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13 Things to See & Do in Capitol Hill

United States Capitol East Front - Washington, DC

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 the things we think you should do in 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 (foreign and same-day visitors can inquire about passes via the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center desk).

2 Take a picnic to the park at the Bartholdi Fountain
Take a picnic to the park at the Bartholdi Fountain photophiend via Flickr

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 Eat oysters near Eastern Market
Eat oysters near Eastern Market Barracks Row Main Street

Slurp down raw oysters – a popular snack since DC’s early days (First Lady Dolley Madison was a fan) – at one of Barracks Row’s many pubby restaurants along 8th Street or Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

4 Go to a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library
Go to a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library Dennis Grice

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

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 Escape into the green world of the U.S. Botanic Garden
Escape into the green world of the U.S. Botanic Garden Bob Stovall

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.

7 Explore the history of U.S. mail at the National Postal Museum
Explore the history of U.S. mail at the National Postal Museum National Postal Museum

Located in a high-ceilinged 1914 post office, the Smithsonian’s museum of philately shows off early mail-delivery planes, rare stamps and artifacts related to the Pony Express. Other exhibits explore how letters and packages were delivered via train and stagecoach.

8 Hunt for crafts and antiques at Eastern Market’s outdoor, weekend flea market
Hunt for crafts and antiques at Eastern Market’s outdoor, weekend flea market Kate Warren

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

9 Cheer for D.C. United at RFK Memorial Stadium
Cheer for D.C. United at RFK Memorial Stadium D.C. United

Spring through fall, DC’s Major League Soccer club, D.C. United, takes to the pitch in retro surrounds at RFK Stadium. Spirited fans sing songs and wave flags as they cheer on the “Screaming Eagles,” and food trucks show up for tailgating outside the stadium.

10 Shop and eat in beaux arts glory at Union Station
Shop and eat in beaux arts glory at Union Station

DC’s beauty queen main train station features a statue of Christopher Columbus outside and soaring, curved ceilings inside. Besides serving as a busy Amtrak hub, the depot also offers up shops, a food court and several restaurants.

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

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

12 Down a pint with lawmakers and lobbyists at the Dubliner Pub
Down a pint with lawmakers and lobbyists at the Dubliner Pub The Dubliner

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

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

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.

Now that you know of a few places to hit on your trip through Capitol Hill, check out our guide to exploring the neighborhood by day and night.