Of course, busy in a good way. Hundreds upon hundreds of scientific sessions on every imaginable public health topic, a plethora of networking opportunities, social gatherings every night, award ceremonies, famous guest speakers, chances to check out a public health school or even find your dream job. There is enough going on at the upcoming 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., to fill up a month in your day planner — and yet we have to fit it all into barely four days. It’s a tight squeeze.
So, needless to say, the APHA Annual Meeting doesn’t leave a person much free time. But, if you do find yourself with some time to spare and a nagging feeling to go exploring, you’re in the right city. The nation’s capital is bursting with things to do, stuff to see, places to eat and an easy-to-use public transit system that gets you where you’re going.
Culture, culture everywhere
When it comes to culture in D.C., one word usually comes to mind: Smithsonian. The next two words are “free admission.”
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum complex and research organization and if you have a chance to check out just one or two museums while in D.C., it’s definitely worth the trip. Probably the easiest museum to get to from the meeting is the recently renovated National Portrait Gallery, which is just a few blocks from the Washington Convention Center. Temporary exhibits on display during the APHA Annual Meeting include “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits” and “Legacy: Spain and the United States in the Age of Independence, 1763-1848.”
If you have time to venture further away, you can walk among dinosaurs at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, gaze up at early aircrafts at the Air and Space Museum or immerse yourself in America’s first cultures at the National Museum of the American Indian. Visit the Smithsonian for a full listing of attractions.
Besides the Smithsonian, the city is full of historical sights, from the Lincoln Memorial (which is quite impressive at night) to the National Archives (yep, it’s the real Constitution) to the many memorials that help keep our past in the present. The city is also home to lesser-known galleries and museums, such as the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences, which is just a short walk from the convention center at the corner of 6th and E streets, NW.
The Annual Meeting might not leave a lot of time for sightseeing, but everyone has to eat.
There is so much delicious and interesting food in D.C., you could travel around the world in just a few days: stuffed Malaysian lotus root on Sunday, West African okra soup on Monday, a table full of Spanish tapas on Tuesday, and hot El Salvadoran pupusas on Wednesday. (If none of this sounds familiar, that’s all part of the fun of D.C. dining. And stuffed lotus root is really much tastier than it sounds.)
To help map out your culinary travels, visit this online restaurant guide. You can also visit the APHA Annual Meeting site for a list of D.C. restaurants that employ environmentally friendly, sustainable practices.
Big city, small town
Beyond the famous monuments, tourist-filled museums and political wranglings of Congress, D.C. is home to a diverse patchwork of vibrant neighborhoods, each with their own flavor and feel. So, if you’re still not tired after a full day of scientific sessions, grab a D.C. Metro map and go wander.
Closest to the Washington Convention Center is D.C.’s Chinatown, which during the past few years has undergone a total transformation. Along with grabbing an authentic Chinese dinner, visitors can shop new stores, check out new restaurants, take in a show at the new movie theater or even go to the bowling alley.
Outside of Chinatown, there’s the bustling nightlife of Adams Morgan, late-night coffee talk in Dupont Circle, shopping, shopping and more shopping in Georgetown, Ethiopian delicacies and D.C.’s native food, the half-smoke sausage, in U Street-Cardozo, and political chit-chat on Capitol Hill.
For more help in filling up your spare time — if you have any —visit the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism site.