When you talk about Washington, DC, the first things that come to mind are museums, monuments, and government buildings.
However, Washington, DC is more than these things. There is much more to discover in the city than meets the eye.
The city has cute neighborhoods.
It has themed pop-up bars. The town even has underground exhibits.
Were these things unexpected? I assume so.
And so, to help you with your next trip to Washington, DC, I made sure to gather 12 of my favorite spots you can visit.
Some are touristy while others are not.
Of course, there will be the usual museums, monuments, and government buildings. But I also added a few other attractions you might not be familiar with in the past.
And what I love about these attractions is that they are near each other.
There is no need for long drives.
Let’s get started.
1. The Dupont Underground
The Dupont Underground is an art space in Washington, DC.
As the name suggests, it is near Dupont Circle and welcomes exhibitions from local artists.
And as you already may know through its name, Dupont Underground is a tunnel created out of repurposed urban infrastructural space. These days, the center hosts several art exhibits and live events.
Look no further if you are craving a place to visit on the weekend in Washington, DC.
You will see street art, photography, light shows, and paintings.
Here at Dupont Underground, anything goes. However, if there is something I can assure you, everything here is fascinating.
Dupont Underground is one of the best-undiscovered destinations in the city.
2. The U.S. Capitol Building
Washington, DC, is famous for its monumental architecture.
For starters, there is the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. There is the White House to explore, too. We will talk more about these places later.
And if you are thinking of which ones to visit, I would say that all of them are worth your time.
However, one of the best buildings to explore is the U.S. Capitol Building.
The building is open to the public during certain fixed hours during the day.
Professional tour guides lead tours. During these tours, you can see the Crypt, visit the Rotunda, and peek at the National Statuary Hall.
Please know, however, that the tour does not include the Senate and the House Galleries. These places should be off-limits to tourists.
If you do not have plans to take these tours, visiting outside the building is also a lovely experience.
I suggest visiting during twilight. You will witness how the building comes to life as day turns night.
3. National Museum of African American History and Culture
With all the museums and monuments in Washington, DC, it is hard to imagine anything less grand.
However, in 2016, another infrastructure made its way to being a little grander than the others.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture made its way to being one of the most beautiful sights in the city.
The building, in itself, is iconic. Inside is even grander.
The museum is home to artifacts, photography, and other forms of media related to African American culture and experiences.
One of the most notable finds inside is Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and silk lace. Her linen shawl is also another display you should check out.
The other displays you should not miss out on are Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, photos that capture the involvement of black women during the Civil Rights Movement, and a bill of sale for a young girl to slavery.
The museum spans an area of about 85,000 square feet. It is a large museum and so when you come to visit, make sure to have enough time.
4. The National Harbor
New York is famous for its Coney Island.
Washington, DC does not have a Coney Island, but it has its version.
The closest thing to the famous Coney Island is the National Harbor.
The National Harbor is where you will find different things and sights like casinos, restaurants, and several bustling walking areas. The National Harbor is the perfect destination where you can spend a lazy evening.
One of the most famous sights here is the Ferris wheel. Locals call this the Capital Wheel.
A Capital Wheel ride provides a view of the Potomac River. It is also a fun way to spend an afternoon in Washington.
5. The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the second-largest library in the world. To date, it has more than 167 million items inside.
The shelves of this library hold everything that you could ever imagine. It has rare and fragile books. The library is also home to different contemporary recordings of famous songs.
The library contains maps, photographs, murals, paintings, newsreels, manuscripts, sheet music, etc.
It has a total of three buildings. Outside, the architecture is as beautiful as the inside.
Once in a while, the library is host to special events. At some point in the past, one of the buildings served as a performance theater. One of the buildings also comes equipped with an auditorium for live performances.
And did I ever mention that this is free?
Yes, you can spend the whole afternoon here and never worry about spending a cent.
6. The Lincoln Memorial
This destination could probably be one of the most popular in Washington, DC.
The Lincoln Memorial sits at the far end of the mall. The Reflecting Pool separates the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument. And so, if you happen to be at the Washington Monument, you can walk for a few minutes and visit the Lincoln Memorial.
At the center of the memorial is a marble statue.
The statue stands 19 feet and shows a seated President Abraham Lincoln. Surrounding the figure are 36 columns, each representing a state already in existence at President Lincoln’s death.
Daniel Chester French designed the memorial. Jules Guerin painted the murals, the paintings which show the essential parts of President Lincoln’s life.
The memorial’s construction finished in 1922. Since then, it has been the location of several historical events.
