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The lesser-known memorial where you can pay your respects to those lost on 9/11.
Photograph by Flickr user DMR1239.

Why you might roll your eyes:

You've visited or seen photos of the September 11 memorial in New York, and the hallowed ground is thronged by tourists snapping selfies.

Why you'll love it:

The Pentagon's memorial, rarely full of tourists, allows for quieter reflection and paying tribute to those who perished in the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77. The elegant design features 184 granite benches, each inscribed with the name of a victim. The benches are arranged by age—it's hard not to choke up as you come to the bench for three-year-old Dana Falkenberg. Pools of water under each bench are lighted when it's dark—making the memorial particularly striking at night, when we recommend visiting.

For more information, see pentagonmemorial.org.

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Posted at 05:40 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Sit back and enjoy a drink, just how Kentucky senator Henry Clay used to like it.
Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Why you might roll your eyes:

The drink conjures visions of Kentucky Derby day, when the Willard hotel's normally hushed bar floods with bow-tied men and hatted women attempting their best Pretty Woman impressions, $15 cocktails in hand.

Why you'll love it:

On other nights, when the bar's not crowded, the place oozes that old-Washington boys-club vibe, which makes for fascinating people-watching. The bar still makes its mint julep to the exact specifications of Kentucky senator Henry Clay, who introduced the sugary concoction to the District there in the early 1800s. Sink into a leather chair in a dimly lit corner and sip from a frosted glass as you try to guess who in the bar is starting an affair, who's making a million-dollar business deal, and who's just thirsty.

1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-628-9100.

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Posted at 05:35 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Even if you've been to Ford's Theatre before, you don't want to miss its 150th anniversary of Lincoln's death this April.
Photograph by Flickr user Chris Brown.

Why you might roll your eyes:

You've seen the tourists in matching T-shirts clumped outside.

Why you'll love it:

Whether you take a guided or self-guided tour or you buy a theater ticket to get inside, gazing up at the presidential box and imagining the night when Abraham Lincoln was slain is a moving experience.

This April is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, and there's no better place to honor the occasion—including at a round-the-clock event on April 14 and 15, when there will be ranger talks and actors in the streets providing "first-person accounts" of the shooting.

511 Tenth St., NW; 202-347-4833.

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Posted at 05:28 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Visit a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Alexandria.
Photograph courtesy of Brian Thomson/The Ethan James Foudnation.

Why you might roll your eyes:

There are other, more well-known Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the country to visit, such as the famed Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Why you'll love it:

Right in Alexandria, open to the public, is one of Wright’s own favorites, which you don’t have to be an architecture buff to appreciate.

The house was finished in 1941 for Loren Pope, a journalist with the Washington Evening Star; was sold to Robert and Marjorie Leighey in 1946; then, in 1964, was moved from Falls Church by the National Trust for Historic Preservation because it sat in the path of Route 66 construction. The house is a mere 1,200 square feet, with no garage, basement, or attic storage (Wright believed possessions cluttered one’s life). Visitors can admire tricks the architect used to make the space feel larger, such as using different ceiling heights, not walls, to define “rooms.”

Admission is $10, or $15 for a ticket that also grants admission to neighboring Woodlawn, a historic home built for Martha Washington’s granddaughter.

9000 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria; 703-780-4000.

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Posted at 05:18 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Explore Washington's biggest park at new heights.
Photograph by Alison Duvall/Rock Creek Park Horse Center.

Why you might roll your eyes:

On weekends, Rock Creek Park—Washington's version of Central Park—can get overrun with cyclists, in-line skaters, runners, and folks walking their dogs.

Why you'll love it:

The park is also home to the Rock Creek Park Horse Center, where you can saddle up for a guided ride along sections of trail you probably didn't know existed. From atop a graceful steed, it's possible to spy deer darting through the woods or hawks alighting from the trees as the trail bends along the gorgeous creek and into dense forest. The one-hour rides ($40) are limited to four people at a time; no experience required.

5100 Glover Rd., NW; 202-362-0117.

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Posted at 05:13 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Take the shuttle tour and catch some breathtaking views of Washington while remembering our nation's soldiers.
Photograph by Flickr user Throwingbull.

