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12 Things to See & Do in Capitol Hill

@leahshoup - U.S. Supreme Court - Things to See and Do on Capitol Hill

From halls of power to food halls, the Hill is forever hopping.

It’s the center of the U.S. government, the center of the city and is a central hub for locals and visitors alike. Mini neighborhoods like Eastern Market and Barracks Row comprise Capitol Hill, highlighting its unique blend of federal and local diversions. Here are some great ways to explore the neighborhood.

1 See Congress in session at the U.S. Capitol
See Congress in session at the U.S. Capitol NASA / Bill Ingalls

Catch lawmakers in action with an advance pass from your Senator or House Representative. Find out how to arrange a visit to one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

2 Take a picnic to the park at the Bartholdi Fountain

Woman taking photo at Bartholdi Fountain on Capitol Hill - Parks in Washington, DC

On the U.S. Capitol grounds, this flower-packed park with benches surrounds an ornate, fountain with statues of women that once graced the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. In summer months, it provides a cool respite from the humid temps. In case you didn’t know, Bartholdi also designed the Statue of Liberty.

3 Explore a foodie haven near Eastern Market

Outdoor patio at Belga Cafe on Barracks Row - Restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

Getting hungry? Make Barracks Row, the city’s oldest commercial district, your next destination. The strip that runs along 8th Street SE, which gets its namesake from the country’s oldest Marine Corps post nearby, has undergone an incredible revival over the last decade. There, you will find everything from quick bites and family-friendly carry-out storefronts to Michelin-starred establishments like Rose's Luxury and Pineapple & Pearls. If it’s sweets you crave, District Doughnut serves up handcrafted gourmet doughnuts seven days per week. Or slurp down raw oysters – a popular snack since DC’s early days (First Lady Dolley Madison was a fan) – at one of the strip's many pubby restaurants.

4 Go to a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Second Shepherd's Play - Holiday-Themed Performances in Washington, DC

The intimate playhouse at the world’s greatest collection of Bard’s works was modeled after an Elizabethan inn, with tiered wooden balconies and carved oak columns. It hosts classical plays, concerts and readings throughout the year.

5 Take a self-guided tour of the Supreme Court of the United States

@photostunna365 - United States Supreme Court Building - Washington, DC

Line up to take a self-led trip - or maybe hear an argument (when court is in session) - at the 1930s, neoclassical marvel with its bronze, bas-reliefed doors and columned interiors. On days the court isn’t in session, docents give short, free lectures on the building and its functions.

6 Continue your patriotic march to the Library of Congress

@eandmbambrick - Exploring the Library of Congress - Washington, DC

The largest library in the world holding millions of photos, films, recordings and maps, as well as featured exhibitions and tours that bring the library’s vast collections to life.

7 Escape into the green world of the U.S. Botanic Garden

Child at United States Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill - Free living museum in Washington, DC

In a glassed-in, Art Deco structure, this living plant museum holds cacti, orchids and a two-level tropical rainforest garden. Frequent events include gardening seminars and cooking classes.

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8 Hunt for farm-fresh produce, crafts and antiques at Eastern Market

Eastern Market on Capitol Hill - Indoor Market and Food Hall in Washington, DC

Join the throngs of stroller-pushing locals and young hipsters outside and adjacent to Eastern Market on Saturdays and Sundays, when a farmers’ market and crafts fair takes over streets and sidewalks. Among the scores: locally made jewelry, soap and vintage clothing.

9 Sneak away to the summerhouse on the U.S. Capitol Grounds

U.S. Capitol Grounds Summerhouse

On the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, this open-air, redbrick, hexagonal structure was completed in 1880s and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Arched doorways, seating and a tiny, burbling grotto lure romantics and solitude seekers.

10 Feast on sustainable Southern cooking in a boutique hotel

@artandsouldc - Art and Soul Restaurant - Washington, DC

It’s not hard to be full when dining on Capitol Hill. Art and Soul provides Southern hospitality with down-home cooking and sustainably sourced ingredients for a sophisticated dining experience. After dinner you’ll want a comfy (and close) place to rest your head. The Liaison Capitol Hill DC offers a boutique experience with a rooftop lounge and pool, and its lobby connects directly to Art and Soul.

11 Down a pint with lawmakers and lobbyists at the Dubliner Pub

The Dubliner Pub - Capitol Hill - Washington, DC

Since 1974, Hill types and tourists have been raising their glasses of beer at this wood-paneled slice of Ireland inside the Phoenix Park Hotel. Nightly live music, a comfort-chow menu and an extensive whiskey list up the appeal.

12 Revel in a patriotic parade at the U.S. Marine Barracks

Evening Parade Barracks Row - Washington, DC

Friday nights at 8:45 p.m. from May through August, U.S. Marine marching units and the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band perform precision drills and all-American music. Tickets are free, but reservations are required.

If you can accomplish all this, you’ll have successfully enjoyed much of the Capitol Hill experience. Check out some nearby neighborhoods to explore, like Capitol Riverfront or NoMa.