You’ve seen the National Mall. You’ve experienced the magnificent glory of the Lincoln Memorial, visited Obama’s house, navigated the loud and crowded bars of Dupont Circle and tried your first real American double bacon cheeseburger.
At a certain point, you will have inevitably seen all the main tourist attractions of Washington. I’m here to tell you that there are a ton of awesome (and often free) things to do that your Fodor’s guide to DC forgot to mention. Some of my favorite memories over my past year at ISH have been made pursuing unique events and unusual activities around the city. It takes a bit of work and research, but it often pays off.
There are a number of highly useful websites that you can check every week to learn what’s happening around the city:
- Washington Post Going-out Guide Around Thursday night/Friday morning, the Washington Post publishes the top 10 things happening in Washington for the upcoming weekend.
- http://www.dcfreeculture.com I found this on the Washington DC reddit page. Someone’s 88-year-old grandfather compiles cultural events around DC and posts them every week. It’s actually really good! Thanks, Grandpa.
- DC Culture capital Lists upcoming arts, music and theater events.
- Thrillist DC Useful for a wide variety of DC related information (website is also useful for many other cities). It’s particularly good for food recommendations.
- Linktank Another useful website for finding free think-tank events around Washington based on your subject of interest.
Consistent Free Events
- The Library of Congress offers a lot of great and free events throughout the year, including concerts, lectures and movies.
- The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage offers free concerts every single day of the year at 6pm. Even on Christmas.
- Smithsonian offers a huge variety of events. Some do have fees but there are a lot of free ones as well. You can filter the list by museum, event type and other factors.
- Politics and Prose bookstore (Van Ness metro stop on the red line) has author readings and signings every day. In the past, I’ve gone with residents to see David Sedaris, Michio Kaku and other popular writers. Kramerbooks, that awesome bookstore down the street from us, also has occasional readings and live music.
- Cultural Tourism DC often hosts unique events around the city and the DC meetup.com page has groups for almost every activity you can think of.
- Young Professionals in Foreign Policy has a lot of great talks (and often hosts them at ISH!) and the International Club of DC offers many activities (occasionally free) as well.
- There are a ton of smaller organizations that are too many to list here. For instance, as I am interested in science, I’ve found several organizations that offer interesting events, such as DC Science Art Evening Rendezvous, Science Café and ThirstDC.
- This may sound obvious, but search on Google “free event Washington DC [your interest here]” and you might get lucky.
Here are a few things to see you might not be aware of that are within close walking distance of ISH.
- Mansion on O Street 100 rooms, 70 secret passages that you must find yourself, thousands of books/random crazy items for sale. On a rainy day, pay a few dollars for a self-guided tour and get lost in this amazing place for a few hours. 5 minute walk from the house.
- Society of the Cincinnati headquarters Beautiful mansion that belongs to an organization founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution. Also a 5 minute walk from the house and free to visit.
- Embassy Row—Take a nice walk and see all the embassies. Many offer free events and art exhibits throughout the year if you check their websites. Walk all the way to the top and check out the National Cathedral (and check out the Cathedral’s lower level to see the moderately creepy crypt below).
- Dumbarton Oaks Beautiful mansion, grounds and free museum. Also, check out the Heurich House Museum, another cool mansion near the house, as well as the Woodrow Wilson House.
A Few Cool Nearby Local Restaurants/Bars
- Artjamz—Have a glass of wine and paint at the same time.
- Bier Baron—Fitting for ISH, this bar has hundreds of beers from around the world. It’s also quiet and good for conversation. A nice place to go for a resident’s last night goodbye party.
- Board Room—Drinks and board games. Always fun.
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe—Great café for late night food and desserts.
- Le Diplomate—When you’re feeling classy, this restaurant is close as you are going to get to authentic French cuisine in the district.
- Yogato—Fun frozen yogurt place where you can answer trivia questions for discounts.
- Rose’s Luxury- This isn’t in our neighborhood (it’s located near Capitol Hill), but it’s worth a mention. I haven’t actually tried it yet; you usually have to wait 1-2 hours for a table. That’s because it was recently voted the best restaurant in America (literally). I’ve heard it’s worth the wait. After your meal, check out Harold Black—a secret 1920’s themed speakeasy—located nearby.
- Soho Café—Chill atmosphere to get your work done and support a local coffee shop that isn’t Starbucks.
- Teaism—Tasty and moderately priced Asian food and a wide variety of tea (as evidenced by the name).
- Thai Chef Sushi bar—Offers a good sushi/drink happy hour.
- Thai Crossing—If you walk down 17th street around 5pm, you might see a line-up of people in front of an unmarked door. They are waiting for the best Thai food in the city (the restaurant only seats 16 people at a time).
Washington is great for running and biking (or a leisurely walk). Here are a few routes to explore near the house:
- Rock Creek Park trail (starting on the trail below P Street bridge)—Follow this trail 1 mile south to Georgetown or take it all the way up to the zoo and eventually into the full Rock Creek Park. There you will find Beach Drive—a beautiful road that runs through the woods alongside a river. It is closed to cars on the weekends.
- C/O Canal trail—Starting in Georgetown, this flat dirt trail runs parallel to the Potomac River up to Maryland. Good for long-distance.
- Follow Q Street west through the beautiful homes of northern Georgetown. Cut across to R Street to Montrose Park and Dumbarton Oaks Park. Continue north to S Street until Wisconsin Avenue, which leads to Glover Park.
- Pro-tip: Download the TapIt smartphone application to locate free tap water all over the city.
While this is a small sample of many awesome things to do in Washington, I’ve already surpassed the word limit for this blog post. Now get out of the TV room and go experience Washington!