Six things to do in D.C. that many don’t but should

by Washington DC

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.

One of the more colorful six things to do in D.C. involves visiting the U.S. Botanical Garden.

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 are there during the summer, take a look at our story about free summer jazz concerts in the Sculpture Garden outside.)

Free concerts at the National Gallery.

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).

HITT Tip: Need a break for a little physical exercise? Head out to the C&O Canal Trail for a great break from museums and urban bustle. Click here to access our 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.

Air Force Memorial is one of six things to do in D.C.

HITT Tip: The Newseum is a museum that is not a national park but is highly recommended for news, history and politics buffs. Read about it and our visit here.

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 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.

Another of the six things to do in D.C. involves visiting the National Archives.

Find an entire list of the parks, memorials and historic sites run by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. here.

HITT Tip: Check out some other things to do in Washington D.C. with our destination stories 9 tips for a memorable visit to Arlington National Cemetery in D.C. and Make the most of a visit to Smithsonian’s African-American museum .

The Washington D.C. Travel Map

Washington DC map for travelersThere is so much to see and do in Washington D.C! Use our travel map of Washington D.C., in tandem with our many articles like this one, to help you decide where to go, what to do next, and even find your way from one fantastic sight, restaurant or place to stay to the next.

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 Things To Do In Washington DC

Heads up! This information on Six Things To Do In Washington D.C. was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.


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Therese Iknoian

Co-Conspirator at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian now focuses her writing and photography talents on travel. Fluent in German, Therese also runs a translation business ( working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. She's a French speaker, and loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication. Therese is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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