By Donald Leadbetter, National Park Service
The National Capital area, otherwise known as Washington, D.C., or simply « DC, » is home to many of our nation’s icons, including monuments, museums and our founding documents like the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Beyond experiencing the great depth of our nation’s history and heritage, there is also great beauty in the natural landscapes in and around DC.
The highly anticipated Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opens September 24, 2016 on the National Mall, joining the acclaimed National Museum of the American Indian in telling the complex story of the history of the United States. Escape the museum crowds with a bike ride in Rock Creek Park, an urban green space larger than New York City’s Central Park, or with a stroll through the National Arboretum. Looking for some history with your hotel? The Morrison-Clark Inn, built in 1864, is a Victorian mansion-turned-inn and former home to two Congressmen.
A short drive north from Washington, D.C., lays the landscape of Gettysburg National Military Park. The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point of the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest battle of the conflict and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address.” From Gettysburg, drive south to visit the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a scenic and historically rich region that includes Native American settlements; sites from the Revolutionary War; homes and birthplaces of nine Presidents; and more important scenes from U.S. history.
Just 75 miles (120 km) from the crowds of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is the perfect escape for relaxation and recreation. The park’s 105-mile (168 km) long Skyline Drive meanders under picturesque trees, especially colorful in the fall. Head off-road via hundreds of miles of hiking trails, where you’ll share the forest with deer, waterfalls, songbirds and a stunning night sky.
Less than an hour from Washington, DC, the Chesapeake Bay and nearby wildlife refuges are easy places to get close to nature. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a bird sanctuary home to over 250 species and offers opportunities to kayak and hike. Visitors to Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge are treated to gorgeous views of the Chesapeake Bay and a wide range of things to do.
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