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National WWII Memorial

National WWII Memorial

Between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial is one of DC’s newer landmarks. It opened in 2004 to honor the 16 million people who served in the country’s armed forces during World War II. The fountains, pillars and plaques form a circle that’s particularly impressive when it’s lit up at night. Don’t miss the obvious photo op: you in front of the pillar with your home state’s name engraved on it. 960 1280

Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Newseum

Newseum

Read all about it at this museum, whose new building near the National Mall opened in 2008. It examines both world events through the eyes of the media and the history of journalism itself. Among its 15 galleries are sections of the Berlin Wall, stories about First Amendment rights, multimedia exhibits on the digital revolution, and front pages from American and international newspapers. In the Interactive Newsroom, visitors can test their own reporting skills to create a newspaper story or a TV news broadcast. 960 1280

Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images  

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

This monument for the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president cuts a fine silhouette from across the Tidal Basin. The view is especially beautiful in the spring when the cherry trees around the water’s edge are in bloom. Don’t start the trek around to the memorial unless you’re wearing comfortable shoes — the walk is longer than it looks. But on the way, you can also check the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which opened in 2011, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial off your list. Or get a different perspective in the summer by renting a paddleboat on the Tidal Basin. 960 1280

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images  

National Zoo

National Zoo

Bao Bao may be growing up, but it’s still exciting to see the young panda and her parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. The cub, born Aug. 23, 2013, will eventually be sent to China, but in the meantime, visitors are lining up to catch a glimpse of her playing or eating. While Bao Bao is the main attraction, she isn’t the only baby at the free Smithsonian zoo: The big cats exhibit features a pair of Sumatran tiger cubs, also born in August 2013, and 6 African lion cubs, born in 2 litters in early 2014. And of course, you can’t miss the gorillas, orangutans, Asian elephants, American bison and hundreds of other animals. 960 1280

The Washington Post/Getty Images  

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The reflective, black granite wall honors American soldiers who died or went missing in the Vietnam War, and it is inscribed with more than 58,000 names. Even if no one you know is listed there, take a contemplative moment to grasp the enormity of it all. For those who are looking for a specific name, there are alphabetical catalogs at the memorial entrances that give a panel and row number for each person. 960 1280

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images  

Eastern Market

Eastern Market

This is not your typical neighborhood farmers market. While Eastern Market, located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, does offer fresh produce and flowers, it also lines up vendors selling everything from furniture and jewelry to cakes and pottery. The indoor section is open every day except Monday, but on the weekends, the market moves outside, too, and becomes a gathering place with live music and local food. Why bother with one of those “I Heart DC” T-shirts when you can shop for a unique, handmade souvenir? 960 1280

Maddie Meyer  

Georgetown

Georgetown

There’s plenty to explore in one of DC’s oldest and most famous neighborhoods. Stroll along cobblestone sidewalks and imagine all the history that has been viewed through the windows of those row houses. Go on a shopping spree on M Street, where you’ll find both big-name retailers and intimate boutiques. But don’t spend all your money: You’ll need to have some left so you can indulge in the amazing dining and nightlife options in the area. Start with appetizers and cocktails on the waterfront while enjoying a beautiful view of the Potomac. 960 1280

Hisham Ibrahim  

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

The 555-foot obelisk dedicated to George Washington towers over the city and can be spotted even from Virginia. It was closed for repairs after being damaged in a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August 2011, but the landmark finally reopened in May 2014. Free tickets to go inside and ride to the top are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Or you can simply bask in its glory with a picnic or a game of catch on the surrounding lawn. 960 1280

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images  

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

Examine all the evidence as you make your way through the largest collection of international spy-related artifacts on public display. Visitors will learn about the role espionage has played throughout history, from Moses to Stalin, and see the tools of the trade, including tiny cameras, hidden messages, concealed weapons and more. Wannabe agents can sign up for Operation Spy, an interactive experience that challenges participants to find the clues and crack the case. 960 1280

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images  

East Potomac Golf Course

East Potomac Golf Course

Even if you can’t hit the fairway to save your life, at least you’ll get a great view of the monuments when you tee it up at East Potomac. Its 36 holes, split among the appropriately named Red, White and Blue courses, crisscross an island right next to the Tidal Basin. The site is also a great place to work on your swing on the heated driving range in the winter, see the cheerful cherry blossoms in the spring, or bring the family for a round of mini-golf in the summer. 960 1280

Bloomberg/Getty Images  

Museums on the National Mall

Museums on the National Mall

The great thing about the National Mall is that you can roam in and out of the 10-plus museums as you please — entry to them is free. Check out an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art (pictured); pop into the Air and Space Museum to see the Wright brothers’ plane; and swing by the Museum of American History to examine the flag that inspired the national anthem, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, and Michelle Obama’s 2009 inauguration dress. Spend as much or as little time as you want in each spot without wasting the cost of admission. And in between, find a grassy spot to sit and people-watch under the imposing shadow of the Capitol. 960 1280

