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Recently, a couple of people have asked me for recommendations of fun stuff to do on a DC trip. That made me happy because they didn’t qualify the query with “…as long as it keeps us far away from you, blogger girl.” I have a pretty long history here in the DC area so I actually have something of value to add to a conversation about what’s fun when you visit here. So without further ado, I present a short list of some of my favorite DC things that can be done with or without kids.
- Ben’s Chili Bowl: Since 1958, Ben’s been serving up greasy, chili goodness in the historic U Street neighborhood. The area around Ben’s was known as “Black Broadway” for the plethora of performance venues for the African-American community in segregated DC. It is one of the few businesses that was untouched by racially induced violence after the assassination of Dr. King, and not just because it is an African-American owned business; it was spared because it was and is beloved. Ben’s remains a family owned business to this day though the founder, Ben Ali, passed away last year. Ben’s has gain notoriety recently thanks to notables such as tv show hosts Anthony Bourdain, Adam Richman and a guy named Barack Obama who have eaten there. (Obama is the only person ever to be added to an “Eats Free” list at Ben’s). You can get hot dogs, burgers, the iconic chili, and my favorite, chili cheese fries. They also sell the DC original “half-smoke” sausage which I’ve heard is awesome but I don’t like sausage so I can’t verify that.
- The FDR Memorial: Situated on the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, this memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a work of both art and history. It’s a path lined with stone walls, bronze sculptures, and water elements. It’s roughly divided by FDR’s four terms in office and many of his quotes are inscribed along the way. His words tell the story of America in the Depression and leading into World War II. I find it educational and haunting every time I walk through it.
- The National Building Museum: I don’t actually know a whole lot about the kind of exhibits the Building Museum hosts. I’ve only ever seen a few of them and they had to do with cars and stuff. What’s really great about the Building Museum is the atrium. It’s the size of a football field and they let kids run around in it! If you’re looking for an air-conditioned space to get a cup of coffee (they have a cafe) and let your kids run around without fear of them running into traffic, the Building Museum is the place! The have a kids area called The Building Zone with excellent trucks, blocks, books, and a playhouse as well and on weekends, they put a lot of blocks out in the atrium for kids who might have to wait to get into the Building Zone. To sweeten the deal even more, admission is free (suggested donation is $5) and it’s steps from a metro stop.
- Eastern Market: The brick building that houses the permanent part of Eastern Market is the last of the public markets that once served DC. Inside it you will find grocers, florists, bakers, butchers, and other small businesses. It was gutted by fire a few years ago an has been rebuilt to mirror the layout of the original interior from 1873. But the inside parts aren’t the coolest part of Eastern Market. On the weekends, 7th Street is shut down to traffic and the area becomes the best flea market, farmers market, entertainment venue, and place to get brunch you’ve ever seen. You can find everything from original photography to fresh-made crepes on weekends all year long (summers are more robust than winter, for obvious reasons). There are often live performances outside and the people-watching is unbeatable.
- Gifford’s: Gifford’s is an ice cream shop. The old fashioned kind with pastel colored walls and yummy flavors and ice cream sodas. I especially like to go there because my dad, who grew up in the DC area, used to love the Gifford’s peppermint stick ice cream, and telling him I went to the Gifford’s near my office makes him really jealous. (It’s possible that I’m not a good daughter.) There are a number of locations around the DC region and it’s a perfect spot for a sweet treat on a hot day or some cocoa on a cold one.
So there you have it. My DC tour complete with chili, ice cream, US history, room to run and fun shopping. Enjoy and happy travels!