Did you know that there are over 110,000 libraries in the US alone?
The Library of Congress, on the other hand, is no ordinary library. Not only is it the oldest cultural institution of the US government, but it’s also the most extensive library in the world!
Located in Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, it was founded back in 1800 when John Adams was president. There are so many things that visitors can do at the historic Capitol Hill. You can see Congress in action, have a picnic near the Bartholdi Fountain, attend a Shakespearan play, and more.
But with so many other fun things to do in DC, why should you visit the Library of Congress? Far from being a fossil, the Library of Congress is rich in history and literature, and it’s a beautiful place to visit whether you’re a tourist or a local. Best of all, it’s free to explore!
The Thomas Jefferson Building
The Library of Congress consists of three different buildings. The Thomas Jefferson Building is the main one and the most impressive.
When you walk up to the building, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the Neptune Fountain.
The Fountain features the Roman god of the sea, the busts of historical figures, such as Benjamin Franklin, and much more. As you enter the building, you’ll be awed by the grand architecture, which features marble columns, statues, and a domed ceiling.
Around 50 American painters contributed beautiful murals that decorate the walls and ceiling, so just make sure you don’t strain your neck as they hypnotize you.
In addition, there are many exhibits on display throughout the year, including ones that focus on political cartoons, Native American history, or 20th-century wars. No matter when you visit, there’s bound to be an exhibit that will excite you.
On the main level, there are some particularly unique treasures on display.
Including the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first-ever Bible to be printed on a moveable press during the middle of the 15th century.
The second Bible on display is the Giant Bible of Mainz, which was one of the last completely handwritten manuscripts of its kind-wow!
Entertaining Events and More
There are always fun and educational events going on, too. If you enjoy concerts, then the Coolidge Auditorium is for you. They have classical music shows, of course, but also jazz, gospel, and even rock-and-roll.
Although the Library of Congress is mostly geared toward adults, you can take kids to the Young Reader’s Center.
At the center, they can enjoy picture books or young adult books as you rest your feet from walking.
You also don’t want to leave without visiting the gift shop where you can buy amazing books or unique trinkets.
What better way to remember the great time you had than with a dome clock or an ornamental plate?
If you end up missing the opportunity to visit the gift shop or you want to nab a treasure ahead of time, you can always visit their online store.
If you feel overwhelmed by it all, then you should take advantage of the free tours they offer. Instead of wandering aimlessly, you’ll be led to all of the hotspots while the knowledgable tour guide shares with you a wealth of intriguing stories about the library’s history.
Other Buildings to See
The Thomas Jefferson Building may be the main attraction, but the James Madison Memorial Building and the John Adams Building are both worth a peek, too.
They’re often used for research, so they have plenty of quiet reading rooms where you can dive into a fascinating book.
You don’t want to show up when they’re closed, though, so be mindful of their reading hours.
Above the entrance to the James Madison Memorial Building is a bronze relief by Frank Eliscu called Falling Books.
It looks like an artistic waterfall of, you guessed it, books, and it makes for a great photo opportunity.
There’s also a carved statue of the main man himself, James Madison, located in the Memorial Hall.
On the bronze doors in the James Madison Memorial Building, you can find sculptures by Lee Lawrie.
Every figure relates to the history and mythology of the written word, such as the Greek messenger god Hermes, the Egyptian scribe god Thoth, the Chinese patron of writing Ts’ang Chieh, and more.
These fascinating sculptures might inspire you to plan a DC scavenger hunt with your friends and family.
How to Get There
If you want to get to the Library of Congress quickly, metro rides are quick and affordable.
The closest Library of Congress metro stop is the Capitol South station, which can be found on the orange or blue metro lines.
If you live in Georgetown, you can take a 30-minute bus ride from Wisconsin Ave NW & P St NW to Independence Ave SE & 2nd St SE.
But before you rush out the door, you’ll want to be aware of the Library of Congress’ hours of operation.
It’s closed on Sunday, but it’s open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m every other day of the week.
Make sure to get there early in order to make the most out of your trip.
Are You Ready for Your Library of Congress Visit?
With so much to do and see at the Library of Congress and elsewhere, Capitol Hill is more than worth the trip. If you’re visiting, you’ll discover that DC living is so great that you’ll want to move there.
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