I got there just in time for the last guided tour of the day and joined up with a group of twenty or so to get a little more insight into certain aspects of the cathedral. I'm really glad I caught the tour (audio option also available, which does offer some pretty cool historical features, but (i) wouldn't you rather hear from a real person and (ii) ewwww, gross, shared headphones), because the cathedral is a somewhat massive feat of architecture (sixth largest cathedral in the world! the Washington Monument laid down from base to tip would fit inside the nave! flying buttresses galore!) that also holds an incredible amount of detail I might never have noticed otherwise (the stained glass Space Window commemorating the Apollo XI mission holds a piece of moon rock, Darth Vader hangs out on the Northwest Tower, and Christ in Majesty in the High Altar is carved from Texas limestone...woot, Texas!...that gives it a spotlighted appearance in comparison to the surrounding figures).
I love going on tours and learning all kinds of little things, such as the origin of the phrase "pulling out all the stops" - "stops" control the air flow in a pipe organ, and when you really want to raise the religious roof, you pull out all the stops to pump up the volume. The National Cathedral is where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his last Sunday sermon. The pews immediately in front of the High Altar have intricate and humorous carvings on the end, including a wolf in sheep's clothing (ha!) and a lion chomping on a Hitler-faced snake (which, sadly, I didn't have a chance to go back and photograph - apparently they shut the massive gates on the High Altar after the last tour goes through, stink!).
The Children's Chapel is tiny and adorable and filled with distractions and whimsy to keep the kids focused during long (and...ummm...boring) church services - kneelers with baby animals (awww!), wrought iron decoration depicting hundreds of different animals, and a crazy-detailed ceiling. The architectural line of the cathedral drifts about ten feet off of center from front to back. Helen Keller is interred there, as is Woodrow Wilson. Also...stained glass is just pretty.
The cathedral also has some beautiful gardens, filled with tulips...
...inquisitive puppy dogs...
...and in a more modern touch, the nuptials of Mary and Martha in a garden cupola, presided over by a rather cheerful woman complete with rainbow scarf, courtesy of some recent legalization here in the city.
Also, parking is free on Sunday! Woohoo! (hi, have you been to D.C.? parking is non-existent/amazingly overpriced/controlled by those with a very similar mindset to personnel not-so-fondly referred to as "parking Nazis" at one Texas Tech University...so I was truly thrilled about this)
You can check out the excessive photos, blurry shots and all, on Picasa. Typical warnings regarding number of photos is per usual.