If you’re in town for the Cable Show, welcome. You’re just over the river for CableFAX’s Rockville HQ. While there will be plenty of widgets to see on the show floor as well as celebrity photo ops, sometimes you just need a break from the stale convention center air and fluorescent lighting. And what better place to deliver than our nation’s capital? I’ll assume you know all about the monuments and the Smithsonian museums, and will instead point you to some attractions off the beaten path and not too far from the convention center.
- Wok and Roll, 604 H. St NW (between 6th & 7th St). I’m not sending you here for the Chinese/sushi, but for the piece of history the building offers. The restaurant is located in what remains of Mary Surratt’s boarding house, the site for meetings between conspirators to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Surratt was convinced for taking part in the conspiracy and hanged, making her the 1st woman executed by the federal government. It’s about a five-minute walk from the Convention Center (and it allows you to check out Chinatown, too).
- Temperance Fountain, 7th and Pennsylvania Ave NW. The Cable Show involves lots of open bars and late nights. So, if you wake feeling a little hungover, maybe you should take a few moments to reflect on this small statue donated in the late 1800s by dentist Henry Cogswell. Cogswell was an activist for the temperance movement, who erected several of these fountains in the US, including in Tompkins Square Park in NY. The idea was to encourage people to turn to water instead of alcohol.
- Madam’s Organ, 2461 18th St. NW.After you’ve had enough temperance, head over to the city’s landmark blues bar, especially if you’re a ginger. Redheads always get to drink half price Rolling Rocks. Live music is offered 7 nights a week.
- Summerhouse, Capitol Grounds. If you make a trip to the Capitol Building, look for a hexagon- shaped brick structure on the West lawn—especially if it’s a hot day and you want some shade. That was the whole reason landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed it. The fountain in the center originally provided piped in drinking water. It’s an interesting grotto that just doesn’t quite fit in. I turned to my high school US history teacher for help with this one. He may know more about Washington, D.C., than the president. “There were two issues that came up [with Summerhouse]. The first was did it intrude on the natural lay of the Capitol grounds, and second would it be used for immoral purposes, those who wanted to join the 1870s equivalent of the mile high club. [Now do you see why he was one of my favorite teachers?] Therefore Olmstead designed it to be open and airy,” he said. “The site was also a midnight meeting place for Woodward and Bernstein and their Watergate source Deep Throat.” Want more Watergate sites? Head to the Arlington parking garage (N. Nash and Wilson) where Deep Throat, Mark Felt, rendezvoused with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
- National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave, NW. You’ll need to cab it here, but it’s worth it if you have a couple of hours to spare. First thing you’ll notice is that there is construction underway. That’s due to a 5.8 earthquake that hit nearly 2 years and broke finials and stressed flying buttresses. You can see video of the quake shaking the massive cathedral here. Despite the damage, the beautiful grounds and Gothic Cathedral are open for visitors. A favorite activity is spotting the hippie gargoyle and Darth Vader grotesque carved into the building. You can download a self-guided gargoyle tour here.