World’s sixth largest cathedral, Gothic-style “Church for National Purposes.” Woodrow Wilson’s grave, concert schedule. Parking beneath, free on Sun. Themed guided tours daily (prices vary, visit website to reserve). Gardens till dusk. $12, children (5-17)/seniors $8, under 5 free (no admission charge for Su tours). Gift shops, cafe. M-F 10 am-5 pm, Sa 10 am-4 pm, Su (for services) 8 am-5 pm.
Highlights and Tips:
- D.C.’s highest point is not the tip of the Washington Monument but the cathedral’s bell tower (occasionally open for visits).
- Gaze at the stained glass, specifically the West Rose Window, a sparkling abstract depiction of creation, and the Space Window, incorporating a piece of moon rock brought back by the Apollo 11 astronauts.
- Of the nine chapels, perhaps the most charming is the children’s, a diminutive space that’s a favorite for baptisms. At the entrance stands a statue of the Christ Child with gleaming, well-polished hands. Be sure to give them a rub for good luck.
- Only some of the organ’s 10,647 pipes—ranging from pinky size to 32 feet—are visible, but regular recitals demonstrate its soul-penetrating sound.
- For a 360-degree view of the entire capital region, take the elevators to the 7th floor observation level.
- Head outside to look for the gargoyles and grotesques, fanciful carvings that function as part of the rain control system. There are more than 100 silly and spooky characters. (Yes, that is Darth Vader on the northwest tower.)
- Make your last stop the walled Bishop’s Garden, a soothing oasis with centuries-old bas reliefs and flora that reaches heavenward.