Luke1138/iStock/Getty Images  

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill

When you’re ready to refuel for more DC adventures, stop for a meal or a drink at the city’s oldest saloon. The Old Ebbitt Grill was established in 1856 on the edge of Chinatown. The current location on 15th Street is just a block from the White House. It’s a popular spot for politicos, and even presidents including Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt are said to have frequented the bar. The restaurant is known for its oysters, but it also serves breakfast and a wide selection of entrees and sandwiches. 960 1280

Jason Colston/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center

Long day of sightseeing? Sit back and soak up some culture at one of several venues inside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra, free shows on the Millennium Stage, blockbuster Broadway tours such as Wicked and The Book of Mormon — the schedule has something for everyone. After the last curtain call, make sure to venture up to the roof deck, where you can get a panoramic view of the city all lit up.  960 1280

Hisham Ibrahim/Photolibrary/Getty Images  

US National Arboretum

US National Arboretum

This 446-acre site features a number of gardens and collections that can be traversed via car, bike, bus tour, tram or foot. Escape the city life among the dogwoods, azaleas, ferns and magnolias — you’re even allowed to bring your dog. Don’t miss the bonsai museum or the Capitol columns, 22 pillars that became part of the Capitol building in 1828. They were removed 30 years later because they couldn’t sufficiently support the dome, which was built bigger than planned. The columns didn’t make their way to the arboretum until the 1980s, but they have become the site’s most photographed feature.  960 1280

Bob Balestri/iStock/Getty Images  

Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre

Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Visit the on-site museum, which details his presidency and assassination, and the Petersen House across the street, where he was taken for treatment and ultimately died a few hours later. Ford’s Theatre is also still a working performance venue, so if you like a little entertainment with your history lesson, get tickets for a show. 960 1280

Paul Whitfield/Doorling Kindersley/Getty Images  

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

For visitors who are interested in the law and the actual procedures of the federal government, a stop at the US Supreme Court is a must. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there on a day of oral arguments, which are open to the public. Regardless, though, visitors can tour the building, view the current exhibitions and, when the court is not in session, check the schedule of courtroom lectures. Just note that the building is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, so leave it off your weekend itinerary. 960 1280

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images  

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Venture across the river into Virginia to explore this moving site, whose 624 acres honor those who served the United States. The peaceful, beautiful landscape is dotted with more than 400,000 graves, including those of prominent figures such as Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, and Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who designed the layout of Washington, DC. You’ll also want to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame burning at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, one of only 2 presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery (the other is William Taft).  960 1280

Peter Gridley/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images  

Liberty Bell
National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center

This fascinating museum in Philadelphia located in the heart of the Independence Mall area is devoted solely to preserving the legacy of the United States Constitution. This ultra-modern, 160,000-square-foot Center explores the history of the Constitution as well as highlights its relevance in Americans' everyday lives. In addition to interactive displays and high-tech exhibits, the center regularly hosts educational seminars, debates and speakers from all manner of disciplines, like political luminaries, journalists and scholars. 960 1280

G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia™  

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary first opened in 1829 with an unusual penal premise: reform criminals by keeping them imprisoned in complete isolation -- better-known today as solitary confinement. A number of high-profile criminals were imprisoned here over its 142-year history, including Al Capone, whose well-decorated cell can be seen during a tour of the facility. Eastern State has long been said to be haunted, and a number of television shows, including Ghost Adventures, have explored the paranormal while filming here. Each Halloween, the structure is converted into the famous "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Franklin Court

Franklin Court

Visit the site where Benjamin Franklin's house once stood in what is now called Franklin Court. Franklin was serving as emissary to England and France during most of the home's construction, and his wife, Deborah was responsible for overseeing much of its construction. Franklin ultimately died here in 1790, and the house was eventually demolished in the early 1800s. Today, the site lies tucked between the hubs of Market St. and Chestnut St. and visitors must pass through a brick archway to reach the site. 960 1280

Garrett Ziegler, flickr  

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo

Zoo lovers flock (yes, pun intended) to America's oldest zoo, opened in 1874, to marvel at the 42 acres of habitats filled with more than 1,300 animals. Located in West Fairmount Park in a Victorian garden-like setting, the zoo's highlights include Big Cat Falls, home to tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars, as well as the McNeil Avian Center, a rainforest habitat where visitors will discover more than 100 bird species, including many rare and endangered ones, from around the globe. 960 1280

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Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell -- and its memorable crack -- stands as America's most iconic symbol of independence and liberty. Commissioned in 1751 for the Pennsylvania State House and cast in England, the 2,000-lb. bell cracked shortly after it was brought to America. It was recast using metal from the original bell, and yet, even the new bell wasn't without flaw. Upon being rang in 1846 to commemorate George Washington's birthday, the bell cracked again, and has not been rung since. Today it is housed in a 13,000-square-foot glass gazebo, a structure which also features numerous interactive history displays. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Franklin Square

Franklin Square

Philadelphia is a city of bucolic squares, and Franklin Square is 1 of the 5 original ones laid out by William Penn in his city plan. A stunning marble fountain dating back to 1838 serves as the 7.5-acre square's centerpiece, but visitors, particularly the wee ones, tend to be more enamored with the adjacent Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, a nearby 18-hole miniature golf course and the tasty SquareBurger hamburger stand. 960 1280

