also a highlight.

101 Independence Ave. SE, DC, www.loc.gov
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National Portrait Gallery

This gallery reopened in 2006 after a $283-million makeover. Find portraits of everyone from presidential leaders like George Washington to pop icons like Marilyn Monroe in this 1836 Greek Revivalist building.

8th and F Sts. NW, DC, 202-633-8300, www.npg.si.edu
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The newest museum in Washington D.C. opened in April 2008 as a 7-level, 250,000-square-foot ode to the history of news. See intelligence in all of its forms, from the cuneiform bricks of ancient Sumeria to the New York Times of today.

555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., DC, 888-639-7386, www.newseum.org
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Visit these Smithsonian favorites: the National Archives (Constitution Ave. between Seventh and Ninth St NW; www.archives.gov), the Museum of Natural History (Tenth St. & Constitution Ave. NW; www.mnh.si.edu), and the National Museum of American History (4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW; www.americanhistory.si.edu).

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Spy City Tour

Get a for-your-eyes-only peek at D.C.'s secretive world of international espionage. The Spy City Tour allows visitors to explore their inner James Bond on trips to the city's most notorious spy hangouts and haunts, with exclusive video briefings from former high-level KGB and CIA agents. Price includes admission to the International Spy Museum.

800 F Street, NW, DC, 202-393-7798, www.spymuseum.org
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Take in a show at the Kennedy Center

The city's first-class performing arts center, also a monument to former President John F. Kennedy, is an architectural attraction as well as an excellent theatrical and musical venue. Designed by Edward Durrell Stone, the building boasts a grand main hall and an impressive collection of crystal chandeliers. The Opera House, Concert Hall, and Eisenhower Theatre regularly host the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera.

2700 F St. NW, DC, 800-444-1324, www.kennedy-center.org
Tags: smart splurge | things to do | culture | architecture

White House

Even more impressive up-close, you'll have to apply through your congressperson far in advance in order to get inside this familiar building. Alternatively, visit the White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave. NW).

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC, 202-456-2121, www.whitehouse.gov
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