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14 Unconventional Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

Tired of predictable things to do in Washington DC? We are too!

That's why we've got 14 lesser known, fun, cool, weird, different attractions that our nation's capital has to offer. 

We're tired of "10 Things to Do in DC" lists that all say "go to the White House" and "see the Washington Monument". Those are obvious. I'm pretty sure everyone who lives in DC or visits is going to figure those out on their own. So without further ado...

Let's get started!

First and foremost, Events DC is an excellent resource.

Events DC is the face of conventions, sports, entertainment and cultural events within our nation’s capital.  As the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, Events DC leverages the beauty, history and diversity of the most powerful city in the world to attract and promote an extensive variety of events, resulting in amazing experiences for residents and visitors alike, and generating economic and community benefits for the city. Source: Events DC

Click the image below to see Events DC's list of upcoming events!

things to do in washington dc

And definitely check out Free in DC.

Free in DC is an arts, culture, and consciousness resource dedicated to all the cool, free, low-cost things to do in Washington, DC… proving you don't need to spend a lot to live a rich life in this town! See DC through the eyes of a local who lives in the city and is plugged into the scene. All events are free, donation-based, or $10 or less and accessible by Metro or bus in VA, MD or DC.

Follow @FreeInDCBlog on Twitter too!

things to do in washington dc

1. See world-class performances at The Millennium Stage. (FREE)

About: Every day of the year at 6 p.m., the Kennedy Center hosts a free performance as part of its "Performing Arts for Everyone" initiative. No tickets are required, though seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Featuring local, national, and international talents, the Millennium Stage has been hailed as "a cultural institution within a cultural institution" by the Washington Post. Source: Wikipedia

Resources:

Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566 (click to open Google Maps)

Check out The Kennedy Center's YouTube page for a list of all the upcoming Millennium Stage performances and livestreams!

things to do in washington dc

2. Check out the Meridian Hill drum circle. (FREE)

About: On Sunday afternoons during warm weather, people gather from 3 to 9 p.m. in the upper park to dance and participate in a Drum Circle. This activity, held in the park since the 1950s, regularly attracts both enthusiastic dancers and professional drummers.

Relevant Resources:

Address: 2400 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20008 (click to open Google Maps)

Check out this great video from the Washington Post about the Meridian Hill drum circle!

3. For all the couples out there, check out the cherry blossoms during full bloom. (SPRING)

About: Each spring, the cherry blossoms lining Washington DC’s Tidal Basin burst into color in a beautiful display of floral fireworks. But the peak bloom period lasts only a few days, and precisely when it happens varies each year. This site brings together information about visiting the cherry blossoms and Washington DC, peak bloom forecasts, and up-to-date photos to help you make the most of your own visit or follow along from afar. Source: Cherry Blossom Watch

Relevant Resources:

Address: Tidal Basin, Washington DC

things to do in washington dc

Image source: www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

4. Check out the Bonsai Gallery at the National Arboretum

About: The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is home to one of the largest collections of bonsai and penjing in North America. The Arboretum grounds are open every day of the year except December 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Hours: The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.daily except for federal holidays November through February, so plan to visit this collection first if you visit late in the day.

Relevant Resources:

Address: 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

things to do in washington dc

Image source: PBS

5. Torpedo Factory Art Center

About: Founded in 1974 in an old munitions plant, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof. An Alexandria landmark for more than 40 years, it’s the highlight of the Potomac Riverfront, attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually. Find artwork in a wide variety of media–including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture–in 82 artists’ studios. Source: Official Website

Relevant Resources:

Address: 105 N Union St, Alexandria, VA 22314

things to do in washington dc

Image source: catalystreview.net

6. Scope out the Dacha Beer Garden

About: Dacha is about as basic as it gets: picnic tables, lots of standing room and a dozen beers on draft, primarily German and Belgian but with a few Americans tossed in.

Beers flow from taps on the side of a truck, but the selection is very good, including five different brews from Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, including Oktoberfest and the very refreshing pilsner. Beers come in the classic half-liter glasses or, if you’re really thirsty, a one-liter boot: Just remember to watch out for the air bubbles that come out of the toe when you drink down to the bottom. Half-liters are $7, boots are $14.

Relevant Resources:

Garden Hours

Address: 1600 7th Street NW Washington, DC 20001 

things to do in washington dc

7. Active? Got some time? Hike Rock Creek!

Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that bisects the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. Fun fact: The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890.

Relevant Resources:

Here's Rock Creek on a map!

And here's a street-level view of Rock Creek Park!

8. Fancy an awesome brunch? Head to Kangaroo Boxing Club!

House-smoked BBQ, creative sandwiches & sides are served in a cozy setting with a jukebox. Awesome place. Great blurb from a recent Yelp reviwer:

"OVERALL: Cute place for brunch or good BBQ. This is a meat-centered establishment, though there are some veg options. For gluten intolerant friends: there's also an entirely separate GF menu, and any burger or sandwich can be served without a bun, which is pretty handy.

