Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

5 off-the beaten path things to do in Washington, D.C.

City Slicker




Home to a number of monuments, world-class museums and a burgeoning dining scene, Washington, D.C. aka the nation’s capital is a popular U.S. tourist destination. Most visiting, however, tend to stick to the tourist route and don’t get a chance to see the city’s true heart and soul.


There are plenty of Washington D.C. hidden treasures and neighborhoods that are waiting to be explored. The district is a lot more than just its monuments…you have to know where to look. 


Here are a few off-the beaten path experiences to add to your district to-do list.


1. Take a photo at the original National Capitol Columns

It’s a wonderful time to explore Washington, and with 250,000 acres of green space in the D.C. area, there are no shortage of options to see the leaves changing colors. While most tourists flock to see the foliage along the Tidal Basin, a lesser explored attraction is the U.S. National Arboretum. Set on 446 acres, the arboretum primarily serves as a research facility for the USDA and is home to a number of lush, sprawling gardens, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, and the National Capitol Columns, a lesser known monument.



The 22 ornate, Corinthian sandstone columns once held up the U.S. Capitol building before being replaced in 1958 with newer, marble ones. They remained in storage until a private donor decided to find a permanent home for them; you will now find the columns, complete with a reflecting pool, overlooking a sprawling meadow on the grounds of the National Arboretum.


2. Descend into a former streetcar station under Dupont Circle

Electric streetcars were a popular means of transport in D.C. from the late 1800's well into the 20th century. To help ease traffic congestion the city decided to take the streetcars underground and built a series of tunnels right under Dupont Circle.


All was going well until a decrease in riders led to the closure of the streetcar system. The tunnels lay abandoned for years until a nonprofit, Dupont Underground, thought to transform it into an underground art space. It now serves as an art gallery and performance space, hosting everything from musicians to plays and even yoga classes.



3. Visit the world’s largest collection of works by Shakespeare

Set across the street from The Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, the Folger Shakespeare Library is a true neighborhood hidden gem. The library houses the largest collection of works by Shakespeare and offers free daily tours. On weekends, there's also a guided (free) tour of the reading rooms used by Shakespearean scholars from all around the world.


The property also houses a quaint Elizabethan garden, as well as an Elizabethan theatre which hosts musical concerts, book readings, poetry events and plenty of family friendly activities.


4. Visit the ornate Peacock Room at the Freer Sackler Gallery

The district is known for its numerous free Smithsonian museums, the three most popular being the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture. But if you want to skip the hordes of tourists, head to the underrated Freer Gallery of Art, which is home to a significant collection of Asian art, with the regal Peacock Room being a museum highlight.


Designed by James McNeill Whistler, a renowned American artist, the Peacock room originally served as a dining room for Frederick Leyland, a wealthy shipowner in London. After his death, the room was purchased by Charles Lang Freer and shipped to his home in Detroit where it showcased over 250 ceramics collected from his travels throughout Asia. The unique room is now on permanent exhibit at the Freer after being painstakingly recreated from old photographs.


5. Immerse in a unique visual art experience at Artechouse DC

A newcomer to the Washington art scene, Artechouse DC—which opened in June 2017—is known for its immersive visual art experiences. Set across three floors with over 15,000 sq ft of space, this multipurpose art venue is open to visitors of all ages and hosts interactive exhibits that focus on digital art and multi-sensory installations.


With most museums closing their doors at 5:00pm, Artechouse DC appeals to the after-work crowd staying open until 10:30pm on weekdays and 11:30pm on weekends. There’s also a bar overlooking the exhibits, which makes for prime Instagram-worthy shots.



There are plenty of different things to do in Washington, D.C. than meet the eye, no matter what you’re interested in exploring. On your upcoming trip to Washington, make sure to add a couple of off-the beaten path experiences to you bucket’ll be surprised at what the district has to offer! 



All content provided in this blog is supplied by Christabel Lobo and is for informational purposes only. Barclays makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.


Image: Shutterstock

About this blogger