Fewer Crowds, More Fun: 48 Hour Guide to Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C. is home to a lot of national monuments and historic landmarks. But if you want to see unique attractions in D.C. or are looking to avoid the crowds, use this guide to some of this city’s lesser-known spots.

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Think you know Washington D.C.? Obviously, you know it’s home to national monuments, historic landmarks, and bustling tourist attractions, but is that it? The DMV — that’s District Maryland Virginia — attracts more than 22 million visitors each year, and it’s not wrong to want to check out the tourist hot spots, but when you’re short on time, dodging the crowds in favor of more unique spots is the way to go. Use this guide to plan a D.C. getaway that takes you off the beaten path for a good time you won’t soon forget.

Discover Secrets at the International Spy Museum

While everyone else is getting bumped around at the Smithsonian or elbowing through crowds at the National Mall, you can channel your inner James Bond — you know he’s in there — and learn all about international intrigue at the International Spy Museum on F Street, just a block from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. It’s the only public museum of its kind in the country, and it offers a really interesting take on the real business of spying. Learn about the tools and techniques spies use to overthrow leaders and tip the scales in favor of one side in a war.

Interior view of the fountain located in the open hexagon brick structure known as Summerhouse on the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn as captured on a bright morning.

Enjoy the View at Summerhouse

Located right on the U.S. Capitol building’s lawn, the unassuming brick structure known as Summerhouse is often passed by without a glance — but it’s more than worth a second look. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, it was historically used to give visitors a quiet spot to rest. Today, it’s the best spot to get an up-close, eye-popping view of the Capitol building.

All Roads Start at Zero Milestone

At least, they were supposed to start here. Zero Milestone is modeled after the Golden Milestone of Ancient Rome. Originally designed to show how effective the U.S. road system was, the idea that all roads would start at this spot never really took off — for obvious reasons. The monument is still there, and it’s a great spot to snap a selfie with a unique background. You also get a pretty good view of the White House from the site.

Exterior front view of President Lincoln’s Cottage and trees in Washington D.C., a white home with green shutters and brown wooden deck

Tour President Lincoln’s Cottage

The Lincoln Memorial isn’t the only place to get to know the 16th U.S. President. Often overlooked, President Lincoln’s Cottage is on the campus of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, about three miles from downtown D.C. It’s a different kind of museum, honoring the home where Lincoln lived while developing the famed Emancipation Proclamation. Besides group and private tours, the cottage also has many exhibits that shed light on Lincoln’s work and the brave ideas that changed the course of history.

Horseback Riding in Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park isn’t exactly a hidden gem itself, but the horse center nestled deep in the park’s woods might be one of Northwest D.C.’s best kept secrets. Take lessons, saddle up ponies for the kids, and hit the trails to get a whole different perspective on Washington D.C.

A young girl in riding helmet, vest and gloves is pictured with her nose nuzzling the nose of a brown horse at Rock Creek Park’s horse center in Washington, D.C. on a peaceful early evening.

There are so many exciting, under-the-radar things to do, see, and experience in Washington D.C. Whether you travel to our nation’s capital for a short or long trip, be sure to take some time to immerse yourself in some of the hidden gems that this iconic city has to offer.

What’s your favorite D.C. lesser-known attraction? Head over to Twitter to share your capital city tips and find more fuel for your travel dreams.

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