This tiny state, the capital of the US, was founded on July 16, 1790. The City of Washington was originally a separate municipality within the Territory of Columbia until an act of Congress in 1871 effectively merged the city and the territory into a single entity called the District of Columbia. It is for this reason that the city, while legally named the District of Columbia, is known as Washington, D.C.
The city is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland. The District has a resident population of 599,657; because of commuters from the surrounding suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the work week. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of 5.3 million, the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country.
Washington, DC is unique among American cities because it was established by the Constitution of the United States to serve as the nation's capital. From the beginning it has been embroiled in political maneuvering, sectional conflicts, national identity, compromise and, of course, power.
Culture is high on the list of things to do in DC. The National Mall is a large, open park area in the center of the city. Located in the center of the Mall are the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier. Also located on the mall are the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial at the east end of the Reflecting Pool and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The National Archives houses thousands of documents important to American history including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation chartered by Congress in 1846 that maintains most of the nation's official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian, thus making its collections open to the public free of charge. The most visited of the Smithsonian museums in 2007 was the National Museum of Natural History located on the National Mall. Other Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries located on the mall are: the National Air and Space Museum; the National Museum of African Art; the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of the American Indian; the Sackler and Freer galleries, which both focus on Asian art and culture; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Arts and Industries Building; the S. Dillon Ripley Center; and the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as "The Castle"), which serves as the institution's headquarters.
Typical of Mid-Atlantic U.S. areas removed from bodies of water, it exhibits four distinct seasons. Average winter lows tend to be around 30 °F from mid-December to mid-February. Blizzards affect Washington on average once every four to six years. Summers tend to be hot and humid, with daily high temperatures in July and August averaging in the high 80s °F. The combination of heat and humidity in the summer brings very frequent thunderstorms, some of which occasionally produce tornadoes in the area.