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Editor Pick

Washington, D.C., Off the Beaten Path

Updated: July 27, 2023

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Sherry Mims

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Most visitors wondering where to go in Washington, D.C., immediately consider the White House, Capitol, National Mall and storied Smithsonian museums. However, if you want to see America’s capital city in a new way, then spend a day (or more) at these destinations during your time in Washington, D.C.

Cotton & Reed

1330 5th St. N.E.

Don’t let the warehouse-looking exterior fool you. This business provides a rollicking good time — a plus if you’re looking for things to do in D.C. at night — in a trendy industrial environment. Boasting “D.C.’s first rum distillery,” the establishment serves crafted cocktails and tastings of its namesake spirits. (Jordan Cotton and Reed Walker, two of the cofounders, worked in the aerospace industry before teaming up with a distiller and barkeeper to follow their passion.) Remember to indulge responsibly. Bonus: Mouthwatering delicacies are only a block away at Union Market (1309 5th St. N.E.).

Embassy Row

Massachusetts Avenue N.W. extending toward United States Naval Observatory

Rows of what look like residential properties, each as distinct as the flapping flags outside, indicate you’ve reached the area around busy Dupont Circle where ambassadors and representatives live and/or work. Known as embassies, these facilities represent their countries, and provide visas and space for collaboration. Some even open to the public on occasion. One of the best things for friends to do is to guess the various countries from their flags (though not all embassies are on Embassy Row).

International Spy Museum

700 L'Enfant Plaza S.W.

If thrillers and real-life intrigues capture your imagination, you’re not alone (as the attraction’s hidden surveillance system will attest). Adopt a cover story, and try your hand at subterfuge. Said to be the only of its kind about espionage, the museum highlights famous spies, gear and current threats, such as cyberwarfare. Pop culture also gets a nod, most notably with an extensive exhibit on James Bond’s devious villains.

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Museum of the Bible

400 4th St. S.W.

Known as the Gutenberg Gates, the heavy brass doors display the initial verses of the Book of Genesis as they would have appeared on the Gutenberg press and also hint at what is inside this eye-catching building. Biblical history comes to life with interactive exhibits, art and costumed interpreters. Other experiences, such as a flight simulation called “Washington Revelations,” feature notable biblical references and offer insight about landmarks in the nation’s capital that may interest believers and nonbelievers alike.

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Spanish Steps

22nd St. N.W. just south of S Street N.W.

Looking for scenic places in Washington, D.C.? Surrounded by several embassies and tony residences, this small oasis in the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District features steps and a fountain circa 1905—a fun thing for couples to do in the evening when most museums are closed. Afterward, walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the artistically restored fire and police call boxes. One example can be found on Decatur Place N.W., just across from the steps.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Sherry Mims

Sherry is an experienced #AAAEditor and former journalist who enjoys writing informative travel articles and reviews. Her commitment to making meaningful connections with people and places fuels her work for AAA. Favorite activities range from skiing to backpacking abroad and taking ghost tours.

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