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The city comes alive at night | Courtesy of South African Tourism
The city comes alive at night | Courtesy of South African Tourism | South African Tourism
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12 Cool Spots in Washington, D.C. Only Locals Know About

Picture of Nicole Hampton
Updated: 17 November 2017
From tucked-away food and drink hangouts for first date or happy hour to historical landmarks and live music venues, here are a few spots in Washington, D.C. that tourists (and even some residents) don’t know about.

Blue Duck Tavern

When it comes to D.C. dining, locals can’t get enough of rooftops and patios. Unlike other cities, D.C.’s laws about building heights means there’s little obstruction of views—not to mention the gorgeous spring and fall weather we have. The most enchanting is Blue Duck Tavern, serving New American, locally sourced food among handcrafted furnishings. A few other wistful patio digs are Masseria, Le Diplomate, and Iron Gate.

Blue Duck Tavern, 1201 24th St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 419 6755

Chef’s Table at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC
Chef’s Table at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC | © Samantha / Flickr

Mansion on O Street

Technically not a mansion but four row houses opening into each other, this elaborate hotel/museum/event space has more than 100 rooms and 70 hidden doors, but that’s what makes the layout so unusual and charming. Some themed rooms include French renaissance, log cabin, and ’70s , each containing a plethora of trinkets, treasures, books, memorabilia, and artwork.

Mansion on O Street, 2020 O St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 496 2020

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National Capitol Columns

From the must-see National Arboretum, you’ll see the marble columns that once supported the U.S. Capitol as well as Andrew Jackson’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugurations, now minimizing the lopsided effect the newly constructed dome gave the Capitol.

National Capitol Columns, 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC, USA,+1 202 245 2726

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Nellie’s Sports Bar

Nellie’s Sports Bar provides a rare and charming blend of TVs streaming live sports and a gay pride scene that hosts events such as drag show brunches. In case it’s not what you’re looking for, some trendy new watering holes are Columbia Room by Derek Brown, Mad Rose Tavern, the Twisted Horn, and locally acclaimed rooftop bars include POV, Brixton, and Roofer’s Union.

Nellie’s Sports Bar, 900 U St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 332 6355

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Landmark E Street Cinema

Landmark E Street Cinema is the best option for indie, foreign, documentaries, and cult classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room. As a plus, its in-house bar offers local and exotic brews and nice wines along with upscale concessions. Other amazing theaters to check out include ArcLight Bethesda, Angelika Film Center & Cafe at Mosiac, and Alamo Drafthouse One Loudoun.

Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 783 9494

Discover movies by classic and new directors | Courtesy of CPH:PIX

Discover movies by classic and new directors | Courtesy of CPH:PIX

Brewmaster’s Castle (Heurich House Museum)

What a grand place to grab a brew. Built in the 1890s by brewer Christian Heurich as a personal palace in D.C., this gothic Victorian home contains an eclipsing tower growing out of the three-story abode and elaborate stone arches. After his death at age 102 (his beer must have been the elixir of life), the two first floors and his brewing business were preserved, hosting beer events like Oktoberfest and tastings.

Heurich House Museum, 1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 429 1894

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9:30 Club

D.C. is becoming known for its cozy and cool music venues. The most talked about among locals is 9:30 Club: its light and sound setups are awesome, bar and food are accessible, and the venue itself is intimate yet spacious—no straining to see performances. Some other must-sees are DC9, U-Street Music Hall, Black Cat, Wolf Trap, and Gypsy Sally’s.

9:30 Club, 815 V St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 265 0930

Washington National Cathedral

Besides this reverent neogothic structure‘s beautiful corridors, vaulted ceilings, and wondrous architecture, several odd aspects can be admired—specifically, its science fiction décor (including galaxy stained-glass, a souvenir from the first step on the moon, and a Darth Vader carving), much of which passes by tourists’ eyes and remains a humorous constant for the locals.

Washington National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 537 6200

Graffiti Cliffs

Make sure to bring your phone because these cliffs are every Instagrammers dream. Not only do they offer a view of the Potomac River and the cityscape, but the hidden cove of cliffs that start to take on words and colors is the ever-changing local secret, as people come to add their own impressions onto other artworks. It’s a quiet place people come to reflect, read, hang out, and take a few selfies.

Graffiti Cliffs DC
Graffiti Cliffs DC | © NCinDC / Flickr

Dupont Underground

It’s amazing what visionary artists can do with an abandoned trolley station. These tunnels have seen both horse-drawn and electrified streetcars for almost 100 years and were later a failed fallout shelter and food court. But since opening in late 2016, a new promising venture has already seen a massive positive reaction from the community. By transforming the tunnels into a home for graffiti and artistic pieces, Dupont Underground supports local artists among the rubble of others before.

Dupont Underground, 19 Dupont Cir NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 919 265 8925

Riggs Library

Riggs is one of the oldest United States libraries still housing books. It opened its four floors and iron walkways, small alcoves, and two spiral staircases to the public in 1898. Though until the 1970s, it now mainly hosts events.

Riggs Library, Library Walk, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 687 7607

Old-fashioned library ladder
Old-fashioned library ladder | manolofranco / pixabay

Church of Two Worlds

This different kind of church offers services for healing, meditating, and reciting mantras. Its members all have one commonality—they believe in communicating with the dead, hence their name, referring to having one foot in the spirit world and one in the Earthly realm.

Church of Two Worlds, 3038 Q St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 333 5114