8 Places in DC That Should Have Landmark Status

From Ben’s Chili Bowl (obviously) to the best currently-operating carousel in the city

February 17, 2023 7:34 am
Kingman Island in Washington, D.C.
Kingman Island
Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty

There are more than 160 monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. There are 74 museums. There are thousands (hundreds of thousands? Millions? Billions?) of class field trips. There is no shortage of historic spots to visit. But landmarks are different. We have some work to do when it comes to landmarks. 

The following 10 locations, in our humble opinion, deserve landmark status. Or at least a visit whenever your friends from “real” America visit. None of these involve POTUS, Congress or the Supreme Court. 

Anacostia Park Roller Rink

The National Park Service runs one roller skating rink in America. It’s in Anacostia. And it’s free! So are the skate rentals! 

Ben’s Chili Bowl

This one is pretty much already a landmark but not including it would be offensive. Eating at Ben’s at Nats Park or in DCA or on H St. is fine, but you want to visit the flagship location on U Street. 


D.C. has a dinosaur. D.C. has a dinosaur? The Capitalsaurus dinosaur (really, that’s its name) was discovered in 1898 at the corner of First and F Streets, SE. The bones are currently housed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and in 1998 it was named the official dinosaur of the District of Columbia according to the Council of the District of Columbia. If you’re walking down F St. SE you may notice the Capitalsaurus Court honorary street marker and “Capitalsaurus Chasing a Falcarius” red cutout sign. It may not be a landmark worth searching out, but if you’re already driving to a Nats game and don’t mind walking a few blocks, it’s a great place to park.

The Exorcist Steps/Transformers Statues

One of these Georgetown locales is already iconic. The other one consists of giant Transformer sculptures the neighbors aren’t too happy about. The Exorcist steps were officially recognized as a D.C. landmark in 2015. The neighbors of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee have been attempting to make the homeowner bring his toys inside since January 2021. Start at the stairs and walk north to the Transformers. Take in all of Georgetown. Some of it is classic, some of it is an eyesore. It’s D.C. 

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Gravelly Point

OK, this one is in Virginia, but it’s barely Virginia. You’re going for the view and to experience planes landing at DCA. If you’re looking for an outdoor destination to re-enact Wayne and Garth talking about whether or not Bugs Bunny is hot when he dresses up like a girl, here’s your spot. Also, this is a prime July 4th fireworks viewing spot. 

Kingman Island

The last decade has been good for Kingman Island. The once-overlooked expanse of land near RFK Stadium is now home to rare ecosystems and more than 100 different types of birds, mammals and other wildlife. It can get pretty busy with active locals when the weather is nice, which should impress your visitors. Also, you can access it from the DC Streetcar. Your visiting friend will want to ride one of those. 

Smithsonian National Zoo Carousel

There are two pretty neat carousels in Washington, D.C. One is on the National Mall, in front of the Hirshhorn and Smithsonian Castle. It’s temporarily closed. The other is doing quite well. The solar-powered Speedwell Conservation Carousel celebrated 10 years in 2022 and looks almost as good as when it first spun around in circles. Good for kids (obviously) and good for dates, the wooden carousel has an old-timey feel with none of the old-timey breakdowns. 

Walter Reed

Walter Reed was once the Walter Reed Army Medical Facility. From 1909 to 2011, it was where soldiers went to heal. Now Walter Reed is in the midst of a massive redevelopment. For better or worse, it’s going to be the next big up-and-coming neighborhood in D.C. Hundreds of high-end condos and a Whole Foods are coming. But the Great Lawn is staying, and that’s why it’s on this list. It’s a respite on an otherwise busy Georgia Ave. Take a date to an outdoor movie. Take the family to Down in the Reeds music festival. Get there before the rest of the city realizes it’s now open to the public. 


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