Things to Do

Hidden Gems: Look Up, Look Down

Gems you won’t see unless you glance away from your phone

Look Up

Photograph by Angela B. Pan.

Giant Blue Rooster

It’s electric blue and stands 14½ feet high on the roof terrace of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, yet many passersby and gallery visitors miss it. That’s a shame, because Katharina Fritsch’s sculpture, “Hahn/Cock,” unveiled when the renovated gallery reopened in late 2016, is not only fun to see—and to ’gram—but its lofty perch offers a great city view. Fourth St. and Constitution Ave., NW.

Kicking Bear Masks

If you’re driving, walking, or biking in Rock Creek Park below what’s known as the Buffalo Bridge, on Q Street, glance up to see sculptures—lining both sides, 56 in all—of a Native American man in a headdress. The carvings were based on a life mask of Sioux chief Kicking Bear.

Masonic Masonry

Photograph by Alamy.

A circa-1869 Masonic temple at Ninth and F streets, Northwest, may no longer be a temple—but after dodging a wrecking ball in 1978, it’s still standing. The Smith restaurant now occupies the ground floor. Look up at the limestone exterior to spy ornate detailing including lions’ heads and winged creatures. 901 F St., NW.

Ceramic Cat

Photograph by Evy Mages

When a retired Navy commander built his Embassy Row home in 1901, he had a masonry cat placed on a ledge to commemorate the felines on his ship. Later, owner Olga Hirsh­horn—her husband’s art begat the Hirshhorn Museum—dubbed the garage below it the “Mouse House” in tribute. 2201 Massachusetts Ave., NW.

Mythical Creatures

Who needs to read the First Folio when you can just gaze up at the decorative barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Great Hall? “There are cool animals and fantastical beasts,” says director Michael Witmore. “The figure I find most interesting is a mythical ‘green man’ that comes out of the woods to celebrate Twelfth Night.” 201 E. Capitol St., SE.

May be closed due to Covid-19

Look Down

Photograph by Alamy.

Star Map

The bronze statue of Albert Einstein in front of the National Academy of Sciences is well known. But if you visit, check out the part below Einstein: The granite base contains more than 2,700 metal studs marking the positions of the planets, stars, sun, and moon on the day the memorial was dedicated in 1979. 2101 Constitution Ave., NW.

56 Signers Park

Photograph by Lisa Snider.

This small island within Constitution Gardens contains 56 stones bearing signatures of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Naturally, John Hancock’s is the biggest. George Washington didn’t sign, opting to be with the troops. 19th St. and Constitution Ave., NW.

“Named Stones”

Stroll along Four Mile Run in Arlington’s Bluemont Park and try to spot a series of boulders, in and by the stream, engraved with phrases such as sleeping moon, artemis, and psyche. (Hint: They’re near the playground and baseball fields.) The “Named Stones” are by Arlington artist J.W. Mahoney. 601 N. Manchester St., Arlington.

Bloodstains at the Capitol

Photograph by Rick Snider.

In 1887, reporter Charles Kincaid exposed Kentucky congressman William Taulbee’s extramarital affair. Three years after that, the two got into an altercation at the Capitol and Kincaid was warned by the then-lobbyist to arm himself. He did: Later that day, Kincaid shot Taulbee to death on the House’s east staircase. Bloodstains still remain on the marble. Kincaid was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. First St., SE.

MLK Jr. Time Capsule

Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress.

In 1988, a time capsule containing a Bible and robe that belonged to Martin Luther King Jr., among other items, was placed beneath Freedom Plaza—which previously had been Western Plaza but was renamed in his honor. Engraving in the plaza floor marks the site. 1455 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.