As They Like It

See Washington through the unjaded eyes of sightseers


The Old Post Office Pavilion provides a great view of the city — which is good, since you never got around to going up into the closed-for-repairs Washington Monument.

Now that summer is nearly over and the tourists are gone, we can have our city back. Most Washingtonians celebrate by gleefully flying up the left side of the escalator as God and Metro intended. But perhaps we locals should take a tip from tourists and check the well-known parts of D.C. that we never seem to get around to knowing.

Visit Some Celebs
Famous people around here are kind of … well, we don’t want to say “boring,” but it takes a real wonk’s wonk to get jazzed about spotting Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline. But at the Madame Tussauds wax museum, you can cuddle up to creepily lifelike statues of famous people who are objectively cool, such as Rihanna and J.Lo, below. There are legit “D.C. famous” people there, too: This location of the worldwide attraction has figures of all 43 presidents, so you can throw your arm around Thomas Jefferson and sit next to Abraham Lincoln in a replica of his box at Ford’s Theatre, which is not at all morbid. And don’t miss wax versions of local celebs Marion Barry, J. Edgar Hoover and Bob Woodward, which probably all play cards after the place closes. Madame Tussauds, 1001 F St. NW; special online $16 rate for Md., Va. and D.C. residents; 202-942-7300, Madametussaudsdc.com (Metro Center)

See ‘Shear Madness’
A lot of history has happened in D.C.’s theaters. Second only to Lincoln’s assassination is “Shear Madness,” which is the second-longest-running play in American theater history (the show’s Boston production is No. 1). “Shear Madness” has been running here for nearly 20 years, making it as much a part of D.C. culture as khaki pants. Set in a salon, it’s a partially improvised comedy about a murder, and the audience votes nightly on who the real murderer is, which totally makes up for not having a vote in Congress. Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; $48; 202-467-4600, Kennedy-center.org. (Foggy Bottom)

Go Inside the Washington Monument (Or Not)
They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s rattled by a random earthquake. And if you, like most Washingtonians, put off venturing to the majestic top of the Washington Monument, you’re out of luck for a couple of years. If you’d still like a bird’s-eye view (well, a low-flying bird’s view) of the city, you can go up into the tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion, above. It’s free and quick: Ride up nine floors in a glass elevator, then in another small elevator (or up 130 steps), and you’re on top of Pennsylvania Avenue. 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; free; 202-289-4224, Oldpostofficedc.com (Federal Triangle)

See Congress in Action
Watch Congress do what it does, live! Which is pretty much just as exciting as watching C-SPAN in your living room, except to tour the House or Senate galleries you have to put on pants. (You also have to call your senator or representative to get passes.) D.C. residents can contact Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and then bitterly stomp around the gallery in a sullen funk. If Congress is not in session, you can use your pass to see the empty gallery, which sounds disappointing — except with this Congress, about the same amount of legislative work will be getting done. East Capitol and 1st streets NE; free, 202-226-8000, Visitthecapitol.gov. (Capitol South)

Shop for Souvenirs
Could your home use some hometown tchotchke pride? Honest Abe’s Souvenir Shop is your source for D.C. license plates with your kids’ names on them (so they can initiate “taxation without representation” discussions as they bike with pals). The adjacent Washington Welcome Center welcomes your purchase of tiny presidential busts and patriotic wall hangings that really tie a room together. Honest Abe’s Souvenir Shop, 1000 F St. NW, 202-783-0505, Honestabessouvenir.com; Washington Welcome Center, 1005 E St. NW, 202-347-6609, Washington.org. (Metro Center)

Go to the Theatre
Yes, Ford’s Theatre is where Lincoln got shot. But it also has a rich history unrelated to presidential death. Tour the theater, museum, education center and the Petersen House, where Lincoln died. There, you can board a reproduction of the train car that carried his coffin and see a re-creation of the barn where assassin John Wilkes Booth died. (The real spot is now a median on Route 301 in Virginia, a trip for another day.) Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW; $3.50-$15.25; 202-426-6924, Fordstheatre.org. (Metro Center)

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Rudi Greenberg | August 22, 2012