For example, the all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) did not allow a famous African American singer to hold a concert at the Constitution Hall nearby. President Roosevelt and his wife allowed Anderson to perform at the memorial.
The famous Martin Luther King Jr. also delivered his speech here.
Visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the other monuments in Washington, DC, is one of the best things to do while in the city.
These monuments are also well-lighted.
7. The Tidal Basin
Have you seen Washington, DC’s iconic cherry blossoms in full glory?
This event happens every April. In the early days of April, the cherry blossoms, famous for their pastel pink flowers, put up a beautiful show.
However, if you want to maximize your view of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, there is a perfect spot. Head over to the Tidal Basin.
If you visit in early April, grab a jacket and take a walk. Admire the pink colors as they reflect off the water of the basin.
Or, if you are more active than I am, go for a 10-mile run through these beautiful streets.
8. The Eastern Market
The perfume of flowers is wafting through the air. The fruits are fresh and juicy to the bite.
There are jewelry pieces, woodworking stalls, food stalls, and more everywhere around you.
This scene is common in the Eastern Market.
The Eastern Market spills out of an old brick building. The building is an indoor and outdoor shopping space famous in Washington, DC.
The market is home to produce and wares from all over D.C. You will find a rotation of farmers, artists, butchers, and booksellers selling their goods.
And if you want to support small businesses, you can grab a shawl or a necklace from one of the sellers in the market.
9. National Mall and Veterans Memorials
And yet, we have another memorial to visit.
The National Mall and Veterans Memorials are ample lands with lawns and pools. These all form an expansive greenbelt that starts from the Capitol Building and goes to the Lincoln Memorial.
The area is also the place for many of the city’s landmark buildings and monuments.
The most notable is the Washington Monument, which pays tribute to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a wall with the names of every American man and woman who lost their lives (or are missing) during the Vietnamese war.
Nearby, there is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. It shows a bronze sculpture of three women helping out a wounded soldier.
A few minutes away is the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This memorial contains 19 sculptures of soldiers.
If you look at a map of all the attractions in Washington, DC, you will notice that most of these gather at the National Mall. If you have less time in the city, you should head to the National Mall to maximize your visit.
Aside from the monuments, the National Mall is also a perfect destination for strolling, running, and even picnicking.
10. The Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art
Head to The Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art for some live jazz music during summer. Aside from the jazz, you can fuzz up the night with a sangria pitcher (or two).
Fridays are usually fun days from around June to August.
These days, the city’s younger professionals flock to the garden with their picnic baskets and snacks of wine and cheese. At the same time, they are catching up on their busy schedules while enjoying the quaint and jazzy music wafting through the air.
When I first visited Washington, DC, this was the first event I ever went to. It was fun to sit back, unwind, and relax amidst the many sculptures of the garden.
This event is non-touristy. But it was fun.
And it is not just during the summer that the garden teems with people.
During winter, you can head over to the garden’s fountain area. The fountain area turns itself into an ice skating rink.
And for a few dollars, you can rent a pair of skates and enjoy.
11. Georgetown Waterfront Park
Another non-touristy destination in Washington, DC, is the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
This place is perfect for a relaxing walk that will refresh you and your family and rejuvenate you.
While walking the park, I loved how pristine and clean the water was of the Potomac River. The park’s location makes it even more fun to explore the river.
There are numerous activities available like paddling and boating.
Going to the park is excellent if you want something to do with the kids on a lazy afternoon.
Aside from the activities, there are also kiosks, restaurants, and several other events that could keep you busy and full.
You can even catch a family cinema event they hold in the park’s open areas during the summer months.
12. The White House
We all know you can find The White House in Washington, DC.
The White House is the official residence of the President of the United States, all the presidents except for George Washington.
James Hoban built it in 1792. Burnt down in 1814 by the British, the White House completed its rebuilding efforts in 1818.
Tours of the White House include a visit to the East, Blue, Green, and Red Rooms. However, if you want to check out the Ballroom and the State Dining Room, you must reserve in advance.
A few minutes away from the building is the White House Visitor Center. It has interactive exhibits that show all the details of the White House. It also includes a display showing off the furniture of former presidents, historical changes, and a residence model.
There are also videos from former presidents discussing how it was for them to live there.
Washington, DC is not the capital of the United States for nothing.
It may be smaller compared to other cities in the country. However, it has many activities and attractions that you, your family, and friends can enjoy.
There are museums, national parks, and great restaurants.
The city can provide you with a wide array of choices that you and your family enjoy.
Have you been to Washington, DC, yet?
Which tourist attraction would you like to include on our list?
Let me know.