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Under-the-Radar Attractions in San Francisco

by Brian Gate

Aug 25, 2018 

According to most travel websites, TripAdvisor and Yelp included, the most exciting things you can do in Washington D.C. is to pop in one museum, exit and pop into another one. While the list of museums in D.C. is quite endless and it will take you years to become familiar in all the museums’ offerings, it doesn’t make a trip to D.C. very exciting for those who have been there.

How about doing something less known or stopping by a restaurant that is not as crowded?

A 2013 report revealed that there was an influx of over 19 million tourists coming into Washington D.C. with or without their tour guides, packed charter buses and making a ginormous deal out of the view of Potomac River. Instead of doing what the tourists do, how about crafting your own itinerary, according to your preferences and hit the off-the-beaten paths instead?

But still, let’s start with the norm.

1. The Starting Point of your Washington D.C. Trip

Most people will warn you that the weather is unpredictable so, be prepared with a raincoat, an umbrella or just don a pair of good sneakers and get ready to run for cover once in a while. But hey, if you’re going to hide from the rain, might as well head into a famed Smithsonian museum, right?

Begin with the National Mall, White House, and the Washington Monument if you’ve never been there. This is like the starting point for all the runs around Washington D.C.: the White House (from the outside. Visiting the White House requires months of approval from the representative), the Washington Mall, monument, Vietnam War memorial, the Smithsonian African American Museum, the Treasury Department behind the White House, WWII memorial, etc.

Even if you’ve been there, there’s something to be said about the sweeping views of D.C. you’ll get from the National Mall. It’s THE BEST. One note: visiting the nation’s front lawn at night is even more awesome because the place will be lit up like a wonderland.

beautiful lit monuments in Washington DC
Source; Justyn Warner - Unsplash

The best thing to do is to go at your own pace. Take your time, grab a map, load your GPS and just more-or-less navigate and surprise yourself! While the beautiful sculptures are great for Instagram shots, don’t put your feet (or splash around) in the fountains. You’ll get the boot. Or at least get an evil eye cast your way or chastised for untoward behavior in a highly patriotic place.

Shine of the night

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Lincoln Memorial

900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington , DC 20024
(202) 426-6841
What can you say? This was where the great American Dream was immortalized. It’s where the “I Have a Dream” speech was read by Martin Luther King Jr. When it lights up at night, it will blow your mind. The Greek Doric temple is fronted by a large (very seriously looking seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln together with inscriptions of two of his most famous speeches, the "Gettysburg Address" and the "Second Inaugural Address".

The good news is that when you're done with all that walking and you’re almost keeling over with hunger, you get to choose from a buffet of options in the form of eateries and cafes. And if you feel like it, there are restaurants offering super cool cocktails and margaritas around the corner.

b DC Penn Quarter

Stylish chain serving creative burgers & elevated pub grub, plus craft beers & bourbons.
801 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA
(202) 808-8720
Hours: Sun to Mon 11am  11pm, Fri and Sat  11am - 12am
One thing’s for sure, the locals love their beers as much as they love their burgers! They’re creative, ice-cold, unique and perfectly creamy if you’ve ordered a stout. There are delicious chicken and waffle to devour, fried chicken for the kids, vegetarian burger, stuffed jalapenos appetizers, baconator, blue cheese burger served with caramelized onions, Sriracha fries and so much more.

Round Robin

1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-9100
It’s safe to assume that Round Robin, which was established in 1847, was designed for and catered to the powerful, legendary people of the past. When they want to let their hair down, here it is. Today, you can find it in the historic Willard InterContinental, way past its days as the nexus of “Rum Row” and “E Street Corridor”. It still draws the movers and shakers of the political and business scene but their back-by-popular-demand history Happy Hour is where you want to be because you'll find drinks that tell a story. We’ve heard people say they adore the Mint Julep; if it is still around, give it a shot!

Fiola Mare

3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 525-1402
Tucked into a corner of Georgetown, it is a highly-acclaimed restaurant in D.C. The bad news is that you’d have to call and book a table in advance. Otherwise, the quaintly named food and drinks will still be nothing less than SUPERB. You can easily spend about $35 - $55 per person for a 3-course meal. There are also rides you can see or take from the waterfront of the restaurant to work off the extra calories. It’s like the Riviera! Right around the corner would be quaint shops to pop by and the Kennedy Center where tons of shows are there for your picking.

