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all photos and words: Austin Graff, whose great eye and love for this city we have LONG admired on social media.

(editor’s note: this is part 3 in our loosely themed COVID photo essay series – if you would like to submit a photo essay, please email us at [email protected])

“Finish exploring all 131 neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.” is what I wrote in my journal as a 2020 goal. I thought my vision for the year was bucked when COVID-19 hit, but in the end, the goal was accelerated. My normally packed schedule was now free giving me the space to safely explore. It also slowed me down encouraging me to really see a neighborhood and its hidden corners and alleys. Since the shutdown, masked and keeping a distance, I explore a different neighborhood in Washington, D.C. every day with either my toddler daughter or while on a run. Here are a few of my finds.

Since 1953, family-owned Mangialardo’s Deli has served Capitol Hill one of the best subs in the city. It’s open until 3 PM weekdays only. During the shutdown, they serve their entire menu, including their famous “‘G’ Man Sub,” for delivery or safe pick-up.

D.C. alleys hold many secrets. You never know what you’ll find- a coffee shop, street art, an art studio. Several Hill East’s alleys have small rowhouses. This one is every Texan’s dream, and it’s even more quirky inside. It’s currently for sale, which means you can snoop through photos on Redfin.

If Rock Creek Park is overcrowded, there’s more space on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. With 12 miles of paved trails, runners and joggers pass through industrial bridges along the Anacostia River and it can be done at a safe distance.

Leisurely walks through neighborhoods show off Washington, D.C.’s beautiful architecture. If you’re into beautiful homes and vintage cars, stroll through neighborhoods in Southeast D.C. like Dupont Park pictured here.

Before there was Instagram, murals existed in Southwest Waterfront. As development happens in the area, old murals can be found behind construction sites, hidden in parks, and down alleys. This mural reminding the world of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is behind the King Greenleaf Recreation Center.

Before Kate Winslet trademarked the famous arms-outstretched-looking-out-into-the-water pose in the famous 1997 Titanic movie, there was this 1931 Titanic Memorial honoring the men who gave their lives to save the women and children onboard the Titanic. Originally located along the Potomac River where the Kennedy Center was built, this memorial was moved to Southwest Waterfront in 1968. It’s designed by the same architect behind the Lincoln Memorial.

Just miles from this house in Langdon, they discovered the country’s first astrodon dinosaur fossils inspiring this eye-catching mural playing off the famous movie Jurassic Park. If you meet its owner, he’ll tell you also behind his house was the city’s first Catholic Church- Queen’s Chapel. It was the only church to burn down in three wars- the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

D.C.’s skating parks prove that the city is more than government buildings and suits. Northeast’s Langdon neighborhood makes the point the best. Behind the Langdon Park Recreation Center is a deep, graffiti-covered skating park that skaters frequent during normal times.

Lesser known than the murals along U Street Northwest, but just as powerful is the street art East of the River. Along Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue Northeast in Deanwood is a long mural by Jerome Johnson and a variety of local artists depicting how African Americans have impacted history.

This mural just north of H Street Northeast in Trinidad couldn’t be more relevant. It’s painted on the storefront side of Capital Fringe, an arts non-profit that puts on the annual Capital Fringe Festival.

For 34 years, this kiosk was D.C.’s smallest library and one of the tiniest in the country. It opened in 1976 and somehow carried 5,000 books in 120-square-feet. With no plumbing or no technology, the librarian kept track of books on a piece of paper. It closed in 2008, but the structure remains on the border of Deanwood and Central Northeast.

The backdrop of an auto body shop in the Central Northeast neighborhood happens to also be a bright mural by an artist Candice Taylor, who grew up a few blocks away. The mural adds color to everyday life.

In a neighborhood almost entirely surrounded by Rock Creek Park is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. During normal times, the cathedral hosts the annual Russian Bazaar with cathedral tours, live music, a craft market, and Russian food like borscht.

Just north of the Palisades in Northwest D.C. is a tiny community called Kent. It’s the kind of place where everyone you pass greets you. Near a small Episcopal Church is this mural painted on a garage door.

On the property of an estate built in 1912 is a private international school and a public conservancy with six trails, plenty of benches, and a lily pond with goldfish. If you do it safely, it’s still open to wander.

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We hope this inspired you to go and explore this city (safely). Follow Austin on instagram at @austinkgraff

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