Even though fall will be here soon, a visit to DC or playing tourist for the day over the Labor Day holiday weekend is perfect for this time of year. Here are a few of my favorite things to see and do around the city:
DC is home to the Smithsonian Institution, a collection of museums and research centers. The museums are operated by the National Park Service and are free to all visitors. Although there is a museum that appeals to every interest, my two favorites are the Natural History Museum and Air & Space Museum. The Natural History Museum has exhibitions on rare gems and minerals, as well as different animals and species that existed in the past. If you visit, don’t forget to take a peek at the Hope Diamond, a 112 carat diamond from the 17th century. The Air & Space Museum covers all things aviation, including space exploration; you can even see pieces of the moon. Don’t forget that there is an annex of the Air & Space Museum at the Udvar Hazy Center near Dulles Airport, which displays a number of retired planes including the Concorde, but the location on the Mall in DC also has a few airplanes to see. If you’re not too worn out, watch an IMAX movie at either of the museums.
A few other interesting museums are the Newseum and International Spy Museum. The Newseum, as the name says, is a museum about news. The Newseum has interesting exhibits on how certain journalistic events unfolded, and even allows visitors to try being a news anchor or reporter on TV. The International Spy Museum exhibits different espionage artifacts and highlights the stories of different spies, their missions and how the spies were discovered. If you’re really into this whole espionage thing, check out the book Spy Sites of Washington DC.
Shopping and Dining
If you’re into shopping and dining, Georgetown is the place to go! The streets of this 18th-century neighborhood are laden with boutiques and fancy restaurants. Hidden deep inside this neighborhood is the 1789 Georgetown University built in an elaborate gothic style. If you’re interested, step inside Healy Hall to say you’ve been “admitted” to the university. On the way back to the main drag, stop at Georgetown Cupcakes for their famous treats; maybe you’ll even get to be on the show DC Cupcakes on TLC.
Washington Nationals Baseball
Unwind in the evening with a Nats baseball game, and cheer on the curly W. If you’re looking for neighborhoods to explore before the game, check out the area around Capitol Hill, Eastern Market, and Barracks Row, or the Yards section of the Anacostia river front. While all of these areas have great restaurants, cafés and shops, the Yards are set up more like a park and offer summer weekend concerts and lush walking trails. If you’re nostalgic for small independent book stores, visit Capitol Hill Books.
Close by DC
If you’re up for exploring outside of DC proper, check out National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria. A couple fun things to do in National Harbor are the Capital Wheel with great views of the District, the new MGM casino to test your luck or paddle boating near the harbor. Opposite National Harbor on the other side of the river is Old Town, which is where Halt, Buzas & Powell’s offices are located. Old Town Alexandria was recently ranked as one of the best downtowns in America and hasn’t changed much since the days of George Washington. It’s a really cute coastal town with a great waterfront to walk along and relax. There’s a water taxi connecting Old Town Alexandria, National Harbor, the Yards and Georgetown.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the Nation’s capital on July 4th, make sure to take advantage of a local favorite, the annual Capital 4th. But don’t make the rookie mistake of watching it from the National Mall; no it’s not a group of stores, but rather 146 acres of grassy open space and national monuments between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Instead, try making your way to Daingerfield Island or Gravelly Point (accessible by Metro or Capital Bikeshare), which offer great views of DC and the fireworks without the enormous crowds. Bring a blanket and some snacks, and make a picnic out of it!
But really, just wander, get lost and enjoy this magnificent city.
Written by Rob Roudik