However, there are a number of hidden gems that many visitors might not know about which are certainly worth a look while in the Washington, DC area.
Here are ten unique spots to add to your list should you find yourself “inside the beltway” this summer.
- Marine Barracks Washington: Evening Parade
Marine Barracks Washington, also known as “8th & I,” is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. The Evening Parade, held every Friday evening during the summer, has become a universal symbol of the professionalism, discipline, and Esprit de Corps of the United States Marines. The ceremony starts at 8:45 PM, beginning with a concert by the United States Marine Band. A one hour and fifteen minute performance of music and precision marching, the Evening Parade features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers, and LCpl. Chesty XIII, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington.
- Spy Museum
Need to make a drop, crack a code or create a new cover? Head to the International Spy Museum. Through storytelling and interactive exhibits, this is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history and continues to have a significant impact on world events. The Spy Museum focuses on human intelligence and reveals the role spies have played in world events throughout history.
- U.S. National Arboretum
Located on 446 acres, the National Arboretum is home to a wide variety of plants, trees and gardens with something almost always in bloom depending on the time of year. Highlights include Azaleas, Dogwoods, National Boxwood Collection, National Herb Garden, Fern Valley, Friendship Garden, Asian Collections, National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, National Grove of State Trees, Aquatic Garden and Koi Pond. Established in 1927 by an Act of Congress, the Arboretum is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. If you want more, you might also enjoy the United States Botanic Garden located downtown on 100 Maryland Avenue, SW near the U.S. Capitol.
- Udvar-Hazy Center
Home to the recently retired Space Shuttle Discovery, the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, VA is a member of the National Air & Space Museum family. Due to the expansive room in the Boeing Aviation Hangar and McDonnell Space Hangar, Udvar-Hazy is able to house a wider collection artifacts including the fastest jet ever built, Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird; Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner Clipper Flying Cloud, the first airliner with a pressurized cabin; a Concorde supersonic airliner, the Gemini VII space capsule; the Mobile Quarantine Unit used upon the return of the Apollo 11 crew; and a Redstone rocket.
- Washington National Cathedral
A great and beautiful edifice in the city of Washington, the beautiful architecture, structure and grounds of the National Cathedral have served as a sacred place for our country in times of celebration, crisis, and sorrow. As a spiritual resource for our nation, the Cathedral provides an indispensable ministry for people of all faiths and perspectives.
- Congressional Cemetery
Located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the Washington Parish Burial Ground was first established in 1807 and designated by the United States as the place of interment for nearly every member of Congress or executive officer who died while holding office. Today, the hallowed ground of the Historic Congressional Cemetery is the final resting place for many notable Americans including three U.S. presidents (William Henry Harrison, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor), two first ladies (Louisa Adams, Dolley Madison), Vice President Elbridge Gerry, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, Civil War generals and others such as military composer and conductor John Phillips Sousa and first FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Correction: Although originally buried at the Historic Congressional Cemetery shortly after their deaths in Washington, DC, the remains of the three U.S. presidents and two first ladies were later moved to other locations related to each of their personal histories. (HT Alex Treadway)
- Lincoln Cottage
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and his family resided seasonally at the Soldiers’ Home in northwest Washington, DC for a quarter of his presidency between 1862-64. Located on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, this property is regarded by some as the most significant historic site associated with Lincoln other than the White House.
- National Harbor
Located on 300 acres of prime real estate along the scenic Potomac River in Prince George’s County, MD, National Harbor is the new gateway to the National Capital Region. This spectacular urban-waterfront community offers stunning views of downtown Washington, D.C. and Old Town Alexandria and the waterfront backdrop completes the perfect setting for prime retail, dining and entertainment. National Harbor is also home to the Gaylord National, the largest combined hotel and convention center on the East Coast. Visit the National Harbor Marina, hop on a water taxi or set sail on lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruises and experience the beauty and splendor of the Potomac like never before.
- Lee-Fendall House
Shortly after the American Revolution, war hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee purchased property on North Washington Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Built in 1785, the Lee-Fendall House has housed 32 members of the Lee family all the way until 1903. General Robert E. Lee, who later led the Confederate troops during the U.S. Civil War, spent his boyhood here. Also, while in Old Town Alexandria, don’t miss the rows of shops and restaurants that line King Street from the George Washington Masonic Memorial all the way down to the waterfront area at Union Street. Too hot or too far to walk? Hop on the free King Street Trolley.
- Southwest Waterfront
Southwest DC went through its first wave of urban renewal in the 1950s. It’s now a hotspot for development once again, with the opening of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals Ballpark nearby and the expansion of the 50-year-old Arena Stage. Sample fresh seafood creations at the Maine Avenue Seafood Market or indulge in a multi-course tasting menu at CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental. Hop on board a sightseeing cruise for an unforgettable view of the monuments from the water. Honor the men who died on the doomed Titanic at one of DC’s most unusual memorials.
If you have flexibility in your schedule and are up for a little road trip while in the region, check out George Washington’s Mount Vernon Garden & Estates in Alexandria, VA, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, National Aquarium at the Baltimore Harbor, MD and the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, PA. For those who appreciate American history from U.S. presidents to “seals” (both kinds) — there’s something for everyone.
Special thanks to Noah Chestnut, Katie Frederick, Katie Harbath and Jason Keller for the tips! Do you have other suggested places/activities or any feedback from your visits? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Enjoy your time in the Capital City!
Sources: Some of the language used above was taken either entirely or in part from respective venue websites. Links are provided for convenience.
One Thing To Do in DC This Summer (FamousDC, 6/26/12)