Beyond the Mall & Memorials: Making the Most of Your Temporary Business Stay in the DC Metro Area

You’re visiting DC, and you’re eager to see the sights-- but not the usual monuments and museums. You’re interested in the off-the-beaten-track, not-so-touristy spots. But where do you begin to search for these sites? We’ve got your back! Here are some of our favorite spots that aren’t on the typical tourist’s must-see list.

Renwick Gallery

The Renwick Gallery is the site for the Smithsonian’s collection of contemporary and decorative art. The gallery’s newly renovated, with site-specific installations by some of America’s most important contemporary artists. Photos are not only allowed, but they’re encouraged, and there are lots of nifty spots for posing, such as an enormous nest or a hot-pink room covered with gorgeous insects. Located at Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW in DC, admission is free, and it’s open daily from 10am-5:30pm.  

Theodore Roosevelt Island

This 91-acre wooded isle honoring our 26th president is just a metro ride away; Theodore Roosevelt Island, nestled the Potomac River, pays tribute to Teddy’s love of the wilderness and offers amazing hiking trails and boardwalks around the scenic island’s shorelines. You can rent a canoe or kayak to take in the Potomac’s breathtaking views, or just hike it on the paths. Bikes aren’t allowed on the island proper, but there is a space to lock them in the parking area. The island is open daily from 6am-10pm, but the restrooms are closed from October to April.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

One of the more gruesome of the many museums that adorn our nation’s capitols, the National Museum of Health and Medicine features an amazing array of exhibits, from a hairball retrieved from a 12 year old girl’s stomach to the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln. Established as a center for collecting specimens for research during the Civil War, this museum is a fascinating glimpse into medicine throughout the ages. The museum is located at 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, MD, with free admission, and it’s open daily from 10am-5:30pm.  

Dumbarton Oaks

Administered by Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks features an impressive library and museum as well as historic gardens. You can visit the world-class collection of art, listen to a lecture, take in a concert, or stroll the glorious grounds. The museum features a specialized collection of Pre-Columbian and Byzantine art as well as European masterpieces. Tag along on a docent-hosted tour to get a full understanding of the pieces featured. Dumbarton Oaks is located at 1703 32nd St NW, Washington, DC, and the hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30am to 5:30pm. Admission to the museum is free. The gardens are open from 2pm to 6pm Tuesday-Sunday during the regular season (March 15-October 31), and admission is $10.

DC Metro Food Tours

This is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the many fantastic food options DC has to offer. With more than 20 different tours available, you can choose anything from the Capitol Hill Culinary Experience to the Pub Crawl. You can sample cuisines from different cultures, explore unfamiliar neighborhoods, and enjoy the best of DC’s burgeoning food scene. With tickets starting at $30, you’ll be served small tasting portions at several stops, and for a small additional fee, you can add alcoholic beverages for an extra air of festivity.

The Jefferson Building (Library of Congress)

Architecture buffs, take heed! This gem was unveiled in 1897 to general acclaim, and it's beauty hasn't diminished as it ages.  The Library of Congress came to be when former president Thomas Jefferson offered to sell the young nation his extensive library of over 6,000 books after the 1814 British-led siege on the nation's capitol.  A grateful congress agreed, and made the purchase to re-establish the congressional library-- it was a bargain at $23,950!); the collection continued to grow as the nation prospered, and in the 1870's, Congress commissioned a new library. This opulent example of the Gilded Age is a love letter to the arts, and it's grandiosity was an attempt to show up some of the ancient and beautiful sights in Europe.  Make sure you check out the Fountain of Neptune,which is visible from the road level.  The Library of Congress is free to visit, and the hours are Monday-Saturday, 8:30am-5:30pm. It's located at 10 First Street, SE, Washington, DC 20540. 

Washington National Cathedral

The sixth largest cathedral in the world, the National Cathedral's construction began in 1907 under the eye of President Theodore Roosevelt, and it was finished in 1992, with President George H.W. Bush in attendance. Modeled on 14th century Gothic architecture, the main body of the cathedral is made from Indiana limestone,and there are many gorgeous stained glass windows, including the Scientists and Technicians Window, a testament to man's exploration of space. There are many fascinating things for people to discover, so it's worth your time to take a look around! (Be on the lookout for the sculpture of Darth Vader on the west tower!) Admission to the cathedral is $11 Monday-Friday, but worship on Sundays is, of course, free. The cathedral is located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.  

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