In just over 72 hours, discovery-themed website Atlas Obscura will hold its fifth day of expeditions across 26 countries—including 10 events in the D.C. area designed to “surprise, delight, and amaze” participants.
The daylong “celebration” of events, known as Obscura Day, runs the gamut of historic places, nature trips, and tastings, among others. Locally, six events will take place in the District, three in Virginia, and one in Silver Spring. Among the D.C. events are “Legends of the Octagon House,” “Twilight at Tudor Place,” and a tour of the Congressional Cemetery’s dedicated LGBTQ section. Each is ticketed, and time and capacity vary.
“We started Obscura Day in 2010, and it ran in 2011, 2012, 2015, and now 2016,” explains site co-founder Dylan Thuras. “We really aim to just get people out to explore their own backyards. It’s always amazing what has been there all along and you just didn’t know it was there.”
Matt Blitz, Atlas Obscura’s head of D.C.-area events, says this year’s events have doubled as compared to those in 2015, with more people and organizations involved. In identifying venues, Blitz adds that he and his team wanted to incorporate a mix of local communities, across big and small institutions. The D.C.-area events will span 13 hours and accommodate between 15 and 80 people each, he explains. As of late Monday afternoon, a handful had already sold out, but Blitz notes Atlas Obscura hosts a couple events every month.
One event Blitz says he’s particularly excited for is a tour of Harry Houdini‘s experience in D.C. On top of performing in the District, Houdini even testified before Congress on spiritualism and criticized fortune tellers he claimed took advantage of people, Blitz explains. Participants in this event will get treated to a magic show and picnic in Farragut Park, which includes cherry pie—apparently one of Houdini’s favorites.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what Harry Houdini did in D.C., but he was also very political in terms of the things that he denounced,” Blitz says. He adds that although tickets for each of the events aren’t free, part of the proceeds will go towards donations and honorariums to the institutions sponsoring them. “We want to bring attention to some of these smaller places that are lacking attention and funds,” Blitz explains.
“The guiding principal is that there’s some hidden wonder from you around the corner no matter where you are,” he notes. “You don’t have to go to Paris. It’s hidden and wondrous and for the curious-minded.”
You can see the complete list and a map of Saturday’s local events here.
Screenshot via Atlas Obscura