Uncover the Historical and Cultural Gems of Washington, D.C.

Welcome to the interactive course guide for The Great Tours: Washington, D.C.. Here you will find select content from the course, as well as quizzes, reader polls, interactive maps, further reading suggestions, and more.

An Introduction to The Great Tours: Washington, D.C.

Welcome to your tour guide of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Start off with this overview of the places you’ll see, people you’ll meet, and history you’ll learn in the following 24 articles. […]

Washington D.C. with Memorials in background

How Washington, D.C. Came to Be

To begin your journey to this world-class city, uncover the origins of the District of Columbia and how the location for our national government was chosen. Learn about the original design and vision for the city by artist/engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant. Then trace the creation and colorful history of the National Mall, and the building of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. […]

Presidential White House in D.C.

The White House and the Presidency

Track the history and the dramatic fortunes of the White House, from its building, expansion, burning, reconstruction, and further expansions down to the present. Then visit the White House, beginning with the Oval Office and Cabinet Room and following the route of a White House tour. Also visit the parks adjoining the White House, and the Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorials on the National Mall. […]

Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

The Capitol Building and the Legislature

At the seat of the U.S. legislature, learn how the Capitol building was designed, constructed, and expanded in the early years of the nation. Tour the architectural and artistic wonders of the building, from the Capitol Rotunda to the Statuary Hall, Brumidi Corridors, Hall of Columns, and other key features. Conclude with the House and Senate Chambers, and the surrounding parks and gardens. […]

U.S. Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court and the Law of the Land

Study the founding and history of the Supreme Court, from its early era as an itinerant legal body to the completion of the Court building in 1935 under William Howard Taft. Tour this extraordinary monument, its interior features, court facilities, and artistic decoration. Then explore the Court in action, encompassing courtroom procedure and how cases are selected, adjudicated, and ruled upon. […]

Library of Congress interior

The Nation’s Knowledge: Library of Congress

Visit the stunning premises of the world’s largest library, starting with the story of the library’s creation in the 18th century. Begin your tour with the monumental Jefferson Building, with its glorious Beaux Arts décor, followed by the remarkable facilities of the Adams and Madison Buildings. Also, visit the extraordinary Folger Shakespeare Library, and D.C.’s beloved Eastern Market. […]

Richard Kurin Photo

Presented by Professor Richard Kurin, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard Kurin is the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. In this position, he oversees most of the Smithsonian’s national museums, libraries, and archives, as well as several of its research and outreach programs. Dr. Kurin holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Philosophy from the University at Buffalo—The State University of New York. He earned both his M.A. and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Kurin has worked at the Smithsonian for almost four decades, starting with the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976.