Off the beaten track in DC

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The iconic Capitol building, as seen from Pennsylvania Avenue
The iconic Capitol building, as seen from Pennsylvania Avenue

Once you've hit all the tourist spots around the US capital, make time for five of Washington's hidden gems

By Sarakshi Rai

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Published: Fri 15 Apr 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 22 Apr 2016, 1:18 PM

Picture outside the White House? Done. Lincoln Memorial? Done. Smithsonian? Done. But have you seen the house where US President Abraham Lincoln spent his dying hours after being fatally shot? Have you seen the National Cathedral, an 83-year old homage to the cathedrals of medieval Europe? Or smelt the pungent aroma of the 'corpse flower'?
The city's beautiful streets aren't a concrete jungle filled with towering skyscrapers and crowded streets like New York - instead every corner you turn is steeped in history. After you've checked off the must-see sights, here are a few of the hidden sights Washington DC has to offer.

1. My personal favourite is the Newseum, a fascinating museum about the history of news and journalism. While it does charge a hefty entry fee ($22.95 + tax), a visit to the Newseum is worth every cent. There's a huge chunk of the Berlin Wall that tells the gripping story of how news and information helped topple a closed and oppressive society and features Checkpoint Charlie - Berlin's best-known East-West crossing. The other exhibits include an incredibly moving 9/11 display as well as video and front pages of over a 1,000 newspapers worldwide from that day. However, one of DC's best-kept secrets is the view that opens up from the fifth floor terrace. You get a panoramic shot of one of the most famous streets in the United States - Pennsylvania Avenue. This is also a great spot to take a coveted picture with the Capitol as the background. Keep your camera at the ready.
(Open daily from 9am to 5pm. Located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC, 20001;

The Newseum offers great views of the home of US Congress too
2. DC's Watergate Complex is infamous. It rose to fame in the 70s after a security guard caught five men breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. The break-in would lead to an astonishing series of events resulting in the resignation of Richard Nixon - the first time an American President was forced to quit. While its hotel - that turned 50 in 2015 - still conveys a certain charm, the complex itself has faded from the public eye and fallen into a state of disrepair. However, it has continued to have high profile residents, such as Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg; one of its ex-residents is Monica Lewinsky. Situated on the Potomac River, the complex is an easy stop between DC's magnificent Georgetown area and the Kennedy Center. Watch All The President's Men, before visiting, to fully appreciate the historic significance of the place.
(Getting there: 700 New Hampshire Ave NW)

Iconic: (1) A still from All The President's Men (2) Richard Nixon, who resigned in light of the events that took place at the (3) Watergate Complex
3. A Middle Eastern restaurant called Mama Ayesha's, in the heart of the Adams Morgan neighbourhood, has been a historic part of DC since the 60s. Throughout the restaurant are pictures of Mama Ayesha, smiling with past Presidents and well-known celebrities. This is a must-visit for anyone looking for an informed dining experience. Don't forget to take a snap with its famed mural that has Mama Ayesha posing in front of the White House, with every President from Eisenhower to Obama. Its Moroccan-styled windows and lanterns almost make you believe you're back in Dubai.
(Getting there: 1967 Calvert St NW)

Must-Visit: (1) Mama Ayesha at her restaurant (2) the famous presidential mural by artist Karla Rodas
4. 'Residence of Presidents' - When one thinks of DC, one often thinks of lobbyists - the people and companies that try to sway the opinions of politicians serving on Capitol Hill. Legend has it that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was supposedly used by President Ulysses S Grant to describe the political hounds who frequented the hotel's lobby to try and gain access to him. The Willard Hotel was a popular haunt of the President who frequented the spot to enjoy a cigar and a drink; the lobbyists would then try to buy the President drinks in an attempt to influence his political decisions. It gets its nickname - Residence of Presidents - from having hosted every US President since Franklin Pierce at least once.
(Getting there: 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC)

5. "House where Lincoln died." That's the small, obscure sign on the tiny four-storied building opposite the much more famous Ford's Theatre. However, unlike its better-known counterpart - where President Lincoln was assassinated - the 'House where Lincoln died' is often overlooked by tourists. Its interactive display follows the assassin John Wilkes Booth on his journey across state lines, after he fatally wounded the President, until he was captured and hanged for treason. Make sure you take a look at the circular tower of books surrounded by a spiral staircase on your way out. This 'Book Tower' contains about 6,800 books written about President Lincoln, from biographies to comic books.

How to get around
The best way to get around Washington DC is the DC Metro (subway or underground). You can find a metro map of all the different lines when you first enter the metro station as well as online. Cabs are also relatively cheaper in DC (than New York City) and are a hassle-free way to get from one place to another. Uber is generally the preferred mode of travel for Washingtonians. However, walking is an alternative during the summer months.

How to get there
You can fly to Washington DC's Dulles International Airport from the UAE on any of the daily flights operated by Emirates (out of Dubai) or Etihad (out of Abu Dhabi). Both fly non-stop to DC.

Where to stay
Economy - Hilton Garden Inn Alexandria Old Town (
Mid-Range - Swann House, Dupont Circle (
Top-end - Ritz Carlton, in the grand West End neighbourhood (

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