1. The Big Chair
Once a marketing stunt for furniture company Curtis Brothers Furniture, this 19.5 foot chair is now an iconic DC landmark. Curtis Brothers Furniture, which sat on what was then Nichols Avenue, built the Big Chair in 1959. Ever since, even when it held the title of biggest chair in the world, it’s been a homegrown landmark, out of sight of the monumental core.
By the early 2000s the original Big Chair, made of mahogany, was deteriorating. Numerous holes in the seat had been patched with concrete, and in August 2005, the original chair was removed.
Eight months later, however, a $40,000 aluminum replica went up in the Big Chair’s original location. Today, the Big Chair endures as an over-sized emblem of Anacostia. A bar and grillacross the street and a now-closed flea market use its namesake, and it nearly got its own ale named after it at Chocolate City Beer.
Martin Luther King Ave. and V St., S.E. (Anacostia)
2. Capitol Building
Just about as American as apple pie, the Capitol Building is included in daily Capitol Tours.
3. Dupont Underground
Tunnels and platforms below Dupont Circle have been turned into a fascinating underground contemporary art space.
4. The Awakening at National Harbor
It’s a man coming out of the ground. And you can climb on his face.
The statue consists of five separate aluminum pieces buried in the ground, giving the impression of a distressed giant attempting to free himself from the ground. The left hand and right foot barely protrude, while the bent left leg and knee jut into the air. The 17-foot (5.2 m) high right arm and hand reach farther out of the ground. The bearded face, with the mouth in mid-scream, struggles to emerge from the earth.
The Awakening was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in 1980 as part of Washington, DC’s 11th annual Sculpture Conference, and the sculpture was originally installed at Hains Point in East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.. Hains Point was designated by Congress as the site for a National Peace Garden in 1987. Although no work had started on the National Peace Garden for many years, the decision still prompted the eventual sale of the sculpture by its owner, The Sculpture Foundation. Milton Peterson purchased the sculpture for $750,000 in 2007 for installation at his new National Harbor development in Maryland. Crews removed The Awakening from Hains Point in February 2008 for its move to National Harbor. At the National Harbor development, the sculpture was installed on a specially built beach along the Potomac River.
153 National Plaza (Oxon Hill, Md)
5. Space Window and Darth Vadar Gargoyle at the National Cathedral
Fans of stars and Star Wars alike should include this on their bucket lists.
How to find the Darth Vader Grotesque
Join one of the Gargoyle Tours (scheduled during May through September), or follow these steps:
- Bring binoculars—Darth Vader is difficult to spot with the naked eye.
- Exit the Cathedral through the ramp door (near the Abraham Lincoln statue).
- Turn and look up at the closest tower; find the two large points (pinnacles), on the corners at the top of the tower, and a much smaller one in the center.
- Follow the center pinnacle down and find the first tiny peaked roof (gablet). Darth Vader is the “bump” on the right side of the roof.
3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW
6. D.C. Center Point
The point at which the city’s four quadrants intersect is DC’s version of Four Corners. DC’s urban planner Pierre L’Enfant designed Washington, D.C. on an orderly street grid divided into four quadrants, with numbered streets running north-south, letters going east-west, and diagonal avenues named for the states. The symbolic intersection of the four quadrants is the Capitol Building, which has marked the exact middle with a neat little marble compass that has been slightly worn down by two centuries of foot traffic.
7. Technicolor Church
With a blast of color inside and out, this old Church is nothing short of awesome for little rainbow-colored-everything lovers. The church was originally built in 1886 and was once the home of Friendship Baptist Congregation. The Friendship Baptist congregation moved to a different facility and the church passed hands for a few years before it closed its doors in 2001.
In 2004, the Historic Preservation Board designated the entire block historic so the church could not be torn down. So the owners of the block commissioned an artist to brighten up the Church and a colorful mural was painted. Today, the space has now been redesigned as an artistic space, events venue and community gathering place.
700 Delaware Ave., SW
8. Discovery at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
You don’t get much more epic than the Discovery Shuttle up close and amazing.
14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy. (Chantilly, Va)
9. The Natural History Museum at Night
Relive Night at the Museum for the most epic sleepover ever. Bonus: you don’t have to clean up popcorn from your carpet the next morning!
10. National Bonsai Museum
The National Bonsai Museum began in 1976 when the people of Japan presented Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with a gift of 53 bonsai trees to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial. (This wasn’t the first time Japan gave the U.S. a botanical gift—in 1912 it sent over the 3,000 cherry blossom trees that still decorate the National Mall.)
The bonsai collection, located within the Department of Agriculture’s “living museum,” the National Arboretum, has expanded gradually over the years with donations and now includes an assortment of beeches, maples, pines, and other species. There are several different schools of bonsai on display at the museum. Formal center-of-the-pot trees are referred to as Chokkan style, while the daring kengai trees twist around their containers in a simulation of trees growing down mountains. Scores of other styles include “root-over-rock,” “multi-trunk,” and “forest” (i.e. several trees in one container).
The crown jewel of the Bonsai Museum is a Japanese white pine that has been “under training” since 1625—a tree that is as old as the first colonial settlements in North America. This stunning example of bonsai was actually in Hiroshima in August, 1945, and survived the atomic bombing. It was planted and tended to by five generations of the Yamaki family before they donated it to the U.S.
3501 New York Ave., NE