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Top 10 Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

7 June 2023
By Justin Caton and Michael Knigge

The United States (U.S.) capital and surrounding region is filled with iconic monuments, museums, parks, and architecture. ICANN's Washington, DC office staff has compiled a list of ten activities, many of which are not mentioned in guidebooks, that you may wish to consider when visiting the U.S. capital.

In addition to her day job as an Executive Assistant at ICANN, Cynthia Tinsley also sings first alto and sometimes second soprano for the Heritage Signature Chorale. Within minutes of asking for some recommendations, she had compiled a list of legendary music venues and local attractions, many of which are free. Below are a few of her recommendations:

  1. Attend a Kennedy Center show. Check out free performances daily on the Millennium Stage, or explore the new President John F. Kennedy Arts and Ideals exhibit. The Reach offers activities for youth and young adults, Studio K jam sessions, and even wine tasting events. It is located next to bike and walking trails. The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20566. It is also accessible by Metro (via the subway and bus lines), by taxi, and by car. If you are driving, always depart early for the event, as traffic can be unpredictable and parking spaces fill up quickly. For more information, see here. Remember to visit the roof top for excellent views of DC and enjoy a meal in the Kennedy Center's Cafe.

  2. Attend other DC venues and clubs. Visit the 9:30 Club, Fillmore in Silver Spring, Park on 14th, Bethesda Jazz and Blues Club, MGM National Harbor, and Wolf Trap, among others. Don't forget Hamilton Live DC (on 14th and F), they have the Loft, which features late night live music. Visitors may register for these and other events here and learn about upcoming local events here.

    David Olive, Senior Vice President of Policy Development and Managing Director of the Washington office, recommended a simple, free sightseeing walk on your busy day, relatively close to where ICANN77 is being held.

  3. First, walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Square to view the White House. Next visit the Decatur House then walk past Blair House, the guest house of the U.S. President. Finally, peruse the visual arts at the Renwick Art Museum.

    Carlos Reyes, Director of Policy and Strategy, is ICANN's local restaurant expert. With an encyclopedic knowledge of the region's finest food offerings, he compiled a list of hundreds of restaurants in and around the D.C. metropolitan area. Here are a few of his recommendations:

  4. For breakfast, Carlos recommends the local coffee house chain, Compass Coffee, which offers rich java brews. Their original coffee house was founded in the neighborhood. Pearl's Bagels, a favorite for D.C. commuters and neighborhood residents, offers delicious bagels and bagel sandwiches. Peak hours are weekends around brunch time. The Seylou Bakery & Mill is a craft bakery shop that also offers pizza nights every Wednesday from 17:00 to 20:00 EST. Just remember, pickup orders must be made two days in advance.

  5. For lunch, Carlos recommends Capital Burger. The restaurant specializes in artisan burgers and boozy shakes. For a small simple venue offering international flavors, try Sundevich. Union Kitchen is also worth a visit; it prepares locally sourced sandwiches and salads.

  6. For dinner, Carlos notes that the Obamas loved the pastas at San Lorenzo, which is frequently listed as one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. Nina May offers family-style dining and features ingredients from the Chesapeake region. Petite Cerise is a wonderful all-day French bistro. Its menu highlights the breadth of French cuisine from the country's various regions. The Dabney, frequently cited as one of the best restaurants in D.C, offers a tasting menu by the James Beard Foundation award-winning chef, Jeremiah Langhorne. Unconventional Diner is a fancy diner with global inspirations.

    Michael Knigge is never shy to suggest local attractions that are often overlooked. Below are two recommendations:

  7. Check out some electronic art. With all the great museums Washington has to offer, you could be forgiven for not wanting to take in yet another exhibition. However, Artechouse is not your ordinary museum. Launched in 2015, it's a novel space to experience electronic arts in a fresh way. Featuring immersive and innovative installations by different artists, Artechouse is located near the major Smithsonian Museums but is a world apart. Opening hours are 10:00 to 22:00 EST daily and tickets cost $25. Since admissions are timed to avoid overcrowding, plan your visit ahead, and book tickets online before you go.

  8. Hike a National Park. Ready for a break from the monuments and museums? Then head to Great Falls National Park for stunning natural scenery just outside of Washington, DC. Located on both sides of the mighty Potomac River in Maryland and Virginia, Great Falls is tiny compared to more famous National Parks, but it more than makes up for the lack of size by the variety of things visitors can do. Taking in the majestic falls that gave the park its name from one of many viewing platforms is a must. If you're itching for physical exercise, hit the Billy Goat Trail for some serious hiking, climb the cliffs above the Potomac, or kayak the tranquil waters beyond the falls. Great Falls National Park is open daily from 7:00 EST to dark, entrance fee is $10 for pedestrians or bikers, $20 for cars.

    Justin Caton's own passions in the area are museums and cycling. Below are his recommendations.

  9. Visit "America's Front Yard." The National Mall is a large urban park stretching from the U.S. Capitol to the Potomac River. Home to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and others, this park is also surrounded by 11 museums that are free to the public. Please be advised, parking can be difficult during peak hours. Alternative transportation options include the Metro, or bicycle via Capital Bikeshare. Remember to bring plenty of water and a good pair of walking shoes!

  10. Free for a bike ride? Washington, D.C., boasts abundant walking and bike trails. The 18-mile (29-kilometers) Mount Vernon Trail stretches from George Washington's estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It runs along the Potomac River offering beautiful vistas. Another option is the 9-mile (17.7 kilometers) Capital Crescent Trail, which runs from Georgetown to Bethesda, Maryland. Both Bethesda and Georgetown offer many restaurants and cafes for hungry cyclists. The Washington and Old Dominion Trail was built over a pre-Civil War railway nicknamed the Virginia Creeper. This 45-mile (72.4 km) trail takes riders in to Northern Virginia wine country, from Shirlington to Purcellville.


Justin Caton

Michael Knigge