En español | A record 21.9 million Americans visited Washington, D.C., in 2018 and it's easy to understand why: Washington is less hectic than Manhattan, less expensive than San Francisco and it's loaded with free world-class museums, plus wonderful restaurants, theaters and parks. And 2019 offers more than ever, with the nation's capital unveiling these exciting new attractions:
International Spy Museum
The museum, formerly in a smaller space near Chinatown, now has a spacious new 140,000-square-foot facility on the south side of the National Mall. It still features longtime popular items — such as James Bond's Aston Martin and the KGB “lipstick pistol” — along with cool additions, from an underground spy tunnel that ran below Berlin in the 1950s to thought-provoking exhibits on interrogation and mass surveillance. But the star attraction may be the building itself, located at L'Enfant Plaza, within walking distance of the National Air and Space Museum and the Wharf. With its eerie nighttime lighting and pleated glass, the angular, ultra-modern facility looks like something from, yes, a Bond movie.
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National Museum of History Fossil Hall
After a five-year, $125 million renovation, the Fossil Hall has reopened this month with a big new resident: the Smithsonian's first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Discovered by a Montana rancher in 1988, the T. rex is posed with a triceratops skeleton, which it's, well … eating (hey — that's what a T. rex does). The renovated 31,000-square-foot hall includes over 700 animal, insect and plant specimens and a fossil lab where visitors can view scientists as they work. Want to see more dinosaurs? If you have little ones in tow, head to the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which has six life-size animatronic dinosaurs placed throughout the park from June 1 through Aug. 31. The zoo is also hosting dinosaur puppet shows.
Reopened Washington Monument
The Washington Monument has been closed since August 2016 — the National Park Service was modernizing the elevator and building a new security-screening center — but it's scheduled to reopen on September 19. Visitors will once again zoom up to the 500-foot-high observation point, which offers some of the city's best views. And if you want to impress your fellow elevator riders, here's some Washington Monument trivia: It's the tallest building in the district and it was the world's tallest structure when it opened in 1888. It lost the title six months later when Paris opened the Eiffel Tower.
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La Cosecha Market
Union Market is already a destination for foodies — Bon Appetit named it one of the top five food halls in America — but it'll soon have an impressive new neighbor. La Cosecha (Spanish for “the harvest") is a 20,000-square-foot Latin market, food hall and cultural exhibition space that will feature artisans, chefs and more from Washington's Latin American communities. The developers are also partnering with embassies to cohost everything from art exhibits to live performances. Guests will enter the market through flower stalls and then head to a plaza for a variety of eateries, including the first brick-and-mortar location for Peruvian Brothers, one of the city's most beloved food trucks. Be sure to try the Pan con Chicharrón, a sandwich featuring freshly baked bread, fried sweet potato slices, salty pork and criolla sauce. La Cosecha will open in late August or early September.
The REACH at the Kennedy Center
When it opens on Sept. 7, the REACH will be the performing arts center's first new space in its nearly 50-year history. The Kennedy Center describes it as “a living theater where diverse art forms collide to break down the boundaries between audience and art.” A less artsy translation? It'll be a waaay cool place to hang out. The $175 million, 4.6-acre project includes a reflection pool on the grassy grounds, three pavilions for outdoor performances, a café and a video wall with seating for 1,600 viewers. A pedestrian bridge will span over Rock Creek Parkway to a path along the Potomac where you can stroll to areas such as Georgetown and the National Mall.
National Children's Museum
Any museum with a “randomized splat and ooze projection theater” has gotta be fun, right? The museum opens on Nov. 1 at its new 33,000-square-foot location on Pennsylvania Ave., one block from the National Mall. The exhibits all focus on STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) though children will be so entertained they won't realize they're learning. Among the highlights: The entrance hall features the Dream Machine, which sends kids up a 50-foot-high climbing structure and down super-fun slides. There's also a slime area sponsored by Nickelodeon. No wonder the Travel Channel named it one of the 10 most anticipated museum openings of 2019. And yes, parents and grandparents will like it, too.
More at museums:
Look for big-time exhibits on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing at the National Air and Space Museum, including Neil Armstrong's recently restored spacesuit, debuting in July, and at the National Gallery of Art, a lunar photography show featuring pics by Buzz Aldrin and Armstrong, among others. And many museums are marking the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage legislation, including the National Portrait Gallery, the National Archives and the Library of Congress (the latter two are sponsored by AARP). You might also visit the Newseum at its primo Pennsylvania Avenue location before it closes in December.