2. Strap Up and Explore

In front of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, the Old Stone House dates as far back as the country’s Revolutionary War, 1765. It’s the oldest unchanged (although it sometimes goes under renovation) in Washington D.C. thanks to a deep desire to remember George Washington (and historians’ fuzzy memories, we’ll go into that in another article - long story ahead) and his role in building the country. The funny thing is that the building was 6 decades old by the time Washington made his way there.

Because it doesn’t rank too highly on Yelp or Tripadvisor as a “popular tourist destination”, there’s no crowd-wrestling, making it awesome for strategic Instagram pictures. Hey, we live in modern times.

What we also recommend if you want to do something a little touristy but skip the crowd is to wake up REAL early in the morning and take a walk about the National Zoo. It opens early at 6 am but nobody’s awake to go to the zoo before the sun is even up. There, the animals are also active during their morning feed (say ‘hi’ to the pandas and seals while they’re munching on their brunch). The line will slowly build up outside as you languidly stroll around the vicinity while you're jonesing around with uncanny animal structures made of things like recycled cans and bottles. Have you ever grabbed your morning coffee to take a walk chatting candidly with pandas? Well, there you go!

The 183-acre zoo is open 364 days a year, offers free admission and after your walk-about (when the crowd starts piling in), skip out towards establishments like Logan Tavern for an out-of-this-word Bloody Mary.

Speaking of which, Logan Tavern's Bloody Mary is part drink, part meal - something you can’t find anywhere else as far as we know. Rimmed with Old Bay and lemon pepper, the drink is then infused with vodka, tequila or gin. It is then topped with millions of options like onion rings, bacon or shrimp. Have it with burgers or fries and you’ll walk out a few ounces heavier but happier.

Bloody buddies 🍅 #drinkup #brunch #sundayfunday #weekendvibes

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And when the sun is setting, it’s time to soak in all the lights against the D.C. backdrop, breathing in and immersing yourself in the wonders of this historical city. Then you stroll up to Bar Dupont where the magic of Washington D.C. is illustrated by the front-facing windows towards Dupont Circle as you sink into its plush, leather seating lit by romantic lighting.

The perfect setting for your summer event in the heart of DC. ✨

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You should also pop by Georgia Brown’s to see if it is a hit or a miss with you. They serve soothing Southern comfort food and a wide range of drinks. People buy into the visual appeal of the restaurant, with its unique bronze (and very cozy, we have to say) ceilings that looks like you’re sitting under an all-embracing outstretched oak tree. Apart from its pork chops, people’s got extremely nice things to say about their scallops with bacon jam, prime ribs, and cocktails too.

  • Old Stone House
    3051 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
    Free Admission
    Hours: Daily 11am - 6pm
  • National Zoological Park
    3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
    (202) 633-4888
  • Logan Tavern
    1423 P St NW, Washington, DC 20005
    (202) 332-3710
    Hours: Mon and Tue 11.30am - 10.30pm; Wed and Thur 11.30am - 11pm; Fri 11.30am - 12am; Sat 10.30am - 12am; Sun 10.30am - 10.30pm
  • Georgia Brown's
    950 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
    (202) 393-4499
    Hours: Mon to Thur 11.30am - 10pm; Fri and Sat 11.30am - 11pm; Sun Brunch 10am - 4pm; Sun Dinner 5.30pm - 10pm

3. You’re Free to Do Whatever Your Heart Desires

Ask anyone what they want to do in Washington D.C. and the predictable answer would always be museums, museums, and more museums. But if there was ONE museum you shouldn’t miss, it would be Newseum. It’s just off-the-charts different.

Instead of focusing on the history of Washington D.C., you’ll be learning loads about the First Amendment of the American Constitution instead - free press and freedom of expression. Of course, there’d be a little bit of history in there when they trace the evolution trail of communication, but it’s all interactive. And keep your tickets because they’re good for two whole days of exploration! Managed by friendly and passionate staff, it stays true to its original mission of educating the public about the importance of free press and the role that reporters and journalists play in the American society.

A word of warning: you’ll be lost in another world for at least two to three hours.

Not too far away from Washington D.C. is, however, where you get to stay afoot in terms of adventures. Montgomery County, Maryland, is only approximately 30 minutes away from downtown D.C. and in Maryland, “the more the Mary-land”.

