DC Travel Guide  |  News & Politics

26 Wonderful Places Around DC That You May Have Never Noticed

It may be more funky than fancy, but Suns Cinema in Mount Pleasant has its fans. Photograph by Lexey Swall.

We asked Washingtonians to name local spots that bring them joy. Here are the gardens, historic sites, trails, and other places they love—including some hidden gems.

Nina Totenberg

NPR legal-affairs correspondent
Favorite place: Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

“The Main Reading Room is a spectacular sight. You have this incredible ceiling and then this huge room. It’s just an astonishing place. My father’s [violinist Roman Totenberg’s] papers are stored in the Library of Congress. They have everything. Just to walk past the volumes of Jefferson’s library is an amazing feeling.”

Morgan Hungerford West

Founder of the Instagram feed A Creative DC
Favorite place: Suns Cinema

“It’s a 25-seat movie theater in Mount Pleasant. They play lots of old movies, plus newer ones, and all the movies fall into a monthly theme. They’re usually $5, and they’ve got a great little bar as well.”

Photograph by Lexey Swall.
Photograph by Lexey Swall.

Susan Tynan

Founder of Framebridge, an online framing company
Favorite place: Old Stone House

“Because I lived in Georgetown while raising my kids, I have always loved the Old Stone House. It was a little respite—while running errands or shopping, I’d promise my kids we could stop at the garden, and they could run up and down. In the back, there’s a little winding path and a very modest hill, so you sort of feel, if you’re a small child, like you’re going on a hike.”

Ted van Griethuysen

Actor who has performed on many of Washington’s stages
Favorite place: Folger Theatre

“When I was nine, my father brought me with him on a business trip to Washington. We were staying in the May­flower, and I remember I hardly saw him—I was passed over to secretaries to take me around. For some reason, they took me to the Folger. They took me in to see the theater, and I was in great awe. My father must have realized I had some interest in plays, though we lived in a tiny town in Oklahoma. I knew when I was nine, standing at the back of that room, that years later I would enter that building as an actor.”

Derek Brown

Cocktail expert and entrepreneur whose bars include Columbia Room
Favorite place: Fort Reno Park

“I grew up going to punk shows at Fort Reno, playing soccer at Fort Reno. It’s just an awesome place to hang out, especially during the summer for the concert series. Now I bring my son, and we do a little picnic. Maybe that’s not very punk rock anymore, but I see all my friends there, and you run in-to all the old punks and get to see bands you’ve never seen before. People have this romantic view of what punk rock was to the city, but it’s still there. There’s beautiful bands out there that are worth seeing—the bands that are the future of punk rock and the musical identity of DC.”

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.
Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Lewis Black

Comedian who grew up in Silver Spring
Favorite place: Old Ebbitt Grill

“It’s always been the place I’ve been able to go after a show in DC, especially after I started playing the Warner Theatre. I love it. I’ve always liked their food, and at least in terms of service, they’ve had a steady staff. The waitress the last time had served us a couple of years before and can deal with my mother—which is no mean feat.”

E. Ethelbert Miller

Poet and literary activist
Favorite place: Kogod Courtyard

“I love how the lighting changes in the Kogod Courtyard—sometimes you’re in there and a storm is coming outside and it gets dark. I love the small tables and the constant flow of people. I like holding meetings there. When I get hungry, I walk down to Teaism in Penn Quarter, and sometimes I find myself afterwards walking back to the courtyard with a full belly and more happy thoughts.”

Janet Murguía

President and CEO of UnidosUS, an advocacy group for Latinos
Favorite place: The Market Lunch

“I love Eastern Market and, in particular, the breakfast. There’s a gentleman at the Market Lunch who has always run breakfast, and if you’re not in line by 12, 12:30, he starts to cut it off. We’re always running to make the cutoff. The buckwheat pancakes are awesome. Eastern Market is a great place to hang out in general, but the breakfast is just spectacular.”

Photograph by Marisa Guzmán-Aloia.
Photograph by Marisa Guzmán-Aloia.

Ajay Kori

Cofounder of UrbanStems flower-delivery service
Favorite place: Gravelly Point in Arlington

“I usually ride a bike over, and you can sit under where the planes are landing. I’ve had meetings there. You can hang out with friends. I am a huge plane person. I’m not sure why, but I love planes.”

