Books to enhance your D.C. sightseeing
Fall is the time of year to enjoy the comparative solitude from the hordes of summer tourists. Take a respite from the crowds to do some sightseeing on your own home turf.
111 Places in Washington That You Must Not Miss, by Andrea Seiger, photographs by John Dean, 240 pages, Emons Publishers paperback, 2018
For those of us who have visited all the familiar tourist attractions in the District, this guidebook is heaven-sent. Quirky, esoteric, fascinating and off-the-beaten-track destinations, historic oddities, fun food, drink and entertainment venues are well represented among the 111 sites highlighted in this book.
Each entry is represented by one page of text with a delightful color photograph opposite the prose. Read the captions for websites, directions via mass transit, hours and additional suggestions for places to visit nearby.
Seiger has lived in D.C. for three decades. Her knowledge as a professional in the tour and hospitality business is on prominent display throughout these pages. The photographs by Baltimorean John Dean enliven the guide.
When Seiger includes a familiar Smithsonian museum, she highlights a specific item or attraction and its location inside the vast venue.
For example, have you seen the fragment of wood from the original Wright Flyer that was taken to the moon? It’s at the Air & Space Museum. Free public tours of the National Public Radio studios (site number 75) must be reserved in advance online, as walk-ins are not allowed.
At the back of the book, all entries are located on a three-page full-color map — the better to plan your outings. Discover hidden treasures in a place you thought you knew well.
The Senate: An Enduring Foundation of Democracy, by C-SPAN,128 pages, C-SPAN Publication softcover, 2019
This visually arresting large-format book with more than 130 color photographs captures, in words and pictures, the ornate interior of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.
Described in historical context and through the camera lens are the renowned architects, extraordinary artists and craftsmen who created and continue to maintain the frescoes, statues, ceilings, walls, lunettes, carvings, upholstery, furniture and paintings. Flip through this book to gain access to rooms and corridors that are not accessible to tourists.
Turn the pages of The Senateand linger over photographs of the Old Senate Chamber and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Pore over the ornate carvings of the exterior of the Senate side of the Capitol and revel in the colorful flora and fauna of the interior Brumidi Corridors.
The website visitthecapitol.gov has details about reserved tours, special events and obtaining gallery tickets. All are free.
The Senate book can only be purchased online at c-spanstore.org.
A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston, by Kim Roberts, 240 pages, University of Virginia Press paperback, 2018
District resident Kim Roberts, a poet and literary historian, has compiled this unique guide that can expand your mind as you exercise your body. Follow four walking tours to the residences and places of interest in the lives and times of D.C.’s greatest writers, their spouses and social acquaintances.
Learn about the 21 writers selected — some obscure and some you may not have realized lived in the District. Many earned their livelihoods as educators, soldiers, diplomats and civil servants.
The timespan covered in the guide is from the start of the 19th century through 1930, and excerpts of poetry and prose are included. The rich heritage of the local African American literary scene is explored in depth.
In addition to the walking tours, biographical sketches and photographs of the prominent writers are included. Maps also feature the closest Metro stations.
Trouble in Lafayette Square: Assassination, Protest & Murder at the White House, by Gil Klein, 144 pages, The History Press paperback, 2018
Veteran journalist and Arlington resident Gil Klein recounts the incidents that have occurred in the park across the street from the White House over the years.
Thomas Jefferson opened the seven-acre expanse to the public; it had originally been within the grounds of the President’s House.
Many notable and infamous citizens lived in the townhouses that form the square surrounding the park. Slaves lived in some of the buildings, too.
Read about Commodore Stephen Decatur, the widowed former First Lady, Cabinet secretaries and even a Confederate spy who resided there. Find out about the murder committed and attempted assassinations. Explore the tradition of protestors in the park, notably, the suffragettes.
If the book inspires you to visit Lafayette Square in person, be sure to tour the historic Decatur House; admission is free (details at whha.org).
Take a stroll in the park and sit on the Bernard Baruch Bench of Inspiration.
Although Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed through March for construction of a new White House fence, a few steps to the west is the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, si.edu/museums/renwick-gallery. Entry is free to view the exhibits of contemporary art — a bracing contrast to the historic surroundings of Lafayette Square.