Being in America gives that kind of courage, the belief that anything is possible, anything can be a reality. Just outside of Washington D.C. are some of Montgomery County’s most awesome outdoor adventures. In fact, it’s only a ferry ride away across the Potomac with the historic White’s Ferry.

The White Ferry is the last one hundred ferries of its kind and it continues to fastidiously ply its routes to this day. The company also runs services for fishing and water recreation and can be found at the terminal on the Maryland side of the river. How do we know it’s reliable and efficient? Look, if something’s been around since 1782, it's safe to say they know what they’re doing.

the white ferry of potomac river
Source: The White Ferry Facebook

With Potomac River acting as its backbone, there are sure to be destinations for a quiet respite and we them in big and small waterfalls alike. Little Falls is located at the confluence of Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and was the first barrier along the river. If you don’t feel like getting wet, there’s an awesome view of it from the traffic-choked Chain Bridge.

Some folks like to muddle their modern-day adventures with a bit of old-school and for that, Meridian Hill Park comes highly recommended. Near Adams Morgan neighborhood, it was a part of Rock Creek Park although not contiguous. You won’t get lost if you set your GPS to bring you north from the White House. If that doesn’t work, search for “Malcolm X Park” instead.

  • Newseum
    555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
    (202) 292-6100
    Hours: Mon to Sat 9am - 5pm; Sun 10am - 5pm
    Admission: $24.95 for Adults 19 - 64, $19.95 for Seniors 65+, $14.95 for Youth 7 - 18, Free Admission for Children age 6 and younder; discounts available for teachers, military, journalists, college students, AAA members
  • White’s Ferry
    24801 Whites Ferry Road, Dickerson, Maryland
    (301) 349-5200
    Toll Ferry - Cash Only Cars One Way: $5.00 Cars Roundtrip: $8.00 Motorcycles: $3.00 Bicycle: $2.00 Pedestrian: $1.00 Trucks: Varies

4. Bring on the X-citement

A short distance away, if you used a rented charter bus, are opportunities for rock-climbing, fishing, watersports, biking, running, and people-watching in the great outdoors.

What the locals would often refer to as Carderock Routes, the oldest climbing area in the East and closest to Washington D.C., is a part of the Carderock Recreation Area. The 100-acre park is a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and is where nature shamelessly intoxicates you with activities like hiking, biking, and rock-climbing. Take your pick from the 1-mile, 5-mile, 10-mile and 20-mile terrains and give yourself a challenge you'll remember. In fact, the recreation area is a short distance from C&O Canal National Historical Park - Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, Potomac Paddlesports, Falls Road Golf Course, McCrillis Gardens and Clara Barton National Historic Site. You can also get some bike action going at South Germantown Bike Park.

South Germantown Bike Path near Washington DC
Source: South Germantown Bike Path Facebook

To quench your thirst for adventure, head over to the Ashton-Sandy Spring Adventure Sports Center in Maryland which is less than an hour’s drive away from downtown Washington D.C. The attraction is popular with families because of its challenging zip lines, rope rigs, wooden bridges and 13 trails with varying degrees of difficulties. Worry not, professionals are always on hand to offer safety runs and training.

For little kids, bring them for fruit-picking and tasty treats at Butler’s Orchard where you can pick your favorite fruit almost every month they’re open. The orchard holds events like birthdays, campfire parties, hayrides, bonfires, group fruit-picking, pumpkin harvest days and strawberry blossom tours.

Even more thrilling would be the whopping 185 miles worth of dream passages into the West of the country along the C&O Canal, also known as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It’s the very path early settlers used when they were looking for a lifeline across the vast American continent more than a hundred years ago along the Potomac River.

You can also wander (and WONDER) along the beautiful, award-winning Brookside Gardens in Montgomery Gardens which is home to Azalea Garden, Children’s Garden, Aquatic Garden, Japanese-style Garden, Butterfly Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, Perennial Garden and many more! We can say a whole lot more to convince you of its beauty but a picture paints a thousand words, they say.

After all that walking, running, climbing, swimming and kayaking, you’d be ready for AWESOME food and a few pints. It’s a cool place to end the day, sipping on your favorite brews in an outdoor setting or celebrate a birthday on Waredaca Brewing Company's spacious grounds. It’s big enough for the entire family and stays true to using as much organic and locally grown grain and hops as possible. Reviewers included it in a list of the country’s top 100 restaurants and it offers mouth-watering ice-cream.

