While not everyone will get a chance to experience the bipartisan bickering, behind Washington, D.C.'s public face is a city that leads a varied life. Blues and jazz blare from nightclubs. The person standing next to you on the street could have national security clearance. The skyline is dotted with spires, domes and other sharp edges. Yes, Washington is an American city like no other. If you're feeling as if it has been constructed solely out of landmarks, you're not the only one. Even for the most short term visitor to Washington, D.C., there are some quintessential experiences that should not be missed.
Shop at the Eastern Market
Washington, D.C. is home to more than just government buildings. The Eastern Market is living proof of that. Nestled among the old townhouses and antique shops is the Eastern Market, a large farmer's market type space. Visitors come to barter over fresh produce and artisan baked goods, but the real treasure here is the flea-market finds that people from D.C. and beyond bring to sell every Saturday and Sunday.
Visit the Cherry Blossoms
There is only a one or two week window in which visitors can enjoy the cherry blossoms, but for those that manage to make it out to Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin near the end of March they can enjoy the vibrant trees of soft pink. The visual wonder is made even more magical when a strong wind blows through and sends the pink petals whirling into the wind.
Sit in on a Supreme Court Argument
All Supreme Court oral arguments are open to the public. However, seating in the hall is very limited. If visitors find themselves in Washington, D.C. during a high profile case that they are interested in, it is not likely they will be able to find an opening in the hall. However, for the less popular cases, it is still worth popping in the listen to the going-ons of America's highest court.
Eat at Ben's Chili Bowl
Everybody's got to eat, right? Ben's Chili Bowl is a Washington landmark. After it opened its doors in 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl has served the movers and shakers of Washington, D.C. including Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. While they serve burgers, fries and bowls of their signature chili, Ben's Chili Bowl is most famous for their glorious chili dogs. While Washington, D.C. is awash with upscale restaurants, it refreshing to see a laidback joint like Ben's, but the food makes it a must.
Visit the Smithsonian
As one of the most prestigious museums in the United States, the Smithsonian offers coverage on a wide range of subjects. With 19 different museums that are part of the Smithsonian, visitors will want to think carefully on the subjects and exhibits that they want to cover on their tour. Those who aren't sure what to see should be sure to stop at the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery.
Read at the Library of Congress
As the mother of all libraries, it's worth taking some time to peruse the collection in the Library of Congress. This building contains a mind-boggling 145 million items in 470 different languages. Even while visitors are looking at its current collection, the Library of Congress is constantly getting bigger. In fact, every second seven items are added to their shelves. The shelves are stocked with not only books, but pictures, maps, manuscripts and, most recently, Twitter logs.
Tour the International Spy Museum
Visitors can channel their inner James Bond at the first-ever espionage museum. The International Spy Museum not only covers some of the most famous spy movies, but it showcases how information was obtained spy-style throughout history. There is a pricey admission fee, but it is well worth it to explore the largest collection of international spy artifacts.
Visit the National Zoological Park
Visitors expect the National Zoo to be huge and complicated, but while it is sprawling, the National Zoo is surprisingly easy to navigate. Some may feel that if you've been to one zoo, you have pretty much been to them all. However, the biggest draw of this particular zoo is the rare panda exhibit.
Visit the White House
It's the most famous building in the United States and the epicentre of Washington, D.C., but the White House is also one of the most difficult buildings to get inside. Some visitors are satisfied with viewing it from afar, but those who are more curious can work on arranging a tour by going through their local Congress person if they are a citizen of the United States or organizing it through a foreign embassy if they are not.
Visit National Monuments & Memorials
There's no getting around it, the primary reason most visitors come to Washington, D.C. is to tour the landmarks. While there are literally hundreds of different monuments throughout Washington, D.C., both big and small, there are a few popular standouts. If nothing else, visitors D.C. must make time to visit the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial or else it is like they were never in Washington, D.C. at all.
Have you visited Washington, D.C.? What was on your itinerary?
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