James Grossman

Executive director of the American Historical Association
Favorite place: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

“I live eight blocks from the Capitol, so my wife and I walk frequently on the Mall, and when we’re feeling energetic, we end up at the Roosevelt memorial. It’s evocative in the way it was designed. You get a sense of his love for the Hudson Valley, with all the water, and the text is lyrical because his speeches are. It’s powerful. I also think the placement is interesting because of the proximity to the Lincoln Memorial. These men—Lincoln and Roosevelt—stand head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of building a democratic culture and what they were able to accomplish.”

Donna Edwards

Former Maryland congresswoman
Favorite place: US Capitol steps and grounds

“On the east front of the Capitol, there’s a hill that has a bunch of trees, and we used to picnic over there. My mother would pack up a Sunday lunch and would watch my youngest siblings, who were toddlers, while my dad, my sister, and I would roll down the hill. Then we would run around to the front of the Capitol and run up the stairs and just plop down in the middle of the stairs. We would sit with my dad between us looking out at the Supreme Court—you can’t really do that now. My dad would usually be in his uniform because he would have to go back to work at Andrews Air Force Base, but we would still compel him to roll and run with us in our Sunday dresses. Only a dad would do things like that.”

Photograph by Evy Mages.
Photograph by Evy Mages

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Favorite place: C&O Canal

“I go practically every weekend with my wife to jog along the canal. When I was training for the Marine Corps and New York City marathons, I used the canal as my training ground. I’m struck by the extraordinary beauty, how it changes with the seasons, and the amazing wildlife you can see without even trying. There are deer all over the place and beavers once in a while. We went there just a couple days ago and saw two beautiful giant blue herons.”

Luis Peralta

Artist who has done murals, paintings, and sculptures for businesses, institutions, and collectors around town
Favorite place: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

“One of my favorite places is the Frederick Douglass house. One reason is because of his history—he was a slave and then became a prominent person. The other reason is the beautiful view of the city. The house is in a danger zone, surrounded by chaos—violence and drugs. My house is around the corner. On one block, you could get shot at. The next block, you can visit the Frederick Douglass house. One thing I noticed, things don’t happen around the house. It’s a beacon of hope. I have two sons, three and six, and they’re black and Hispanic. I take them there to learn the history. I’m from Nicaragua. My family emigrated here in 1985 to escape a war zone. Our lives may not be great, but Frederick Douglass had a thousand more obstacles than we do. I try to teach my kids you can make a life for yourself and overcome anything. Having that example is very important—to show them there’s nothing that can hold you back.”

Phil Mattingly

CNN congressional correspondent
Favorite place: Vietnam Veterans Memorial

“My grandfather was killed in Vietnam. For my family and me, we will go over to the memorial at night. We know the exact place where his name is. We were there when it opened and at all the anniversaries. I try to get over there once a week, if not more, if I can. It’s a pretty special place.”

Photograph by Angela B. Pan.
Photograph by Angela B. Pan.

Daniel Pink

Former chief speechwriter for Al Gore and author of books on behavioral science and business, including Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Favorite place: Rothko Room at the Phillips Collection

“To me, the Rothko Room is the most transcendent place in Washington. Looking at those pictures puts me in a mental space unlike any I experience elsewhere. It’s much more contemplative; much more meditative; much more, in its own way, challenging.”

Marjorie Meek-Bradley

Chef/owner at Smoked and Stacked
Favorite place: Adams Morgan

“When I moved to DC after culinary school in Philadelphia, Adams Morgan reminded me of South Philly. I just loved all the character and colors of the buildings. It’s unique in the sense that everything feels so buttoned-up in Washington, and then you have this little funky neighborhood.”

Deborah Tannen

Professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author, most recently, of You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships
Favorite place: Dumbarton Oaks

“When I moved to Georgetown in 1979, I didn’t know that many people, so I was a little lonely at times. I loved wandering over to Dumbarton Oaks because when I was there, it didn’t feel like anything was missing. There are many, many beautiful gardens in Washington, but this one is special. It is a series of small gardens that are each nestled in a hidden corner of this larger place. I have a few favorites. The one when you first come in, toward the right—there’s a pool and terraced seating. Not many people find it. The other one I like is toward the back, a little circular garden with a bench. I sometimes bring a book there. Whenever I have a new faculty member in the department, I’ll walk them over so they know it’s there.”

Photograph by Angela B. Pan.
Photograph by Angela B. Pan.

