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Despite having been to Washington D.C. more than five times now, I had never seen the Capitol Building. So despite my most recent trip there being more focused on finding hidden gems, I knew that we had to rectify this tragedy. Thus, on my final full day in DC, Daniel and I signed up for another of Free Tours by Foot’s walking tours.
Unfortunately, this tour was a little bit less food-based, but it was amazing all the same.
Capitol Hill Walking Tour
We met our guide Carolyn across the street from the Capitol South metro station. As soon as she told us her background was as an architect, I knew we were in for a treat. After all, Washington D.C. is like an architect’s wet dream (at least that’s what I’ve always imagined).
Once the whole group was there, we started off by learning the story of how Washington D.C. came to be. Carolyn dispelled the myth that it was built on top of a swamp and explained the crazed reasoning behind every street having four different versions of itself. Fifteen minutes in and I was already feeling pretty dang enlightened.
The Capitol Building, Part One
Naturally, our first stop had to be the Capitol Building. We were taking a tour of Capitol Hill, after all. We didn’t go inside at this point (that bit would come later). Instead, we sat outside while Carolyn told us all about the history of the building and its many expansions.
Oh, and of course we got a chance to take pictures as well.
The Supreme Court
Next up came the home of the Supreme Court, looking stately and powerful as all buildings in DC seem to do. There, we learned that William Howard Taft actually did more in his life than just get stuck in a bathtub. In fact, he was the only president in history to serve both as a Supreme Court Justice and as the leader of our free nation. He was also the one who was responsible for getting gate Supreme Court their own building. Before he argued that the two branches really should be kept separate, their offices were in the Capitol Building.
Too bad history only remembers him for the bathtub thing.
To add another blow to his self esteem, the architect of the building seemed to think it would be a great idea to add loads of slow imagery to the facade. You know, as a protest against how slow the court system is. Favorites of mine included the turtles at the bottoms of the lampposts and the snails creeping up the sides.
The Library of Congress
Next up was Carolyn’s (and my) favourite building of the tour: The Library of Congress. Before heading on in we learned a bit about the history of the Library of Congress — including the fact that it was all started when Thomas Jefferson sold (not donated, like popular belief likes to say) his library to Congress because he was broke.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to appreciate the Library of Congress. Pretty soon after we walked in I started to feel really, really woozy. I guess I just hadn’t had enough water that afternoon, because I was well and properly dehydrated. So the vast majority of my time the Library of Congress was spent gulping down water and sitting holding my head in my hands.
I did get to see the reading room, though, and let me tell you: it is absolutely AMAZING.
The Capitol Building, Part Two
From the Library of Congress we went through an underground tunnel to the Capitol Building (sidenote: did you know that there’s an underground tunnel between the Library of Congress and the Capitol Building? Because I didn’t!).
We had to say goodbye to Carolyn at the point (only official Capitol guides take groups around). But she handed us tickets for the official half hour Capitol tour before she left. This might have been one of the most enticing facts about this walking tour: that by signing up only two days ahead of time we were able to get tickets to the Capitol Building. You usually have to do that months in advance.
We spent the next half hour or so being herded around like cats through a few main rooms of the Capitol Building (none of which were the two chambers of Congress). The huge crowds and impersonal commentary was a stark contrast to the last few hours that we had spent with Carolyn. I missed her already.
But hey, at least I finally got to see the dome!
Have you ever visited a famous landmark while it was under construction? In the two years I’ve been dating my boyfriend, I’ve visited his hometown of Washington D.C. five times. This June was the first time the Capitol Dome wasn’t under construction. And man, is it a friggin’ beauty. . . . #capitolbuilding #washingtondc #districtofcolumbia #mydccool #dcliving #washingtondaily #exposeddc #instadc #madeindc #igersdc #exploredc #dctography #travel #wanderlust #passionpassport #letsgosomewhere #mytinyatlas #buildings_of_dc #igdc #exploringtheglobe #bbctravel #theprettycities #doyoutravel #travelstoke #dcfocused #ilovedc #dametraveler #traveldeeper #roamtheplanet #visualoflife
If You Go
I really couldn’t suggest the Capitol Hill & Library of Congress Tour with DC Free Tours by Foot more. I learned SO much during the two hours that we spent meandering about Capitol Hill, and got to see a really famous part of DC in a completely different light.
The Capitol Hill Walking Tour takes place most days — but check the tour calendar for full details. You’ll need to sign up in advance for the tour that you’d like to take.
Like all Free Tours by Foot, this Capitol Hill walking tour is free to take. Just tip what you think it was worth at the end!