Whether you’re a politics junkie, science geek, or just love books, these nerdy activities in Washington, D.C., are perfect for anyone who wants to explore the nation’s capital through an unconventional lens.
From the National Archives, where you can see the Bill of Rights, to a museum dedicated entirely to spies, here are some great things to do in D.C., that you might not have known about before! Enjoy our list broken down into the following activity types:
- Festivals & Live Events
- Tours & Classes
- Unique Museums & Exhibits
- Classic Washington DC
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide for Nerdy Travel Accessories
Festivals & Live Events
Science on Tap is a series of events that take place at bars all over the Washington DC area. The events are free and open to the public, so long as you’re 21+. The goal is to provide an opportunity for those interested in science to come together and share their passions with one another.
The show is often recorded in Washington DC where podcast enthusiasts can attend in person! Check the link above to see what is playing next.
Nerd Nite DC: Be There and Be Square
Nerd Nite DC is a monthly event where nerds get together to talk about cool science-y stuff. They’ll discuss topics ranging from the latest in neuroscience research to the role of women in science fiction. If you’re looking for an awesome way to meet other nerds and learn about something new, then this is it!
Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Shakespeare Theatre Company is a professional theatre company in Washington DC, founded in 1961 and performances have included Shakespeare’s plays since that time. The company performs at the Lansburgh Theatre, which it has owned since 1974. It’s a great way to get an introduction to some of the most famous works in English literature if you’re new to them or want a refresher course on their stories and characters.
If you’re ready for a challenge, the themed Project DC Bar Crawls are a fantastically nerdy way to spend an afternoon. The events are typically themed around nerdy topics (see examples here) and usually go from 2pm to 6pm, with each bar hosting its own games
Grab your snazziest space attire and head to the National Air and Space Museum for a special afternoon of activities celebrating all things space. Explore shuttle models, watch NASA videos, or even participate in an astronaut-themed science fair where you can try out different experiments with weights and forces! If you’re looking for something more hands-on, make sure to stop by and talk with astronauts from various missions about their experiences in space. This event is completely free for anyone over age 18 (which means infants are also welcome!) so whether you’re a fan of astronomy or just want to see what it looks like inside an airplane’s cockpit, this day is definitely not one to miss!
Also, don’t forget to visit the National Air & Space Museum! The collection includes more than 1,000 aircraft and missiles from around the world. Located near the U.S. Capitol, the museum houses exhibits that span from the Wright brothers’ first flight to modern space exploration technology by NASA astronauts like Neil Armstrong—who famously became the first man to walk on the moon during Apollo 11 mission (1969).
The National Math Festival is an annual event held in Washington, DC that celebrates math and its place in society. It’s a great opportunity to meet mathematicians, learn about math careers, see interesting demonstrations of the most complex problems solved by computers and humans alike, and have fun!
The festival kicks off with the Mathathon at the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) where students compete in a series of exciting math contests ranging from elementary school all the way up to graduate school level.
The festival continues with more than 80 events including lectures, workshops, competitions and hands-on activities for all ages—including some really cool stuff for kids like building your own drone or coding your own video game! And if you don’t feel like schlepping down there yourself? You can simply watch MoMath live stream everything on YouTube!
Tours & Classes
Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School is a burlesque-style drawing class that puts the focus on you, your body and your creativity. You’ll learn how to draw from a model and then get up on stage in front of a live audience to show off your work.
Dr Sketchy’s is about letting go of self-consciousness and just having fun with others who share a love for art, humor, booze and drawing (not necessarily in that order). It’s also an opportunity to meet new friends who share your interests; there are often people at Dr. Sketchy’s who are new to DC or don’t yet know many other people here!
DC by Foot is a walking tour company that offers a variety of tours. They’ve been in business since 2007, which means they’ve been around long enough to figure out what makes them stand out. Their tours include:
- Arlington Cemetery – Better understand America’s history through the eyes of her war heroes.
- Ghost Tours – Explore the darker side of DC’s neighborhoods.
- Lincoln Assignation – Journey back in time to experience the important events leading up to this historic assignation.
Over the past few years arcade bars have popped up all over Washington DC. In addition to the gaming offered at these locations, there are plenty of other things going on at each arcade bar that won’t cost any quarters or tokens. You could check out some live music or comedy shows!
Unique Museums & Exhibitions
The National Postal Museum has dozens of exhibits and artifacts, so it’s great to explore with kids. There are even some interactive displays that will keep them occupied while you learn about the history of mail delivery in the United States.
Located just a few blocks from the White House, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a fascinating place to visit. During your tour, you’ll learn how money is made and see their presses in action. You’ll also get to see the vault where US currency is stored before it goes into circulation.
