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DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

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Arlington, VA
posts: 1,397
reviews: 13
DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

While I am local, I find this forum the be very informative. I often have guests in town and they have seen all the standard tourist sites (musuems and monuments). Next time they are in town I'd like to send them to some"hidden gems". Some of the places I can think of are:

Library of Congress - http://www.loc.gov/loc/visit/

Great rotating exhibits. Fantastic architecture.

National Building Museum - http://www.nbm.org/

One of my personal faves. Gotta get the tour !! The Museum was designed in the 1880s by Montgomery C. Meigs to house the Pension Bureau. The building's exterior dimensions are 400 feet by 200 feet, and 75 feet high to cornice level. The rotating exhibits are interesting and are related to architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning.

Botanical Gardens - http://www.usbg.gov/

Gravelly Point - …aol.com/washington/entertainment/venue.adp…

If you like planes you will love this place. This park sits on the Virginia side of the Potomac right at the end of the runway for National Airport. Every few minutes a plane SCREAMS overhead to land or take off (depending on which way the wind blows)

So, posters... what are you hidden gems for tourists???

195 replies to this topic
Baltimore, MD
posts: 222
reviews: 14
151. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

The Navy Memorial on Pennsyvania Ave between 7th and 9th Sts (near the Archives/Navy Mem Metro station) is surrounded by a series of amazing plaques commemorating US Navy history. The Navy Heritage Center is in the building on the far side of the memorial's circle. Look for it because it's easy to miss. The small lobby leads to a museum and theater on the lower level.

The US Military bands are just excellent. You can catch their free concerts at different locations. Here's a list of their summer 2012 concerts:


You can easily catch docent tours of most of the museums and monuments. These are a wealth of information. Did I mention that they are free? If you miss one at the start, just join in at any time.

Los Angeles, CA
posts: 13
reviews: 5
152. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

major bump!!!!! great thread - I'd love to see some interesting historical tidbits here as well (like this one: the Surratt Boarding House 604 H. Street, NW: pictures: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/2310/then-and-now-surratt-boarding-house/) You know, not-so-typical tourist fare but significant nonetheless.

How about the Grotto at the Summerhouse just NW of the Capitol? A throwback to when the city's rivers ran in front of the Capitol and connected to the canal that ran past the White House.

posts: 8
reviews: 17
153. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

Bump. Really a great thread. I would love to check some of them out while in DC next month.

Washington DC...
posts: 206
reviews: 8
154. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

To answer the Congress Subway I checked on Wiki and They said that it is open to the public insofar you have to have a pass and/or be escorted.

My hidden gems include finding the "Kilroy was here" markings at the WWII Memorial and the craw way in an air vent at the Spy Museum.

On the rare times when I got to go through Skylab at the Air & Space, I had to tell people to look up.

The best public restrooms I find are in hotels.

Washington DC...
posts: 206
reviews: 8
155. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

Yes the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after that earthquake, but there are other locations to go to if you want a view ot the city:

Post Office Pavillion bell tower- Restored office with shopping and food court in an atrium has a free elevator to the open air observation platform, Thank you National Park Service.

National Cathederal- On top of one of the highest elevations in the District. They also suffered some damage, but they are now offering tours of their towers as well as being the best excample of gothic artitecture around

The other "Washington Monument"- this is that tower near the King Street Metro station in Alexandria. Built by the Freemasons in honor of one of their members who happned to be the first president. There is a tour up this tower explaining the origins and Philosophy of this organization.

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Arlington
posts: 2,606
reviews: 31
156. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

Here's an article CNN just did on some really obscure D.C. historical sites: cnn.com/2013/…

I'm a life-long area resident and will confess I'd only heard about a couple of these places.

Alexandria, Virginia
posts: 73
reviews: 20
157. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

The Lincoln Cottage in NW DC is definitely a hidden gem. Free parking, lovely location at Old Soldiers Home, and some interestinAlg cemeteries near-by. Lincoln spent his summers here when President, and the tour is extremely informative. Took him less time to get to the White House with horse than it now takes in rush hour with car.

Also there is a lovely boat ride from Alexandria. Takes you down the Potomac to Kennedy Center area. Excellent lunch served as part of price.

posts: 28
158. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

Since I am a huge fan of JFK and with this being the 50th Anniversary of his assassination I am going to try this one out.....a walking tour of JFK related homes in Georgetown....from the outside only of course!!!


JO in the UK

Jacksonville, FL
Destination Expert
for Jacksonville
posts: 5,258
reviews: 14
159. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

Okay - I have to admit that I didn't read this entire thread, so this may have been mentioned, but I find the Medical Oddities exhibit at the National Museum of Health (Silver Spring, MD - accessible by Metro, I think) to be fascinating. It used to be at Walter Reed and was moved a couple of years ago.

Norfolk, Virginia
posts: 5
reviews: 43
160. Re: DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists

I am not a native, but I visit a few times a year. I love Hillwood. It is definitely worth checking out.

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