Washington, DC is famous for its monuments, memorials and Smithsonian Museums. However, there are many things to do and see in the District that few tourists know about, much less visit. Here are my top five favorite off the beaten path DC attractions.
1. Longest Escalator in the Western Hemisphere - While the location may not be all that stimulating, the escalator located at the Wheaton station of the MetroRail is an impressive site. Located at the end of the Red line, the Wheaton escalator is over 500 feet in length and over 200 feet high that takes passengers from the underground subway level to ground level. The ride takes over three minutes to get to the top. The only things to do in this Maryland suburb though are a local shopping mall and some pretty good South American restaurants.
2.National Building Museum – Although this museum isn’t hidden or even unknown, for some reason most visitors to the nation’s capital don’t seem to visit. Personally, this is one of my favorite DC museums and is well worth a visit. Created by an Act of Congress in 1980, the National Building Museum offers a wide range of exhibits related to development, architecture, construction and engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Their permanent exhibits are excellent, but be sure to check for unusual temporary ones as well. I visited a couple of years ago when they had a fascinating look at public transportation in the U.S. which offered information and points of view I had never before seen.
3. The Exorcist Steps – Anyone who has seen the 1970s classic horror film “The Exorcist,” will remember that these steps were the location of two pivotal deaths in the film. The actual steps are located in the posh Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. The 97 steps will take the wind from anyone not in top shape, but are a must for any horror film fanatic. To see these famous steps, head toward Key Bridge on M Street NW. The base of the steps, which used to be called the “Hitchcock steps,” is right next to the Exxon station across from the bridge.
4. Eastern Market – Eastern Market is a DC treasure and a secret we locals tend to keep to ourselves. Located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, during the week the market offers fantastic fresh meats, cheeses and produce from a variety of local farmers and vendors. It is on the weekends though that Eastern Market explodes into a frenzy of food and art. Every Saturday and Sunday, vendors from all over the Mid-Atlantic descend on Washington to sell their arts and crafts, antiques and of course food. It can get quite busy, so be sure to visit early.
5. National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – This fascinating and slightly creepy museum is oft neglected due to its location in the Maryland suburbs, but is well worth the trek. The museum was originally established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum. In addition to world-renowned research, the museum today is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of medical history in the world. Not to be missed is the Abraham Lincoln exhibit with odd and curious relics from the 16th President’s final hours.