5 best “not so touristy” things to do when visiting Washington DC
This article was written by Kate Howard from Washington, DC. Having lived there a while, she knows the best ways to avoid tourist traps and traffic nightmares. Together with her husband Jeff, they run a travel site called HotelsNearDCMetro.com, helping travelers find places to stay in the Washington area and showing people the unique traits of every neighborhood, inside and outside Washington.
Most tourists do the same old things when they visit Washington, DC; they see the Capitol Building, White House, visit a few museums, and look at a few monuments.
These places, in their own right, are incredible sights and give way to Washington’s rich history. But, if you’re like me, and are tired of doing the same thing as every other tourist, this list of the 5 best “Not-So-Touristy” things to do when you visit Washington, DC will be just the ticket.
1. Eastern Market
Located in Capitol Hill (a Washington, DC neighborhood that’s also home to the infamous Capitol Building), the Eastern Market isn’t usually on most people’s to-do list when visiting Washington DC, but it’s an incredible hub of farmer’s markets, food, events, and art.
The Eastern Market is open from Tuesday to Sunday with weekends being the busiest with crowds of locals and visitors alike rushing in to buy local produce and handmade arts and crafts.
Eastern Market can be separated into indoor and outdoor sections. The indoor section has a great selection of flowers, produce, meats and dairy and plenty of prepared food like BBQ and the well-known pancakes (seriously they’re incredible).
The indoor section is open both weekdays and weekends and serves as a popular spot for foodies and locals.
The outdoor section is typically used on weekends for Arts and Crafts vendors, selling their works. If you’re a big fan of art, it’s a definite must see on weekends.
To see what kind of events are lined up, check out their page and stay updated.
How to get there: Parking is very limited around the market; the Metro is by far the easiest and most convenient way to get there. It’s accessible via the Orange or Blue line and you’ll need to get off at Eastern Market Station (located on Pennsylvania Ave SE). It’s roughly a 3-5 min walk to the market from there.
2. Port City Brewing Company
Washington is an incredible place to visit if you’re a big beer drinker, as it’s home to many local brewing companies such as Capitol City Brewing Company, 3 Stars Brewing Company and DC Brau Brewing Company.
My favorite of all is Port City Brewing Company (originally called Robert Portner Brewing Company beginning 1866 until prohibition). It’s the oldest brewing company in the Metropolitan Washington DC area (it’s only 20-30 mins outside of Washington DC itself!)
Considered the first brewing company to open in Alexandria, VA since prohibition, Port City Brewing Company can be considered the catalyst that started the craft beer scene in Washington.
Their beers have an incredible range of tastes and alcohol content for any beer lover with a preference. Even better, you can visit the brewery for tours, tastings and events pretty much every day. Grab a beer and get it straight from the source!
Of course, if you plan on tackling some of the higher ABV beers they have to offer, or just like beer too much to drink only one (like me), consider staying in the Alexandria area.
How to get there: Port City Brewing Company can be reached by car, bus, bike, and the Metro. I recommend taking the Metro then catching the DASH-8 or DASH-1 bus. Port City Brewing Co. has more in-depth travel details on their contact page.
3. Logan Circle
Unless you’re a regular visitor to Washington DC or a local, you may not have heard of Logan Circle.
Logan Circle used to be full of run down buildings and old houses but, after recent changes in 1995, it is now a hub of new development and shops, which have steadily grown to be a popular spot for nightlife and art.
For an intimate look at Logan Circle during the day, take a seat at one of the benches looking out to the center where a statue of Major General John A. Logan sits on his horse. The actual circle itself is set up like a small park, and you’ll find plenty of locals relaxing, sitting or walking their dogs.
If you’re a foodie, then pop into one of the many restaurants in Logan Circle. Whether you’re looking for French, Spanish, traditional bar food or something light, there are over a hundred restaurants and cafes to explore and try.
For those looking for the upscale and hip, the nightlife in Logan Circle offers options for anyone going out. From classic wine bars to urban speakeasies, any drink you can think of has a home here. Make Logan Circle a popular local destination for weekends or happy hour.
How to get there: Logan Circle isn’t particularly close to any Metro stops (this helps to keep the crowds at bay, so it’s a positive thing!) but it is within walkable distance to McPherson Square Station (Blue/Orange lines), Dupont Square Station/Farragut North Station (Red line), and U-Steet Station (Green line); this will give you access to any Metro line you need..
4. Georgetown, DC
No I don’t mean Georgetown University (Hoyas! Hoyas!), I’m talking about the neighborhood of Georgetown in Washington DC.
Georgetown is an upscale and vibrant neighborhood along the C&O canal, and was originally a tobacco port. Now, it’s a historic community full of places to shop, eat, and there’s even a cat café for animal lovers. There is no Metro station in Georgetown, so staying in Georgetown isn’t usually a good option for most travellers; you’re probably better of finding a hotel in Arlington instead. Arlington, VA is located just across the potomac river.
Georgetown has more than 450 places to shop, eat, and be entertained. It offers all of this whilst managing to maintain a beautiful, historic waterfront setting. If you’re a bit of a shopaholic, I’d highly recommend a visit to M Street. This is is the main avenue in Georgetown and is recognised as one of the best shopping locations in Washington DC (if not the whole country!).
Now, you might think that Georgetown isn’t really a not-so-touristy spot, which is somewhat true (probably thanks to a certain famous bakery that had its own show). But, what I really wanted to point out in Georgetown are the Dumbarton Oaks gardens and the kayaking you can do in the Potomac River.
With nice weather, you’ll see locals sailing and boating along the river near Georgetown Waterfront Park, along with joggers and cyclists enjoying the view as they travel along the river.
How to get there: Georgetown DC is accessible via car, bus, Metro, bike, and walking. Again, Metro/bus is probably the easiest way to access Georgetown for most people; both the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station and Rosslyn, VA station are within walking distance of Georgetown (under 15-mins)..
5. Theodore Roosevelt Island
With Washington DC being such a hustling, bustling city, you wouldn’t think there was somewhere that was all nature. If you’re the type to enjoy walking trails surrounded by trees, plants and nature in general, make a visit to Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Located in the Potomac River and right on the edge of the Virginia state line, it’s a great place to visit to relax and get away from city life. A trail and bridge from Virginia to the island is conveniently located close to the Rosslyn Metro station (this is easily accessible if you’re in Washington DC itself), making it a perfect place to visit, especially for anyone staying in the Arlington, VA area.
It’s also a great place if you’re a wildlife lover or a birder, as there are wading birds, warblers, rapters and many species here.
Although they don’t allow bicycles, pets are more than welcome (on a leash), which is great news for your furry friend!
How to get there: Theodore Roosevelt Island can be accessed via car, foot, bike, or the Metro. Rosslyn, VA is the nearest Metro station (10-15 min walk from here). The National Park Service website has more details for travelers here.