10 Lesser-Known D.C. Attractions for the History Buff

by Country Inns & Suites
Friday, March 1, 2013

Washington, D.C. is a bustling city with a constant stream of tourists from across the country and beyond. If you’re a history lover, chances are you’ve been to D.C. before and have visited many of the popular tourist attractions – the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, to name a few. On your next trip, get ready for something different. From museums to restaurants, we’ve found 10 lesser-known attractions in the nation’s capital that any history buff will enjoy.

Old Stone House

Located in Georgetown and built in 1765, the Old Stone House is the oldest standing building in Washington, D.C. Now maintained by the National Park Service, the house is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday and offers a great example of vernacular architecture.

Old Stone House Photo by Flickr user dbking

Tudor Place

Originally the home of Thomas Peter and his wife Martha – the granddaughter of Martha Washington – Tudor Place was designed by architect Dr. William Thornton. Does that name sound familiar? He also designed the U.S. Capitol Building and The Octagon! Today, this Georgetown mansion is a National Historic Landmark and offers visitors a collection of over 8,000 objects from the years of 1750-1983, including jewelry, paintings, silver, furniture, and more.

Old Town (Alexandria, VA)

Although it’s outside of Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town neighborhood isn’t one to miss. Making up the oldest section of the city, a walk through Old Town’s streets will take you past historic town houses, boutiques housed in historic buildings, antique shops and art galleries. You can also visit the area’s popular landmarks, such as General Robert E. Lee’s childhood home, a replica of George Washington’s town house, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

Old Town Alexandria Photo by Flickr user sabreguy29

The Octagon Museum

Like Tudor House, The Octagon was also designed by William Thornton and was created to fit an irregularly-shaped lot. It served as the temporary home of James and Dolly Madison during the War of 1812 when the White House was burned. Today, it is the headquarters of the American Institute of Architects. It is also often considered to be the most haunted home in D.C. Still interested? The Octagon is open to visitors for self-guided tours each Thursday and Friday.

Decatur House

The first home built in the White House neighborhood, Decatur House is just steps from the White House. Today, the three story town house is the home of the National Center for White House History.

Woodrow Wilson House

After leaving the White House in 1921, Woodrow Wilson and his wife retired to what is now the Woodrow Wilson House. After Mrs. Wilson’s death, it became the property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Celebrating its 50th year as a historic site this year, the home offers visitors the chance to explore the life of Woodrow Wilson, particularly during his years as president.

Woodrow Wilson House Photo by Flickr user dbking

Fort Washington

Originally named Fort Warburton, the historic Fort Washington looks out over the Potomac River and was the only defense for the capital until the Civil War. Today, the fort is maintained by the National Park Service and includes extensive grounds that offer hiking trails, picnic spots, and other recreational opportunities. You can also catch a historical reenactment!

National Postal Museum

Once serving as the main post office for the capital, the building that now holds the National Postal Museum is located just across the street from Union Station. Despite its popular location, the museum is sometimes overlooked in favor of the larger museums nearby. Don’t let that fool you!  The museum offers many interactive exhibits, a large stamp collection, and more.

National Postal Museum Photo by Flickr user Cliff1066TM

Dumbarton House

Dumbarton House is a historic, Federal style house located in Georgetown. Visitors can tour the property to view furniture, textiles, silver, and other items from the Federal period and get an idea of daily life during the early 1800s.

Hillwood Museum & Gardens

For those of you who enjoy art history, Hillwood Museum & Gardens will provide hours of enjoyment. The former residence of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the estate houses a large collection of Russian imperial art – the largest outside of Russia itself – and an 18th century French decorative art collection. It also offers 25 acres of gardens that guests can stroll through after viewing all of the fascinating collections housed at Hillwood.

Hillwood Museum & Gardens Photo by Flickr user Anosmia

Old Ebbitt Grill

Visiting historical sites all day can sure make you hungry. Continue your adventure at Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest saloon in D.C. Opened in 1856, it was often frequented by presidents and is still a popular meeting spot. Too busy to sit and eat? The restaurant now offers carryout through Ebbitt Express.

Old Ebbitt Grill Photo by Flickr user stana2z

Do all of these historical attractions have you dreaming about a vacation to the nation’s capital? Book your stay with us at one of our many area Country Inns & Suites By Carlson hotels today!