Mark Furstenberg

Baker and owner of Bread Furst bakery
Favorite places: Lafayette Square and the Renwick Gallery

“I moved to Washington in 1961, and by the end of 1962, I had an opportunity to work on the White House staff. My office at 736 Jackson Place was in a somewhat rundown townhouse on the west side of Lafayette Square. That whole area was scheduled for demolition and was saved by Mrs. Kennedy, who forced her husband to take a little ride around the square and see the beautiful architecture. We moved around the corner after President Johnson created a task force on poverty—into what was then known as the Court of Claims Building, which had also been scheduled for demolition and now is the Renwick Gallery. Those two are my favorite urban places.”

Cathy Frankel

Vice president for exhibitions and collections at the National Building Museum
Favorite place: Billy Goat Trail

“The Billy Goat Trail is something I’ve done with my family for many years, and it has a spectacular view. It’s a little challenging, which is fun and makes it more memorable. There’s a lot of jumping across rocks, and there’s one wall you have to scale up.”

Holly Twyford

Actress who recently starred in Signature Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music
Favorite place: 13th and Clifton streets in Northwest DC

“There is a hill at 13th and Clifton, near Cardozo High. When you’re stopped at the traffic light there, you can see the entire city. It’s quite striking. We’d see it every day on our way home from my daughter’s school. We call it the ‘beautiful view.’ At certain times of day and at certain times of year, it was particularly beautiful. We’d stop in the midst of a conversation and say, ‘Beautiful view!’ If we had time as we went down the hill, we’d try to count as many cranes as we could, kind of a little game we’d play. Just in the past few years, as the city has been going through such transition and such building, you could literally count 15 cranes at a time spanning the entire city. My daughter was better at counting than I was, since I was driving. So there are good memories there.”

Photograph by Eric Kruszewski.
Photograph by Eric Kruszewski.

Jane Levey

Chief historian at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Favorite place: Lobby of 1100 New York Avenue, Northwest

“This is the preserved Greyhound building. When I was a little girl in the 1950s, my grand­mother would take the bus from Brooklyn to visit us in Silver Spring. We would pick her up at this station. I remember how exciting it was to see her step off the bus. Historic preservationists succeeded in saving the building from demolition in 1988, so today you can walk into that lobby, which is all spiffed up to its most polished, Art Moderne self.”

Natali Fani-Gonzalez

Member of the Montgomery County Planning Board
Favorite place: Brookside Gardens

“It’s a ten-minute hike from my home to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. I’m regularly there with my little kids and husband. It’s so peaceful. You don’t see people looking at their phones—you see people walking and smiling back at you. I love to see my children waving at people and having total strangers wave back at them with a smile. Everyone’s happy.”

Katsuya Fukushima

Chef/partner, Daikaya, Haikan, and Bantam King
Favorite place: The Chinese restaurant New Big Wong

“It’s this place right in Chinatown that stays open very late, and I remember when I was a cook, my mentor, José Andrés, would take me there. It’s where we sat and talked, shared a meal, and spent quality time together. It’s more than a restaurant to me. It’s kind of a tradition now—I take my chefs there, too.”

Photograph by Greg Kahn.
Photograph by Greg Kahn.

Jim Handly

NBC4 news anchor
Favorite place: The Bishop’s Garden at Washington National Cathedral

“My go-to place since I came here 25 years ago is the Bishop’s Garden. It’s an easy bike ride from home and work to some peace and quiet. It’s quite a contrast to city stress and the craziness of the news business. It’s also nice to disconnect from the devices and just chill in some beautiful surroundings. And now they have the Open City coffee house there. One can’t ask for more.”

Photograph by Andrew Propp.
Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Rushern Baker

County executive, Prince George’s County
Favorite place: Bladensburg Waterfront Park

“That’s a place I like to go running in Mary­land. One thing most people don’t know: There’s a battlefield there that was used during the War of 1812. It’s one of the places that were significant in that war. The visitor’s center will take you through the history.”

Karin Tanabe

Author, most recently, of the novel The Diplomat’s Daughter
Favorite place: Kennedy Center Opera House

“I was an intern at the Kennedy Center when I was in college. I don’t know if they do this anymore, but when I interned there, you got a pass that opened every door. We used to break into the Opera House. There was a bowl of M&M’s right where the President sits during the Kennedy Center Honors. We would sit in the President’s box and eat M&M’s. The other thing we got to do as interns is we were seat fillers for the Kennedy Center Honors and similar events. We got to get all dressed up. Years later, when I was a reporter for Politico, I got to cover the Honors. It’s a majestic room for me. When I walk into that room, I can’t not think of being 20 years old and sitting up there eating illegal M&M’s.”

Photograph by April Greer.
Photograph by April Greer.

This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Washingtonian.