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It is hard to believe, but the land on which Washington, DC's elegant National Mall and its stately buildings stand was once a marshy swamp. George Washington created this special district as a federal power hub to avoid the problem of establishing the capital city in any one state. Its strategic location, with accessibility to the sea via the Potomac River and between the South and the North, made it an attractive site. Originally designed by the French architect Pierre L'Enfant in 1791, Washington is a city of green parks, wide tree-lined streets and very few skyscrapers, all of which give it a European air. It is very much a purpose-built capital, a city of grand buildings (such as the White House and the US Capitol) and impressive monuments (the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, to name but two).

The city's designer, Pierre L'Enfant, envisioned open spaces for national gatherings. While it took more than 100 years for L'Enfant's initial plan to be instituted, the National Mall has been the setting for hundreds of gatherings of remembrance, national observance and protest. The Mall, with the Capitol at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other, is the backdrop to four presidential monuments, three war memorials and several museums. Almost all of the sights on the Mall are free, making it the perfect place for a quick museum visit or patriotic walk.

The recently opened National Museum of the American Indian and World War II memorial make a trip to the Mall a must even for the most seasoned D.C. visitor. And soon enough, visitors will be able to add another all-American outing to their trip to D.C. - a baseball game. Despite some initial controversy, Major League Baseball approved the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington for the 2005 season.

Tucked in and around the red-white-and-blue splendor of downtown D.C. travelers to the second-most visited city in the USA will find a blend of international and national flair. From Ethiopian cafes to down-home Texas barbecue joints, from salsa clubs to country line dancing, D.C. has it all, making a visit a capital idea - even if it's only for a day.

Washington, DC (Washington to visitors and DC or the District to locals) is divided into four quadrants - northwest (NW), northeast (NE), southeast (SE) and southwest (SW). It is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own diverse culture. Capitol Hill, beyond the Capitol, is a blend of government buildings, townhouses and specialty shops and restaurants.
Foggy Bottom, also home to several government buildings, is now a charming, quiet neighborhood. Perhaps the most famous is Georgetown, a historic district with elegant 18th- and 19th-century townhouses, home to many influential residents, as well as chic restaurants and shops. One of the most colorful neighborhoods is Adams Morgan, with an eclectic mix of international restaurants, sidewalk cafés, ethnic stores and late-night entertainment.

After the federal government, tourism is the capital's primary industry. Over 19 million tourists explore the city each year, preferring to see the sites during fall, spring and summer rather than in winter when hotel rates drop, and it can be bitterly cold and wet.

They are drawn by the wealth of impressive monuments and museums, many of which have free entry. Other important industries located here include trade associations, law, higher education and publishing. The city is also the headquarters for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Distinguished government buildings, inspiring monuments and remarkable museums overshadow the city. But Washington is more than just marble-faced grandeur. In true American fashion, the city is a melting pot of cultures and opinions, tradition and cosmopolitan charm. It's both uniquely American and global at the same time.

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