If you have a trip to Washington, D.C., coming up soon, the Smithsonian Museums are a standard to fill time. How about a change of pace? Here are six things to do in D.C. that many visitors don’t get to but should – including gardens, memorials and music.
U.S. Botanic Garden – Very close to the U.S. Capitol at the eastern end of the National Mall is a little gem of a garden, the U.S. Botanic Garden. It too is free and one of our six things to do in D.C. Open to the public and in continuous operation since 1850, the U.S. Botanic Garden has both indoor and outdoor exhibits and gardens, including rambling outdoor areas with little nooks and benches to sit and commune with the flowers. Note that due to its proximity to the Capitol Building, it will be closed from Jan. 18-21, 2016, for the inauguration. Click here for general visitor information.
National Gallery of Art free concerts – Visit the National Gallery of Art, and then stay for the free concerts. But remember they are first come, first serve. If you happen to be in D.C. for the 2016 inauguration, there are a couple near that date: Jan. 18, piano and tenor, 12:10 p.m.; and Jan. 25, saxophone, viola and piano, 12:10 p.m. If you are there during the summer, take a look at our story about free summer jazz concerts in the Sculpture Garden outside.)
George Mason Memorial – A small memorial that is often even missed by locals, so makes it on our list of six things to do in D.C. George Mason is a bit of a forgotten founding father who was referred to by Thomas Jefferson as “the wisest man of his generation.” At the memorial, his statue lounges on a bench with his walking stick and books near by as he gazes out at the gardens. Probably thinking! The memorial is not far from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, moving toward the Potomac River on Ohio Dr. SW. (All of the locations mentioned in our Six Things To Do in D.C. article are marked for your convenience and can be found using our map at the end of this story).
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Although not far from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Roosevelt memorial is slightly overlooked too. We think because it is not tall and sweeping but walled in, making it a little secret-feeling find when you get there. It is situated between the Tidal Basin in Potomac Park and the Potomac River.
Air Force Memorial – Outside the traditional traipsing grounds of the National Mall, tucked up on a hillside south of Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial is a soaring and moving tribute to our forces in the sky. There are also events and concerts, mostly during the spring, summer and fall. Click here for visiting hours.
National Archives – Have some time? Don’t forget that the National Archives houses records that are open for your research. Look for information about your relatives, military records, or explore the nation’s history. There are two primary research facilities in the D.C. area: The main center at 700 Pennsylvania Ave., or the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, which is larger and a haven for researchers looking far back into history. You can also get free access while at the Archives to Ancestory.com and online research tools. There are free shuttles that run from the Pennsylvania Avenue facility to the Maryland facility (those are first-come, firsts-serve staff buses). Check the website transportation page for details, as well as required registration and identification.
Find an entire list of the parks, memorials and historic sites run by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. here.
Read more Washington D.C. travel tips
Map of Washington D.C.
In the map below, pins mark the exact location of all the sites mentioned in our articles on Washington D.C. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information.
George Mason Memorial
Air Force Memorial
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
National Gallery of Art
United States Botanic Garden
Boathouse and Fletcher's Cove
Capital Crescent Trail
Start of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath
To learn more about The Newseum, go to our article, Newseum: Must-See D.C. Museum for News, Politics & History Buffs.
Sculpture Garden on the National Mall
A magnificent Sculpture Garden in the summer, and an ice skating rink in the winter. Learn more about the free concerts offered in the summer by referring to our article, Jazzin' It Up In D.C.'s Sculpture Garden.