The White House

As the official residence of the President of the United State, the White House is a key part our national heritage and national treasure. Irish architect, James Hoban was awarded the design of the President’s House in 1792 after winning a competition that included a design submitted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson. The cornerstone was laid October 12, 1792. This was the first public building to be erected in Washington. Numerous alterations and additions were made to the house during the 18th century. During James Madison’s presidency, the White House was torched by the British in the War of 1812. All that remained of the building were outside, charred walls and the interior brick walls. Madison brought back Hoban to restore the structure. Additional renovations were made at the beginning and mid- 20th century.

Public tour request must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance.

Stephen Decatur House Museum

Built in 1818 by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the Decatur House was both the first and last building on Lafayette Square to be occupied as a private residence. Originally the house was a textbook example of Federal-style architecture, as it was built for Commodore Stephen Decatur, naval hero and remembered for his skills of fighting Barbary Pirates, and his wife, Susan. One year of the house was built, Decatur was killed in battle and Susan decided to downsize allowing for the use of this home to prominent foreign and national dignitaries and secretaries of state, members of Congress, and a vice president, in addition to numerous free and enslaved servants who played a pivotal role in shaping America. In 2010, Decatur House became the site of the National Center for White House History, established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Historical Association. The center promotes research and conducts educational programming related to the history of the White House and Lafayette Square. The White House Historical Association offers free public tours of the historic Decatur House every Monday, excluding holidays. The tour location begins at 1610 H Street, NW and accessible from the Farragut North (Red Line) as well as the Farragut West (Blue, Orange or Silver Lines) metro stations. Tours begin at 11:00am, 12:30pm, and 2:00pm—lasting approximately one hour and no reservations are necessary. For more information on the tours, visit their website:

National Geographic Museum

Explore the world and all that's in it at the National Geographic Museum.The museum features a wide range of changing exhibitions, from interactive experiences to stunning photography exhibitions.

The museum is centrally located in downtown Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the White House. Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the museum. The Museum is located at 1145 17th Street, NW. 

Open daily: 10:00 a.m. --6:00p.m., June 1--October 10.

Daughters of the American Revolution

A philanthropic service organization, the Daughters of the American Revolution is headquartered at 1776 D Street, NW, fronting 17th Street. The building houses an extensive genealogical library, Americana collection, and museum. The museum is comprised of a collection of period rooms, sponsored by state chapters of the organization.

Each room in the museum includes an extensive collection of period furniture, textiles, and appropriate furnishings to help illustrate the historical era. Rooms include a seventeenth century council chamber, Victorian parlor, and tavern hall. Both docent lead and self guided tours are available.

American Red Cross

Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping people in need, responding to crisis situations including natural disasters and acts of war. The historic Red Cross Headquarters building was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in the classical revival style and was completed in 1917. Notably, the building includes a large triptych of Tiffany windows, depicting scenes related to the history of the Red Cross.

Free guided tours of the American Red Cross Headquarters at 430 17th Street, NW, are offered Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00am, and 2:00pm by reservation only.

National Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1863 to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" when called upon by the government, the National Academy of Sciences was created by an Act of Incorporation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Today, NAS members are selected based on contributions and accomplishments in their fields and serve as subject matter experts and "advisors to the nation."

The National Academy of Sciences offers a series of free rotating exhibits to the public at their headquarters building at 2101 Constitution Avenue throughout the year. Exhibits focus on the relationships between the arts and sciences, engineering, and medicine. Open: Weekdays, 9:00am-5:00pm.

U.S. Department of State Diplomacy Center

The United States Diplomacy Center has been conceived in order to promote better understanding of the history and importance of U.S. diplomacy. The museum will include exhibits, hands-on activities, and innovative classroom space; revealing how diplomacy has shaped our nation's history while paying tribute to the service and sacrifice of U.S. diplomats, past and present.

The U.S. Diplomacy Center is currently in the design and fundraising stages of development. The center is not yet open to the public, but looks forward to welcoming visitors to its planned facility at the State Department Headquarters building.

Last Reviewed 2016-06-30