The city of Washington, DC is a treasure trove of history and culture. LeafCanoer, searchingforyourzen, recently visited the city and shared his experiences in his leaf, “Washington DC – In A Day!” The capitol city of the United States, DC is home to well-known attractions like the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and even the Vietnam Memorial. Many visitors know about the free Smithsonian Museums, like the National Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum. And places like the National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery are common stops for visitors to the city. But there are also a number of unique DC attractions that every visitor should see, to really get a feel for the city. Here are our picks for exploring a different side of DC.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
A longtime institution in DC is Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been serving up soulful chili since 1958. Located on U Street, Ben’s Chili Bowl has served everyone from foreign dignitaries and the President, to the everyday person off the street. Ben’s Chili Bowl is a great starting off point for exploring the rest of U Street and its surroundings, which was once a hot spot for jazz legends like Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington. The area surrounding Ben’s Chili Bowl and U Street was also once the cultural center of DC’s African American community, and is still a great place to catch a music show.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, known as the C&O Canal, runs from DC’s Georgetown neighborhood all the way into parts of West Virginia and Maryland. Once intended to connect Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio River, the C&O Canal was never fully finished. But it did serve as a transporter of coal from the Allegheny Mountains into Washington, DC. Visitors can walk or bike along the canal, and explore the old buildings of Georgetown.
Gravelly Point Park
For those wanting a more exhilarating experience, Gravelly Point Park, along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is a popular spot to explore. Here, visitors and locals alike can experience the rush of watching jet planes take off and land from DC’s Reagan National Airport, located right next to the park.
For another unique and historic attraction, spend the day in Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. Located 17 miles south of DC, Mount Vernon is an expansive estate that has been well-preserved and well-maintained. Visitors can take a tour of its grounds any time of the year, and catch a glimpse of what life was like for America’s first president.
DC is also full of lesser known historical sites. One such site is Ford’s Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Visitors to Ford’s Theatre can take a guided tour of the still functioning theater, and learn about its significance in American history. They can also stay to watch one of their many entertaining theatrical performances.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
The city of Washington, DC has many parks and green spaces for relaxing and exploring. Roosevelt Island, located along the Potomac River, below the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge on Highway 66, is the perfect place for an urban retreat. The island is accessible by foot from the Mount Vernon Trail, just off of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The 88.5 acre island, which is considered a national park, has a number of trails for visitors to walk, jog, or run through, and is home to a variety of wild birds. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular activities on the island during the summer time.
These are just a few of our picks for unique DC attractions. The city is overflowing with places to see and things to do, and it’s impossible to fit into one single list. Even locals who have lived in the city for years haven’t seen it all! For more ideas of what to see and do in Washington, DC, read more of searchingforyourzen’s leaf, or download the LeafCanoe app for more travel ideas.