When I was a junior in college, I got the chance to be a summer intern for the Hinckley Institute of Politics (at the University of Utah) in Washington D.C. When you live somewhere for a couple of months, you really get a chance to explore it; a friend of mine and I made it a point to visit all of the random monuments that we could, so here's a list of my favorite less-popular-but-still-great places to visit in D.C.
The Einstein Memorial
This giant, bronze statue is a tribute to the great Albert Einstein and is tucked away near the National Academy of Sciences. I feel like not many people even know this thing exists; I know I didn't. The statue is bigger than it looks in pictures and it's pretty fun to hangout with it and have a sit on the genius himself.
The Awakening (statue)
A huge statue (or pieces of a statue) resembling a man clawing his way out of the earth, or being sucked into it, depending on how you interpret it I guess. When I was living in D.C., this was located near the Jefferson Memorial (also beautiful), but has since been bought and moved to the National Harbor in Maryland. You can still get there pretty easily from the city and I recommend it. The feeling of being swallowed whole by a giant metal mouth is pretty unique.
The Phillips Collection
Actually, the Phillips Collection is one of the great things in D.C. that isn't free. It costs 12$ to visit unless you are under 18 or over 62. It's an awesome gallery with ever changing exhibits that never disappoint. A lot of the charm of this place is that it's in this neighborhood and kind of feels like you're visiting a very artsy friend's house.
Kayaking on the Potomac
Seeing the memorials/monuments on the National Mall are on everyone's travel list when visiting D.C. It's worth it; they're great. But, there's more than one way to see them.
There are a few places you can rent them, like Boat Center or Boating in D.C. The Thompson Boat Center is a bit closer to the monuments so it's a nice and easy adventures.
If you're into paddle boating, you can rent them in the Tidal Basin and get a good look at the Jefferson Memorial from the water.
(Not sure why I can't hyperlink these)
Now, this isn't an unknown kind of place, but I think it gets a bit overshadowed by the National Gallery itself. From the main building, you can take an underground moving walkway to this glorious house of modern art. Filled with giant Calder sculptures, Rothko murals and, my favorite, breathtaking Pollock paintings, this place was my favorite thing about living in D.C. I took many a solo journey to (as lame as this sounds) find a bit of zen in a chaotic city.
These days, I think some of my favorite paintings aren't on exhibit anymore, but it's still worth seeing. And, of course, the National Gallery should also be a D.C. destination.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
It may not be obscure, but it's worth mentioning here I think. Everyone always thinks of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Memorial, and maybe even gives the Jefferson a thought, but this memorial isn't nearly as well known as the others. Of the presidential monuments, I think it's actually my favorite. It's got small waterfalls, statues, and his wife. Visit it at dusk to get the best experience. As with a lot of the other monuments, it's open pretty late (11 pm or so) and is a great place to get personal epiphanies.
So fun. D.C. United fans are super intense and rowdy which makes for an awesome experience. I remember when I was there, it began to pour rain. At first, a lot of the crowd hid under the bleachers, but in the end, everyone was out in the pouring rain, screaming their guts out for a team that most of us didn't even know anything about.
See all the things
Pretty much everywhere you look in D.C., you'll find a monument, a memorial or a museum. It's all worth seeing. Just spend time wandering around the National Mall and you'll never be bored.
P.S. If you're looking for bars, head to Adams Morgan, but be sure to be dressed to impress or don't expect to get in. Or just enjoy a giant piece of pizza on the street like me.