Best Kept Travel Secrets: Get to Know Washington, D.C.

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

An invigorated movement led by a surge of trendy youth is making Washington, D.C. a hub for interesting finds and attractions. No longer is it a city for just those in Congress or politics.

The problem with all this development and popularity is that Washington, D.C. is getting crowded. Fit into an area of just over 68 square miles, the influx of residents and tourists make popular destinations difficult to access.

Due to that, finding the local vibe of the city is easier said than done. Fortunately there are plenty of places to visit in D.C. that are interesting, engaging, and perhaps a little non-traditional. Check out these best kept travel secrets the next time you happen to be in the nation's capital.

The Washington Monument is a national symbol of pride and elegance. It stands 555 feet tall and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C.

International Spy Museum

Politics reign supreme in Washington D.C., and it should be no surprise that many city attractions revolve around the topic. While some may consider political matters a bore, one common theme that always proves exciting are spies.

Shake, don't stir your way to the International Spy Museum for a trip down James Bond lane. Here you will find out about some of the tactics international spies have used and what plots have been foiled. From weapons to strategies to infamous individuals, fans of mystery and plots alike will find fun in this unique offering.

The Exorcist Staircase

If you're a movie buff, this one's for you. You can see the staircase that appears in one of the scariest movies ever made. Keep in mind, if you haven't seen the movie you won't really find anything amazing about these stairs.

You'll find the Exorcist Stairs near Georgetown University just off Prospect St. NW. Relive your nightmares and enhance the experience by visiting at night, when the narrow staircase becomes even more alarming.

Senate Bean Soup at Dirksen North Café

What fuels the minds behind Congress? Bean soup! At least that's the case for many senators who frequent the Senate dining room daily. For over 100 years a special Senate Bean Soup has been on the menu due to the request of a particular Senator. Though there is debate as to who requested it originally – Senator Frank Dubois (Idaho) or Senator Knute Nelson (Minnesota) – there is never a doubt to its recipe or availability.

Senate Bean soup is made of navy beans, butter, chopped onion and ham hock. A tasty, filling, hearty soup fit for any debating mind!

Washington Mini Monument

The Washington Monument is a national symbol of pride and elegance. It stands 555 feet tall and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C.

For those hoping to snap an iconic pic of the Washington Monument, you should watch your step. Why is that? You could fall into a manhole and end up hurting yourself on the Washington Mini Monument!

That's right, history and tourist buffs, a 12-foot-tall Washington Mini Monument exists in a manhole near the Washington Monument. Perhaps even more interesting is that it actually serves a purpose. Surveyors use it as a Geodetic Control Point to help with government maps.

Great Falls Park

Fans of natural wonders and the outdoors can take a short trip out of the city for a breath of fresh air and an astonishing sight. Great Falls Park, an 800-acre park just outside of Washington, D.C., is named for the series of waterfalls found inside the park's boundaries.

The falls are located along the historic Potomac River. There are many experiences to be had in this vast park. Scenic views, trails, picnic areas, and smaller parks all can be found within Great Falls Park.

National Arboretum

Another breath of fresh air within Washington, D.C. can be found at the National Arboretum. Left relatively un-trafficked or heralded, the National Arboretum is an outstanding experience for those seeking a serene, relaxing experience. Its roughly 450 acres of individual gardens is riddled with attractions managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

FBI Spy House

If you didn't get your fill for spies at the International Spy Museum, you're in luck. There is another, not-so-hidden spy house of unique attraction in Washington, D.C.

Located just across from the Russian Embassy is the FBI Spy House. This isn't just some standard spy operation, either. Rumor has it once the Soviets moved into a new embassy the FBI and NSA sent agents to do just the same. Right across the street.

They weren't so secretive, either, thus leading to the house at 2619 Wisconsin Avenue NW earning its trademark ‘FBI Spy House' name.

Riggs Library

Some of the greatest minds have passed through Washington, D.C., so it should be no surprise that there are many historic libraries in the area. One of the most iconic is the Riggs Library.

Located on the campus of Georgetown University, the Riggs Library has been a fixture since 1898 and continues to house important texts. What's even better is its callback to spectacular architecture of old. Designed by the same architect (Paul J. Pelz) who designed the Library of Congress, Riggs Library offers bookworms a chance to open their minds and eyes to wonders old and new.

Now a historic and event space (Georgetown has a different, functional library open to students and the public), Riggs Library sits on the top floor of Healy Hall and overlooks the Potomac River and Georgetown Campus.