U.S. Capitol and The Library of Congress
Let’s continue on with some of the places we visited on our trip to Washington D.C. After spending the day at the National Air and Space Museum, we got up early to have breakfast before heading out to see more of the city. We hopped on the trolley with the Old Town Trolley Tours and decided to get off at a random spot that everyone would agree on. Believe it or not, it didn’t take long to find a stop that everyone wanted to see, and that was the U.S. Capitol.
The trolley let us off at the back of the building, so we headed around to the front to take a few pictures and find the entrance to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. I must admit that I was surprised to see an armed guard with an assault rifle (or something that looked like one) standing by the entrance.
I will take this moment to mention that not every place to visit in Washington D.C. has the same type of security, but most places do have security check points. They are very thorough and found questionable shapes on their X-ray scanners that I would never really have thought about. Case in point: Do you know that a toy VW Beetle looks questionable in a belt pouch? Also, my combination of phone charger cords and battery backup looks like a gun? I would recommend traveling light and thinking about what you are carrying in your bag. In both cases, we had to open our bags and explain what items were causing the confusion. Security did work with us well, though.
Back to the U.S. Capitol… Once we made it through security, we found the tour desk. We really hadn’t done much research into this trip; since, it wasn’t really a busy time of the year. We also had wanted to keep the trip a little more relaxed and take it easy. However, if you plan on visiting the U.S. Capitol during a busier time of year or are on a schedule, I would highly recommend booking the tour in advance. Here is a link to the tour information. There are several ways to book, but if you look toward the bottom of the page, you can book it yourself online.
There was no wait at the tour desk, and we were able to grab the next tour. In fact, the tour time was so close that I wasn’t sure if everyone would make it through the bathroom before the tour started. However, we did make it and even got Duffy ready to take the tour, too.
I have to say that I highly recommend the tour! It is well worth the time, and it is FREE! The tour takes you places that you wouldn’t be able to go otherwise, and it is very informative. Here is a picture of the Old Supreme Court Chamber used from 1810-1860. It truly is amazing how ornate this building is!
Here are some pictures of the Old Senate Chamber that was in use from 1810 to 1859. Think of all the talks (or arguments) that occurred in this room during that time period, especially those years leading up to the Civil War!
There was even a burial planned for the U.S. Capitol. I’m sure you’ve heard of the joke, “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Well, in this case, it’s “Who’s buried in George Washington’s tomb?” The answer to the latter question is nobody. There was a crypt originally designed in the U.S. Capitol to bury George Washington. However, George Washington’s will specified that he be buried at Mt. Vernon, and his descendants followed his wishes. There is no one buried in the crypt of the U.S. Capitol.
There wasn’t a direction that I turned toward where I didn’t want to take a picture. Everything was so beautiful! And these pictures really don’t do justice to seeing this in real life. Since I was traveling light, I only had my iPhone with to take pictures.
Then, we made it to the Rotunda, and there was so much to take in. Our tour guide was talking about the story told in the paintings and carvings around the room; however, I really didn’t hear much of that while just soaking in everything there was to see. Also, it was hard to listen to the tour guide. We all had headphones on, but there were four or five groups in the rotunda at that time. We could hear the other chatter of guides intermingled with our own. I’m assuming the acoustics of this room made the other voices carry more.
After we finished our tour, Marvel Boy’s “lunch timer” went off. Now, where do I take a hungry boy to eat? Did you know the U.S. Capitol has a cafeteria? Did you know they use REAL plates and cutlery? And the prices were very good considering where we were. There was a large school group there, so it made for a noisy eating experience, but I was able to fill the kids up for a very decent cost. Plus, there was a sizable variety, and the food was good.
After we ate, we found the underground walkway to the Library of Congress. It sure was nice to be able to walk through a warm hallway, rather than heading back outside in the cold wind.
Like the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress is comprised of stunning architecture! I could spend the entire day just observing the architecture! However, I don’t think I could get the kids to stay in one place that long. Not unless we were able to actually get into the Main Reading Room…
The library is Songbird’s area of interest, and she was dying to get in. Alas, there are only two days per year that the Main Reading Room is open to the general public. I wish I could get her down there for that.
Here’s a picture of the Main Reading Room. Ever since seeing National Treasure 2, I think Songbird has wanted to see this. She especially enjoyed our side trip over to the Library of Congress.
Besides seeing the Main Reading Room, we also got to see The Gutenberg Bible on display. This Bible seems to be in remarkable shape considering how old it is!
Like the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress has it’s own dome, and it sure is beautiful, too.
Not to mention the intricate carving on the staircase. As I said, I would be happy just looking at all the carvings and paintings throughout these historical buildings.
There is a tour at the Library of Congress, but we were running out of time and were unable to take it. I’d love to go back and take that tour sometime; although, I don’t think it can be reserved in advance like the one at the U.S. Capitol. If you have the time, tours at these sites and Smithsonian museums are generally free and can be well worth the time if it is available.
After we left the Library of Congress, we hopped back aboard the trolley and headed off for our next stop in our journey. However, that will be a new blog post as like this post, there are tons of pictures to share. Washington D.C. is a great place to visit as a family for a vacation or for a homeschooling adventure. There is so much history to absorb here, and I know we have barely scratched the surface!