I've visited D.C. many times over the years and had the usual "where can we go that we haven't been to umpteen times already?" conversation. Someone suggested the Monastery (many times), and we finally went. I want to go back on every visit now! I don't agree that only Catholics can love and appreciate the visit. Can only Catholics appreciate St. Peter's in Rome? A basic knowledge of Christianity and an open mind is all that is needed to appreciate the faith that is exemplified here. (BTW, we are agnostics and atheists...)
That being said--the church is beautiful and well worth seeing by anybody, though small children and strollers might have trouble getting through some passages.
There is also a garden area that contains replicas of famous sites in Europe and the Middle East. This is best viewed in warm weather. It is locked when the church is closed to visitors.
Tours are provided and are the only way to see the catacombs (a MUST SEE). The information provided by the tour guides is essential to a full appreciation of the chapels and other areas of the church. If possible, visit on a nonweekend nonholiday, so that the tour group is smaller and more congenial.
Go to the web site for the hours of tours. Also check the calendar of events on the web site, especially around holidays, because the church may be closed to visitors.
Re the carol singing--I found it very touching and sort of sweet. Go with the flow, man!
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