Go off the beaten path with 10 hidden gems in Washington DC

Discover 10 history-rich hidden gems on an off-the-beaten-path journey to secret places in Washington DC.

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Asya Wilson

Asya's a writer and editor based in Washington state. She's a proud coffee- and rain-loving Washingtonian, but dreams of traveling to Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan.

From the secret places of famous politicians like Martin's Tavern to lesser-known landmarks like the Albert Einstein Memorial, there’s another layer to Washington DC beyond the U.S. Capital’s top attractions. The city’s intriguing stories of politics and history can be found at Washington DC’s hidden gems, and they’re just as worth seeing as the more trafficked sights.

To dive deeper into Washington’s character, visiting sights like Constitution Gardens, the Museum of the Bible, and U Street is essential. This guide to the best hidden gems in Washington DC will inspire you to take an adventure off the beaten path during your next trip.

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Contemplate the mind of Einstein at the Albert Einstein Memorial.

1. Unravel the mysteries of the universe at the Albert Einstein Memorial

In the center of Washington, the Albert Einstein Memorial pays homage to one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century. This hidden gem in Washington DC features a larger-than-life bronze statue of the legendary physicist among papers covered in mathematical equations.

Highlight:

Capture a picture of yourself in Albert Einstein's lap, surrounded by stars etched on the floor.

Address and opening hours:

2101 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20418, United States. Open 24/7.

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Constitution Gardens features beautiful landscapes, historical monuments, and serene pathways.

2. Explore an urban oasis in Constitution Gardens

Just off the National Mall, Constitution Gardens provides a tranquil escape from Washington DC's bustling pace. This peaceful retreat from the hum of the capital is one of the city’s best hidden places. The lush greenery and quiet ponds make it a favorite spot for picnics and walks.

Insider tip:

Enjoy the peaceful ambiance during the early morning or late afternoon when the gardens are less crowded.

Address and opening hours:

Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20024. Open 24/7.

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Surround yourself with countless books and resources at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

3. Unearth knowledge at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Dive into a world of literature and knowledge at the MLK Memorial Library. The library proudly bears the legacy of the Civil Rights leader and houses a vast collection of books. The library's modern design and state-of-the-art facilities make it a hub for Washington DC events and workshops.

Highlight:

Visit the innovative Labs, designed to spark creativity and learning.

Address and opening hours:

901 G St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States. Open Monday-Thursday, 9:30 AM-9:00 PM; Friday-Saturday, 9:30 AM-5:30 PM; and Sunday, 1:00 PM-5:00 PM.

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Experience vibrant nightlife and rich musical heritage in the multi-cultural Adams Morgan neighborhood.

4. Soak in the vibrant tapestry of Adams Morgan

Discover Adams Morgan, a cultural hotspot tucked away from the usual tourist trails. Explore the rich history, diversity, and colorful architectural charm of this neighborhood, whose parks and mansions make it a treasure trove for those seeking a taste of local Washington.

Insider tip:

Stroll along the neighborhood's main avenues to discover hidden street art and local boutiques.

Address and opening hours:

Adams Morgan, Washington, DC. Open 24/7.

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Find old-world charm and rich decor at Martin's Tavern in Georgetown.

5. Dine with history at Martin's Tavern

Martin's Tavern in Georgetown has witnessed the conversations that shaped the mid-20th century. This institution has hosted political figures and luminaries, its walls whispering tales of intrigue and power. It's also where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.

Highlight:

The tavern is still set up as it was during JFK's time, meaning you can dine in the booth where history was made.

Address and opening hours:

1264 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007. Open Monday-Wednesday, 11:00 AM-12:00 AM; Thursday, 11:00 AM-1:30 AM; Friday, 11:00 AM-2:30 AM; Saturday, 9:00 AM- 2:30 AM; Sunday, 9:00 AM-1:30 PM.

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Waterfront views are only the beginning of what makes National Harbor a hidden gem in Washington DC.

