18 Things to Do on Your Parents’ 500th Trip to DC

The National Mall is swamped in late spring. The Smithsonian museums are fantastic... but you probably memorized all the First Lady dresses and airplane models several visits back. So we did the leg work: Check out our ideas to entertain any type of family -- no Smithsonians, no monuments.

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Top & bottom L: Getty Images; top & bottom R: Shutterstock
If you haven't been, Eastern Market (225 7th St. SE) is a farmer's market, bazaar and upscale food court all rolled into one. Vendors sell unique soaps, clothing and art Tuesdays through Sundays inside and out. Across C street, Capitol Hill Books (657 C St. SE) is packed to the gills with literary treasures (and hilariously tongue-in-cheek signage).
The National Building Museum (401 F St. NW) is housed in a beautiful building (go figure) that's worth a visit on its own. Unlike the Smithsonians, you do have to pay for admission to the exhibits, but architecture, engineering and design fans will find it worthwhile. The museum has grabbed the spotlight with special exhibits and events; its next special exhibit, "Icebergs," debuts in July.
If your parents are beverage aficionados, take them on a tour of D.C.'s growing beer and spirits scene. Distilleries like One Eight Distilling (1135 Okie St. NE), which makes vodka, gin and whisky, and opens for free tours on Saturday afternoons. DC Brau (3178-B Bladensburg Road NE), Atlas Brew Works (2052 W Virginia Ave. NE #102) and 3 Stars Brewing Co. (6400 Chillum Place NW) offer tours on Saturday afternoons.
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Dangerously Delicious Pies is always true to its name. The Baltimore Bomb pie is a classic, but the quiche and savory pies will make your taste buds dance, too. The H Street location (1339 H St. NE) is newly renovated, and surely holds on to the punk-rock bakery feel. The Chinatown location (675 I St. NW) is good if you just need a quick pie fix.
The Nationals have at least one home game every week of May and 10 home games in June at Nats Park (1500 S. Capitol St. SE). D.C. residents are used to transplanted fans cheering for the other team -- so bring your foam finger.
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Yards Park on the banks of the Anacostia River is within a stone's throw of Nats Park, but offers plenty of fun all its own: an interactive fountain in which to cool your tired feet, fantastic waterfront dining (Osteria Morini, Agua 301) and a footbridge that's bordering on art, as well as access to kayaking at the nearby Ballpark Boathouse.
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George Washington's historic estate, Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia), is only about 20 miles away from Washington, D.C. History buffs can learn about the first president's life and the functioning of a 18th century farm. The nearby Mount Vernon Trail is also great for bike rides.
You can see the monuments without trekking to the Mall if you're on the Potomac. Boating in D.C. (3500 Water St. NW; two other locations open mid-May) rents out kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and pedal boats for a cool day on the water.
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The AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland) embraces film as a true art. At the art deco-style theater, you can catch limited-release flicks such as Bryan Cranston's "Trumbo" or golden oldies like Audrey Hepburn's "Roman Holiday." Some showings are only $5. Find the full schedule online here.
Once you're on Roosevelt Island (700 George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, Virginia), it's easy to forget you're still actually in the middle of an urban area. Cross a bridge from Georgetown or McLean and suddenly you are transported to what would have been paradise for a "conservationist president."
You can blow off some steam and have fun with your family at H Street Country Club (1335 H St NE). But make no mistake: There's no tennis garb, green lawns or fanciness here. Instead, the spot offers up drinks, skeeball, giant Jenga and free mini golf. Go earlier in the evening to avoid large crowds!
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The famed Politics & Prose Bookstore (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW) hosts several author talks each day, and local colleges also host panels and experts, as do think tanks ranging from the conservative Heritage Foundation, the liberal Brookings Institute and the libertarian CATO Institute. Check out the DC Free Culture blog for more ideas like this.
The Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (400 Michigan Ave. NE) may be D.C.'s most underrated tourist spot. Right off the Brookland station on the Red Line sits one of the 10 largest churches in the world, according to the Basilica's website. If you visit, tour the outside and the lower crypt. But do not miss the upper church, where the ceilings are covered in intricate murals.
Play pickleball! Pickleball is a relatively new (and hilariously named) sport that crosses badminton, tennis and ping pong. NBC Washington has a guide right here, including places you can play in DC. Key takeaway: Pickleball is a sport for super-athletes, couch potatoes and everyone in between.
The Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) is devoted to all things news, journalism and media. The front pages of major world papers are on display each day outside the building, alongside a massive printing of part of the First Amendment. Inside you can find exhibits such as a powerful 9/11 gallery, a retrospective on the Civil Rights Movement and pieces of the Berlin Wall.
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No need to go undercover to discover how espionage shaped the history of the world. The International Spy Museum (800 F St. NW) is in the heart of the busy Chinatown/Gallery Place neighborhood and is a favorite of adults and kids.
Historic Annapolis, Maryland is 350 years old, and cool enough to make it into our guide to 10 best Maryland spring getaways.
D.C. has plenty of its own parks, but the views at Great Falls (9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, Virginia) cannot be matched. The waterfall viewing area is easily accessible from the parking lot, but adventurous visitors can hike along the River Trail to get the best view of Mather Gorge. It can get crowded on nice days, but is the perfect picnic spot. Easy to see why this spot also appears in our guide to the 10 best Virginia spring getaways.
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