Unusual Attractions In Washington, DC

Unusual Attractions In Washington, DC
When asked about popular attractions for tourists in Washington, D.C., most talk first about the monuments and museums located on the National Mall. Washington, D.C., is the home of many one-of-a kind attractions located elsewhere throughout the city as well. These unusual attractions can and do astonish, amaze, educate, entertain, wow and satisfy their visitors.

National Museum of Health and Medicine (Free)

Giant hairballs and tumors, skeletons of babies with birth deformities, photographs of early plastic surgery efforts on Civil War soldiers with severe combat-related facial wounds, a mummified Siamese twin baby and more are at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. The museum maintains 24,662,515 objects, including anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments and artifacts, microscope slide-based medical research, and archival materials. Collections focus on the history and practice of American medicine, military medicine and current medical research issues.

Visitors can also view the bullet that killed President Abraham Lincoln, several small pieces of his skull and locks of his hair. The gift shop in the lobby has health- and medicine-related products, including T-shirts and other apparel for children and adults, books, posters, jewelry and collectibles.

National Museum of Health and Medicine
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave. and Elder St., NW, Building 54
Washington, DC 20306
(202) 782-2200
Tour Programs: (202) 782-2456

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum provides a global perspective on espionage and traces the history of spying from biblical times to today. It displays the largest collection of international spy-related items ever made available for public viewing, including sabotage weapons, concealment devices, cipher machines, secret writings and microdots. Visitors learn the stories of individual spies through film and interactive exhibits. In addition to exhibits and films related to espionage, the Spy Museum has two restaurants and a gift shop.

International Spy Museum
800 F St., NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) EYE.SPY.U

National Museum of Crime & Punishment

The interactive exhibits of this museum cover the history of crime from medieval times to modern white collar and computer hacking crimes. Topics include criminal intent, criminal profiles, serial killers, victims, issues associated with crime, the prison system and crime prevention. Visitors can test their skills at shooting, safe cracking and computer hacking. They also see the consequences of crime in realistic exhibits including a lethal injection machine and an electric chair. Simulators include an FBI shooting range and high-speed police chases. Visitors can also get crime scene investigation experience in fingerprinting, ballistics and DNA testing. The gift shop also is worth a visit.

National Museum of Crime & Punishment
575 Seventh St., NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-1099

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum (Free)

At the center of the African American Civil War Memorial is Ed Hamilton's sculpture "Spirit of Freedom," portraying several African American soldiers in the Union Army. The curving wall surrounding the landscaped plaza displays the names of 209,145 African American Civil War soldiers and sailors and their white officers. Two blocks west of the memorial, at the African American Civil War Museum, visitors can view photographs, documents and audiovisual materials related to African Americans who served in the Civil War. The collection is small but growing. In addition, the museum is compiling a descendants registry, already containing more than 2,000 names, supporting genealogists and anyone searching for ancestors who may have served with the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

The museum has a small store. Although there are no dining facilities within this museum, hungry visitors only need to cross U St. to enter Ben's Chili Bowl, also profiled in this article.

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum
Memorial: 10th and U Sts., NW
Museum: 1200 U St., NW
Washington DC 20009
(202) 667-2667


With six floors of exhibits, 14 galleries and 15 theaters, the Newseum mashes five centuries of news for visitor entertainment and education. Exhibits include 80 front pages from around the world, Pulitzer Prize photos, Tim Russert's office, a 9/11 gallery, a 4-D film and the Berlin Wall. Visitors can simulate being a TV reporter and download their videos to computers later. The Newseum has a dining room and a gift shop.

555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20001
1 (888) NEWSEUM

The Palace of Wonders

The Palace of Wonders has a vaudeville stage, a museum of oddities and a full bar. Shows include burlesque, vaudeville and sideshow, with extras of magic tricks, dancing girls, stunts, aerialists and contortionists. The museum has lectures, tours and demonstrations. Its 500-piece collection is open whenever the Palace is open. Items on display include voodoo dolls, miniature mummies, a tiny village carved from human bones, a stuffed unicorn and cursed necklaces. The Palace opens seven nights a week. Most shows are for visitors, 21 years and older. Check the website or call for show information and opening times.

The Palace of Wonders
1210 H St., NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 398-SHOW

Ben's Chili Bowl

Whenever Ben's is open, even at 6 a.m. on a weekday morning, customers can get its chili dogs, chili half-smokes and bowls of beef and veggie chili. And, except for its "early" 11 p.m. Sunday night closing, its kitchen stays open until at least 1 a.m.--ready to serve those with late-night attacks of the munchies. Although famous for its chili, Ben's also offers turkey, tuna and veggie sandwiches and subs.

Since its opening in 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl customers have included President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx and Dick Gregory. Ben's Chili Bowl even has a gift shop.

Ben's Next Door is a bar and restaurant opened in 2008 at 1211 U St. With a 53-foot full bar and nine LCD flat-screen TVs, Next Door serves lunch, brunch and dinner.

Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U St., NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-0909

Article Written By Barbara Conn

Based in Washington, DC, award-winning editor Barbara Conn has been writing about science, technology, small business, and general interest topics since 1984. Her articles have appeared in the Capital PC User Group “Monitor.” She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University.

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