D.C. Hidden Gems and Treasures
Collected by Christian Mirasol, AFAR Local Expert
Like most major cities, the best places in DC aren't always located near the main attractions. In fact, a number of these hidden gems are nestled away from the more prominent spots in backstreets and less visited neighborhoods. Visiting lesser-known treasures - mansions, museums, beautiful gardens, memorials, and churches - enable travelers to not only avoid the crowds but feel more like local experts. So let's leave the obvious stuff to the tourists, and check out these hidden treasures!
4798 Western Avenue Northwest, Bethesda, MD 20816, USA
As a licensed guide for Washington, D.C., I've often been asked what the oldest monument in the city is. Well, may I present to you one of 40 sandstone monuments, and also the oldest in the U.S. Dubbed the Boundary Stones, they were placed in 1791...
5200 Glover Rd NW, Washington, DC 20015, USA
Rock Creek Park is the main stretch of woodland that runs through the city's northwest corridor. If you want to escape the mob of tourists on the Mall, or you just want to spend time in an urban oasis, head to Rock Creek Park. Any section between...
2201 C St NW, Washington, DC 20520, USA
Located on the 7th floor of the U.S. State Department, the 42-room Diplomatic Reception Room collection is used by the Secretary of State, Vice President, and Cabinet members to sign treaties, hold summit meetings, and entertain world leaders and...
3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Whether you have a green thumb or just love to bask in nature, you'll want to check out the National Arboretum before you bid D.C. adieu. Spring is one of the best times to visit, when the azaleas, rhododendrons, and native trees are in full...
1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA
The National Geographic Museum always has fascinating exhibits, and I love museums. When I saw the exhibit titled "America I Am: A look into the African Diaspora and its contributions to America," I knew I had to go. Always a popular venue, there...
4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Marjorie Merriweather Post was a wealthy American socialite and heiress to the Postum Cereal fortune. Her Washington home is now a museum, and the home’s original furnishings have been maintained alongside all the near-priceless collectibles...
2118 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Built between 1902 and 1905 along the now-famous Embassy Row, this 50-room Beaux Arts mansion was the winter residence of Ambassador Larz Anderson III, a career American diplomat, and his wife Isabel Weld Perkins, an author, Red Cross volunteer,...
1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Built from 1892 to 1894, this uniquely intact Victorian mansion was the home of German-American philanthropist and beer magnate Christian Heurich. Considered the world's oldest brewmaster, he ran the Christian Heurich Brewery on the site where the...
201 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
The Art Museum of the Americas is supported by the Organization of the American States and has a permanent collection that focuses on contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art by both established and up-and-coming talents. Although it’s...
38°56'42.2"N 77°07'26.0"W, Washington, DC 20543, USA
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, or simply the C&O, stretches for 185 miles beginning in the Georgetown neighborhood and ending in upstate Maryland. Back in the day when the canal was a key transport route, a system of locks raised and lowered the...
3120 R St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Dumbarton Oaks Garden, the onetime country estate of Mildred and Robert Bliss, is a delightful place to retreat for a few hours. You'll find it at the highest point of the elegant Georgetown neighborhood. Landscape architect Beatrix Farrand...
201 Allison St NW, Washington, DC 20011, USA
Since 1719, Rock Creek Cemetery has been a final resting place for notable Washingtonians and is the oldest colonial cemetery in D.C. It is marked with ornate gravestones and mausoleums, with the most prominent featuring a bronze statue of a...
1400 Quincy St NE, Washington, DC 20017, USA
Completed in 1899, this Byzantine and Romanesque-style church is a popular destination as a place for pilgrimage and worship for thousands of visitors to D.C. Run by the Order of St. Francis of Assisi (Franciscans), the monastery and its...
1725 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Few local D.C. residents know about St. Matthews Cathedral, and I would really be surprised if any visitors to D.C. knew about it, since it’s the National Cathedral that gets the mention in the guidebooks. That’s too bad, really, because this tiny...
400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017, USA
Since its dedication in 1959, this Byzantine-Romanesque shrine to the Virgin Mary has welcomed over one million visitors a year, among them Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Mother Teresa. At more than 77,500 square feet, it is the largest...
1725 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tucked away in the Kalorama neighborhood is an urban oasis of steps and terraces connecting S Street and Decatur Place NW. Designed in the early 20th century during D.C.'s "City Beautiful" movement, the Spanish Steps vaguely resemble the original...
Naval Observatory, Washington, DC 20392, USA
Washington DC is home to the Naval Observatory, the official source of time for the US military and by extension, the country. Computers, cellphones and cable TV boxes all have their clocks set to the time kept here. The observatory offers tours...
140 Rock Creek Church Rd NW, Washington, DC 20011, USA
For a historical experience beyond the usual suspects, drive out to the city limits and tour President Lincoln’s Cottage. Opened to the public a few years back, it was Abe’s retreat. In fact, he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation within these...
1801 E St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA
As you enter Congressional Cemetery's wrought iron gates, you'll encounter over 65,000 graves of architects and builders, musicians and explorers, patriots and scoundrels, pioneers and diplomats, and war veterans whose stories played significant...
Washington, DC 20008, USA
Located along M Street in the heart of Georgetown's hustle and bustle is the oldest extant home in DC. Built by a Pennsylvania cabinetmaker/carpenter in 1765 using locally sourced rock, timber, and earth, the Old Stone House still retains its...
1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
This 1816 neoclassical Georgetown neighborhood gem, once the home of Martha Custis Peter, a granddaughter of First Lady Martha Washington, stands as a microcosm of early American history and culture witnessed through the eyes of six generations of...
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