Immerse Yourself in Democracy in These Washington, D.C. Government Building ToursSeptember 6, 2016
One of the great things about Falls Church is its proximity to Washington, D.C., where the federal government runs the nation day in and day out. When you live this close, there’s really no excuse for not immersing yourself in American democracy at least once. We don’t mean just looking through the fence at the White House (though you should do that). We’re referring to entering these ornate federal buildings and actually seeing government in action.
Here are some of the most engaging government activities in Washington, D.C.
Read the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives
If you can make out colonial-era handwriting, that is. Either way, the National Archives are a must-visit place for anyone on an American democracy-themed jaunt through D.C.
Appropriately located on Constitution Avenue, the Archives are the permanent home of original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Part of the mission of the National Archives is to make public documents more easily accessible to citizens, so don’t feel bad about exploring.
Geek Out at the Library of Congress
There are more books in the Library of Congress that in any other library in the entire world except the British Library. The Library of Congress is an ornate, beautiful monument to the written word, featuring grand spiral staircases and books in more than 450 languages. While the official purpose of the library is to assist in legislative research, it’s open to the public and is considered the official U.S. library.
While the public is free to browse and use the library’s resources to conduct research, keep in mind that you can’t actually check out any of the items (unless you happen to be a high-ranking government official.)
Tour the Capitol
Did you know that helping you get a tour of Congress is part of your House representative’s job description? It sure is, so contact your representative’s office and see when they can get you a tour, typically led by an aide or intern.
Inside the Capitol, each state is symbolized by two statues of iconic figures from its history, spread throughout the massive Capitol complex. (Virginia’s statues are of George Washington and Robert E. Lee — see if you can find them). There’s so much history to see and learn at the Capitol, but we’ll let you discover it for yourself once you get hooked up with a tour.
Watch Congress in Session
Congressional sessions are open to the public, but expect to wait in line. Only a limited number of viewers are let in at a time, and, once full, guards will let one person in for each person who leaves. If something particularly newsworthy is going on that given day, don’t get your hopes up of getting in.
Make sure that Congress is actually in session when you’re planning your visit. Our Congress works less than you might think — roughly 120 days per year, plus or minus 10 to 15, depending on the year.
Visit the Supreme Court Building
“Equal Justice Under Law” is etched in enormous letters atop the Supreme Court building, which sits just across the street from the Capitol. On any given day, odds are high you will see protestors representing all kinds of causes on the building’s steps. This is where landmark cases that changed the future of America were argued and decided.
The building is built of marble hauled in from Georgia, Alabama, Vermont and even as far away as Italy. In two quiet corners, you’ll find stunning spiral staircases. The courtroom itself is enormous, but the odds of getting a seat during an actual session are very slim, unfortunately.
Once you’ve been to all these places, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how our government works. Maybe it will make you reconsider the role you play in the process. Being active is what democracy is all about.
West Broad Residences is an upscale apartment community in Falls Church, VA, not far from Washington, D.C. There are many things to do here, but we never forget all there is to do in the nation’s capital. If you are looking for a new home in Falls Church, you need to see our beautiful community. Schedule a tour online today to come check it out yourself.