D.C. is famous for its grand statues and huge memorials, which create the signature landscape of downtown. But there are also hundreds of lesser-known statues, sculptures, and outdoor artworks dotted around parks, public buildings, traffic circles and intersections throughout the DMV. Here are a few that are worth scoping out with your kids.
A Memorial with a View
Looking for President Buchanan? He’s been hanging out amidst the 12-acre sprawl that is Meridian Hill Park (also known as Malcolm X Park). This park has become revitalized along with the rest of the U Street area and is absolutely gorgeous, offering one of the most spectacular views of the D.C. landscape. It is set on one of the highest hills just north of the White House and runs along 16th Street in an area lined by immense 20th century mansions. In addition to the former president, you’ll find a finely “dressed” statue of Joan of Arc—all armored up and on a horse—which is the only equestrian statue in the city with a woman rider. The park also features an immense memorial to famous Italian philosopher Dante. One of the park’s central architectural features is an amazing stepped waterfall.
Good to know: Plan a visit on a Sunday between 3 pm and 9 pm to experience the popular neighborhood Drum Circle that convenes then. Après-park head towards bustling U Street, where you can check out some shops or grab a slice with your brood at Matchbox 14th Street or &Pizza.
An Epic Adventure
Around Chinatown and Gallery Place, there are treasures galore; it’s easy to make a half- or even full-day adventure out of this super fun neighborhood. A good starting point is the colorful Friendship Arch, a Chinese gate built over H Street at 7th Street that celebrates the historic Chinatown area of Washington. From there, take a stroll down a block or two and step into the Portrait Gallery’s interior Kogod Courtyard, where regardless of weather outside the little ones can wear their rain boots and splash up a good time with the floor’s artsy water feature. Afterwards, just a short trek out and around the block to the corner of 9th and G Streets will land you right in front of a very tall and brightly painted, wild looking metal sculpture titled Epoche.
Good to know: Afterwards enjoy a snack at Zaytinya (which is just next to where Epoche is displayed); the falafel and walnut ice cream are YUM.
Art Along the Avenue
One of the biggest sculptures in D.C. is nestled in the historic neighborhood of Anacostia. It’s a massive and exact replica of a wooden Duncan Phyfe antique chair. Your little ones won’t believe their eyes! Originally installed there in 1959 as an advertisement for a local furniture store, the Chair sculpture today sits 19.5 feet tall, is over 4,000 pounds, and is made entirely of painted brown aluminum with a white and brown striped seat. After your kiddos get over their amazement, continue on and check out some other cool art and museum sites nearby. A sculpture installation that was just installed along New Hope Rd. in 2013 is titled Journey Anacostia, intended to reflect the “diverse history and heritage of the Anacostia community.” Also, don’t miss the Anacostia Community Museum lawn sculpture titled Real Justice, which is dedicated to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Good to know: If you need to take a break after seeing all these sights, drop into one of the nearby family-friendly places that are getting rave reviews: the Big Chair Coffee & Grill (right across street from the sculpture), Mama’s or Nürish Food & Drink, which is in the Arts Center. If your lil’ team still have some steam left in them, take them over to run around on the eight acres of beautiful grounds surrounding the historic home of Frederic Douglass at Cedar Hill.
Do you know of any other public artworks or statues that we should check out? Let us know in the comments section below.