This is one of those tours that’s perfect for anyone who loves history or wants to learn more about money in general (you can even take a class on it!). It’s also great for kids because they get an inside look at what goes into making our country’s bills.
If you’re a fan of espionage and intrigue, the International Spy Museum is sure to delight. The museum is located in downtown Washington DC and has become an iconic landmark for many tourists who visit the city.
The National Security Agency Museum is located in Fort Meade, Maryland and is open to the public. The Museum houses a number of historical artifacts from the history of NSA’s predecessor agencies: the Army Security Agency (ASA), Naval Security Group Command (NSGC), Air Force Security Service (AFSS), Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and Central Security Service (CSS).
Visitors can see items like a replica of the first radio receiver used by ASA during World War II; a large satellite dish used to receive signals from space; an authentic German Enigma machine on loan from Bletchley Park Museum; intercept equipment used during WWII which was manufactured by IBM; some of America’s oldest maps depicting North America; an original copy of George Washington’s farewell address into which he inserted some handwritten notes prior to delivery at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on December 4th 1796; uniforms worn by both United States presidents Dwight Eisenhower as well as John F Kennedy when they served in Army Intelligence units during World War II.
The Library of Congress might be the nation’s largest library, but the National Building Museum is a fascinating place to learn about architecture and urban planning. The museum has been around since 1887, when it was founded as the US Patent Office by architect Alexander Jackson Davis (who also designed Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia). Today it’s located across from the Federal Triangle metro stop and holds exhibitions on everything from historic preservation to modern architecture.
The building itself is a Beaux Arts masterpiece built in 1899 by John L. Smithmeyer and Louis Ayres, who were known for designing buildings like Georgetown University’s Healy Hall and Union Station (which now houses Capital Bikeshare). It has been designated as both a National Historic Landmark as well as an important part of America’s history because of its role as an office building that housed many important individuals during its lifetime—including Thomas Edison!
The museum was originally founded by Larry Gleason as International Intelligence Education Center (IIEC) in 1994 when he purchased his first collection of spy memorabilia at auction in New York City. He then moved IIEC to Rosslyn, Virginia where he began working on developing his own museum collection while also offering tours of people interested in learning more about espionage history. In 2002 it was decided that IIEC would move once again because its current location didn’t have enough space available for expansion—that same year it became known as The International Spy Museum!
The museum features a variety of exhibits that will keep any history buff or adventure seeker enthralled for hours on end!
The National Museum of Natural History’s Bone Hall is home to some of the largest and most beautiful bones in the world. Behold: an enormous cast-iron giraffe skeleton that towers over you, a blue whale skeleton, and even a full-body T. rex model (that you can walk through)! It’s a large room with a glass ceiling so that you can see all of these giant bones from above (and below).
The Bone Hall houses one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world—including some incredible casts like the museum’s giant Diplodocus carnegiei on display here. And if that weren’t enough, this exhibit is also host to some truly gigantic skeletons like their Utahraptor mummy specimen and their huge bull elephant skull!
Classic Washington DC
The Library of Congress is a great place to visit for a nerdy day out. You can see some of the most important documents from throughout American history, including The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and even the Gutenberg Bible.
It’s also home to an impressive collection of artifacts like Thomas Edison’s phonograph, which revolutionized sound recording in 1877. It was an important moment in history because it changed how we listen to music forever.
Take a tour of the highest constitutional court in the land, the Supreme Court! Visit during a live session during the week – see the schedule on the Today at the Court calendar on the website.
This Smithsonian museum is the place to go if you want to know more about American history. The National Museum of American History has a collection of over three million objects, including everything from a Thomas Jefferson letter to a Star Trek uniform. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts several temporary ones as well.
You’ve seen the Smithsonian Castle from the outside, but how much do you know about what goes on inside? If you’re looking for a unique way to experience DC after hours, book a private tour. The museum hosts these tours for groups of up to six people led by one of its curators.
Whether you’re a resident or just passing through, there’s something in this list for everyone. Now that we’ve shown you some of the best nerdy activities to do in DC, are you ready to plan your itinerary?
Did we miss anything in our list of nerdy things to do in Washington DC? What’s your favorite nerdy thing to do in DC? The next time you find yourself in town, be sure to add one of these to the top of your list!
So, what did you think? Did we miss anything in our list of nerdy things to do in Washington DC? What’s your favorite nerdy thing to do in DC? Let us know in the comments below.
What comes to mind when you think of Washington DC? For most people, it’s the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House—the traditional landmarks that define our nation’s capital. While there are many fantastic museums and attractions around town, I’m always looking for an offbeat angle to explore a destination from. That’s why I wanted to share my list of 12 things to do in Washington DC that are nerdy, but also fun!