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9 Things to Do and See in Washington, D.C.

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Jackalope Ranch is hitting the road this summer -- and you're coming, too. Well, sort of. With Going Places, our writers recommend the best things to do and see during your travels.

We feel like we shouldn't have to convince you to visit Washington, D.C. It's our nation's capital, it's where the laws of our land are made, and President Obama's house is there. But don't be fooled; there's much more to D.C. than politics and history.

See also: 12 Things to Do and See in Bisbee

With all of the interns looking to gain some real-world experience and young 20-somethings rushing to the city after college to get their names out there, a thriving, young culture is prevalent throughout the city, specifically in upcoming neighborhoods like Colombia Heights.

This mix of burgeoning scenes and historical institutions is what makes D.C. the perfect city for those looking to balance their fun with a little sophistication. So before you head east to the American Rome, check out these suggestions of things to do and see in Washington, D.C.

9. Visit all the typical spots.

If you've never been to D.C. before, you have to go see all of the famous, distinctively D.C. monuments and memorials. We know they may sound like tourist traps, but they are incredible representations of our country's history, awe-inspiring examples of architecture and art, and, best of all, free. The Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument are at the top of our list. While you're at it, might as well take a stroll by the White House too. It looks exactly like it does in pictures, but waving and pretending you see Obama waving back is worth it.

8. Swing by John McCain's office.

Go to the Russell Senate Office Building on Constitution Ave. NE, stop by Senator John McCain's office, and say hi. If you mention you're visiting from Arizona and that you heard you could get gallery passes for the House and Senate, they should have them at the ready and happily offer them to you. With those passes, you can go see where the State of the Union is given in the House Gallery and get your own mini, self-guided tour of the Capitol.

7. Kayak the Potomac.

Head down to the waterfront in Georgetown and find Thompson Boat Center on Virginia Ave. and Boat Creek Parkway. There you can rent kayaks, a single for $15 an hour or $40 per day or a double for $20 an hour or $50 per day, and explore the Potomac River. It's a great way to see a different side of the city. Plus, the water will definitely be less crowded and more relaxed than any means of travel on land.

6. Mosey around Georgetown.

There is possibly no cuter district in D.C. than Georgetown. Unfortunately, that also means it is one of the more expensive areas. But we recommend enjoying Georgetown by simply walking around and saving your money for something later down the line. Take a shaded stroll along the canal or window shop on M Street. There are plenty of places, both fancy chain stores and independently-owned ones, to peak inside. And if you get tired and feel in need of a snack, it won't be hard to find a local coffee shop where you can take a break as there's pretty much one every couple of blocks.

5. Hang out in the Lux of D.C.

No, this isn't The Coupe's official title, but if you are familiar with Lux, the midtown Phoenix coffee shop/restaurant/bar, you'll definitely see the similarities. And we aren't saying that's a bad thing. If you've got a little work to do on your vacation, simply want to enjoy a solid iced coffee, or need a dinner or drinks spot in the neighborhood, give The Coupe on 11th Street NW in Colombia Heights a chance.

4. Take advantage of the free museums.

All of the Smithsonian Institute museums in D.C., which are some of the best museums in the country, are free to the public. If you have time, visit them all. If you have to choose, our favorites are the National Museum of Natural History on 10th Street and Constitution Ave. NW and the National Portrait Gallery on 8th and F Streets NW. The Natural History museum is great for families or anyone who enjoys interacting with what they're learning about, while the Portrait Gallery appeals to those who appreciate the fine arts.

3. Spend a day at the Newseum.

Of course there are plenty of non-Smithsonian museums around D.C., and if we had to choose just one to visit, we would choose the Newseum. Go see the stark difference between the two sides of a portion of the Berlin Wall, read the stories behind some of the best photographs in journalistic history, and prepare to be brought to tears in the 9/11 Gallery. When you do go to appreciate all that is journalism at this museum, be sure to block out a good portion of the day for it because some of the exhibits, like the Story of News gallery, could take you hours to get through. Thankfully, you can bring your ticket ($22.95 plus tax for adults) back the next day for free admission.

2. Check out what's going on at the Sculpture Garden.

During the summer, the Sculpture Garden next to the National Gallery of Art offers Jazz in the Garden every Friday night. Appreciating jazz music, sangria, and art all while dipping your feet in the fountain? We can't think of a better way to start off a weekend. While this series only happens during the summer, the Sculpture Garden ice rink is open from November to March, so there's something to do almost all year.

1. Experience the dive-bar magic that is Wonderland.

In the daylight, this unassuming corner spot looks like nothing more than a quaint, neighborhood restaurant. But after the sun goes down, the real life of The Wonderland Ballroom comes out. We know, it sounds like something that Stefon would talk about on SNL's Weekend Update, but doesn't that just make you want to go there more? Squeeze inside this yellow brick building to find a full bar and seating downstairs. Make your way to the tiny staircase in the back, which really only allows for people to go one way at a time, and go upstairs for another full bar and a packed dance floor. Wonderland is not the place for someone who is looking to have a quiet drink, but if you want a quirky atmosphere, good dancing and music, and a beer and Jim Beam shot for $5, look no further.

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