The Top 20 Essential U.S. Government Web Sites

View of Washington, DC skyline with the Capitol building, Washington Monument and National Mall
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There are hundreds of thousands of U.S. government and government-related web sites online today, and it can be overwhelming (to say the least!) to find what you're looking for. In this article, we'll go through the top United States government sites that you need to know about; the sites that consistently offer the best user experience, helping you to find what you need quickly, easily, and efficiently.

01
of 20

USA.gov

USA.gov website

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What We Like

  • One-stop resource for government information.

  • Search directories for easier navigation.

What We Don't Like

  • Basic search is overwhelming.

  • Numerous directories take time to browse.

USA.gov serves as the public's access portal into the vast resources available on the web from the U.S. government.

02
of 20

The Library of Congress

Library of Congress website

What We Like

  • More than 17 million searchable documents.

  • Search multiple content types.

What We Don't Like

  • Results often refer to documents available in person.

  • All connections may be in use at peak times, interfering with search.

The Library of Congress is the nation's largest repository of culture, as well as the largest functioning library in the entire world. If you're looking for manuscripts, files, information, or even images and videos, this is one of the best places to start your search.

 

03
of 20

Congress.gov

Congress.gov is where you can find federal legislation information

What We Like

  • Find public legislative information.

  • Save searches for future reference.

What We Don't Like

  • Older legislative information is not available.

  • Full text of bills is not always available.

The Congress.gov website is where you can find federal legislation freely available for the general public. There is also information about current and past congressional members and the bills that have been or are before Congress. Additionally, this website retains information about the U.S. legal system and legal data. 

04
of 20

Federal Depository Library System

U.S. Government Publishing Office

  

What We Like

  • Materials available include electronic, CD, microfiche, and paper.

  • Search for depository by state.

What We Don't Like

  • Retrieve publications at public depositories.

  • Libraries are not required to circulate depository materials.

From the Articles of Confederation to a Statistical Abstract of the United States, if you're looking for an American historical document, you'll probably find it here at the Federal Depository Library System. You'll also be able to access Government information published by the U.S. Congress, Federal agencies and the Federal courts from this site.

05
of 20

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

Ben's Guide to Government for Kids

What We Like

  • Engaging interactive learning games.

  • Learning adventures display age-related information.

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks advanced search.

  • Navigation is not intuitive.

Ben's Guide is an excellent introduction to the U.S. government. According to the website it's designed to provide learning tools for K-12 students, parents, and teachers. Includes the use of the primary source materials of GPO Access and explains how to use them.

06
of 20

Healthfinder.gov

Healthfinder.gov

  

What We Like

  • Browse health topics alphabetically.

  • Resources for local health providers.

What We Don't Like

  • No advanced search feature.

  • Service sources have not been reviewed for several years.

Healthfinder.gov is one of the best places to find government-related health and human services information on the web. Over 1,500 health-related organizations are represented here.

07
of 20

National Center for Health Statistics Vital Records

National Center for Health Statistics

  

What We Like

  • Access vital records, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates.

  • Statistical data for research and reports.

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks advanced search.

  • Cluttered, text-heavy pages are difficult to read.

If you are wondering how to obtain vital records, then the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the best place to start. Every state is represented here, with detailed information on how to go about getting what you need.

08
of 20

Whitehouse.gov

Whitehouse.gov provides the latest information on the current president's agenda

  

What We Like

  • Email updates available.

  • Topic tabs simplify browsing.

What We Don't Like

  • Cannot browse by date.

  • No sitemap.

Whitehouse.gov not only gives you the latest Presidential news, but you can also find out the President's official stance on a plethora of policy issues, from budget management to national defense. 

09
of 20

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Census Bureau

What We Like

  • American FactFinder provides facts about communities.

  • Interactive map provides data at a glance.

What We Don't Like

  • Overwhelming amount of information.

  • News and press releases mixed with data results.

Want U.S. population info? How about the latest census findings? You can find answers to these questions and a whole lot more at the U.S. Census Bureau. This website is also a good place to find trends in U.S. population and business changes.