6. Take in breathtaking views and a vibrant lifestyle at the National Harbor

National Harbor, a hidden gem on the Potomac River, is a resort destination packed with hotels, restaurants, and a marina. This area offers a fun mix of leisure and entertainment options against the backdrop of the tranquil waterfront.

Insider tip:

Riding on National Harbor’s Capital Wheel is one of the best things to do with kids in Washington DC. It promises panoramic views of Washington, Maryland, and Virginia from the comfort of a gondola.

Address and opening hours:

165 Waterfront St, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, United States. Open 24/7.

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Gain insight into the bible through the Museum of the Bible's high-tech exhibits and expansive galleries.

7. Explore the bible’s history at the Museum of the Bible

Washington DC’s Museum of the Bible has a vast collection of rare artifacts, biblical texts, and interactive exhibits. This cultural landmark invites visitors on an immersive journey through the history and impact of the bible across ages and cultures.

Highlight:

Digital ceilings with images and manuscripts enhance the storytelling experience at this museum.

Address and opening hours:

400 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM every day.

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Hear recounts of the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

8. Learn about resilience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum serves as a living reminder of the events of the Holocaust. Upon entry, visitors are issued an identity card carrying the name of a person who experienced the Holocaust, creating a deep personal connection with the past.

Highlight:

Powerful exhibits, oral histories, and photographs provoke deep contemplation about human resilience.

Address and opening hours:

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States. Open 10:00 AM-5:30 PM every day.

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Get a vivid picture of colonial life during the times of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

9. Experience presidential history at George Washington's Mount Vernon

As the residence of the first U.S. President, Mount Vernon is your ticket to a treasure trove of history. Among the sprawling grounds, you’ll find 18th-century artifacts and carefully preserved buildings for a glimpse into the past and George Washington’s presidency.

Insider tip:

Explore the lesser-known outbuildings and gardens to get a comprehensive view of the estate’s daily operations.

Address and opening hours:

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121, United States. Open 9:00 AM-5:00 PM every day.

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U Street's identity is shaped by its roots in Jazz and African American culture.

10. Savor the cultural melting pot of the U Street neighborhood

Formerly known as Black Broadway, U Street has blossomed from Washington's epicenter of African American culture to a vibrant hub of music, food, and history that celebrates a fusion of the past and present. From U Street's rich jazz history to its contemporary vibe, this area celebrates the growth of Washington's African American heritage.

Highlight:

Seek out live performances that give insight into how the neighborhood shaped the careers of legendary artists like Duke Ellington.

Address and opening hours:

U St NW, Washington, DC. Open 24/7.

FAQs

What are some lesser-known attractions in Washington that are worth visiting?

Besides the mainstream sights, Washington DC offers attractions like the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, an estate providing insight into the life of the famed abolitionist, and the U Street neighborhood, filled with Jazz Age history. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is another must-visit.

Are there any hidden or secret gardens in Washington that I can explore?

Washington's secret gardens include Dumbarton Oaks, a historic Georgetown estate, and Bartholdi Park, with its large fountain, located just south of the U.S. Capitol. Beautifully landscaped grounds also surround the Albert Einstein Memorial.

Can you recommend any hidden or secret viewpoints in Washington that have great city views?

The top of the Capital Wheel at the National Harbor provides breathtaking aerial views of Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial, an essential landmark on any Washington DC travel guide, offer a unique view of the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument.

What are some lesser-known neighborhoods in Washington that are worth exploring?

Neighborhoods like Shaw and Brookland give a distinctive taste of Washington beyond the tourist hotspots. The Wharf is another hidden gem in Washington DC, featuring waterfront eateries, boutique shops, and locally unique entertainment.

Can you recommend any hidden architectural gems in Washington that are less crowded than the famous landmarks?

The Heurich House Museum and the Bishop's Garden at Washington National Cathedral are architectural wonders often overlooked by travelers. The Old Post Office Pavilion, the Federal-style Octagon House, the O Street Museum, and the Beaux-Arts Larz Anderson House are other hidden places for architecture fans.