If you’re a first-time visitor to Washington D.C., a stop at The Washington Monument, The Capitol Building, The Lincoln Memorial, and other well-known historical destinations should be on your list. However, if you’ve seen these spots and are visiting again you might want to try something more unusual. Luckily, there are plenty of new things to do in Washington D.C. Checking out places that tourists don’t often see makes for an interesting trip as you get a new view of the city that is the heart of American government.

Eat lunch in the Supreme Court building

Venturing to the Supreme Court of the United States in person can give you an entirely new perspective of the highest court in the United States. With the ability to enter the same spaces as lawyers, clerks, and sometimes even judges, this visit will bring you as close as any tourist can get to the live working action of one of the three branches of the U.S. Government.

When can you visit and what can you do? The courthouse his open throughout the year on Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm. While there are no official tours offered, visitors can walk through much of the building on their own, listen to lectures in the courtroom, and view courtroom exhibitions. They are also welcomed to eat lunch at the same cafeteria that justices and staff use and – if the timing is right – take a seat in the courtroom as an opinion is handed down.

Visit the International Spy Museum

If you’re the type of person who has seen their fair share of 007 movies and is a fan of espionage-related books, films, and TV shows, the International Spy Museum should be on your list of places to visit. It is open most days from 10 am to 6 pm with extended hours on Mondays.

At this museum, the real-life history of spies and espionage takes center stage. You can see how much of what you read about or see in fiction is true to real life. This information may surprise you. In addition, you’ll learn about espionage’s role in the earliest days of American History and see the impact of the heroes who have put their life on the line and saved American lives countless times but were never publicly recognized.

Enjoy impeccably curated modern art

One of the nation’s most interesting collections of modern art can be found at the city’s Phillips Collection. The collection is partially located in a Georgian revival mansion and, when it debuted in 1921, stood as the only collection of its kind in the country. It is open most days from 10 am to 5 pm with limited hours on Sundays and extended hours on Mondays.

As expected, the museum includes its fair share of classic modern artists including Renoir, Jacob Lawrence, and Mark Rothko. At the same time, curators take care to include very recently finished pieces that represent artists’ reactions to current world events. This approach is epitomized by a 2019 exhibition that focused on the experience of migration and forced global displacement.

Spend a quiet moment in Washington National Cathedral

Some of the Capitol’s most intense religious and ceremonial experiences have taken place at Washington National Cathedral. Often considered the spiritual home of the nation, it has hosted the funerals of nearly all U.S. Presidents since the late 19th Century. Significant historical moments that took place in the Cathedral include the last sermon by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a memorial service for the members of the Columbia space shuttle, and a celebration of the birth of South African Democracy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The cathedral is generally open during daylight hours with some extended evening hours for special services. Visitors are welcomed to drop in to experience a quiet moment away from the busyness of the city. If a visit is timed right, anyone is welcomed to join an existing worship service and experience the Cathedral in its fullest sense.

Experience shopping at lunch at Union Train Station

Train stations can be one of the most beautiful and romantic places in any large city. Washington D.C’s Union Station is no exception. For no charge, visitors can enter the station and view gorgeous architecture and soaring but meticulously painted vaulted ceilings. As a full working Amtrack Station, the destination can be packed with bustling long-distance travelers or commuters. It is exciting to imagine where the travelers might be going on their journeys.

While the station is a top destination for people watching, everywhere they look, tourists can also find interesting shops and food venues. Grab a sandwich, salad, or pasta dish at a cafe and sit down to enjoy the atmosphere. Or spend time finding unique treasures in one of the many stores catering to train riders.

Visit the United States Post Office museum

While you’re at Union Station, you’ve got easy access to another one of Washington’s lesser-known museum gems, the National Postal Museum which is located nearby. For centuries, our nation’s Postal Service performed the necessary and nation-changing task of helping the government, businesses, and citizens communicate efficiently with far-away cities. In addition to expected information about the Postal Services’ role in U.S. history, the museum has plenty to offer for stamp collectors and general students of American History. It is open to the public every day except Christmas. Visiting hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm.

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