The Clock Tower offers a commanding view of the capital that’s second only to that of the nearby Washington Monument. As the second-tallest structure in D.C. after the Washington Monument, it offers fabulous 360-degree views, 270 feet up, of Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House, and beyond to the National Mall. The building itself was used as the city’s primary post office until 1914. It was slated for demolition in 1928, but a lack of funds during the Great Depression saved the structure. It wasn’t until 1977 that complete renovation on the structure began, and in 1983, it reopened as offices and retail. The bells in the tower are rung at the opening and closing of Congress and for national holidays. The National Park Service operates and maintains the building and provides interpretive programming.

To reach the clock tower, you must venture down 12th Street to enter through the door marked “Starbucks & Clock Tower.” Stride through the second set of glass doors, ignoring the Starbucks to your left, and keep going down the corridor to reach a wall-mounted exhibit of old photographs, maps, and documents that give you a little history of the building and the city. Proceed through security screening, then hop the elevator, the first of two that take you to the top (change elevators on the 9th floor).