10
of 20

Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

  

What We Like

  • Updated weekly.

  • Print version available.

What We Don't Like

  • Geared toward government officials.

  • Data discrepancies between sources.

Find detailed geographical, demographic, and statistical information for every country in the world at the CIA World Factbook — also available in a free download form for easy offline access. 

11
of 20

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

US Department of Veterans Affairs
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What We Like

  • Wide range of topics.

  • Request records directly.

What We Don't Like

  • Cluttered main page.

  • No sitemap or category list.

If you are a veteran, then you need to put the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website in your bookmarks immediately. You can find information about prescription refills, veterans affairs forms, health care benefits, military records, education resources, and much more.

12
of 20

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA

  

What We Like

  • Search flood zones on map.

  • Mobile app provides advanced features.

What We Don't Like

  • Simplistic, outdated layout.

  • Clunky browse feature.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website is a great resource for the latest emergency headlines, disaster preparedness, and how to apply for federal or state emergency assistance.

13
of 20

Internal Revenue Service

IRS

  

What We Like

  • Tax forms, publications, and instructions.

  • View and pay accounts online.

What We Don't Like

  • Article and video images may be distracting.

  • No FAQ page.

No, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) probably isn't where you want to spend too much of your time, but it's a rich resource of information when you need to find details about filing federal income taxes.

14
of 20

The United States Postal Service

USPS

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What We Like

  • Track and manage deliveries.

  • Change address online.

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't display correctly in older browsers.

  • Tech support only available during business hours.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a wonderful resource; you can print postage and labels online, change your address, stop your mail while you're on vacation, and a whole lot more. 

15
of 20

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

NOAA

What We Like

  • Find weather forecasts, watches, and warnings on national map.

  • View real-time satellite imagery.

What We Don't Like

  • Icons describing page tabs might be unclear.

  • No FAQs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is a treasure trove for weather junkies or anyone else who wants to stay on top of weather happenings, as well as oceanic research and new aquatic developments.

16
of 20

The National Archives

National Archives

  

What We Like

  • Rich resource for genealogists.

  • Research specific topics.

  • View online exhibits.

What We Don't Like

  • Cluttered main page is distracting.

  • Many records are unavailable online.

Research your genealogical history, delve into historical topics, and view historical documents and photos of all kinds at the National Archives.

17
of 20

Social Security Online

Social Security

  

What We Like

  • Tools available for benefits planning.

  • Read about Social Security news.

What We Don't Like

  • Unable to perform some tasks online.

  • Lack of advanced search.

Need to apply for social security benefits? Replace your Medicare card? How about plan your retirement, qualify for disability, or get help with name changes? You can do all these things and more at Social Security Online.

18
of 20

U.S. Geological Survey

USGS

  

What We Like

  • Real-time data on earth observations.

  • Information on potential hazards and threats.

What We Don't Like

  • Some pages are cluttered and difficult to navigate.

  • No FAQs.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is one of the most interesting sites on the Web: "As an unbiased, multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water, we are dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape, our natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten us."

19
of 20

State Government Information

As part of the Library of Congress, you can find information on your state government agencies.

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What We Like

  • Read state and local newspapers and periodicals.

  • Interactive map simplifies search.

What We Don't Like

  • Search is not intuitive.

  • No sitemap or advanced search.

Find links to state government here at the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room's list of state government resources. You can also access the National Conference of State Legislatures to learn more about legislation affecting your state.

Another resource to State (and local) government information is State & Local Government on the Net.

20
of 20

Local Government Information

Use the Local Government finder on USA.gov to locate your city and county government offices.

  

What We Like

  • Find contact information at the state level.

  • Locate specific department information, such as tribal or consumer protection offices.

What We Don't Like

  • Not an independent site.

  • No advanced search.

Though technically a part of the USA.gov website, you can use the Local Government finder to find information about your local government, including city and county websites, links to specific information (such as driver's license requirements), and news relevant to that municipality.