(This is a guest post by Ryan Tyson.)

Washington D.C., also known as D.C. or the District of Columbia, is more than the capital of the United States. It’s also home to many parks, monuments, museums, and even farms. D.C. has a unique culture that’s borne of its centuries-long existence, being the seat of US democracy as we know it, and a gathering point for all things American. Following are three places you need to visit in order to get the full flavor of D.C. culture and gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to live in such a diverse district.

The Brewmaster’s Castle

Brewmaster's Castle a.k.a. Heurich House Museum (Washington D.C. culture)

Image by Rory Finneren. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

Also known as the Heurich House Museum, this grand dame on the Dupont Circle was once home to Christian Heurich, who operated the Chr. Heurich Brewing Company. What makes the Heurich House so special is the fact that it’s the only home from the Gilded Age that’s still intact. In other words, it has its original furnishings, layouts, built-ins, and ornamental details. The only update to the mansion that’s obvious is the kitchen, which dates back to 1939. There are other mansions-turned-museums in D.C. and a city guide can help you determine if you should make it a point to visit them now, or come back on a future trip.

Smithsonian Institution: Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History is a must-see, especially if you like to look at gemstones. This museum is where the Hope Diamond resides and you can see it on display in all its glory. The diamond itself has a bit of a checkered history and some say it is cursed. But never let a good story get in the way of the truth! The diamond itself has rested in the museum for decades and has yet to cause any trouble.

The museum focuses on the world around us and features exhibits like fossils, nature photography, and even a butterfly pavilion where visitors can interact with the delicate creatures. This is a stop worth making.

Rock Creek Park

This 1,754-acre park in the city is located in the northwest section of D.C. It was created in 1890 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and John Charles Olmsted. The park is home to buildings from different time periods that are now used as museums. You can admire its beauty on foot, on a bike, or even on horseback.

If you want to take a leisurely ride on the trails on the back of a horse, you can sign up at Rock Creek Horse Center south of Military Road, or go to Meadowbrook Stables near Chevy Chase and the District Line. Trail rides last approximately an hour and are guided.

D.C. has more to offer than the usual stops at the seat of government. Go to the parks, visit the monuments, find historical sites, and check out the local fare. You’ll come away richer for the experience and have a deeper understanding of what life is like in this busy district.

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