The majestic Capitol building stands at the center of the city, allowing unobstructed views of the best known attractions and centers of government. The giant open space of the Mall is marked off by the various museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest cluster of museums in the world. The National Museum of the American Indian pays tribute to the original American settlers. The National Air and Space Museum celebrates the nation's achievements in flight and space exploration, from the Wright brothers first biplane to the Apollo moon mission and beyond. Visitors line up daily for the Natural History, American History, and Science Museums to explore the wonders of history, science, and technology, and to view the famous Hope Diamond. The Smithsonian Institution also includes the world-famous Sackler, Freer and Hirshhorn galleries. Art lovers appreciate the nearby National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of American Art.
Looking past the mall, the Washington monument stands 505 feet above the city. It was the tallest man made structure in America from its completion until the early 1900's. Behind this monument is the reflecting pool and the memorials dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln and to those whose lives were lost in World War II, the Vietnam War , and the Korean conflict. New to the area of the tidal basin, and facing the Jefferson Memorial, a memorial to Franklin Roosevelt lies on the Potomac River. Not far from there, the National Holocaust Museum hosts millions of visitors each year.
The offices of the various government agencies take up much of the remainder of the city, and most offer free tours to the public. The White House also offers free tours, and the lines can sometimes stretch around the adjoining block to visit "the people's house." Just outside the city, the National Zoo houses thousands of animals on 163 acres of parkland. Across the river in Arlington, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands amidst the somber majesty of Arlington National Cemetery, where John and Robert Kennedy are also buried.
Washington has many distractions from politics. Washington's theater life is thriving; it is second only to New York in number of theater seats. The National Symphony and other musical companies play full schedules. As a temporary home to diplomats from around the world, Washington's restaurant offerings are among the finest and most diverse in the country.
The beauty and grandeur of the nation's capital continue to captivate the millions of American and international tourists who visit Washington, D.C. each year.
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