ATMOSPHERE: In terms of ambience, which nobody ever seems to mention on Yelp, it's sort of divey, sort of back-woodsy; overall, unremarkable. It's pretty plain inside and rather dark. The inside is very cramped, and I don't recommend getting a table there for breakfast or lunch. For chill evenings or a late-night snack, the bar is comfortable, and you can order food right there."

Relevant Resources:

Brunch Hours: 

Address: 3410 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

things to do in washington dc

Check out their brunch menu right here (you may need to click/tap the image to get better resolution!).

things to do in washington dc

9. Catch a show at the U Street Music Hall.

Opened March 17th, 2010, U Street Music Hall is a DJ-owned and operated basement dance club and live music venue. Its 500-person capacity room features one of the city’s best sound systems and a 1200 square foot cork-cushioned dance floor.

About the U Street Music Foundation: As D.C.’s music scene continues to expand, it’s incredibly important for us to ensure that we’re building something for future generations and not just ourselves. The U Street Music Foundation is a nonprofit organization supporting music education programs and events for Ward 1 and Washington D.C. area youth. Through grants to nonprofits and education programs, hands-on events and strategic partnerships, the U Street Music Foundation seeks to forge stronger bonds between the rich musical culture in Washington D.C. and the communities in which it exists.

Relevant Resources:

Address: 1115 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

things to do in washington dc

Image source: clubseekr.com

Check out the latest news + upcoming shows from U Street Music Hall on their Twitter feed!

10. Eat well at The Well Dressed Burrito!

This is about as "hole in the wall" as it gets — it's literally tucked "somewhere in an alley" — but it's burritos are absolutely Earth shattering! And its hours are very specific.

Hours:

Relevant Resources:

Address: 1220 19th St NW, Washington, DC 22036

things to do in washington dc

Image source: chmullig.com

11. Tired of boring museums? Check out the Newseum!

The Newseum, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

Since opening in 2008, more than six million have visited its modern building located on historic Pennsylvania Avenue between the United States Capitol and the White House. The Newseum’s seven levels of interactive exhibits include 15 galleries and 15 theaters. Among the most memorable exhibits are the 9/11 Gallery sponsored by Comcast featuring the broadcast antennae from the top of the World Trade Center, the Berlin Wall Gallery whose eight concrete sections are one of the largest pieces of the original wall outside Germany, and the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery which features photographs from every Pulitzer Prize-winning entry dating back to 1942. In 2015, TripAdvisor users rated the Newseum as a “Traveler’s Choice Top 25 Museum in the U.S.

Relevant Resources:

Hours: 9AM - 5PM every day!

Address: 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

12. Check out Flash nightclub.

Flash opened its doors in June of 2013 as a collaboration between long-time lovers of music, former DJ’s, and music industry vets. Their goal was to present an intimate space where artists can express themselves clearly and fans can hear their favorite artists in an ideal setting.

The Club Level features an acoustically treated studio-quality room showcasing a custom Funktion One sound system and a next-generation lighting rig designed to heighten the experience. It provides a balance between dance floor, fully stocked bar and wall-to-wall bench seating. The ground floor, appropriately named Flash Bar, features a separate dance floor and DJ area, coat check, ATM, additional restrooms, and a fully stocked bar specializing in a wide selection of liquor and hand-crafted cocktails.

Flash is open every Friday and Saturday night with headlining national and international DJ talents covering a wide spectrum of house music, from deep to techno. Other styles of music are also presented numerous nights per week. Please check the events page for the latest list of events.

Relevant Resources:

Address: 645 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

things to do in washington dc

13. Behold Blind Whino

"I don't even know how to explain how dope this place is..."

Blind Whino is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Arts Club and Event Space located in the Southwest Corridor of Washington DC and birthed from creators Shane Pomajambo of Art Whino and Ian Callender of Suite Nation. The organization was founded on the principal that art is a catalyst for change in a community, providing inspiration and motivation for those that encounter its power.

Our Mission is to provide a functional, art space for all to enjoy and learn more about the arts culture through various exhibits, events, live performances and artist workshops. The building embraces all things creative with all of its being. As an art object itself, with the exterior fully painted, it serves as a pillar for creativity in our Nation’s Capital.

Relevant Resources:

Address: 700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Check out this video that gives a glimpse of what Blind Whino is all about.

things to do in washington dc

14. Check out the Peacock Room at The Freer

HEADS UP! The Freer is closed for renovation and reopening in 2017. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC.

About The Peacock Room: James McNeill Whistler's masterpiece of interior decorative mural art. He painted the panelled room in a rich and unified palette of brilliant blue-greens with over-glazing and metallic gold leaf. Painted between 1876–77, it now is considered one of the greatest surviving aesthetic interiors, and best examples of the Anglo-Japanese style.

I first noticed this attraction on Lonely Planet's list of 20 unusual things to do in Washington DC, so a big thanks to them for the inspiration! 

things to do in washington dc

Image source: Wikipedia

And check out this video about The Peacock Room!