Something that I’ve truly found joy in since COVID has been exploring the local places that can be found practically in my own back yard. When we were forced indoors and unable to travel in 2020 and into 2021, I, instead, took advantage of locating places near home that I never would have checked out otherwise. This is a strategy I’ve been attempting to apply to my everyday life now, too. When I have a free day, why not find a place nearby that I would love to explore and check it out? We can easily get the experience of travel in our own back yard, and it’s silly that by nature we tend to neglect the places near us. So, when I found myself in Washington DC this past month, I specifically wanted to put together a trip of bizarre and strange places in DC, having realized that I have only been to the mainstream monuments and places in the DC area (I mean, really, who doesn’t LOVE the Smithsonian’s. I could spend all day there and regularly have in my past). So, without further ado, here are a couple of uniquely weird finds I discovered on my recent adventure into Washington DC.
The Mansion on O Street
The Mansion on O Street is like nothing I have done before. It was bizarre, fun, mysterious, and wonderful. You can make a reservation for the night or just pay a small fee for a tour in the daytime. This wild structure spans 5 townhouses connected together as one large mansion, and they are all interconnected with hidden doors of varying shapes and sizes, each leading to another vibrantly exciting corridor of the house. Rosa Parks had a room at the Mansion where she lived for many years, and you can explore to find her room. There is a hidden wine cellar and Elvis room, a hidden Halloween corridor, a fashion alley, a cabin, and a variety of wildly eccentric and exciting places. There are 70 hidden doors (and hundreds of rooms) you can discover, some as tiny as a little peephole. While I can say that my door-finding game is pretty strong, there were still several I know that I missed out on.
What makes the mansion even more unique, aside from the fact that you can stay in some of the rooms, is the fact that it also works like a uniquely bizarre thrift store. There are items, clothing, and furniture spread throughout that are all for sale, so long as they are not a part of the house structure itself (like the toilets). So, you can get a unique vintage shopping experience out of your exploration. I can’t recommend this place enough, as it’s perfect for those who love vintage, who love the bizarre, and for those who frankly just love opening doors and exploring the unknown. And, of course, for those who love puzzles, too. If you’re into the strange, you can’t miss out on the Mansion on O Street.
The Catacombs of DC
Did you know that DC has Catacombs? How about the fact that these catacombs were designed to be a replica of the ones found in Rome? Well, you do now! In DC, there is a Franciscan Monastery known as the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America that offers free daily tours. The chapel itself is breathtakingly beautiful and worth the visit to see alone. With shining surfaces painted in a pseudo gold and a dispenser of holy water for any who want to take some to go (no, really… it has a dispenser of holy water), this beautiful church is worth the visit. However, with a guided tour, you are given access to the areas below the church which wind down and around in a way that mimics the catacombs of the Franciscan Monastery in Rome. The only difference is that here, there are no dead bodies in the catacombs, except for one of a small child enshrined for everyone to remember to pray for the children. It was supposedly built back in the day for people who were unable to take the trip to Rome, so they, too, could appreciate the holy catacombs.
The tour takes you through the winding catacombs and into the Purgatory room, which is adorned with beautiful mosaics all over the walls, mosaics that show death and resurrection. I will honestly say that I was entranced by the skeleton mosaics.
The tour is relatively quick, very informative, and most definitely worth a visit since it takes you down under the chapel into the replicated catacombs. And it’s all in Washington, DC. Who knew?
My list of weird things in Washington is still growing, but those two places alone can constitute a relatively full day of weird in DC. I’ll be sure to keep you posted for more, but for now, I hope you give the O Street Mansion and the Catacombs of DC a visit on your next adventure into the historic capital.