Washington is, of course, known for monuments and memorials. On first glance, it may seem that the capital is all august institutions and grand marble edifices. But look more closely, and you’ll find some surprising, even downright strange, sights to behold. Here are some of our favorite odd-ball attractions.
PHOTO: Anacostia’s Big Chair, once the world's largest (Photo via Ted Eytan/Flickr, Creative Commons)
It appears that the nation’s seat of government nurtures an obsession with oversized furniture. Take, for example, the 14-foot Adirondack chair on the front lawn of Georgetown’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Built by students in 1996 for an art project on the National Mall, the green giant now inspires great thoughts and photo ops. 3500 R St. NW (grounds temporarily closed for renovation) An even bigger chair, once the world’s largest, presides over a street corner in Anacostia.
The 19.5-foot Duncan Phyfe replica was commissioned in 1959 by the Curtis Bros. Furniture Company, which had a showroom on the spot. In an inspired marketing move, the company then hired a model to live in a glass “house” constructed on the seat, complete with a shower, bed, TV and balcony. She lasted 42 days before deciding “to return to earth,” but the chair remains a local landmark. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and V St. SE
PHOTO: “The Awakening,” a climbable giant at National Harbor (Photo via Ron Cogswell/Flickr, Creative Commons)
"The Awakening" statue
At the water’s edge in National Harbor, a giant struggles mightily to surface from the sand. But visitors, rather than fleeing in fear, delight in climbing all over J. Seward Johnson’s aluminum artwork that stretches 72 feet across and 17 feet high. Brave little kids even sit inside the giant’s gaping mouth, frozen in mid-scream. 153 National Plaza, Oxon Hill, Md.
PHOTO: Old Town Alexandria's tiny blue house, built out of spite (Photo by Brooke Sabin)
The Spite House
The builder of this 1830 home in Old Town Alexandria wasn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, he constructed what may be the narrowest house in the country, at just 7 feet wide. The purpose? To keep loiterers from entering his alley, hence the name. The tiny abode has attracted considerable attention, even being featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” But the curious can’t go inside, because people actually live there. 523 Queen St., Alexandria, Va.
PHOTO: The naked mole-rat, whose skills trump looks. (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo)
At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, there are the impossibly adorable pandas, and then there’s the naked mole-rat. With pale wrinkly skin, buck teeth and almost invisible eyes, this species doesn’t win any beauty contests. But it has some amazing attributes. Not only can the 3-inch-long mammal reach a life span of 30 years (in an underground ant-like colony of up to, gulp, 300 individuals), but it’s an expert excavator with jaws strong enough to bite through concrete.
And while the naked mole-rat is no panda-level celebrity, it’s attracted a cult following. 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW “The Exorcist” steps Perhaps D.C.’s most genteel neighborhood, Georgetown also claims one of the city’s creepiest sights. Remember the 1973 horror flick in which Linda Blair’s head spins—all the way around? You’ll want to keep your head on straight, and your grip on the railing tight, when visiting the steep stone staircase where her character’s priest falls to his death. (The poor stunt double had to take the tumble twice). Between Prospect St. (at 36th St.) and Canal Rd. NW
This story was original written by Brooke Sabin for WhereTraveler.com.
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