That the marshy swamp where WASHINGTON DC now stands was chosen as the site of the capital of the newly independent United States of America says a lot about then-prevalent attitudes toward government. Washington, District of Columbia (the boundaries of the two are identical) - also known as " DC " and " The District " - can be unbearably hot and humid in summer, and bitterly cold in winter. Such an unpleasant climate, it was hoped, would discourage elected leaders from making government a full-time job. This disdain for politics is still apparent: DC is run as a virtual colony of Congress, where residents have just one, nonvoting representative and couldn't vote in presidential elections until the 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961.
Other than the federal government, tourism is DC's biggest industry. The city attracts almost twenty million visitors each year. Conveniently, most arrive in midsummer, when the lawmakers have gone home, so overcrowding is rarely a problem. The nation's showcase puts on quite a display for its guests, and admission to virtually all major attractions is free. The most famous sites are concentrated along the central Mall , including the White House, individual memorials to four of the greatest presidents, and the superb museums of the Smithsonian Institution. Downtown, however (broadly speaking the area immediately north of the Mall, between the White House and the Capitol), can seem very empty, even intimidating, at night, and you're more likely to spend your evenings in the hotels and restaurants of the city's more motherly neighborhoods, such as historic Georgetown , arty Dupont Circle and the funkier Adams -Morgan district.
Because the city was built from scratch, Washington's regular town plan is easy to grasp. Centered on Capitol Hill and its governmental monoliths, the District is divided into four quadrants - northeast, northwest, southeast and...
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