Geek loose in DC
October 2, 2007 4:52 PM   Subscribe

What can a visiting geek do in Washington DC other than the obvious museums and attractions? I am in town from Oct 4 to the 15th.

I've found the Going Out Gurus blog but that seems to only cover events with press releases. Is there anything off the wall or different than the obvious stuff?
posted by clockworkjoe to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (25 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Their website is very old and dead but if you're really geeky, these people are a fine group of beer enthusiasts and I had a great time with them when a trip of mine to DC coincided with one of their regular meetings.
posted by jessamyn at 5:10 PM on October 2, 2007

If you're that kind of geek: Maryland Renaissance Festival.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2007

Segway tour.

Spy tour.

Congressional hearing.
posted by sdrawkcab at 5:26 PM on October 2, 2007

There's the Einstein Memorial.
posted by Hermes32 at 5:50 PM on October 2, 2007

I don't know if it qualifies as an "obvious" one, but the National Building Museum is one of the most underrated museums in the city, IMO. It's also free. Make sure you get there for the tour if you're into history; if you're in a hurry, see the main hall and the current exhibit on the history of DC. It makes a good first stop before going to other places.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:05 PM on October 2, 2007

There's the National Cryptological Museum and the Small Press Expo. Both outside DC, but maybe worth hitting.
posted by jenh at 6:13 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's another thread that has some good ideas... but I second the Spy Museum (lots of good restaurants around there too, as well as the Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art).
posted by nkknkk at 6:15 PM on October 2, 2007

Best answer: I asked the same thing two weeks ago.

Things Ive learned since and some things I learned my first time in DC:

1. The are hidden gems in plain site. The freerh museum and the other asian smithsonian museum (name escapes me) are incredible. They even have a few pieces of rare greco-buddhist art too.

2. See the awakening before it goes. I didnt.

3. Do you have access to a car? If so drive down to the NSA museum. They have a nazi enigma. This is the real stuff as opposed to the touristy spy museum.

4. The air and space annex at Dulles.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:25 PM on October 2, 2007

Ooh, the Museum of American Art is fantastic, and especially worth it to see James Hampton's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' General Assembly.
posted by jenh at 6:29 PM on October 2, 2007

For what it's worth, I'm a geek and I hated the Spy Museum when I finally went to it this summer. It is a waste of money, especially considering how many free museums there are downtown.

Note that the spy tour that sdrawkcab mentioned is unrelated.

I recommend the Renaissance Festival if you can get out there. Also, if you have access to a bike or decide to rent one, take a ride on the Capital Crescent Trail. If you're into films you might want to check out AFI Silver.
posted by puffin at 6:35 PM on October 2, 2007

Bodies The Exhibition is still in town.
posted by procrastination at 6:41 PM on October 2, 2007

seconding jessamyn's recommendation about SIG-BEER -- it's a monthly gathering of mostly sysdamin types at the Brickskeller, friendly folks, good beer selection.
posted by genehack at 6:44 PM on October 2, 2007

Watch the planes seem to barely miss your head at Gravelly Point.
posted by jocelmeow at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2007

local bars
restaurants of the powerful
strip clubs of the famous
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 7:05 PM on October 2, 2007

I second the Small Press Expo - not too far out of DC (and metro-accessible, I believe), and so much fun. It reaches a good geek-medium - jam-packed with familiar sights for the comic-savvy, but laid-back and friendly toward the unfamiliar wanderer. Bring cash!
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:18 PM on October 2, 2007

Also, beyond the Going Out Gurus blog, check out the Post's City Guide (in the print version of the paper, see the Friday Weekend section) and the City Paper's Arts & Entertainment section. There are always great lectures you couldn't hear anywhere else (like the Air & Space's Curator's Choice series) and events and exhibitions for every interest coming or going at the Smithsonian.

Marvel (okay, maybe not quite) at the longest single-span escalator in the Western Hemisphere at the Wheaton station on the Red Line (remember, walk left, stand right).

This isn't strictly geeky, but depending on your travel budget, see Washingtonian's Cheap Eats or 100 Very Best Restaurants lists (and be sure to have some Ethiopian food).

Apologies for getting a little carried away - having grown up there, I don't think there's a better place to be a geek or nerd.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:36 PM on October 2, 2007

As a native, my favorite museum has gotten to be the Renwick Gallery (wiki). They focus on crafts, and usually have good shows, as well as a great permanent collection. If you're down close to the White House and find yourself overcome by waves of pure evil energy, their Grand Salon is a wonderfully anachronistic retreat. It's free, like almost all museums here, but they will want to look in your bag.
I second puffin's link to the Capital Crescent trail; on weekends, you can make a beautiful and largely car-free loop out of it and Beach Drive (gmap). In fact, Rock Creek as a whole is kind of an amazing urban park, huge in proportion to the city. And if you're really adventurous on a bike, you can do an alleycat race.
posted by $0up at 8:09 PM on October 2, 2007

Seconding driving to Gravelly Point to watch the planes land (if you're lucky) or take off (if you're slightly less so).
posted by chinston at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2007

If you want a good lunch and are at a Smithsonian museum, you should try to get lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian. They have a wide selection of foods native to the Americas, many of which I haven't seen anywhere else. It's cafeteria style but totally worth it. (The museum is pretty cool, too.)
posted by emilyv at 8:36 PM on October 2, 2007

Go to a Capitals game at the Verizon center.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:12 PM on October 2, 2007

Spy museum is shite. Go to the NSA one instead if you can. You might consider going to a Dorkbot DC meeting, if there's one happening while you're in town (I forget what week of the month they typically meet, but I've read about a few interesting projects recently..)
posted by Alterscape at 12:18 AM on October 3, 2007

You'll miss the next dorkbot meeting, sadly.

You want off the wall? There's not much more off the wall than the Palace of Wonders. Check their schedule.

The Washington Psychotronic Film Society (hosted by MetaFilter's own doctorschlock) always has something good, and the host bar has great beer. Lemme know if you're interested, and I might even meet you there.

Finally, I'll shoot you an email about a special behind-the-scenes tour of my office.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:21 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great! Thanks for the answers everyone.
posted by clockworkjoe at 9:02 AM on October 3, 2007

Definitely skip the spy museum, as per several suggestions. There's a pretty cool infectious diseases exhibit at the Marian Koshland Science Museum, and admission is only like $3.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:12 PM on October 3, 2007

The Going Out Gurus are great, but you didn't find the place where they list really good information. They host a live chat once a week, and even if you can't make the live chat, the archived transcripts tend to have a wealth of great information: Going Out Gurus Live Online - Washington Post

Another great "inside" way to see a part of Washington is to call your Representative. Remember, they're in Congress to serve you, and their offices are generally very glad to help visitors from out of town.

Call 202-224-3121 or 202-225-3121, give them your zip code, and they will connect you to your Representative in the House of Representatives (or Senator but, generally, the House gets fewer of these requests and is less busy). Ask for a "staff led tour" -- use that wording -- of the Capitol building and the House, and they should be able to help.

It's usually an unpaid intern or lowly paid staffer who conducts the tours; they usually do things like open mail all day, and when they get to give a tour, it's a welcome break. Even if you show up unannounced at your Rep's office, they might be able to help. And if your Rep is in town, he or she may even come out to say hello.

Your Representative's office may also be able to help get you to see other government stuff. Ask the staffer; they'll have ideas for you.

Perhaps more to what you were asking -- to find a bunch of fellow geeks, there always seem to be a crowd of them at Murky Coffee in Arlington, though it's certainly not without its flaws.
posted by scottso17 at 6:32 AM on October 4, 2007

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