When icy winds blow over the Potomac River in January, Washington caters to the politician, the lobbyist, the bureaucrat. But once the cherry blossoms erupt with color around the nation's capital, official Washington takes a back seat to visitors from around the United States - and the world.
Every tourist - whether a child from Alabama, a scholar from Montana, or a businessman from Florence, Italy - finds something to gawk at or ponder. Knots of people, often clad in shorts and T-shirts appropriate to the steamy summer weather, take in the antics of the pandas at the National Zoo, clicking their cameras nonstop. Quiet reverence is in order at the Lincoln Memorial; a nighttime visit to this monument can be particularly stirring.
Georgetown's cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century row houses charm visitors - though they may be a bit shocked by the prices in the shops. DuPont Circle, a neighborhood at the edge of downtown, blends office buildings with trendy boutiques and food stores with cute names.
Scholars bent on research head for the Library of Congress, probably the world's largest library, with more than 61 million items. Inside Washington's many galleries and museums, vacationing dilettantes concentrate on works of art and ingenuity ranging from Matisse's cutouts to Orville Wright's flying machine.