So you have a travel book and know all the standard sites?
Here are some that are a little less usual.
Lincoln's Cottage at the Old Soldier's home - located in the north end of the city, this is where the Lincoln family (and four other presidents) spent time in the summer, before you could helicopter in from Camp David. It was on a hill with good breezes. The Museum and tour has just opened this year, and it's a fantastic visit, and there is a lot to do; LOTS of interactive exhibits. Good for kids.
There are a number of great National Park service sites in the city. Two that are lesser known, but important to African American History are the Frederick Douglass Home in Anacostia (you can get there safely on metro and the bus) and the Mary McLeod Bethune house. And if you get a chance, get out to Lincoln Park and see the statue dedicated to her. Walk back through the beautiful and very fancy Capitol Hill neighborhood, or head south to the farmer's market at Eastern Market.
The National Cathedral (Gothic), the National Shrine (Byzantine) and the National Islamic Center (Islamic) are three houses of worship with incredible architecture, which are of great interest. There is a great view from the cathedral, if the day is nice. Women must cover their heads and dress modestly for the Islamic Center.
Check out the lesser known Smithsonian museums. For example, the Freer and Sackler galleries of Asian Art, the Museum of African Art. It's big, but the National Museum of the American Indian is my favorite Smithsonian Museum, fascinating, with a great multimedia presentation to see, great gift shops and the best museum restaurant in Washington.
While it's a little expensive and busy, the Spy Museum is fascinating, and really geared to the teenagers. And while you are going to slightly out of the mainstream museum, do NOT skip the US Holocaust Memorial museum. We took our kids (youngest 15) when we visited Germany (in preparation for visiting Auschwitz in Poland and Buchenwald. ) It is moving and insightful, and helps kids understand an event that is really getting more and more abstract as survivors die.
Visit some of the neighborhoods, where great food can be had, and where neighborhood tours are available as part of cultural tourism DC. Shaw/U Street is the Jazz capital of Washington, you can eat at Ben's Chili bowl, a washington institution, across the street from the metro station, visit the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum and listen to live Jazz at bohemian caverns in the evening.
You can go to Adams Morgan, a multi-ethnic, diverse neighborhood, eat Mexican at Lauriol Plaza, or, even better, try Ethiopian cuisine at Meskerem or Fasika's and explore a new way of eating. There are tons of fascinating shopes along here and in the Dupont Circle area.
You can visit chinatown, very close to the mall and with tons of inexpensive restaurants from all over the world (Chinatown is only it's latest incarnation - this neighborhood hosted German and Italian immigrants before the Chinese). The nearby Penn Quarter is the theatre district of Washington, complete with (at 7th and D) a half price ticket outlet. You might take your family to see something half price at the kennedy center.
There are a number of house museums that will be interesting. The Decatur House is on Lafayette square near the White House, The Old Stone House is in Georgetown, but the great one is Hillwood Museum and Gardens near the Van Ness Metro Station. Marjorie Merriweather Post lived here in the Spring and Fall, and turned the house into a museum of her many Russian and French. artifacts, and the gardens are exquisite.
For more, check out our podcast below.
http://www.washingtontravelcast.com - Our site
http://www.lincolncottage.org/index.htm - Lincoln Cottage
http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/ - Hillwood
http://www.decaturhouse.org/ - Decatur House
http://www.nps.gov/olst/ - Old Stone House
http://www.nps.gov/frdo/ - Frederick Douglass House
http://www.ushmm.org/ - Holocaust Museum
http://www.spymuseum.org - Spy Museum
http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/ - National Cathedral
http://www.nationalshrine.com - National Shrine
ttp://www.sacred-destinations.com/usa/... - Islamic Center