Something different to visit for locals and tourists alike

It’s a common question from both tourists and friends – what’s something different to see in town?

It’s a question I find as wide open as the ocean and as difficult to cross.

A few questions come first by me. Inside or out? Walking long or short? Artsy or not?

I don’t live downtown so I don’t know the best corner coffee shop, small bookstore or boutique with the coolest things. I specialize in big monuments and great stories of the city stretching from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery.

But it’s a question that bugs me because I should know the answer. For now, here’s one I recently recommended: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery of the Donald W. Reynolds Center.

If you like paintings and artwork, this is the place. Personally, I was never into it until my kids were in college and we visited art museums in Philadelphia (yes, I ran the steps and saw the Rocky statue) and Chicago plus the ones in Washington. Suddenly, I could see why people sit and stare at the paintings.

I like the massive ones that dominate a wall. Makes you feel like you can walk into them. Seeing the work of real famous painters like Leonardo Di Vince, Rembrandt and Van Gogh’s work is pretty cool, too.

These two buildings are connected by a really cool dome to create an atrium where you can also grab a bite to eat. One side contains portraits. Right now there’s a section of every president. The other side has a wide range of paintings and sculptures.

The museum is free and open until 7 p.m. You can spend 30 minutes or half a day. It’s one block from Verizon Center at 8th and F Sts. N.W.

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