5 Underrated Spots to Visit in Washington, D.C.

Our nation's capital is renowned for its stunning monuments, massive museums, and splendid Capitol dome. Washington, D.C.'s tourist attractions, however, are certainly not for everyone. The capital's popular tourist destinations along the Mall are oftentimes overwhelmed with tourists, and lines to get into many of the most popular museums can be long. Looking to skip the hubbub surrounding the capital's most famous monuments? You're in luck! Many of Washington's most engaging attractions are far off the Mall, allowing you to beat the crowds and enjoy spots in the city that are more loved by D.C. locals. Read on for five spots that will make your next trip to Washington, D.C. a memorable one for sure. 

1. Union Market 

Union Market was legitimately the first place I visited in Washington that made me think, "Okay, maybe D.C. is kind of cool." Packed with local eateries from all over the world, Union Market is the perfect spot to grab a quick lunch with friends. Located in an industrial warehouse that was restored and reopened in 2012, Union Market hosts approximately 40 vendor stalls. Try Korean tacos at TaKorean or sample traditional Indian lentil-filled crepes at D.C. Dosa. Want to take home a unique souvenir? Shop Salt & Sundry (tbh, it's D.C.'s answer to the popular Salt Lake City market Salt & Honey located at the Gateway) for accessories made for both you and your kitchen. Or shop Sabah for a handmade pair of leather shoes for a unique look no one else will be sporting on campus this year. 

2. National Museum of Women in the Arts 

Washington is proud of its many museums, but the National Museum of Women in the Arts is one that simply doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Imagine the Women's Art corner at Utah's UMFA or the small corner of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery that is dedicated to the works of the anonymous collective of female artists known as the Guerilla Girls — but filling up a whole museum. I had already visited a half dozen museums in the capital city before I stumbled upon NMWA on Google Maps. NMWA boasts Frida Kahlo's painting Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotskyin addition to Mary Cassatt's works Mother's Kiss and The BathOutside of the works of famed female painters, however, NMWA's other collections are engaging, thought-provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable.

3. Laduree 

The earmark of a successful study abroad trip in Paris, France — a brightly colored box of Laduree macarons — can be purchased in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Though the treats can be pricey (a six-cookie box goes for $21), the classic Laduree box is a beautiful souvenir that makes a chic case for pencils or trinkets when you get home. Plus, enjoying the cookies by the Georgetown waterfront will make for a less-cliche, yet still memorable, D.C. experience. 

4. Ben's Chili Bowl 

Okay, so I don't know if Ben's Chili Bowl is completely removed from being a tourist trap (the walls sport pictures of its famous patrons, including Jimmy Fallon and former President Barack Obama), but it's definitely worth a stop the next time you visit Washington, D.C. The menu offers chili burgers, chili dogs, rice bowls, and cheese fries. The milkshakes at Ben's Chili Bowl are made thick and are even worth the splurge if you're not usually a fan of this ice cream treat. And if you're seeking vegetarian options? This old-school eatery offers veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and vegan chili. 

5. Arlington National Cemetery 

Arlington may be a popular tourist destination in Washington, but it's certainly less crowded than the monuments or museums located along the Mall. The cemetery is the final resting place for many former service members, as well as a few U.S. presidents and Supreme Court Justices. Popular grave sites include the grave of John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, but I personally found that a walk through the cemetery's ever-green grounds (such a shocking change from the desert in Utah) was the best part of my trip. 

Whether you're enjoying a chili burger at Ben's Chili Bowl or perusing the National Museum of Women in the Arts, be sure to check out D.C.'s less-hyped tourist spots the next time you visit our nation's capital. Not only will you outsmart swaths of tourists, but you'll likely have a more unique visit in Washington. Happy traveling, collegiettes! 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5