Welcome to Washington. The US capital is one of the most visited cities in the world — not just for being the seat of the real-life US government, but also as the playground of fictional characters like Frank Underwood, Jed Bartlet and Carrie Mathison. When people come, they often have a list of iconic tourist attractions they’d like to see: the White House, the US Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National World War II Memorial; the list goes on and on. While all of these spots are definitely worth checking out (and for maybe recreating one of your fave West Wing or Houses of Cards scenes), the city has so much more to offer beyond the National Mall.
Here are five of our favourite off-the-beaten-track tips (courtesy of our local Washington tour guides) for things to do in D.C. when you’re done with following all the politics — real or make-believe.
Capitol Hill is not just where the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress are located — it’s also a vibrant neighbourhood with plenty to do! Just two blocks behind the Capitol Building, you’ll find streets lined with beautiful townhouses, delicious food, and various historic bars.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, take a step back in time when you visit the Folger Shakespeare Library, or when you pick up a handmade item at the Eastern Market. If running around the neighbourhood leaves you famished, grab something delicious and filling to eat on Barracks Row.
While D.C. is full of National Parks, one of the city’s hidden natural gems is Theodore Roosevelt Island, right in the middle of the Potomac River. While it may seem unfair that bikes or cars aren’t allowed into the park, the U.S. National Park Service restricts access for good reason. Emphasis is being placed on the fact that the island is a natural space, and that peace and tranquillity should be encouraged in order to make it the perfect city escape! Bring a picnic with you and enjoy some relaxation in this peaceful setting.
Georgetown is one of the most historic neighbourhoods in the city — but locals known that it’s also great for sweet treats and shopping! In need of some retail therapy while you’re here? Head to M Street and pop into the charming boutiques that attract all the fashion-savvy locals. If all that shopping has left you beat and craving something sweet, skip Georgetown Cupcakes and wander up the remains of the C&O Canal to Baked and Wired, or Sprinkles, where you’ll find delicious cupcakes without the massive line-up.
Union Market has been the go-to place in D.C. for locally grown food for over 200 years. Head over to the re-purposed industrial space to snack on local cuisine or grab some new handmade products from one of more than 100 businesses housed in the market. Before you leave, don’t miss your chance to Instagram the incredible street art that surrounds the market. Use our #localsknow hashtag so we can check out what you’ve been up to the city!
End your night on a high note — literally. Take a ride on the Capital Wheel where you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of downtown D.C. 180 feet above the Potomac River. Grab a portable meal or yummy dessert and stroll along the waterfront while enjoying the beautiful Potomac River sunset.