For families that have been visiting their students in the District for years, checking out the usual tourist locations might not cut it anymore.
Trips to the monuments and National Mall may lose their luster after your first few years at GW, but D.C. still offers an abundance of interesting activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you want to learn something new at a museum or explore the natural beauty of the city, there’s something in the city for everyone.
The Hatchet compiled a collection of “hidden-gem” locations that highlight the historical prowess and visual beauty of D.C. Here is a roundup of places you can take family and friends visiting during Commencement week:
If you have a “Pride and Prejudice” fan in your life, a trip to Dumbarton Oaks should be at the top of your list to satisfy the need to see an English country-style estate and garden. Located in the darling residential streets of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks is an estate that consists of a garden and a museum with Byzantine and pre-Columbian art.
Take a look at the ancient Roman Mosaic with Apollo and the vast collection of Byzantine coins in the museum. Plus, the Music Room features intricate paintings and tapestries of the Renaissance in a warmly lit environment.
The 27-acre garden looks straight out of a Jane Austen novel with oak trees, ivy-lined stairs and fountains, and a plethora of blooming flowers, like rose bushes. Bring your family to explore the stone arches and hidden gates before relaxing on the benches scattered across the grounds.
1703 32nd St. NW. Museum open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Garden open Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. Museum admission is free. Find more information here.
Art Museum of the Americas
The District boasts more than 70 museums ranging from art galleries to the National Air and Space Museum, but if you want to take your family somewhere other than a Smithsonian, take a trip to the Art Museum of the Americas. The AMA specializes in the modern and contemporary art of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The museum is currently hosting artist Dominique Paul’s “Silent Fall,” a multimedia exhibition with visual pieces and video installations spotlighting the effects of declining biodiversity in the Americas.
After strolling the galleries, be sure to check out their courtyard with a large, well-kept grass area and smaller outdoor sculptures. Admission is free, making the AMA a splendid way to spend an afternoon in D.C.
201 18th St. NW. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Find more information here.
National Postal Museum
I may be a biased avid stamp collector, but I consider the Postal Museum to be the most criminally underrated Smithsonian because of its niche theme and role in the persistence of philately, the study and collection of stamps.
Check out global stamps and historic postal paraphernalia dating back numerous decades in their permanent collection in the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery. The museum even allows you to dig through boxes of retro stamps — both domestic and international — and pick out six of your favorites to take home for free in an envelope to start your own collection.
Baseball fans can also explore postal memorabilia and fan letters dedicated to the sport in the museum’s temporary exhibition, “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” which will be on display until early 2025.
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Find more information here.
Garden at Old Stone House
If you want to take a break while shopping on Georgetown’s famous M Street, look no further than the garden at the Old Stone House. Tucked away on M Street NW, the historic house is a charming two-story 1766 cottage which the National Park Service says is known to be “the oldest structure on its original foundation” in D.C.
Behind the house, there is a serene garden that features a small grass area, flower bushes, and wooden benches, making it a great spot to read a book or chat with loved ones. It is a quiet getaway amid the hustle and bustle of the shopping district — I recommend grabbing an iced coffee and chocolate chip walnut cookie at nearby Levain Bakery before heading over.
3051 M St. NW. House open Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Garden open daily from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free. Find more information here.
Analog music fans will love the District’s selection of record stores.
Smash Records is an iconic marker of D.C.’s rich punk scene and history, specializing in punk and alternative clothing and music. Peruse their wide selection of vinyl and CDs and don’t miss checking out the vintage clothing section, with racks stuffed full of rock and roll merchandise and pieces designed by indie clothing architects.
Joint Custody on U Street NW is another great option with a particularly large collection of band merchandise, whether you want to hang up a classic jazz poster or rock a t-shirt from your favorite rock band. Check out brand new releases on vinyl or sift through boxes of used records to search for hidden gems — the store even has old record players to pick up and play your records on wherever post-graduation life takes you.
Smash Records is located at 2314 18th St. NW, open Monday through Thursday noon to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m. Joint Custody is located at 1530 U St. NW, open every day noon to 8 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 15, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.