What D.C. activities on a need-to-know basis?
September 17, 2012 8:46 PM   Subscribe

What off-the-beaten-path activities can I do in D.C.? I would love to do something that makes me feel a bit like a VIP. I want the city to seem like it does in a spy novel. Seeing the vintage Congressional bathrooms, getting a behind the scenes tour of the Library of Congress, and unusual sights like the Pentagon's gold AK-47 are the kind of things I'm after.

I'm going to be visiting the capital this winter, just before Christmas. I'm not afraid of the cold, however, so outdoor activities are just fine!
posted by Monochrome to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (13 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
If you are an NPR nerd—and you're here, so you might be—I highly recommend the tour of their headquarters. It's pretty informal and the group was small the day I took it, less than 10 people. We got to see a lot more of the studios and newsrooms than I thought we would.
posted by purpleclover at 9:02 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Georgetown, near the bridge to rosslyn, are the steps that the priest died on at the end if he Exorcist.

Schedule a tour of the white house with your congressmans office.
posted by empath at 9:43 PM on September 17, 2012

Whenever I take friends around to see Touristy Stuff in DC, I always point out the East Potomac Park Mystery Building (you can see it from the Yellow Line Metro headed north into DC, right before you go into the tunnel; it doesn't look like much, just a big building). You can also see it from street level on Ohio Dr or if you're walking around the trail, but there's not much to see.

It's just one of those DC oddities.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:26 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

In general, I've had some luck with, for place X, googling "hidden X" and "off the beaten path X".
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:43 PM on September 17, 2012

Best answer: I am not sure if the basic congressional tours allow you to take this, but there is a mini-subway between the Capitol and House and Senate buildings. You should definitely ask! Also, many congressional offices offer snacks from their home states, and it's fun to peek in and see what other places offer.

Perhaps a drink at the Columbia Room? Or at the top of the POV bar? I really like Tabac, and the view from their rooftop terrace is one of the best (and only) hill views of the city. You could also get a drink at Russia House, which certainly looks like you should be curled up with a Bond or Bond girl, whispering government secrets.

You could also take in some culture at some of the embassy events, and maybe even meet an ambassador or a cultural minister or two.

Not sure if you're into more classical music, but the National Cathedral usually has lovely Christmas concerts, and you can look out for Darth Vader!
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:13 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, the French embassy has parties and concerts there all the time. Is great.
posted by empath at 5:30 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you ask nice, MrMoonPie might give you a tour of the Library of Congress.
posted by exogenous at 6:19 AM on September 18, 2012

Not off the beaten path but we recently visited DC and went to the Lincoln Memorial after dark, around 9 pm. There were still people there, a few tour busses, but the dramatic lighting was awesome and inside it was hushed and echo-y and moving. It's open 24 hrs a day and bonus: easy to find a parking space.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:41 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tour the U.S. Capitol Dome
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:35 AM on September 18, 2012

Congressional Cemetery?
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2012

You could make a longish project out of visiting all of the DC Boundary Stones.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: The mini subway, capitol dome, LoC tour, and embassy parties have all piqued my interest!
posted by Monochrome at 6:56 PM on September 18, 2012

One of the best parts about D.C. IMHO are the many free events and lectures on every topic under the sun. Search for interesting lectures being given while you are here. Bonus: Free Lunch!

And the Lincoln Memorial at night is cool, but I prefer Jefferson - even quieter, even less people, with a view over the Tidal Basin. Also, take the Metro to Rosslyn, grab a Capital Bikeshare bike by N Lynn. Take the Mt. Vernon Trail to see Roosevelt Island, then ride to Gravelly Point to airplane watch. Nice route along the Potomac, particularly at dusk, and watching the airplanes land is awesome.
posted by gemmy at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2012

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