Thanksgiving in Washington, DC Day Four: Capitol Building, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Petersen House, Enchant DC

On Friday morning, we had advanced reservations for a tour of the Capitol. Both Stinky and Blinky toured the Alabama Capital in fourth grade, and now they would get to see the Nation’s Capitol. We were pumped!

Capitol

The United States Capitol houses the Legislative Government: the Senate in the north wing, and the House of Representatives in the south wing. Congressional leaders also hold offices here. It is in this building that presidential inaugurations are held and where eminent persons lay in state. It is a symbol of democracy.

In our Monuments By Moonlight Tour, the guide referenced the Statue of Freedom, the statue crowning the dome of the Capitol. He added that she is the tallest statue in Washington, for nothing is higher than freedom.

Freedom’s model resides in Emancipation Hall, the heart of the Capitol Visitor Center. Here, we were able to better appreciate the intricate carvings and headdress.

Lining the walls of the Emancipation Hall are bronze and marble statues of notable Americans, including Helen Keller, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglas.

Emancipation Hall was named by Congress in 2007 to recognize the enslaved laborers and craftsmen who helped build the US Capitol. In the mid 1850’s, each state was invited to contribute two statues of its most notable citizens. Since then they have been displayed in National Statutory Hall, Rotunda, Capitol Visitor Center, and in corridors throughout the building.

Our guide gave us a brief history of the Capitol as we walked through. The original was burned by British troops in 1814 during America’s second war with Great Britain. The exterior walls survived, but the interior had to be completely rebuilt. There has been a series of preservation efforts and expansions since.

Undeniably, The Rotunda is the crowning jewel of the United States Capitol. It is a ceremonial space. Hanging in the Rotunda are paintings of scenes depicting the exploration and settlement of the United States. A frieze of American History is painted around the oculus. (Remember we saw a preview of the portion of the frieze featuring Pocahontas saving John Smith at the Museum of the American Indian? See if you can spot her below.)

The pictures hardly capture the beauty of it all. I literally gasped when I walked in. Stinky and Blinky were rapt with attention.

Our tour ended much too soon. We were able to use the underground tunnel to walk over to the Library of Congress, the research arm of Congress, and the largest library in the world.

Library of Congress

The original Library of Congress was also burned by the British in 1812. Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s expansive personal collection of books in 1815 to recover their losses.

A rare Guttenberg Bible in on display in the Great Hall. It is entirely printed on vellum – a fine parchment made from animal skin. It is one of only three perfect vellum copies known to exist.

Supreme Court

Next, we did a self-guided tour of the U.S. Supreme Court – the highest court in the nation. Blinky dreams of becoming a lawyer one day, so she was especially pleased.

I adore spiral staircases:

We even had lunch there:

Petersen House

Afterward, we headed to Ford Theatre where Lincoln was shot. It is still a working theatre, and we missed the last tour. We were able to cross over to the Petersen House where Lincoln died. A National Park Service guide walked us through the tiny space.

In the museum, we learned that tragedy only continued to follow the Lincoln family. Today, there are no direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln. However, his legacy lives on. The museum also created a book tower which is just a sampling of the books written about the President.

Later that afternoon, we ventured over to Yards Park, an up and coming trendy neighborhood. Our goal was to have a nice dinner {that was blogworthy} then walk over to Nationals Park for a treat. We had high expectations for restaurants, but only found overpriced options serving nouvelle cuisine. Not ideal for our crew. We settled on Dacha, the service was poor and the food was mediocre at best.

Enchant DC

But, our next stop was Enchant DC at Nationals Park. For a few weeks each year, Nationals Park is transformed into a winter wonderland, home to the Great Search – the world’s largest Christmas Light Maze and Market. “When a mischievous little Elf named Eddie accidentally sets Santa’s reindeer free, it takes all of DC to help find them.”  Though it was bitterly cold, we were up for the challenge!

We retired to our very warm hotel room where we almost immediately fell asleep, after a very full and exciting day.

Wondering what could possibly be next? Follow along:

As a full-service travel agent, I would love to be of assistance to you. I am passionate about what I do and pour that energy into crafting perfectly planned itineraries for you. Email ebony@classictravelconnection.com to learn more.

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