  • Carderock Recreation Area
    9500 MacArthur Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20817
    (301) 739-4200
  • South Germantown Bike Park
    18045 Central Park Cir, Boyds, MD 20841
    (301) 650-4369
  • The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
    16701 Norwood Rd, Sandy Spring, MD 20860, USA
    (240) 389-4386
  • Butler's Orchard
    22222 Davis Mill Rd, Germantown, MD 20876
    (301) 428-0444
    Hours: Tue to Fri 8.30am - 6.30pm, Sat and Sun 8.30am - 5.39pm; Closed on Monday, Holidays and the winter season
  • Brookside Gardens
    1800, Visitors Center, Glenallan Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902
    (301) 962-1400
    Hours: Gardens - Sunrise to Sunset; Visitors Center 9am - 5pm; Conservatories 10am - 5pm; LIbrary - Mon to Fri 10am - 3pm
  • Waredaca Brewing Company
    4017 Damascus Road, Laytonsville, MD 20882
    (301) 774-2337
    Hours: Thur and Fri 4pm - 8pm; Sat 1pm - 8pm; Sun 1pm - 6pm

5. Under the Radar Attractions

Maybe tourists have not picked up the vibe yet. Maybe locals don’t want you to know so they can keep it to themselves. Whatever the reason may be, some attractions are as deserving of your attention as the ones mentioned in travel brochures and websites. Well, here’s the big reveal on some of the best we think you should scope out.

The Mount Vernon Home to George and Martha Washington runs a 1.25-mile dog-friendly tour around the facilities, including the centers and the homes. Washington always believed “a dog is the only one that loves you more than it loves itself” and the people of Mount Vernon holds his words close to their hearts. The event is held Saturdays of May and October every year at 10am and costs $7 per person inclusive of general admission. Along the way, your dog will get an exercise and you’ll learn about George Washington’s passionate love for dogs and his penchant of giving his dogs unusual names.

If we had to use one word to describe the experience, it would be SUPER COOL. That was two words but you get what this urban space in D.C. is all about! Turning a string of abandoned, mysterious underground trolley stations under Dupont Circle into a cultural destination is a true work of geniuses. Most people have forgotten about its existence since the city’s streetcars stopped working in 1962.

Whenever the artworks come around to town, it would often move people with stories of deep pain, unspeakable struggle, triumph, void, joy, connection, and sheer exhilaration. The exhibits, however, are not always open. So, it’s a good idea to hop onto their website or social media to catch up with what’s happening...well, underground.

Underground art gallery with my boys

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Hitting the waters is a fantastic way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without leaving it. Just strap up, hop on the charter bus and head out to either Potomac Paddlesports or Key Bridge Boathouse. You’ll get to see the sights around Washington D.C. along Potomac River, pass Georgetown Waterfront, Roosevelt Island and other stunning monuments lined up along “The Nation’s River”. You don’t have to have experience in kayaking or paddleboarding because trained instructors and experienced employees are always on hand to help you. In fact, they make it fun because they’re always looking out for you, wanting you to have as much fun as you can, just like them!

These guys did great in the high water. #liquidlogickayaks #astral

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With all that said and done, we honestly just want you to have a good time. Be it a break from work with your loved ones, a romantic getaway or a rejuvenating weekend of rest, you deserve the best that Washington D.C. offers. And worry not, we’ll be back with more fun ideas on how to trek your way around D.C. like a pro no matter what your preferences are.

You can go out on your own (design your own trip) or take a guided tour. The rule is simple: find your own brand of “happy”.

Our Experience in Washington D.C. Ground Transportation Says It All

smalll and big charter buses for rent in Washington DC

We’ve helped customers charter hundreds of buses for large events, up to 500 coaches as a part of our events logistics package and also ferried school children to their field trip destinations. The bottom line is that Bus Charter Washington DC is a company that listens. With a combination of over a hundred years of ground transportation experience, you know we are a company you can always count on when you need large charter buses, coaches, mini buses, vans, corporate cars, shuttle buses and sleeper coaches to move groups of people from one place to another anywhere in Washington D.C. and nationwide.

Thanks to our in-depth knowledge about the charter bus rental industry, we understand and recognize the distinctiveness of your needs. Everyone is different and we listen to every request you have so we can deliver exactly that. Instead of listening to us speak of our quality services and vehicles, contact us right now or call us at 1-800-304-1993 and you’ll get an even better idea!

Don't wait and call us now!