Dear PoPville – Unique DC tours/activities?

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Dear PoPville,

I’ve got a lot of family coming into town for the holidays this year and am wondering if you had any suggestions regarding something fun and different we might be able to do. For instance, they live in San Francisco and one of our favorite things to do when I visited was to complete a chapter of the now defunct Jejune Institute game (see here for details). I’ll be hosting during the Christmas week this year and would love to hear about something we could do beyond looking at the monuments.

We looked at some fun things to do here and here. Can you think of any other fun recommendations for this time of year?

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  • Letterboxing can be a fun activity to do with kids. Not limited to DC either.

  • ZooLights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is free and fun!

  • Go to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and see The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly.

  • This comes up with my family as well every year. Here are some activities we’ve done or came up as suggestions in past years:

    1. National Cathedral concert, tours or worship services
    2. Holiday concerts at local colleges, schools or military bases (the performing arts center at UMD is a very underrated local resource)
    3. Day trips (Harpers Ferry, Middleburg, Frederick, Fredericksburg, Baltimore, Annapolis, Charlotteville, wineries, Eastern Shore, Lancaster County)
    4. Bowling or Dave and Busters or golf driving ranges
    5. Real estate open houses
    6. Sledding in the valley behind Howard law school (obviously, there has to be snow)
    7. Progressive dining (drinks at one place, apps at another, entree at another, etc.)
    8. The daily free shows at the Kennedy Center
    9. Imagination stage for the kids
    10. Photo scavenger hunt (e.g. a list of DC-ish things to find and take photos of–say– a tourist wearing an Iowa sweatshirt, a protest sign at an embassy, a cupcake shop, etc.)

  • Food Tours are fun ways to entertain local and out of town guests. Plus, you kill two birds with one stone as you entertain and take care of your guests meals at the same time. Great food tour company is DC Metro Food Tours.

  • Watson Adventures does scavenger hunts at various Smithsonian museums around DC among other activities.

  • Food tours are a great way to entertain local and out of town guests. Plus, you kill two birds with one stone as you entertain AND take care of their meals at the same time!!

  • Heurich House Museum at 1307 NH. The house is a great piece of DC city history and is a refreshing change of pace from all the big monuments. I took a friend from NY there, who told me it is the best thing he’s ever done in DC.

  • Check out Watson Adventures –

    They have very cool scavenger hunts both public, that you and your family can joing, or set up a private event.

    They are done throughout DC in cool places, G-town, the Smithsonian and more…

    Lots of fun

  • President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Old Soldiers Home in Petworth is awesome. Just did that with the family over Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. Especially with the movie just out.

  • saf

    The Botanic Gardens does a great Christmas display:

    • saf

      And I will admit to having a fascination for old cemeteries. DC is full of them. Check out Oak Hill, Congressional, Rock Creek, Battleground, Holy Rood, Mount Olivet, Prospect Hill…

      Also cool churches. Have you visited the Fransiscans in Brookland yet? And there is always the National Cathedral and the Shrine.

      Fort Stevens? Not much remains, but it is cool.

    • A warning about the Botanic Gardens: you’ll probably have to wait in a long line to get in. Last year when my mom visited we toured the Christmas exhibit, and I recall having to wait in the freezing cold for a long time. It’s worth seeing, though, especially if you have kids with you.

  • How about going to the Spy Museum. They are having a James Bond “007” villians exhibit that I’ve heard is pretty fun. It’s got several props from all the movies, such as Odd Jobs steel bowler hat and lots of other pieces of memorabilia for your eyes only.

  • A visit to the Bell Tower in the OPOP or for a real DC experience:
    1. A bar crawl in AdMo
    2. Taking a bus from Carver Langston neighborhood to say, Cleveland Park – transfers et al
    3. I’d also suggest the Capitol Visitor’s Center – and have them contact their respective State’s reps for a Dome tour, or a guided tour by their own intern.

  • Ice skating at one of the new rinks!
    (Canal Park or Georgetown Harbor)

  • The Old Post office on PA ave is always a good stop, especially since the Wash Memorial is closed.

  • How about the Mansion on O Street. Its actually 3 rowhouses put together, part hotel, part restaurant part museum. They have tours or you can wander around the mansion on your own. My girlfriend and I spent all day here once, first for buffet brunch, then wandering around the mansion looking at all the eclectic rooms and trying to find all the secret passage ways…think the Clue Mansion, but with cocktails in hand.

  • Full disclosure, Carol, the guide is a family member. Walk around Georgetown/Capitol Hill/White House and learn where spy stuff happened! It’s fun!

  • Woodrow Wilson House

  • mansion on o, building museum, smithsonian after dark

  • Not trying to be critical, but much of new DC Tourism is over the Disney top for me, ie Spy Museum, Newseum, gimmicky stuff at American History, Ford’s …but I step back when I see how those venues are really enjoyable to many visitors to DC, in fact most of my friends and family.
    I’ve come to believe we Washingtonians are looking for a little more authentic academic experience, It might be helpful for you to decide what your folks what direction your folks would be leaning.
    My favorites: Library of Congress, National Cathedral, Philips Collections (but I do miss the original house setting and all its charm)

  • The Masonic Memorial in Alexandria is well worth a visit. Could be combined with a visit to the Torpedo Factory, lunch in Old Town.

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