Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of Washington, DC

As the home of our nation’s capital, Washington, DC is a city that’s filled with secrets, spies, and untold stories. Even if you’re not a visiting dignitary or foreign leader, there are quite a few things that you can do that won’t show up on every guidebook and “must do” list. Here are a few of our favorite secret spots and hidden gems.

(To plan your visit to the capital, check our our Washington, DC trips. And for more travel tips, check out our Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of New Orleans, LA.)

Blind Whino - Washington DC

Blind Whino700 Delaware Ave SW
Built in 1886, this former church was home to the Friendship Baptist Congregation for almost a century, but more recently has been turned into a community art gallery and performance space. With an exterior that’s covered in colorful murals by HENSE, a graffiti-covered interior that features a gallery of rotating art exhibits, and a community garden on the grounds, it’s a multi-use building that’s guaranteed to be a great background for all of your travel Instagram pics.

The Gibson - Washington DC

The Gibson2009 14th St NW
As one of the city’s most famous speakeasies, The Gibson hides behind an unmarked door, but offers a wide range of seasonal cocktails, as well as old-time favorites.

Heurich House Museum - The Brewmaster’s Castle - Washington DC

The Brewmaster’s Castle1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Christian Heurich founded the Christian Heurich Brewing Company in the mid-1800s, and was at one point making more than 500,000 barrels of beer per year, making him the second largest employer in DC, behind only the US government! He used his beer-making fortune to build a Victorian inspired home with stone arches and a tall tower on one side. To get an inside look at the house, you can attend one of their regular beer events, like Oktoberfest or the monthly beer tasting called “History and Hops” where you can have a beer while taking a tour of the house.

Space Window at the Washington National Cathedral - Washington DC

Space Window at the Washington National Cathedral3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Look up at the stained glass of the ‘Space Window’ on the south side of the Washington National Cathedral, and you’ll see stars and orbiting planets in hues of blue, green, white, orange, and red. Look closely at the middle of the red planet, and you might see a small stone. That rock, estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old, was collected from the moon’s Sea of Tranquility and presented to the Washington National Cathedral by Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. (Eagle-eyed visitors can also check out the cathedral’s West Tower, where a Darth Vader grotesque can be spotted on the outside, staring down at visitors.)

The Exorcist Stairs - Washington DC

The Exorcist Stairs – 3600 Prospect St NW (ExxonMobile Parking Lot)
Film geeks will recognize these stairs from the 1973 movie The Exorcist, where the self-sacrificing priest and the demon who possesses twelve-year-old Regan have their final showdown. Now a popular exercise destination for locals, it’s a unique place to pay a visit.

The Capitol Stones - Washington DC

Photograph by Bill Lebovich

The Capitol Stones5100 Glover Rd NW
200 yards down an unmarked trail, behind a maintenance shed in Rock Creek Park, sits a huge pile of stones that were taken off of the Capital. While it sounds like an urban legend, it’s absolutely true, as the stones were taken off the Capital during a 1958 renovation, and since they couldn’t be sold or destroyed, the Architect just piled them in the woods and left them there. The government neither encourages nor discourages visitors, and neither the Architect of the Capitol nor the National Park Service maintains the site, so it’s kind of become an unofficial monument for those that know where to look.

East Potomac Park Mini Golf - Washington DC

East Potomac Park Mini Golf972 Ohio Dr SW
In addition to being the only mini-golf course in all of DC, the East Potomac Park Mini Golf Course is also the country’s oldest continually-operated mini golf course, hosting mini-golfers since it was initially built in 1931.

Maine Avenue Fish Market - Washington DC

Maine Avenue Fish Market1100 Maine Ave SW
It doesn’t get much fresher than the Maine Avenue Fish Market, which also happens to be the oldest continuously operating fish market in the United States. Many of the vendors have been selling seafood for decades, and the market has been in operation since 1805. In addition to local favorites like blue crabs, oysters, and shrimp, you can also find exotic offerings like Chinese octopus and Chilean sea bass. The best part about the Maine Avenue Fish Market is that it’s full-service, so you can order seafood and have it cooked right there, or “seasoned” with a giant helping of Old Bay seasoning.

Panda Gourmet - Washington DC

Photo by Azucena H

Panda Gourmet2700 New York Ave NE
Tucked into the side of a Days Inn motel is what one reviewer called, “The best Chinese restaurant Washington, D.C. has had, ever.” Featuring authentic Szechuan style Chinese cuisine, the Panda Gourmet restaurant is the place to grab a bite if you want a great meal from somewhere that stands out for being off the beaten path.

U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock - Washington DC

Photo by Elliot Carter

U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock3450 Massachusetts Ave NW
If you ever wanted to make sure your watch time was set really, really, really accurately, then stop by the U.S. Naval Observatory and set your time by the Master Clock’s digital display. Though the Master Clock is contained inside the U.S. Naval Observatory, and is actually made up of dozens of independently operating cesium atomic clocks and a dozen hydrogen maser clocks, the end result is time that’s accurate to 10 one-billionths of a second, and shown publicly outside the front gate.

Ready to join us on one of our trips to Washington, DC? We can take you to all the secret spots and hidden gems, and make sure it’s a trip you never forget! To book your trip with WNC Travels, click here or give us a call at (828) 595-9691

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