By Troy Petenbrink

As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. offers many unique opportunities for visitors and residents. And while each individual’s bucket list varies, we think these five items should get strong consideration.

Attend A United States Presidential Inauguration
U.S. Capitol Building
East Capitol Street N.E. and First Street S.E.
Washington, DC 20004
www.inaugural.senate.gov

Every four years the inauguration of the President of the United States is held in Washington, D.C. It has been part of the country’s democratic process and tradition since the inauguration of George Washington in 1789. While historically held with little fanfare, modern inaugurations are elaborate events. Members of the public are freely able to attend the swearing in ceremony for the vice-president-elect and the president-elect, which is immediately followed by the newly sworn-in president’s inaugural address. The inaugural parade is also open to the public. Regardless of party affiliation or political leanings, the opportunity to attend an inauguration should not me missed.

Take A Night Tour Of The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial Circle N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 426-6841
www.nps.gov/nama

The approximately two mile stretch of land between the west side steps of the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial is the National Mall. As described by the National Park Service, which is responsible for oversight and maintenance, The National Mall is filled with “cherished symbols of our nation.” Among the many symbols are the Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, D.C. War Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is a educational and moving event to visit these memorials and monuments anytime but especially powerful to see them at night. The glowing white marble and striking shadows are unforgettable.

Eat A Half-Smoke At The Original Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-0058
www.benschilibowl.com

Ben’s Chili Bowl was opened by Ben and Virginia Ali in 1958 and has remained family owned and operated every since. From providing free food to civil rights activists in the 1960s to serving lunch to President-elect Barack Obama, the restaurant, which now has multiple locations, has become part of the cultural and culinary fabric of Washington, D.C. Its most recognized menu item is the half-smoke, a half pork and half beef smoked sausage — a dish that has become as synonymous with Washington, D.C. as the cheesesteak has with Philadelphia..

Related: Five Must-See Museums in Washington, D.C.

Attend The National Cherry Blossom Festival
701 E. Basin Drive S.W.
Washington, DC 20242
(877) 442-5666
www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual springtime celebration held in observance of the gifting of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees in 1912 from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. The festival is held over several weeks and generally coincides with the blooming the thousands of Japanese cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin and other parts of the National Mall. The festival includes a number of popular events including an opening ceremony, parade, fundraising gala, and kite flying festival.

Witness The Changing Of The Guard At The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211
(877) 907-8585
www.arlingtoncemetery.mil

More than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their family members are in interment at Arlington National Cemetery.. There is much to see and learn while visiting but among the most solemn and memorable experiences of a lifetime is to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 24 hours a day, 365 days a year a member of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”) is on guard at the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Visitors are able to watch the highly precise and ceremonial changing of the guard every hour during the cooler months (Oct. to March), and every half-hour during the summer (April to Sept.).

Related: Best Luxury Hotels In Washington, D.C.

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