J. Holder for Visit Philadelphia™  

Betsy Ross House

Betsy Ross House

Though historians may debate the veracity of whether Betsy Ross truly did sew our nation's first flag of 13 stars and 13 stripes, visitors can learn about the life and times of the famed seamstress on a tour of the Betsy Ross house. This tiny, well-restored property on Arch Street is one of the city's most popular historic attractions. Ross is believed to have rented the home, and having been newly widowed, worked as a seamstress and upholsterer, often sewing flags for American ships. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

As the site of the signing of both the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the US Constitution in 1787, Independence Hall ranks as one of America's most important historic landmarks. Guided tours of the Hall convene in the courtroom where the 56 brave men defied the King of England by signing the Declaration and then continued to the Assembly Room where 11 years later delegates from 12 colonies convened to set forth the nation's principles of freedom and democracy in the Constitution. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Elfreth's Alley

Elfreth's Alley

Dating back to 1702, Elfreth's Alley has earned its title of "our nation's oldest residential street." Indeed, the narrow, storied alleyway is America's oldest continuously inhabited street, and this meticulously maintained cobblestone and brick throughway is a charmer. Twice a year, in June and during the Christmas holidays, residents open their houses up for visitors to tour. Two of the homes have been converted into the Elfreth's Alley Museum, open year-round. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

United States Mint

United States Mint

In 1792, when Philadelphia served as the nation's capital, the Coinage Act proclaimed the creation of the United States Mint. The opening of the Mint helped establish the fledgling nation's identity, and now, more than 220 years later, at least half of America's circulating coins are still produced here. Free, self-guided tours allow visitors to learn the steps of the minting process, watch the current minting process from high above the production floor on a catwalk, and see the nation's first coining press from 1792. 960 1280

J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia™  

Longfellow House -- Washington’s Headquarters
Longfellow House -- Washington’s Headquarters

Longfellow House -- Washington’s Headquarters

For almost 50 years, this mid-Georgian style property was the home of Henry W. Longfellow, the noted American 19th-century poet. It also served as the headquarters of George Washington during the Siege of Boston, from July 1775 to April 1776. Longfellow National Historic Site is full of furnishings, decorative arts, archival materials and beautiful gardens. 960 1280

Nancy Baym, flickr  

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

This 221-foot monument marks the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution: On June 17, 1775, American colonists went up against the powerful British army during the famous Bunker Hill battle. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

JFK Birthplace

JFK Birthplace

Visit the birthplace of America's 35th president, John F. Kennedy, in Brookline, MA. This national historic site has been restored to its 1917 appearance, and includes tours of the 9-room house where Kennedy family photographs, furnishings and mementos are on display. 960 1280

Wally Gobetz, flickr  

Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Iron Works, a 9-acre national park on the banks of the Saugus River, celebrates the birthplace of the American iron and steel industries, with working waterwheels, hot forges, mill, and a 17th-century home and river basin. 960 1280

James Saunders, flickr  

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime, the first American National Historic Site, remembers the early seagoing history of New England with historic buildings, wharves and reconstructed tall ships. 960 1280

Harvey Barrison, flickr  

Hartwell Tavern

Hartwell Tavern

See how Americans lived during the outbreak of the American Revolution by visiting Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th- century home and tavern located on "Battle Road” in Minute Man National Historical Park. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island

For a mix of history and beautiful scenery, Boston Harbor Islands is a must-see when visiting Beantown. Spectacle Island is a popular day trip from the city, offering panoramic views of downtown Boston, as well as sandy beaches and sunset clambakes. 960 1280

Eric Kilby, flickr  

Lowell Park

Lowell Park

In its day Lowell Park was heralded as the "Venice of the United States" due to its extensive technologically advanced canal system. Today, Lowell brings in visitors with its historically replicated trolleys, canal cruises, museums, and concerts and events throughout the year. 960 1280

Elizabeth Thomsen, flickr  

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted

The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic site is home to “Fairsted,” the world's first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design. See the original plans and drawings of Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of American landscape architecture. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

New Bedford Whaling Museum

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Learn the history behind the US whaling industry at New Bedford Whaling Museum. Its exhibits include a 37-foot humpback whale skeleton, the largest ship model in the world and a replica of the whaling bark Lagoda. 960 1280

istolethetv, flickr  

Abiel Smith School

Abiel Smith School

Abiel Smith School, a site along the Boston Black Heritage Trail, commemorates the first public school for African-American children. The school was named after a white philanthropist who left money in his will to the city of Boston for the education of African-American children. 960 1280

Tim Pierce, Wikimedia Commons  

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Tour the river, canal, mill villages and beautiful landscape of the Blackstone River Valley, a quiet stretch of land that runs through Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The area is also known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. 960 1280

Doug Kerr, flickr  

Adams National Historic Park, Old House

Adams National Historic Park, Old House

Visit the birthplace homes of presidents John and John Quincy Adams at the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, MA. The Old House, pictured here, was home to 4 generations of the Adams family. 960 1280

Daderot, Wikimedia Commons  

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