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Visit the monuments on the National Mall.
The Tidal Basin is just a stone’s throw from some of DC’s best-known sights: the Washington Monument, the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Take time to walk the Mall, where most of these sights are located.
If a self-guided tour isn’t your bag, try DC by Foot, a free guided walking tour of the same sights. A team of knowledgeable guides spices up the tour with bite-size history lessons and doses of comedy. The group meets at the northeast corner of the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest—you’ll spot the guide easily by his or her powder-blue polo shirt. Starting March 15, tours run at 6 PM Wednesday through Friday, 10 AM and 2 PM on Saturday, and 2 only on Sunday. Although the tour is free, guides gladly accept tips at the end.
Climb on Einstein.
Wander across Constitution Avenue near 21st Street, Northwest, to see one of Washington’s lesser-known statues: the Albert Einstein Memorial. On the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, a 7,000-pound bronze statue of Einstein sits on a set of white granite steps reading a larger-than-life manuscript scrawled with Einsteinian equations. This statue is a favorite of children, who are often found climbing on old Al like a jungle gym.
Rent a bike or paddle boat.
You can cover a lot of ground in Washington on a bike; it’s one of the best ways to see a lot of sights in a short period of time. Better Bikes makes it easy to get around on two wheels. Make arrangements in advance with the bicycle-delivery service, and it will drop off a bike at your hotel or any destination in the Washington area; Better Bikes will even pick it up when you’re done. Mountain bikes ($38 a day), hybrids ($48), children’s bikes, and buggies are available. Also included in the rental fee are helmets, locks, and a local trail map.
If you want to stay in the Tidal Basin area but still want to work out your legs, rent a paddle boat from Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. This popular warm-weather activity costs $10 an hour for a two-person boat, $18 for a four-seater.
Visit the National Aquarium at the Commerce Department.
Yes, you read that right—there’s an aquarium at the Commerce Department. The entrance is on 14th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues, Northwest, within short walking distance from the Tidal Basin. It’s home to 1,500 creatures and 250 species. Exhibits include piranhas, sea turtles, sharks, and alligators. DC’s aquarium is not as big or fancy as the one in Baltimore, but kids still enjoy it. Plus, at $4 for kids and $9 for adults, it’s a third of Baltimore’s price tag.
See art at the Corcoran.
At 500 17th Street, Northwest, the Corcoran Gallery of Art is about a 15 minute walk from the Tidal Basin. The museum’s permanent collection of American, European, and contemporary art includes more than 16,000 paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Artists such as John Singer Sargent, Andy Warhol, and John Stella have their work on display.
Sip tea at the Willard.
Just east of the White House is one of Washington’s most beautiful hotels, the Willard InterContinental. Offered seven days a week during the festival from 2:30 to 5, the hotel hosts afternoon tea in its Peacock Alley, a long, cherry-tree-lined hallway that has couches, chairs, and tables for guests to sit and relax. The midday indulgence includes a selection of loose-leaf teas, fruit, scones, jams, pastries, and finger sandwiches. A Koto player will be on hand to set the mood. Afternoon tea costs $39 per person, and for an extra $10 a head you can add a glass of Champagne or a special cherry cocktail. Cheers!
Climb the clock tower.
At Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street, Northwest, the Old Post Office Pavilion is a bit of a trek—about 25 minutes—from the Tidal Basin, but the free tour of the clock tower is worth the walk. On the observation deck, you can take in 360-degree views of the city; a short elevator ride gets you to the top. The tower is home to the Congressional Bells, a gift from Great Britain for our country’s 200th birthday. But don’t take our word for it—ask the park ranger, who’s on hand to offer tidbits of history and trivia.