U.S. Capitol Grounds
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Between Constitution Ave. and Independence Ave. at 1st St.
HOURS: Daily 24 hours
The 59 acres surrounding the Capitol are tailor-made for picnicking and people-watching, especially in good weather when lawmakers stroll from their offices to the Capitol rather than use the building’s underground tramway.
Created by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, whose works include New York’s Central Park and the National Zoo, the Capitol Grounds were intended to enhance the Capitol’s beauty without detracting from the imposing structure.
The grounds encompass eight miles of walkways, more than 4,000 trees (many of which are labeled with common and scientific names), and architectural flourishes such as massive stone pylons, terraces, and hidden treasures like the unusual brick and terra-cotta Summerhouse northwest of the Capitol building, designed by Olmsted as a water-stop for weary walkers.
A popular spot for photographers is the West Front Reflecting Pool and its colossal Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, featuring lions, artillerymen, infantry troops, and the Civil War-winning general astride his steed, Cincinnatus.
In the summer, the Capitol Grounds host free concerts by area military bands and orchestras, and at Christmas, the West Front showcases the Capitol Christmas Tree, a genteel cousin to the flashier National Christmas Tree that draws small crowds to see its radiant lights and handmade decorations.
© Patricia Nevins Kime from Moon Washington DC, 1st Edition