The cherry blossom festival happens every year in Washington DC around late March to mid April and this year I did some thorough research on when the cherry blossoms would bloom. I looked into blooming dates from the past 10 years and I had anticipated they would be in peak bloom around the week of April 7th. That was not the case. Peak bloom happened the last week of March this year and they only last for a couple of days. The windy weather did not make it any better either. Therefore, by the time I arrived in DC the cherry blossoms at the basin where little to nonexistent. The fire works for that weekend were also cancelled due to the rain and snow. This series of unfortunate events bummed me out a bit so I decided to wander through places I have never been to before in DC.
My boyfriend and I like to bike in the city but tt was oddly cold for April so my fingers were freezing. I made the mistake of not bringing a heavy jacket with me. The past two trips I made during winter season to cold states, it was not cold at all so this time I thought it would be the same. I was so wrong! During the three days I was there, I experienced all four seasons. It rained, there was sunshine, cold winds, and then it snowed. Needless to say, biking warmed me up a bit. I HIGHLY recommend biking in DC. It is cost efficient and time friendly. If a place was a little further on the bike, I would just bike to the subway and take the subway from there. Fast and easy! Since I have already been to the museums around the national mall and the main monuments around DC, this time I just took it easy and ate A LOT. So without further adieu here is my list of hidden gems I found in DC!
Brookland, Washington D.C.
Brookland is an up-and-coming area in DC. The area reminds me of Harlem in a way and has a mix of the old and new. My boyfriend and I passed by this area while on our way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The architecture of this area is very hip and have the brownstone/manufacturing building look. I believe this place will be booming and a local hot spot in the next couple of years.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
This church is located on the outskirts of DC so it is more secluded from the hustle and bustle of city life. All I could say was WOW when I got closer to the building. The church is very ornate, grandiose, and massive. The picture above only shows the front and not the dome that is right behind it. There are two levels below the main worship area and the lower levels also include various rooms of worship. The main area has different rooms that display how Mary is perceived in various cultures. Each of these rooms also tells a story of Mary in that specific culture. I thought this was a wonderful touch that I believe really reaches out to each individual. I was walking around and saw a Mary statue dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing and was confused at first then realized I found the Vietnamese depiction of Mary!
Smithsonian National Zoo
This might not be a hidden gem but if you come to DC during the winter seasons or when it is still a bit cold outside, you might be able to catch the red pandas! Since it was a weekday no one was really around the zoo so the area around the red panda exhibit was really quiet. There were only two that were lying around and they both came up to the fence so I was able to get some close up pictures! They kind of remind me of cats in a way (haha).
US National Arboretum
The arboretum really caught me by surprise. The garden is HUGE (I only explored a small tiny section of it). The old capitol columns are located here. If you ask me I thought it was kind of random in the garden but overall it adds a nice touch to the abundant amount of space the arboretum has. My boyfriend and I love bonsai trees and there happened to be an exhibit here. The bonsai ranged from 10-100 years old and you could definitely tell which ones were older.
Interesting fact: bonsai trees are a form of art and back in the day bonsai artists used to shape the trees into zodiac animals. The US National Arboretum houses the dragon zodiac!
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
I did not take any pictures when I was at the holocaust museum but I believe this is a museum everyone should come and see. The exhibit really touched my soul and made me reflect on the life I have in this world today. They have an exhibit where you can choose a card of a person who was in the holocaust and you basically do a simulation of that person’s life. You go through the events and find out what happens to your person at the end. The holocaust museum also touches topics in other countries that experienced slavery and ethnic cleansing. Words cannot describe how powerful this museum is. You just have to go.
There were some other places I wanted to go to but wasn’t able to due to timing conflict. If you want to avoid the large crowds, wander to these wonderful places! I am positive you won’t be disappointed!
Check back soon because I will be posting about DC eats and the best places to get a bang for your buck!
Thanks for reading! Until next time!
Yours truly, Linh