Before you enter the kingdom of the Capitol you must first pass through its bowels. That’s right: step down down down those wide, sloping steps leading beneath the building, pass through security and voila! you’re in.
Tours of the Capitol start in this vast space (did you order your free timed pass online?) known as Emancipation Hall for the slaves who built the Capitol, starting in 1783. The Visitor Center is a more recent addition, having opened in November 2008.
Look up to catch sight of the Capitol dome on display through spectacular skylights. Look around to see the immense plaster model of the Statue of Freedom that stands atop the Capitol dome, and 24 statues, part of the Statuary Hall collection. Line up for your tour, but return afterwards to visit Exhibition Hall and learn more about lawmaking. No? Well stop by the huge restaurant for an all-American hot dog, then.
Metro: Union Station on the Red Line or Capitol South on the Silver, Blue and Orange Lines.