Washington, D.C., as the nation’s capital, is known for its history, art and culture. While exploring the monuments, visiting the memorials and wandering the new museum exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution are a major part of any visit to D.C., there is much more to discover. Secrets abound in the nation’s capital. These are eight of the best hidden gems in Washington, D.C.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
One of the best kept secrets is Planet Word Museum, which opened in 2020. The world’s first voice-activated, immersive experience museum, housed in the historic Franklin School, offers three floors and 50,000 square feet of exhibits. Founded by a retired teacher, Planet Word brings to life the idea that words can be fun.
A French Sweet in D.C.
Just a 5-minute walk from Planet Word, Sofitel Washington D.C Lafayette Square offers luxurious French style, superb cuisine and incomparable service. The secret here? Rooftop beehives provide honey for the hotel’s honey-inspired cocktails. Opaline Bar and Brasserie is an ideal choice to start your day with a French pastry or to watch the world go by as you sip a cocktail featuring honey from those rooftop bees. Another hidden gem at Opaline is Le Goûter, a modern take on a traditional afternoon tea which visitors can enjoy every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.
Uncover Stories through Images
In between your morning croissant and evening cocktail, a 15-minute stroll from Sofitel Washington brings you to the National Portrait Gallery. Begun in 1962 as a holding place for photographs, the collection now includes more than 23,000 pieces from old daguerreotypes to modern digital images.
NPG houses the only collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. The Obama portraits are on tour until November 2022. Beyond the nation’s leaders, revolving exhibits offer insight into such things as how the city’s neighborhoods were named or a pictorial history of Watergate.
Discovering America’s Front Yard
The National Mall is a must-see during a visit to Washington D.C. Stretching from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, this broad expanse of lawn is often called “America’s Front Yard.” As you leave the Lincoln Memorial and walk toward the Capitol Building, look for the shadows of the Washington Monument in the reflecting pool. But the National Mall offers many hidden gems beyond the monuments.
In the heart of the National Mall, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a free museum dedicated to contemporary art and culture. It celebrates the most groundbreaking artists of the 20th century and into the 21st century.
ARTECHOUSE, on the far side of the National Mall near the Tidal Basin, expands the boundaries of what a museum can be by creating a space where art, science and technology intersect. This immersive experience uses innovative, digital technologies to redefine and explore ideas. ARTECHOUSE offers emerging artists and visitors a new way to explore art beyond its traditional boundaries.
Escape to a Secret Garden
After a busy day of vibrant activity exploring the city, treat yourself to the quiet of the Courtyard Bar at the Fairmont Washington, D.C, Georgetown. The hotel features a secret garden theme woven into all its spaces. The most dramatic is the Courtyard Bar. In the warm months, visitors can enjoy the lush secret garden filled with the aroma of fresh herbs, handcrafted cocktails, Champagne and coastal bites.
For guests visiting in early-June, the hotel is hosting a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee on June 8, 2022. The festivities take place in the courtyard. Don your best hats or fascinators for a bagpipe performance, a sabering ceremony and cake fit for a Queen.
Be sure to take time to view the hotel’s curated art collection which expands the secret garden theme by interpreting the surrounding local landscapes through traditional and contemporary media.
The Grandest Points of View
Once the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post (she owned General Foods), Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is a treasure known for its art collections, history and breathtaking gardens. Located in Northwest D.C, it is about 15 minutes from downtown. The 25-acre gardens are a year-round treasure, with something to see in every season. In the winter months, the orchid blooms grace the greenhouse. In summer, wander through the rose garden, French parterre, a cutting garden or the dog cemetery where Post pets were laid to rest.
Glenstone, located 30 minutes northwest in Potomac, MD on 300 acres blends nature, architecture and art into a singular experience. Purpose built, and thoughtfully conceived, you may choose to follow outdoor trails along streams and through forests to see outdoor sculptures or discover the two primary exhibition spaces with permanent and rotating art installations of post-World War II artists.
There is always something new to discover and many hidden gems to uncover when you visit Washington, D.C.