May 10, 2006

A TRIP TO OUR NATION'S CAPITAL

Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

When visiting Washington, D.C., the White House, Washington Monument, Capitol, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials tend to be the main attractions to tourists. After spending considerable time here over the past 14 years, Iâ??ve learned about an entirely different Washington, one that includes these important monuments and memorials to our celebrated political and military history, but one that also caters to specific interests of many different people. The worldâ??s most-visited museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, recently opened an auxiliary arm next to Dulles Airportâ??a mammoth hangar housing a space shuttle, SR-71 Blackbird, Concorde, and the Enola Gay to name a few. Visitors can drive or take a shuttle from the Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. For military history buffs, once youâ??ve seen the four war memorials on the Mall, itâ??s just a short Metro (subway) ride across the Potomac River to Arlington Cemetery where you can watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you have a particular interest in the Civil War, important battlefields are less than two hours away: Bull Run/Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg and Fredericksburg.From cherry blossoms in late March to brilliant fall foliage, gardens and parks boast a beautiful variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. The U.S. Botanic Garden sits one block west of the Capitol. Near the Washington Cathedral and National Zoo, you will find Hillwood, home-turned-museum of the sole heiress to the C.W. Post fortune. The Zoo is picturesque and kids will enjoy the newest addition to the Giant Panda family, Tai Shan, along with other animals. Thereâ??s a fee to park, but admission is free. It is easily accessible from the Metro. History and horticulture meet in the plantation homes of two former Presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Mount Vernon, George Washingtonâ??s home, is 15 miles south of downtown Washington, and Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, is located south near Charlottesville, Virginia. Both have magnificent houses and grounds and bear the marks of these great men and their extraordinary lives. Washington has many galleries, most notably the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall. Admission is free. The gallery houses over 6,000 objects, many from the late middle ages to the present, from Europe and the United States. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to recognizing contributions of women to the arts. The National Building Museum explores construction, engineering, architecture, design and urban planning. These are just a few of the many galleries in Washington. For those interested in the performing arts, the Kennedy Center and the National Theatre host regular repertoires of live theatre, dance and music. Washington is home to five major professional sports teams, including the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Capitals, and D.C. United. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to catch a game.As many say when they arrive in my Washington D.C. office breathless after a day of hiking around the Mallâ??there is too much to see in one or even a few days! My office offers tours of the Capitol Building and, with six months notice, my office can submit requests for White House tours. A note on closures: the Smithsonian National Museum of American History will be closing for a two-year renovation after Labor Day 2006, and the National Portrait Gallery is currently closed for a multi-year renovation. For more information on tourism in the Washington, D.C. area, please visit my website: http://crapo.senate.gov. WORD COUNT: 588