Travel Tips and Tricks

Non-Touristy Touristy Things To Do In Washington, D.C.

Your guide to being a non-touristy D.C. tourist.

If you’re a college student living in D.C., or really anywhere, you can relate to the struggle of wanting to go out and get food and do fun things in the city all the time, but not really having the money to fund your brunch habit. Though I’ve only lived in our nation’s capital for two semesters, it’s given me the interesting perspective of being somewhere between a tourist and a legit D.C. resident. Here are some things to do in D.C. that are fun, but not too obviously “touristy,” with the added perk of not breaking the bank.

Night Monumenting
D.C.
Via Urban Adventures

This is a favorite especially among college freshman, and therefore perfect if you’re just visiting the city for the first time. During the day, the crowds of people around the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial can make monumenting tedious and less enjoyable. The solution? Go at night! The monuments are especially beautiful at night when everything is lit up. You can avoid the crowds and still get the quintessential D.C. experience.

Cherry Blossom Festival
D.C.
Via WTOP

In 1912, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted Washington, D.C. with 3,000 cherry blossom trees. Today, the trees bloom every year, most heavily around the Tidal Basin. The festival spans four weekends from March 20-April 15 and includes free events like the Blossom Kite Festival (my personal favorite), National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and the Japanese Street Festival. Most of the events associated with the Cherry Blossom Festival are free and fun for the whole family.

D.C. Alley Museum
D.C.
Via Washington City Paper

According to the Alley Museum website, “beginning in 2015 a series of works were commissioned by artists with a history in the Shaw neighborhood and in Blagden Alley.” These murals are beautiful, interesting, and free! The Shaw neighborhood is accessible from the Green Line on the metro. The neighborhood also has more affordable food options than downtown D.C.

Embassy Row
D.C.
Via Philly.com

Embassy Row is located on Massachusetts Avenue N.W., and is home to a majority of D.C.’s embassies. It’s easy walk, Uber, or even bike to where the embassies begin. It’s a great activity to do especially in the spring and is rarely clogged with tourists. The architecture of each embassy is different and unique, making for a scenic stroll. You can also also check out the embassy events website, which provides a guide to upcoming embassy events, many of which are free.

Explore D.C. Neighborhoods
D.C.
Via Washington.org

Many visitors to D.C. stick to the central downtown area where the monuments and museums are, but if you want a more authentic D.C. experience, exploring some of D.C.’s neighborhoods may be the way to go. The up-and-coming area of Shaw/U Street offers great food and scenery at an affordable price (be sure to stop by Ben’s Chili Bowl). Georgetown can be expensive if you’re looking for food or shopping, but it’s also a beautiful place to explore. Dupont Circle is easily accessible on the metro, and venture a little farther out and you’ll hit Old Town Alexandria, which offers great food and shopping, as well as scenic architecture.

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Bobbie Armstrong is a former child and current broke college student from...