Beyond the Smithsonian: Little-Known Attractions in Washington D.C.

Everyone including Alex Perdikis, knows that Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital. Tourists from around the world come to see the White House, Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Washington D.C. has some lesser-known attractions that few people know about. Next time you’re near the capital, check out some of these attractions.

President Lincoln’s Cottage

After visiting the Lincoln Memorial, check out President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home for a more personal glimpse into the life of the 16th President of the United States . President Lincoln first stayed at the gothic revival cottage three days after his inauguration. Lincoln and his family lived in the Cottage off-and-on for 13 months during the Civil War and Lincoln commuted to the White House. It was here that Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation and made important decisions about military strategy as well as domestic policy. It was also here that he and Mary Todd Lincoln mourned the loss of their son, Willie, due to typhoid. President Lincoln’s Cottage offers rotating exhibits as well as photographs, books, period furnishings, architectural fragments, archeological artifacts and prints that reflect life during the time period.

The cottage underwent a seven-year restoration project and opened to the public in February 2008. Tours are available and reservations recommended. The entrance  is at Eagle Gate, located at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road and Upshur Street  NW, Washington D.C.

The Washington National Cathedral

If a trip to a cathedral seems a little tame, you haven’t been to the Washington National Cathedral. Moon rocks and Darth Vader gargoyles set the stage for what is far from the typical sanctuary. A place of deep historical significance, the gothic cathedral is where presidents attend services after inaugurations and Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final Sunday sermon. The cathedral is open to all faiths and is run by the Episcopal diocese. Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller are buried in the crypt and chapels honor Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Tours are available.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

If getting out of the city and stepping into nature sounds good, then Theodore Roosevelt Island is the place to go. The wilderness preserve is named after the 26th president who was a conservationist and created the national park system. The island is only accessible over a foot bridge. Bicycles and motorized vehicles are prohibited. The preserve is home to a host of small animals and birds.

The United States Botanical Garden

Yes, it’s full of beautiful roses, exotic orchids and lovely ferns, but the garden’s real claim to fame is not nearly as sweet. Nestled within the National Mall, the United States Botanical Garden is also home to what is known as the corpse flower. Why the name? Because the corpse flower smells like rotting flesh. The corpse flower only blooms every three to five years, so most of the time you have to make do with the butterfly, rose and water gardens.