Sights & Activities

America’s History: The National Archives Experience

September 20, 2013

National Archives in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC on Flickr Creative Commons

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – It’s no surprise that our nation’s capital city helps tell the stories of America’s budding history, but no one puts a face to this incredible mosaic quite like the National Archives Experience. Visitors roaming these halls get to come face to face with some of our country’s most important pieces of parchment to date—all housed within a very Washington-esque marble rotunda.

This tourist favorite made waves back in 2004 with the release of the first National Treasure film, in which Nicolas Cage must steal the Declaration of Independence. Visitors can gaze upon this historic document in addition to some of the country’s oldest and most celebrated pieces of legislature, including the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. And though they may be encased behind glass to protect their rather delicate status (they are all over 200 years old, after all!), this is one of the only places where you can get this close to real-deal pieces of American history.

Located on the National Mall, this DC landmark is open daily for browsing, though we strongly recommend booking reservations in advance during heightened tourist crowds like weekends and holidays. Of course, once you’re inside the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom (which houses the Archives’ most important docs), it’s open viewing for patrons. Roam about the expanse at will, stopping to view other important pieces like the Manga Carta, Louisiana Purchase Treaty, and the Emancipation Proclamation (fitting, considering Lincoln’s nearby memorial on the west end of the Mall).

History buffs will really be in their element while roaming about here, especially when viewing the research labs and learning centers onsite. And if you want an even closer look at these priceless artifacts, the National Archives provides guided tours throughout the week, starting at 9:45 a.m. But word to the wise: make sure to leave your camera at home, as all filming, photographing, and videotaping are prohibited in the exhibition halls.

National Archives in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: Sue Waters on Flickr Creative Commons

Best of all, you get to do it all for free—not bad for an afternoon gazing upon some of America’s most treasured pieces of parchment. Afterward, when you’re ready to pound DC’s pavement once again, you’ll be right in the heart of the grassy expanse most museums and art galleries in this buzzing city call home. Plus, there’s nothing quite like taking in a history lesson firsthand; just dive right in at the National Archives and let the past speak for itself.

Read more about the National Archives Experience in our Washington, DC guide.

National Archives Experience
700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC
(1) 877-444-6777

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