Once George Washington had selected the location for the nation's capital, the borders had to be set—Congress had authorized exactly 100 square miles of land to be used. To determine the exact spot of the city’s southern corner, legend has it that freed slave and astronomer Benjamin Banneker lay on the ground one night and plotted six stars as they crossed the sky above him.
The city’s inaugural south-corner stone remains nestled in an opening of the Jones Point Park seawall, just outside the Jones Point Lighthouse. The George Washington Memorial Parkway picks up just north of the lighthouse to connect several of the memorials and monuments that have made Washington, DC a premier travel destination. One such memorial is the Arlington National Cemetery, whose hallowed grounds are the final resting place of more than 14,000 veterans, including many who fought in the Civil War.
Across the river from Arlington, the white, neoclassical forms of the country’s most iconic buildings sharply contrast with the greenery that surrounds them. The National Mall, a tree-lined open space that stretches more than two miles, runs from the Capitol Building to the Smithsonian museums and the Lincoln Memorial. Come spring, more than 3,000 of the city’s cherry blossom trees—gifts from Japan—begin to bloom around the base of the Washington Monument and the edges of the nearby Tidal Basin.
Of course, our nation’s capital is not all monuments and museums. Trendy neighborhoods flourish northwest of the mall. Chief among these is Dupont Circle, where some of DC’s best restaurants and clubs butt up next to foreign embassies housed in historical mansions. On the weekend, you’ll find nightlife along Connecticut Avenue and in the Adams Morgan neighborhood as crowds flood in and out of Latin lounges, karaoke dives, and high-end clubs.