Alternatives to tourist-laden landmarks.
Now that spring is here, the tidal wave of tourism season is beginning to swell. Every resident of the Metro-D.C. area knows the signs: the growing confluence of tour buses herding like hippos on sidewalks, the encroachment of personal space on Metro becomes more pronounced, and loading up a SmartTrip card devolves into a 30-minute symposium.
By the time July 4 rolls around, you are desperate to make a Snake Plissken-like escape from the city. Fret not; when fanny pack-sporting, stroller-toting hordes descend on the District, we’ve got alternatives to their hunting grounds.
Den of tourists: Lincoln Memorial
Alternative: George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Everyone wants their “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment, the one where you stand at the Lincoln Memorial in silent, peaceful reflection. When tourists aren’t using the marble structure as a slide, they lounge on every surface of step not claimed.
Instead, visit the Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria. Only 10 years younger than the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Masonic Memorial was built by the Freemasons, of whom Washington was once a member. The structure towers over Old Town Alexandria and is open to the public Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Den of tourists: Any Smithsonian museum
For some, Smithsonian practically becomes a dirty word during tourist season. It doesn’t matter which museum, it will be soon overrun. Sure, Udvar-Hazy is still technically a Smithsonian museum, but its distance from the center of the city gives you a fighting chance to learn lots of new things, besides the daily itinerary of Dave from Iowa.
Den of tourists: Mount Vernon
Alternative: Gadsby’s Tavern
Mount Vernon is a beautiful, historic and renowned space; therefore it is guaranteed that every time someone comes in from out of town, you will be designated to take them to see it.
Divert to Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria. The tavern and museum date back to the 18th century, when it was a cultural hub of Alexandria. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe have stayed there, providing you the proper escape from Washington’s home at high tourist tide. —Carten Cordell