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10 Un-Ordinary Things To Do in Washington DC

10 Un-Ordinary Things To Do in Washington DC

When planning a trip to Washington, DC, you might think that the city’s main attractions consist solely of museums, monuments, and memorials. However, there are so many unique things to do in Washington DC than it seems like at first glance! To help you plan your next trip, here are 10 un-ordinary things to do in Washington DC, as recommended by locals.

Author Name: Kay Rodriguez
Author Bio: Kay Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of Jetfarer, a site geared to helping full-time professionals travel the world. You can follow her adventures on her Facebook.

1. Explore the Underground Art Scene (Literally)

Explore the Underground Art Scene (Literally)
Image Courtesy of: Elvert Barnes
Although some of the most famous art in the city lines the halls of the museums on the National Mall, Washington, DC’s neighborhoods are full of street art and smaller galleries to explore. One of these art galleries, Dupont Underground, is literally housed in a repurposed subterranean infrastructural space. Located in the Dupont Circle area, this gallery and art space is within walking distance of most of Washington DC’s main attractions. With rotating art exhibits year-round, Dupont Underground is an extremely interesting space to see artwork ranging from light displays to photography.

2. Participate in the Sunday Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park

Participate in the Sunday Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park
Image Courtesy of: Ricardo Lewis
Meridian Hill Park, located between U Street, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights, boasts a beautiful lawn, where you can find people hula hooping, playing volleyball, or picnicking with friends on clear, warm days.

If you happen to be in Washington DC on a weekend, the best time to visit Meridian Hill Park is on Sundays at 3 PM. Head to the park and join in on a tradition of rhythm, dance, and laughter with DC locals – the Drum Circle. Originally, the Drum Circle started off as a small, independent group of drummers and artists who met to share in rhythm and dance. Now, this phenomenon has turned into a city-wide sensation, and you can find huge crowds hanging around, either dancing and drumming or simply spectating. You don’t actually need to own your own drums to join in; just bring yourself, your dancing shoes, and an open mind, and you’ll definitely have a blast.

3. Sample International Dishes Around the City

Sample International Dishes Around the City
Foodies, rejoice! There are so many interesting and unique dining options in the United States capital. With a diverse set of people from all over the world that inhabit the city and its suburbs, there’s a wide variety of international food options available in the city. You can find more common international foods, like Italian or Mexican, as well as less widely recognized cuisines, like Laotian, Swiss, or Senegalese. Or, alternatively, head to a restaurant like Compass Rose for a taste of many different types of dishes from around the world.

4. Explore the River

Explore the River
Image Courtesy of: Lorenzo Tlacaelel
One unique way to explore the city of Washington DC is by paddling. Head to the waterfront, where you can rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard and hit the waters of the Potomac River. Kayaking or paddleboarding offers views of the nearby forest and green spaces, many of the monuments, and the skylines of nearby Virginia suburbs. If you’re looking for an especially unique experience, you can even join a paddle tour by night, where you can see the monuments and city sights by the light of the moon alongside a seasoned guide. If paddling isn’t your thing, there are also many companies that offer motorboat tours, where you can see the sights around the city without the extra work!

5. Participate in a Running Tour or Race

Participate in a Running Tour or Race
Image Courtesy of: Elvert Barnes
If there’s one thing you can find no matter where in Washington DC you are, it’s runners. They’re everywhere! This city has an extremely strong running culture, and one of the best ways to see it is by lacing up your shoes and going for a jog around some of the most beautiful sights.

There are a few different ways you can do this. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can just run around the main areas on your own. It’s not hard to find the National Mall, and from there you can get to a lot of the museums and monuments. If you’re looking for something more structured, there are organized running tours and groups you can join for a small fee, and a guide will take you around and explain some of the history of the city. If you’re a seasoned runner, you can also join one of the city’s famous races, like the Marine Corps Marathon or the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.

6. Go to a Speakeasy

Go to a Speakeasy
Image Courtesy of: Nan Palmero
Tucked into seemingly abandoned buildings, basements, and alleyways, there’s a hidden network of bars in DC called speakeasies. They’re exactly what you’d expect from something that sounds like it fell out of the Prohibition era – hidden bars masked by dark entrances or nondescript doorways. One popular speakeasy in the U Street Area is called the Gibson, but there are several scattered around the city. If you’re hoping to check out some of the city’s speakeasies, be sure to make a reservation beforehand.

7. Visit the Exorcist Stairs

Visit the Exorcist Stairs
Image Courtesy of: Ron Cogswell
Did you know that Washington DC is home to the famed “Exorcist Stairs?” Known as the place where The Exorcist was filmed, this strange landmark is an extremely dark, narrow, and long set of stairs located at the edge of Georgetown. This famed set of steps attracts movie buffs and curious wanderers alike, since it’s such a peculiar space, and has been featured on websites like Atlas Obscura as one of the DC’s most unique attractions.

8. Peruse a Farmer’s Market

Peruse a Farmer’s Market
Image Courtesy of: Dirk Ingo Franke
With its vantage point in the center of the East Coast, Washington DC is close to many surrounding farmlands in neighboring Virginia and Maryland. As a result, there are some absolutely fabulous farmer’s markets to enjoy in the city’s neighborhoods. One of the largest of these farmer’s markets, spanning a few blocks, is in Dupont Circle. Here, you can find produce, baked goods, skincare products, spirits, fermented foods, and more. If you’re extra lucky, you might even find live music between some of the stands.

Some other vibrant Washington DC farmers markets include Eastern Market, Columbia Heights, and Shaw. These markets are a great excuse to sample some foods and get outdoors!

9. Wander Around the Waterfront

Wander Around the Waterfront
Image Courtesy of: Elvert Barnes
Recently constructed, Washington DC’s brand-new Wharf is one of the hottest attractions to check out in the city. Located in up-and-coming Navy Yard, it’s full of shops, restaurants, and performance venues, not to mention a beautiful boardwalk to admire the river. It’s also a wonderful place to stay in Washington DC if you’re spending a weekend in the city.

If you wander out of the main stretches of the waterfront area, you’ll eventually hit the historic Fish Market, where local fish vendors offer their freshest catch and cooked seafood meals in kitschy but charming floating market stalls. The Wharf and Fish Market are a fascinating juxtaposition of new and old, and are a refreshing break from the museums and monuments in the middle of the city.

10. Rent a Bike and Tour the City

Rent a Bike and Tour the City
Image Courtesy of: Zach Copley
For an easy and affordable way to get around the city, try exploring by bicycle! Companies like Capital Bikeshare offer hourly bike rentals, and you can simply pick up a bike at one of the kiosks and ride it around for however long you’d like. All you have to do is return the bike at a designated kiosk when you’re finished.

Take your bike for a spin down the National Mall, or into some of the city’s charming neighborhoods, like Logan Circle, Adams Morgan, or Georgetown. Or, simply use the bike to get from place to place as you explore the other activities on this list.