As someone who lives right outside one of the nation’s busiest cities, I’ve learned where to go to escape the mobs of tourists that arrive every weekend. Here is a list that I’ve created of places where you can go to escape tourists and feel more like a D.C. local.
Everyone with an Instagram wants a cool feed, and many times that means being creative and not posting the same picture all of your followers have posted already. My advice is this: skip the National Mall and the White House, and instead find a smaller statute, venue, or location to get a better experience of the city.
The Albert Einstein Memorial is across Constitution Ave NW from the National Mall, and it’s a super creative statue to take a picture of and post with an inspirational quote (try to get to it early in the morning or in the evening for even less tourists!)
Known as the Technicolor Church, or the Blind Whino SW Arts Club, this reformed church in Southwest D.C. is absolutely stunning and will most definitely go with your instagram feed. Because of its location south of the National Mall, you won’t find many tourists here on an average day.
After your morning of taking photos at tourist-free locations, you might want to stop for a bite to eat or a good coffee. If you want to avoid tourists, your best bet is to not go to any big company coffee shops (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) and instead go to these local spots:
One of the most well-known local coffee shops is Busboys & Poets. This hip location is not only a coffee shop, but also a bookstore and center for intellectuals and poets to talk about social issues in a safe, open space. The first location, on 14th & V Streets NW, is still thriving today, but now we are blessed with 5 other locations around D.C. where we can enjoy a great coffee while reading a book or listening to poetry.
Another up-and-coming coffee shop with different locations in D.C. is Compass Coffee. They pride themselves on the easy-to-pronounce names of their coffee blends and their vital locations in hip neighborhoods like Shaw. It’s more likely to find a college student doing homework at one of these than a lost tourist asking for directions, and all of their blends smell amazing.
For small venue, non-touristy experience I recommend the 9:30 Club (avoid Capital One Arena). This small warehouse-like venue is perfect for alternative music and small, personal concerts with your favorite bands. The 9:30 Club is famous for hosting both up-and-coming musicians and worldwide famous artists. The venue has two floors, with a small room on the first floor filled with all the vinyls and CDs of musicians that have performed since its opening in 1980. Another similar venue is U Street Music Hall.
From the opinion of a college student who loves arts and culture events and anything that is artsy and helps me learn about the city (without the overwhelming presence of tourists), the neighborhoods to go to are Dupont Circle and Georgetown.
Home to Embassy Row, The Phillips Collection, and Kramerbooks & Afterwords, Dupont Circle is a bustling area of D.C. that appeals to all creatives. On several occasions throughout the year, many embassies open up their doors to the public, which gives locals a chance to learn about the cultures of a myriad of different countries on the same street.
The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, is also located in this neighborhood, which attracts a diverse crowd through the year. We also have Kramerbooks & Afterwords, better known as Kramerbooks, which is a socially aware bookstore that offers reads on politics, literature, and travel. Best of all? Afterwords cafe/restaurant is found at the back of the bookstore.