Set on the banks of the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland, the capital of the United States is both grandly public and profoundly private. What goes on in the back rooms of K Street remains as invisible to the world as the Washington Monument is plain to see. D.C.’s public side offers plenty to pack any visitor’s itinerary. It is awe-inspiring to stand before iconic landmarks such as the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, and the endlessly fascinating museums of the Smithsonian alone could fill several days of uninterrupted exploration.
But it would be a mistake to ignore the subtler charms of the capital — the shops, bars and restaurants of Georgetown, for instance, or the Queen Anne row houses and inviting outdoor cafés of Dupont Circle. Outdoor enthusiasts will also discover much of interest, from bird-watching in Anacostia Park to kayaking down the Potomac. Cherry trees in flamboyant bloom line the Potomac in spring.
In Washington, D.C., several lesser-known museums are worth consideration. The Phillips Collection (1600 21st Street N.W.) is home to an array of modern art, with works by Matisse, O’Keefe, Klee, Rothko, Degas and many others. Dumbarton Oaks (Museum, 1703 32nd Street N.W.; Gardens, 31st and R Streets N.W.) encompasses the beautiful house and surrounding gardens once belonging to Foreign Service officer Robert Woods Bliss and his heiress wife, Mildred. There you will find their superb collections of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art. Admission to the museum is free, although it’s closed on Mondays.
Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.) explores the role of news and journalism throughout the history of the United States, with seven floors of fascinating exhibits that include the day’s front pages from newspapers across the world, front pages from great moments in history and a stunning gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs through the years. An exhibit on Stonewall and the LBGTQ rights movement is currently on display until December 31st.
A Curated Trip
Washington, D.C., drew some 21 million visitors in 2015. To help you navigate the sights, I recommend the services of American Excursionist (Tel.  429-0899). Not only can the company tailor a trip to your specific needs, but it also offers programs that may prove appealing, such as curated visits to the Smithsonian museums and meetings with officials who can help give you a better understanding of how Washington works.