The Washington Post

D.C.’s non-touristy places to bring tourists

This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the tourist season. With it, the annual Arrival of Houseguests.

Many of us who’ve been living in the Washington region for a while are over escorting out-of-town friends and family to the usual tourist meccas. How many times can we marvel at the Hope Diamond?


Wendy Lubell on the Rock Creek park trail with her son Levi. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Here are her slightly edited top five non-touristy Tourist Family spots:

U.S. National Arboretum

Its nearly-450 acres contain an amazing variety of plant, tree, and flower collections. The old National Capitol columns standing smack in middle of the Ellipse Meadow have a fairytale feel. Kids can play amid the pillars and check out a fountain that flows from the middle down to a pool below. The koi pond at the visitor center is great fun. The fish will swim right up to the edge and even pop their faces above the surface in hopes of a feeding.

The Yards Park

The recreational space is the centerpiece of the still-developing Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Grassy fields, artistically designed benches and seating areas, a boardwalk along the Potomac, and sculptural Pedestrian Bridge make it as beautiful as it is relaxing. A Friday evening summer concert series has already started, and family-friendly festivals are occasionally held there. The best feature of The Yards are the fountains, where kids are welcome to play in the sprays and wade in the shallow pool.

National Postal Museum

Overshadowed by its Smithsonian counterparts on the National Mall, the Postal Museum is often overlooked by tourist and many locals, despite its prime location right next to Union Station. The museum is perfect for families with young children because it’s not very big and contains several interactive exhibits. It also frequently hosts special family days and admission is free.

Rock Creek Park

There are hikes to historic sites, classes that teach children about animals, Planetarium shows, pony rides, arts & crafts, nature tours, and more. Visitors are welcome to explore on their own, too. The Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium are great starting points. The Rock Creek Horse Center is a must-stop for animal lovers. Kids ages 2-1/2 and up can take a pony ride through the woods for $20.

Potomac by Water Taxi

The Potomac Riverboat Company operates daily between the National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria. It’s about a 20-minute ride on the river, plenty of time to thrill young mariners. Catch the taxi from either point, cruise to the other side, then stay awhile to eat and explore. Round-trip rides are $10/adults and $5/kids ages 5-11. A coupon for $2 off is available on the company’s Web site.

Do you have any non-touristy tourist destinations to add?

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