Why you might roll your eyes:

Making a tourist outing out of a visit to a place where actual families are mourning actual loved ones can seem a bit like gawking—especially if you happen across a funeral.

Why you'll love it:

From the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to the solemn burial services, the cemetery's pomp and precision are tributes to those who served. If you haven't visited in a while, pay for the shuttle tour—as of January, it has expanded from three to as many as nine stops. Hop off at Arlington House or the John F. Kennedy gravesite and you can gaze out over the capital of a nation that those buried here fought to protect. 877-907-8585.

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Posted at 05:04 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Skate among the National Art Gallery's whimsical sculptures.
Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Why you might roll your eyes:

Why deal with traffic and parking to get to the Mall when there are other places to skate?

Why you'll love it:

Few spots compare to the National Gallery of Art's open-air rink, surrounded by whimsical sculptures. We like it best at night, when it exudes romance. (We once witnessed a New Year's Eve marriage proposal on the ice.)

Between Madison Dr., Constitution Ave., and Seventh and Ninth sts., NW; 202-216-9397. The rink typically closes for the season in mid-March.

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get the chance to see historic, and really cool, aircraft—like the "Discovery" space shuttle.
Photograph by Dane Penland, Smithsonian Institution.

Why you might roll your eyes:

Isn't it just two hangars full of old aircraft?

Why you'll love it:

Those old aircraft are historic—and very cool. As you enter this Air and Space facility near Dulles Airport, you first spy an imposing SR-71 Blackbird, the world's fastest jet-powered airplane. Look past that for a glimpse of the space shuttle Discovery—which lived up to its name, logging nearly 150 million miles in space. From Enola Gay to an Air France Concorde to a Mercury capsule, the collection traces the history of aviation in a fascinating, you-are-there way.

Don't miss a free tour with a docent—volunteers include NASA employees, historians, engineers, and even pilots who flew those planes.

14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly; 703-572-4118.

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Posted at 04:55 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
There may be no greater spectacle in Washington.
Photograph by Terrance James Doyle Jr.

Why you might roll your eyes:

It's 2015. Same-sex marriage is legal in DC. Aren't drag queens a throwback to the age before equality?

Why you'll love it:

There may be no greater spectacle in Washington than watching drag queens hoof it in heels several inches high. The race itself—the Tuesday before Halloween—lasts just a few minutes. The real show is beforehand, when the 150 participants strut their stuff along 17th Street.

It's not all falsies and over-the-top wigs—last fall's costumes included the scary twins from The Shining, singing nuns à la Sister Act, and a fabulous impersonation of Michelle Obama with a Secret Service detail. Sure it's campy, but like the St. Patrick's Day parades in towns that used to have lots of Irish immigrants, it's become a celebration of progress: Now in its 29th year, the good-natured race attracts DC's politicians—including the mayor, who serves as grand marshal. For an unobstructed view, consider volunteering: You simply stand at the edge and keep spectators off the race course.

For more, go to Facebook and search for "17th Street High Heel Race."

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Posted at 04:46 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get a look at Lincoln's private life through his Northwest getaway.
Photograph by Flickr user Payton Chung

Why you might roll your eyes:

As historic attractions go, this one seems pretty minor- a house that was Abraham Lincoln's version of Camp David.

Why you'll love it:

Lincoln's Cottage may be the single most fascinating look at a President's life in Washington. The hilltop cottage offered a breezy escape from summer heat as well as some privacy- although citizens still showed up there asking to see the President. (In at least one instance, Lincoln greeted the petitioner in slippers and bathrobe.) The restored rooms are mostly sparsely furnished; video screens, piped-in "historical voices," and knowledgeable tour guides paint a picture of the First Family's time here. You can imagine the great man: reading poetry and the Bible, mourning the death of his son Willie, gathering his thoughts to draft the Emancipation Proclamation, and setting off on horseback most mornings for his 3½-mile "commute" to the White House- often alone, when he slipped past his guards.

Admission is $15 for adults, $5 ages 6 through 12; reservations recommended. 140 Rock Creek Church Rd., NW; 202-829-0436.

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Posted at 04:21 PM/ET, 03/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()