Beyond the White House: 6 Fun, Unexpected Things to Do in D.C.

Updated 05/06/19

If you've ever gone on an eighth-grade history trip, you know the nation's capital has a whole lot of monuments to see. There's the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial, but there's so much more to Washington, D.C., than just monuments. Our suggestion? Knock those out in an afternoon by going to the National Mall, and then use our guide to the best things to do in D.C. that aren't on an average itinerary. From the crazy-cool columns at the National Arboretum to a cereal heiress's epic mansion, these are the places real D.C.-ers take out-of-towners when they want to show off their city and wow their guests, beyond what's mentioned in a tourist brochure.

Keep scrolling to see! 

NATIONAL ARBORETUM

A stone's throw from the heart of the city, visitors can take in the majestic beauty of the original 1882 capitol columns at the National Arboretum. The surrounding park and reflecting pool offers the perfect place for an afternoon picnic before exploring the many gardens, bonsai museum, aquatic area, and koi pond. 

3501 New York Ave. NE

HILLWOOD MUSEUM AND GARDENS

This immaculately preserved and groomed estate, complete with 25 acres of gardens, offers a unique glimpse at how a wealthy 20th-century heiress lived lavishly (including a pet cemetery dedicated to her many dogs, including one named Creme de Coco.) The mansion-turned-museum houses an extensive Russian art collection, including chalices, China, and sculpture from the Romanov era, along with a putting green, a Japanese garden, a French parterre, and a rose garden. There is also a lovely greenhouse and on-site café for having lunch and coffee before your stroll.

 

4155 Linnean Ave. NW

HISTORIC georgetown walking tour

Georgetown is one of the most charming neighborhoods in all of D.C., with cobblestone streets, canals, and gorgeous historic townhomes. This free walking tour guides you along some of the best sights this area of the city has to offer, including various homes the Kennedy family lived in. When you're finished, grab a cupcake at beloved local bakery, Baked & Wired—you won't regret it. 

900-998 31st St.

THE NATIONAL HARBOR

Washington's National Harbor is home to The Awakening, a statue of five massive pieces of aluminum emerging from the shoreline to create the effect of a giant unearthing himself from the ground. AKA it's a 'gram waiting to happen.
163 Waterfront St.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Nerds unite: the Library of Congress is one of the coolest destinations in D.C. There are free walking tours to take in the stunning architecture, concerts, lectures, special exhibits, and reading rooms to explore to your heart's content. 

10 First St. SE

WATERGATE

Make a stop into the most legendary hotel in D.C.—dine, get a cocktail, and wander around the grounds where one of history's most infamous wire taps took place. As a bonus: Watergate is a short walk from The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, so stop in afterward for a view of the city from its grand rooftop patio. 

2650 Virginia Ave. NW 

In between destinations, stop at some of the best new restaurants the District has to offer. Where else will you be headed this summer? Tell us in the comments below, and show us your travel photos on Instagram using #MyDomaineTravels.

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