Being a tourist in your own city is a great way to spend the day. Avoid the actual tourists and enjoy some unique fun with these fun and fascinating locales that only someone who lives in The District would know about. Read on for seven hidden gems your kids are going to love!

photo: Anderson House

Anderson House

Anderson House was built in the spring of 1905 as the stateside home of American diplomat Lars Anderson and his wife, Isabel. Today, the 50-room mansion on Embassy Row is a museum and library featuring most of the original furniture and artwork. You’ll learn about the significance of the American Revolution while touring this historic property. Tours are about an hour long and led by docents. Admission to this stately home is free.

Insider tip: Be ready for the gilded ballrooms; your little princess or prince will be begging to attend the ball!

Anderson House
2118 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Embassy Row
202-785-2040
Online: societyofthecincinnati.org

photo: Zach G. via Yelp

Summerhouse

This secret hideaway on the Capitol Grounds was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s to create a much-needed space for visitors to sit and rest. Inside this open-air building you can still enjoy a break from the elements on the shaded benches or refill your water bottle at one of the three drinking fountains. Summerhouse is a great place to play a quick game of hide-and-seek on your way to a near-by tour or activity.

Insider tip: Peek out the window into the grotto for some birdwatching!

U.S. Capitol Building
E Capitol Cir. NW
West Front Lawn of the Capitol
Online: aoc.gov/capitol-grounds/summerhouse

photo: Heurich House Museum

Heurich House Museum’s Castle Garden

The Heurich House Museum only offers tours for ages 10 & up, but you can still take your younger explorers to the Castle Garden. This secret garden is the perfect place for a picnic at one of the tables or spending an hour or two on a bench with a good book in the shadow of the castle. There is no fee to enjoy the grounds.

Insider tip: You don’t have to go through the museum to get to the garden. The public entrance is around back.

Castle Garden
1921 Sunderland Pl. NW
Dupont Circle neighborhood
202-429-1894
Online: heurichhouse.org/visit/castlegarden

photo: Robert K. via Yelp

Fort Stevens

This one-time battlefield is now an oasis of peace in the middle of urban bustle. Rich with history, it even includes a plaque to commemorate the spot where President Lincoln stood and came under enemy fire. It’s a beautiful place for a picnic and a couple of hours of learning and play. Make sure you check out the cannons, ramparts, and moat before you leave. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Insider tip: There are no bathrooms at Fort Stevens, so make sure everyone goes before you get there! If you do need to use one while you’re there, the nearest one is at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium two miles to the west (but it’s only open Wed.-Sun., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Fort Stevens
1339 Fort Stevens Dr.
Brightwood
202-290-1048
Online: nps.gov/places/fort-stevens.htm

photo: Julia Dunn via Flickr

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothocary Museum

If your little one loves plants or Harry Potter, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothocary Museum is a goldmine of historical fun! On the first floor, you’ll find a modern gift shop on one side and an old-fashioned apothecary on the other, restored to its original 18th-century appearance. Head upstairs to see a treasure-trove of seeds, plants, and other goodies stored in boxes, drawers and more, exactly as they were on display when the apothocary was in full operation.

Insider tip: Tours are $5/person and start every half hour at quarter after and quarter of the hour.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothocary Museum
105-107 South Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-7460-3852
Online: alexandriava.gov/Apothecary

 

photo: Damon B. via Yelp

National Capital Trolley Museum

“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley.” Does your little one like to ring the bell? The National Capital Trolley Museum is a must-do day trip into a bygone era of transportation. Hop aboard a street car for a quick journey into the woods or enjoy a tour on an authentic tram. You can also explore the barn that houses several restored trollies. Admission includes the museum displays, a docent-led tour, and unlimited trolley rides.

Insider tip: Make sure you check the website for the hours before you go. Hours are extremely limited and vary by season.

National Capital Trolley Museum
1313 Bonifant Road
Colesville, MD 20905
301-384-6088
Online: dctrolley.org

photo: Rodrigo Ardilha via Unsplash

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

A day at the National Zoo is a chance to meet over 2,700 animals, many of which are endangered. Furry meet-and-greets are fun, but for those looking to learn more about the Smithsonian’s critical mission to protect and save species, head to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA. Open to the public only one day a year (Sat., Oct. 5), SCBI offers a behind-the-scenes look at the zoo at their annual Conservation Discovery Day. While this event is geared toward middle school through college ages, all ages are welcome to come and have fun. Past events have featured bird banding, cryopreservation, wildlife tracking and forest mapping.

Insider tip: There is no on-site parking, but there is a shuttle that will take you from an off-site parking lot.

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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Rd.
Front Royal, VA 22630
202-633-4888
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation

—Wendy Miller

 

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