Washington, D.C. serves up plenty of offbeat experiences for visitors

If you’re looking for some unique and memorable experiences in Washington DC, you might want to skip the usual tourist attractions and explore some of the city’s hidden gems. Here are 10 under-the-radar activities that will make your trip to the US capital unforgettable.

Visit Lincoln’s summer retreat

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln used to escape the heat and stress of the White House by spending time at a cottage in northern DC? You can tour the historic home where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation and learn about his life and legacy. The cottage is located on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home and is open to the public by reservation only.

Admire the view from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is not only the world’s largest library, but also a stunning architectural masterpiece. You can marvel at the ornate details of the Thomas Jefferson Building, see rare books and manuscripts, and enjoy free concerts and lectures. Don’t miss the hidden gem on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, where you can access a cafeteria with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the city and the Potomac River.

Learn your state tree at the National Arboretum

The National Arboretum is a botanical oasis that spans 446 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows. You can see a variety of plants, flowers, and wildlife, as well as an impressive collection of Corinthian columns that were once part of the US Capitol. One of the most interesting features is the State Tree Grove, where you can find a specimen of every state tree in the US, from New York’s sugar maple to California’s giant sequoia.

Ogle brains and hairballs at the National Museum of Health and Medicine

If you have a strong stomach and a curious mind, you might enjoy visiting the National Museum of Health and Medicine, a Department of Defense-run museum that showcases the history and science of medicine. You can see gruesome exhibits such as a stomach-shaped hairball, a megacolon, and bits of Abraham Lincoln’s skull. You can also learn about fascinating topics such as forensic anthropology, military medicine, and human anatomy.

Get buzzed at Gravelly Point Park

For an adrenaline rush, head to Gravelly Point Park, a grassy area next to Reagan National Airport where you can watch planes take off and land at an astonishing proximity. You can feel the ground shake and hear the engines roar as jetliners zoom overhead, just a few hundred feet away from you. The park is also a great spot for picnics, biking, and enjoying views of the Potomac River.

Delve into the crypt at Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral is not only a majestic Gothic-style church, but also a place full of surprises. You can spot a gargoyle shaped like Darth Vader, a stained-glass window with a moon rock embedded in it, and a carving of Indiana Jones on one of the pillars. You can also visit the crypt where former president Woodrow Wilson and his wife are buried, as well as the ashes of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan.

Hotels in Washington

Peruse art up-close at the Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection is America’s first museum of modern art, founded in 1921 by Duncan Phillips. The museum features works by artists such as Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, and O’Keeffe. Unlike most museums, the Phillips Collection displays its artworks in intimate rooms that resemble a home rather than a gallery. You can get close to the paintings and appreciate their details without being overwhelmed by crowds or barriers.

Explore underground tunnels at Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is one of DC’s most vibrant neighborhoods, known for its restaurants, bars, shops, and art galleries. But beneath its busy streets lies a hidden network of tunnels that were once used as streetcar stations in the early 20th century. The tunnels have been abandoned since 1962, but they occasionally open to the public for tours or events. You can see graffiti-covered walls, old tracks and platforms, and even an old nuclear fallout shelter.

Experience the spy life at the International Spy Museum

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a spy, you can find out at the International Spy Museum, a museum dedicated to the history and craft of espionage. You can see authentic spy gadgets, weapons, and vehicles, as well as learn about famous spies and missions from around the world. You can also test your skills and knowledge in interactive exhibits and simulations that challenge you to crack codes, evade surveillance, and uncover secrets.

Enjoy a night of mystery at the Mansion on O Street

The Mansion on O Street is a quirky hotel and museum that offers a unique experience for visitors. The mansion has over 100 rooms, each with a different theme and decor. You can find hidden doors, secret passages, and unusual objects throughout the mansion, such as guitars signed by rock stars, a two-story log cabin, and a John Lennon suite. You can book a room for the night or join a treasure hunt tour that lets you explore the mansion and its mysteries.

ENS Editors

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