Rob is joined by local armchair historian Eric Fidler for this episode of the Trip Hacks DC podcast. They developed a list of cool off the beaten path sites in Washington, Rob is joined by local armchair historian Eric Fidler for this episode of the Trip Hacks DC podcast. They developed a list of cool off the beaten sites Washington, DC.DC. These are perfect for anyone who has been to DC before and is looking for something different, or for a true urban explorer. Check out some of Eric’s writing on Greater Greater Washington and follow along his adventures on Instagram.
Listen online now:
Or listen and subscribe in your favorite podcast app:
We start the podcast at the U.S. National Arboretum, which many locals consider a park, but it’s actually a major center for botanical research run by the Department of Agriculture. Eric describes the Arboretum as a “museum of trees” but there are a ton of interesting things to see, including the Azalea Collections, National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and National Capitol Columns. In the fall and winter keep an eye out for a pair of Bald Eagles named Mr. President & The First Lady who keep returning to the Arboretum to build a nest.
From there we move to Congressional Cemetery, which, despite the name, is open to the public to visit or make your final resting place. The only requirement to be interred at Congressional is that you have to be dead. Nonetheless, several notable people are interred there, including J. Edgar Hoover (first director of the FBI), John Philip Sousa (patriotic music composer) and Marion Barry (former Washington, DC mayor). A group of local dog owners and pups called the K9 Corps keeps an eye on the cemetery and ensures it’s a safe place for visitors.
If you want to see a monument to a former president that’s not included on a Trip Hacks DC tour, venture over to Roosevelt Island. This isn’t FDR’s memorial (which is located on the Tidal Basin) but a monument for his distant cousin Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was known as an avid outdoorsman so it’s fitting that his memorial would be an entire secluded island tucked away right in the middle of the city. The island features a large statue honoring Teddy Roosevelt as well as hiking trails and many picturesque views of Georgetown and downtown Washington, DC. Local photographer Nicole mentioned Roosevelt Island as one of her favorite spots to photograph in episode 2 of the podcast.
One of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite places to enjoy the outdoors in Washington was Rock Creek Park, one of the country’s oldest National Parks. It was established by Congress in 1890 and at 2.74 square miles is roughly twice the size of Central Park in New York City. Rock Creek Park includes the National Zoo, but there’s a lot more beyond that. If you get sick of the hustle and bustle of the city when visiting, you can take a hike in Rock Creek Park and when you get far enough inside will feel like you’re in the middle of the deep woods. Keep an eye out for the Historic Capitol Stones, old pieces of the Capitol that were unceremoniously dumped in the park. It’s not marked on all of the official maps but not inaccessible either.
Another historic site on the opposite side of town is the Frederick Douglass House. Douglass was an abolitionist, writer and statesman. He was born into slavery and gained notoriety after escaping and becoming a leader in the anti-slavery movement. He lived in his DC home for a little under 20 years until his passing in 1895. His former house has changed owners several times over history but is now owned by the U.S. government and open to the public by the National Park Service. In addition to the history, this spot offers sweeping views of Washington, DC.
Visitors don’t typically think of Washington, DC as a place with many religious sites, but we actually have several, including the largest Catholic Church in the United States! The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located in the Brookland neighborhood near the Catholic University of America. It welcomed several Popes in recent history, including John Paul II (1990), Benedict XVI (2008) and Francis (2015). Brookland is a historically Catholic neighborhood and nearby is the Franciscan Monastery, where you can see some of the most beautiful gardens in the city. National Cathedral is a few miles away. The name is a little misleading, it’s not a church affiliated with the U.S. government, but rather a cathedral of the Episcopal Church. Nonetheless, it has hosted many prominent funeral and memorial services, including for eight former presidents.
Lastly, Ivy City is not a city but rather a former industrial neighborhood that is now the site of a large location of Washington’s breweries and distilleries. For decades after prohibition there were no adult beverages produced in the District of Columbia. One reason is that local zoning law considers brewing and distilling a type of “manufacturing” and therefore only allowed it on industrial land. Ivy City is one of the few places in DC with industrial land and thus many of these facilities are now located there. DC Brau opened in 2009 as the first brewery in the modern era of DC brewing. Atlas Brew Works is in the neighborhood as well. If you’re into harder stuff, New Columbia Distillers, One Eight Distilling, Republic Restoratives and Jos. A Magnus & Co are all in close proximity to each other. Check out their websites for info on weekend tours! A few breweries outside of the neighborhood that Eric recommends are Right Proper Brewing near the Shaw Metro and Bluejacket near the Navy Yard Metro.