The Non-Government Guide to Washington DC

It makes sense that all the major attractions in the nation’s capital—the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, the White House—are all of a monumental and governmental bent. But what if you want to get off the beaten path? You’ll be surprised to find all the interesting gems that are sprinkled throughout this fascinating city. From joining an Ethiopian coffee ceremony to discovering the process of creating the American dollar, you can find an amazing array of fascinating sites when you step away from Capitol Hill.


Interesting Eats:

Washington, D.C. is a haven for ethnic food. From Japanese to Chinese to Indian, many of the world’s unique tastes converge in both upscale restaurants and unassuming hole-in-the-walls throughout the city. One area you definitely won’t want to miss is Little Ethiopia, where you can set your tongue alight with a diversity of spices and fill your belly with injera — the region’s famously spongey bread used instead of utensils. If you happen to visit on a Sunday afternoon, you might want to participate in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony — a very old ritual that lets you get a first-hand look at the complicated coffee preparation process that’s been practiced for hundreds of years. Traditional dancing and music are also available at certain venues during the week.

For fare that’s a little closer to home, take your pick of steak houses, grills, seafood restaurants, taverns, and chili joints, spread far from Georgetown to Capitol Hill.

Unusual Tours:

Visit the Spy Museum to learn more about real-life spies and the notorious stories of espionage that have peppered the city’s past and present. Or take a Spy City Tour, where you’ll get a first-hand look at significant locations in the city of 10,000 spies.

 

Visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a quick yet compelling look at the place where the American dollar has been printed since 1914. As you look over the production floor, you’ll see thousands of dollars being printed right in front of you.

Check out the Washington National Cathedral, but don’t just stop in to pay your respects. Scattered among over a thousand gargoyles strewn along its heights, you’ll find the head of Darth Vader, a mouth that looks like it’s chewing on the building itself, a camera directed toward the Russian embassy and many other weird wonders. Tours are offered between April and October.

Odd Monuments:

Head to the National Academy of Sciences and visit the Albert Einstein Memorial. Don’t be shy; this isn’t the Lincoln Memorial. Visitors are often seen climbing into his lap for a photo op.

 

For an even bigger seat, head to the chair sculpture in the Anacostia neighborhood, which at over 19 feet tall once had the distinction of being the world’s largest chair. In 1960, a woman named Rebecca Kirby lived in a 10-by-10 foot cubicle on the chair for 42 days.

After slogging through the crowds that congregate around the famous memorials, you’ll be glad to take a rest and visit a few of the more unusual destinations. And no matter which attractions you decide to visit, you’ll be able to find plenty of Washington DC hotels that are in a convenient location for your stay in this truly a unique and fascinating city.

April 6, 2013