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Five Best-Kept Secrets of Washington

Want to be an instant insider in the District? Check out these five fantastic hidden gems and you’ll be able to impress anyone with your knowledge!

1. The Einstein Memorial – An instant favorite for young and old, the Einstein Memorial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences is at once impressive in scale and surprisingly clever.

Robert Berks’ unique sculpture is a thoughtful and relaxed depiction of the beloved physicist. Einstein holds in his hand a sheet of paper with three of his most famous equations (including E = MC²). A base of Norwegian granite features more than 2,700 silver studs depicting the position of the stars and planets at noon the day the memorial was dedicated. Stand in the middle—the north star—and talk to Albert and your voice is amplified. Kids and adults alike are welcome to climb on his lap; don’t forget to rub his shiny nose to get smarter!

2. The Millennium Stage – The Kennedy Center is America’s busiest performing arts center, with some 2,000 performances every year!

Locals know that daily at 6 pm there’s a free performance on the Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer. From string quartets and vocalists to dancers and jugglers, you’re in for a treat 365 days a year! Bonus: The rooftop terrace has breathtaking views of the river, Georgetown, and Virginia, and is a perfect to see a sunset. Pop in for a snack at the pleasant KC Café while you’re there!

3. The Basilica – Many visitors have heard of Washington National Cathedral, the fifth-largest cathedral in the world. Few know, however, that it has a cross-town counterpart that is every bit its equal!

At Catholic University is among the largest Roman Catholic churches the world and the single largest in North America. Officially known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, this house of worship is a Romanesque masterpiece and every bit the equal of its more-famous cross-District neighbor!

4. The Netherlands Carillon – If you plan to go to Arlington Cemetery (and you should!), don’t miss this gem right next to it!

A gift from the Dutch in thanks for America’s help defending them from Nazi Germany, this tower has 50 bells of various sizes. A computer plays automated concerts each day at noon and 6 pm. Bonus: Fantastic views from across the river!

5.  The Adams Memorial – Rock Creek Cemetery is a bit out of the way for most visitors to DC. All the same, one of the most remarkable works of art can be seen in this tucked-away corner of the District and it is well worth visiting.

In 1885, Washingtonian socialite Clover Adams, deeply beloved wife of Henry Adams, committed suicide by drinking photography chemicals. Devastated, Henry Adams commissioned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a memorial to his wife that evoked Eastern ideas of life and death, especially nirvana—the state of being beyond joy and sorrow.

Some have sought to give the figure a name—Grief most commonly—but Henry Adams insisted against it:

“Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption—Grief, Despair, Pear’s Soap, or Macy’s Mens’ Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx.”
— Henry Adams

For his part, Saint-Gaudens’ title is The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding.

And for those less inclined to make the trek: You can check out a copy in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.