The free Smithsonian museums, majestic monuments and spring cherry blossoms are tourist staples in Washington, D.C. But even if you’ve been-there-done-that, there are loads of new reasons to visit our nation’s capital in 2022 — including a few visitor favorites now reopened after pandemic shutdowns.
Planet Word Museum
The museum is fully accessible and lends visitors a limited number of wheelchairs.
Visit: Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; reserve tickets online (there’s no entrance fee, though donations of $10–$15 are encouraged); 925 13th St. NW; 202-931-3139; planetwordmuseum.org
Revived White House tours
Public tours restarted in April, after a long COVID-related pause. The free peeks into public rooms are first come, first served and must be booked through the office of a member of Congress. Reach out to your member of Congress and Congressional Tour Coordinator through the U.S. House of Representatives switchboard at 202-225-3121, the U.S. Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121, or online at www.congress.gov/members. You’ll want to plan ahead: Requests for tickets must be submitted three weeks to 90 days in advance. The self-guided tours of the East Wing include the State Dining Room, Red Room, Green Room, Blue Room and the China Room, which displays tableware of past presidents — but the Oval Office is off-limits. Secret Service members stationed in the rooms can answer questions.
Visit: The free tours are currently only available from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Some formerly down-at-the-heel neighborhoods are abloom with new restaurants, shops and trendy places to lay your head. Marriott’s AC Hotel Capitol Hill Navy Yard is close to the Capitol, Smithsonian museums and the revived D.C. waterfront. Rates start at about $200, depending on the date.
The citizenM Washington DC NoMa is due in July in an up-and-coming neighborhood north of the Capitol. The hip European brand boasts HDTV with streaming and in-room mood lighting. It joins the citizenM Washington DC Capitol. Rates start under $200.
Prices will be less than $130 on slow nights at the more traditional Holiday Inn Express Washington DC Downtown, due in July. Budgeters will appreciate that breakfast is included.
FUTURES at the Smithsonian Institution
Housed in the newly reopened 19th-century Arts and Industries Building, the oldest on the Smithsonian campus, this free 32,000-square-foot installation displays inventions from the past and various visions for what lies ahead. “Past Futures,” for instance, includes an Alexander Graham Bell experimental telephone and Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome. Among the looking-ahead exhibits: a robot that assuages loneliness, a video game you play by using your eyes, ways to improve the environment, including a water harvester that sucks liquid from the air. Say one word to describe your own future, and an imaginative artwork plays a personalized light show based on your answer.
FUTURES marks the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, and runs through July 6.
Visit: 900 Jefferson Drive SW; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (until 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays), closed Tuesdays.
Tours of the Capitol
After two years of visitation restrictions due to COVID, guided visits to the U.S. Capitol Building start up again on May 30. The excursion includes the domed Rotunda, lined with paintings depicting various moments in U.S. history, and National Statuary Hall, home to marble and bronze statues representing the states that sent them.
Visit: As with the White House tour described above, tickets must be obtained in advance from a member of Congress — though at this time each is allowed to assign constituents to only one tour a week. Find more information, or sign up for the Capitol Visitor Center’s live virtual tours (offered Monday–Friday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) by 4 p.m. the day before. See visitthecapitol.gov for more information.
D.C. has become a world-class dining destination, featuring cuisines from American farm-to-table to hundreds of ethnic options. Western Market, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, houses nearly a dozen casual eateries, serving authentic Venezuelan, Japanese and Guatemalan dishes and more. Capo Italian Deli is known for its super subs and cocktail bags to go, including the Fauci Pouchy (vodka, elderflower, mint, lemonade, grapefruit). Coming soon: Greek street food at Alikito, Sushi Onkei and Expat, a sports-betting bar with food options.
Local star restaurateur Ashok Bajaj (upscale Bombay Club, La Bise, Rasika and more) has opened the more affordable Bindaas Foggy Bottom and Bindaas Rolls & Bowls near the National Portrait Gallery, both dishing out the street food of India washed down with a mango lassi yogurt drink. And celebrated chef José Andrés, known for feeding refugees and disaster victims via his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, is drawing fans of Iberian comfort food to his fun and funky Spanish Diner. It’s in the nearby retiree mecca of Bethesda, Maryland, close to super shopping and the Bethesda Metro stop.
National Native American Veterans Memorial
This new memorial on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian celebrates the usually unsung participation of Native Americans in every branch of the U.S. military. Designed by former Marine Harvey Pratt, of Cheyenne and Arapaho heritage, it consists of an imposing stainless steel circle — the Warriors Circle of Honor — mounted on an elevated stone drum. Family members and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing on four lances that are incorporated into the design.
Though the memorial quietly made its debut in November 2020, the museum was closed for parts of the COVID epidemic. An official dedication is due on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2022, including a procession honoring vets of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian descent and their families.
Visit: Free; Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Immersive Art Exhibit
Last year’s traveling immersive van Gogh spectacles became megahits, drawing folks who had never stepped through the doors of an art museum. Due in Washington Aug.12 is “Mexican Geniuses: A Frida & Diego Immersive Experience,” an exhibit that gives guests a 360-degree view of the couple’s masterpieces, creative processes and the Mexican scenes that inspired them. Visitors can stroll through different galleries to view more than 300 artworks and learn more about the artists’ lives and relationship, and don headphones to take a virtual reality trip through Mexico. In the future, look for experiences celebrating Impressionist Claude Monet and the street art of the elusive Banksy.
Visit: Timed tickets for the event, whose location has been shrouded in secrecy (check the website for updates), start at $36.
World War I Memorial
Unveiled April 16, 2021, the memorial honors the 4.7 million Americans who served in the bloody conflict, including 116,516 who lost their lives. Granite walls contain quotes and information on significant battles, including maps of the war fronts. An impressive 58-foot-long bas-relief panel titled “A Soldier’s Journey,” is due in 2024. Amp up your visit by downloading the WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer app on your smartphone. Or scan a barcode guide at the site.
Visit: Open to the public at all hours; located in the former Pershing Park along Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th streets NW, near the White House Visitor Center. See the National Park Service website for more information.
Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience
Walk like an Egyptian at the National Geographic Museum’s “Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience,” open from this June 17 through Feb. 6, 2023, and exploring the world of Egyptian ruler Tutankhamen — the “boy king,” who died at age 19 in 1323 B.C. Visitors travel through rooms with wide screens that bring to life his story, including the 1922 discovery of his mummified body and solid gold coffin by British archaeologist Howard Carter. This exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery, with a later stop scheduled for Boston.
Visit: National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St. NW; purchase tickets ($20 for adults; $16 for those 62 and older) at beyondkingtut.com.
Kitty Bean Yancey, a former USA Today deputy managing editor, is a travel writer and the winner of multiple Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers.
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