Explore Washington D.C. like Ben Gates in 'National Treasure'


National Treasure, the amazing Disney masterpiece in 2004, made history cool again. Starring the affable Nic Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, this movie combines treasure hunting, code-breaking and American history. If you haven't watched it yet (or just want to do it anyway), hop on your Netflix account and start streaming. Done watching? Good.

Now, get in the car, head to D.C. and have your own adventure a la Ben Gates.

1. Start at the National Archives

National Archives
Tom Williams via Getty Images

Step one: Steal the Declaration of Independence. Just kidding, please don't do that. Instead, head over to the National Archives and take a look at the high security and faded piece of paper our nation was founded on.

2. Buy your own declaration
Pick up a souvenir of the declaration at the archives' gift store. This piece of parchment is central to unlocking the map, and now you can buy your own and take it home and hold these truths to be self-evident.

3. Go on a bus tour
Nobody is as big of a know-it-all as Nic Cage's Ben Gates. Since we don't all have the privilege of traveling with a walking history book, take a tour of Washington, D.C. by open top bus. You'll learn all the quick-hit facts to inform (bore) other people during your adventures.

4. Visit the White House
The White House
Gary Blakeley/Getty

In the second movie, Ben Gates spends some time in the Oval Office. While you might not have that privilege, make sure to take a picture in front of the gate, perhaps while pretending to study the back of your Declaration.

5. Lay on the National Mall
The National Mall is the background of many a National Treasure scene. Lay on the lawn and embrace the fact this is its own national treasure (see what I did there?).

6. Look up the Library of Congress
In the movies, Riley Poole takes Ben Gates to the Library of Congress to prove the Declaration of Independence cannot be stolen — spoiler, it can be. Take your own visit to the largest library in the world and marvel at the architecture. Fun fact: There are 883 miles of shelving, so make sure to get your steps

7. Sight-see at the Jefferson Memorial
Once Ben Gates finds the pipe in the opening scenes, you'll see this iconic memorial in the film. Head over to the Jefferson for a quick photoshoot, then rent a pedal boat and explore the basin.

8. Gawk at the FBI Building
In the movie, the FBI is not a fan of Gates' story of treasure and riches. The J Edgar Hoover building is a must-see on your own National Treasure trip. It takes a month's notice to book a tour, but just taking a selfie out front is good enough if you're having a spontaneous adventure.

9. Stroll the Georgetown waterfront
Debbie Allen's 'Freeze Frame' Debuts At Kennedy CenterGetty

In the movie, Gates dives into the Hudson to avoid capture. I'm not going to suggest a dip in the Potomac. Just walk along the water and enjoy the views. Or, for the very adventurous, head to the boathouse or some stand-up paddleboarding.

10. Shopping Spree in Georgetown
When on the run, you need a quick change of clothes. Head to Georgetown for some new threads. In the movie, Abigail and Ben head into an Urban Outfitters, which is an option in Georgetown, but don't limit yourself. Pick out a fun new outfit and take it home as a treasure.

11. Gaze at the Portrait Gallery
The portrait of George Washington is called "National Treasure" in this historic museum. While not in the movie, it's important to stop by this museum and take in some of our nation's history, which was apparently part of the point of this movie — learning something.

12. Learn at the Air and Space Museum
In the movie, our affable characters visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum. Improvise and visit the National Air and Space Museum. Gather a few facts about how to travel this great nation and pick up some space ice cream to replenish after all of the treasure hunting.

13. Gather secrets at the Scottish Masonic Temple
In the movie, the Masons play a large role in hiding the treasure. However, this secret society is pretty hard to pin down, given the whole "secret" part of their name. Take a tour at the Scottish Rite freemasonry temple on 17th for the next best thing.

14. Treasure hunt at an antique shop
The Gates family was obsessed with antiques and history. Hunt for your own treasure at Miss Pixie's, you'll be sure to find some great, one-of-a-kind furniture. New stuff arrives each Wednesday.

15. Dress up for a fancy night out
Ben's in to the National Archives was a gala. We don't all have the luxury of gate crashing or faking invitations to rub elbows with Washington's rich and famous. Instead, head to a show at the Kennedy Center in your best dress.

16. Follow the clues while geo-caching
Though not limited to D.C., geo-caching is a great way to have a modern treasure hunt. Leave behind tidbits and find out what others left before you.

17. Compete in a Smithsonian scavenger hunt
Join a real-life scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian. These fun and free adventures will test your knowledge and I Spy skills. Sign up online for this adults-only fun.

18. Bring Hollywood to Mt. Vernon
Mount Vernon, VirginiaJason Maehl/Getty

Mt. Vernon makes an appearance in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. The estate, just outside of D.C., capitalizes on this with a guided behind-the-scenes National Treasure tours. The walking tour combines Hollywood and History and is offered daily in March through December for $7.

19. Test your skills at the International Spy Museum
I know, technically Ben Gates wasn't a spy. However, he engaged in enough espionage that he would have appreciated this museum. Riley would have enjoyed all the old gadgets and dead drops you'll learn about. Additionally, you will get an alias to test your own spy skills while there.

20. Lay it all on the line in an escape room
Finally, test all your skills with a challenge at the Georgetown Escape Room. These vogue rooms are eight to ten players. Pick from adventures like Friday the 13th, Titanic, Ghostbusters and Curse of the Mummy and see if you can decode the ciphers and escape the room.

Kirsten Ballard has lived in D.C. for the past two years, she works at a newspaper association and spends her weekends running and eating her way through the city.