2016 an Exciting Time to Be in Washington, D.C.

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 22, 2015
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The Washington Monument at night. Photo via photospin.com

The Washington Monument at night. Photo via photospin.com

Was that a presidential motorcade that just drove by? Psst, isn’t that Kevin Spacey from “House of Cards” having a quiet dinner in the corner? Whoa, The Who brought down the house at the Verizon Center last night!

From hot jazz to cool brews to its marble hallways of power, Washington, D.C.—site of the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition—is a cosmopolitan center that draws world leaders and celebrities alike. Celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and venues like the Kennedy Center are all part of “D.C. Cool.” 

While it’s home to the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and 176 embassies, the District is made up of quirky, charming small neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill and its Eastern Market. Ethnic restaurants abound in hip Adams Morgan, and Embassy Row and the Phillips Collection—one of the city’s greatest art galleries—are in DuPont Circle. The U Street Corridor is known as the birthplace of musician Duke Ellington and is home to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Famous for its half-smoke—a hot dog smothered in chili—Ben’s has drawn regulars and celebrities alike for 57 years. The International Spy Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Shakespeare Theatre are among the attractions in the Penn Quarter. 

What to See, Do

There is an abundance of things to see and do while in Washington—much of them free, thanks to your tax dollars. 

The Smithsonian’s American History Museum, National Zoo and National Air and Space Museum are must-see places for many visitors. Although the Newseum and the International Spy Museum charge admission, they are also favorite tourist stops. 

The Spy Museum opened in July 2002 and is the only public museum in the United States dedicated solely to espionage. At the Newseum, visitors can step in front of the camera to experience the job of a news broadcaster.

Consider taking a tour—by bus, Segway, bike, boat, pedicab or foot—to see some of Washington’s most iconic places: the White House, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National World War II Memorial, U.S. Capitol, U.S. Supreme Court and Ford’s Theater. 

It’s worth a stop at the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights or to research your family’s immigration records. 

A visit to the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall—a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial—is a deeply personal moment for many people, who often leave tokens of remembrance for loved ones who died in that war. 

Food tours combine tastings with walking tours of specific areas. And a nighttime tour to view the various monuments while they are illuminated can be especially memorable. 

Local attractions reflecting the diversity of the U.S.—and Washington, D.C.—include the U.S. National Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open in 2016. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial opened in 2011 and had more than 3 million visitors in 2014, according to a 2015 article in the National Journal. The National Museum of the American Indian opened in 2004, and its Mitsitam Café offers Native American specialties from the Western Hemisphere.

If you have time before Annual Conference opens or concludes, consider a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, where you can see President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witness the Changing of the Guard at the tomb. 

Registration has opened for next year’s conference, which is slated for June 19- 22, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. A special onsite rate for 2015 conference attendees is available July 1.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor at HR News.

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