50 Ways to Take Your DC Summer to the Next Level
So the cherry blossoms have gone, and you’ve taken that 50th selfie in front of the Washington Monument, but fear not; DC is a treasure trove of awesome things to do right now. No matter how well your summer is going, you can make infinitely better with our list of everything you absolutely must check out in this fine city, from cracking crabs on the water’s edge to trapeze lessons. You haven’t been there or done these. Trust.
1. Dine like a Bedouin in the backyard tent at Compass Rose; plush pillows and more plates of internationally-inspired street food than anyone could ever finish.
2. Snag a reservation in Rose’s Luxury’s exclusive enclosed roof garden, where family-style platters by Chef Aaron Silverman will keep all inter-crew arguing to a minimum.
3. Step 1: Get a bushel of crabs at Maine Avenue Fish Market. Step 2: Take those crabs a short distance to the banks of the Washington Channel. Step 3: Sit down, get to crackin’, get real messy, and feast.
4. Or, have Cappy’s Crabs do all the work for you. The new tenant of the space that used to house Crane & Turtle, Cappy’s is as close as you’ll get to an authentic Maryland crab shack. A dozen hard shells and a bucket of something to go with it sets everything right.
5. Spread out in the back patio area of Iron Gate, one of DC’s most gorgeous restaurants. Summer nights, hot as they may be, are always better when you’re surrounded by crawling ivy and lanterns.
6. Try real-deal Northeastern Thai food at Little Serow. Sure, you’ll have to get in line at 4:30 pm to make that first seating, but it’s summer… don’t pretend like you weren’t all ducking out early from work anyway.
7. Wander around Union Market, eating everything in sight. A Lox’d and Loaded Bloody Mary crowned with a fresh-baked bagel and smoked salmon from Buffalo & Bergen? Sure. Empanadas, fresh oysters, a dosa, Korean tacos, and fish and chips? Yeah, all that, too.
8. Have an indoor campfire session at Bonfire. Indulge in a Campfire Skillet (Hazelnut chocolate, marshmallow, and a homemade graham cracker) or one of their house made S’mores.
9. Make the trip to Eden Center for an all-day nosh session on Banh mi, noodles, rocket-fueled Vietnamese coffees, and fried tofu -- just to start.
10. Once a month, over a dozen food trucks congregate at DC’s Fairgrounds by Nationals Park for Truckeroo. Mobile vendors sling everything from lobster rolls to crêpes to frozen custards.
11. Drinking outdoors is the summerest thing you can do in summer. Good thing DC is now packed with places to do it: make time for Biergarten Haus on H St. NE; Neal Place Tap and Garden by Union Market; Canteen in West End; Dacha in Shaw; Bardo on Bladensburg Road; and Wunder Garten in NoMa.
12. Midwesterners can get a taste of home at Shaw’s Ivy & Coney. Even better, the Detroit and Chicago-themed bar now has an open-air back patio area, doubling the space of the old bar and letting in that precious, precious sunshine. Just remember: NO KETCHUP ON THE HOT DOGS.
13. Get to know DC better! First, do a mini crawl of 14th St. NW -- can’t miss spots include Churchkey, home to one of DC’s most extensive beer selections; 2 Birds, 1 Stone; Left Door; and the Gibson, all of which dish out incredible cocktails.
14. Next up: a mini crawl of H St. NE. Stops include Boundary Road; Le Grenier; Copycat Co. (where you’ll be served by a Barmini alum); Church & State for a gloomy, hidden vibe; and The Pug for a no-frills end to the night.
15. Finally, do a mini crawl around Nationals Park after (or before, no judgment) a Nats game. Start at the Bullpen, try beers you’ve never even heard of at Bluejacket, take in a real sports bar experience at The Big Stick, then end the night chatting up locals at Justin’s Cafe.
17. Roll up to Ivy City and tour the distilleries (New Columbia, One Eight) and breweries (Atlas Brew Works, DC Brau), then head to lunch at Ivy City Smokehouse for some peel and eat shrimp to help soak up all those free “tastes.”
18. Snag some drinks at the recently reopened Columbia Room. Choose your own adventure at the gorgeous new iteration of this DC landmark: a reservations-only cocktail tasting menu, or carefully crafted punches and bottled cocktails in the outdoor Punch Garden.
19. Get your kitsch on at Archipelago. Multiple floors house all kinds of outlandish (in a good way) tiki bar decorations. Ease off the flip-flops, order a drink that’s served in a whole pineapple, and enjoy.
20. Know what makes DC’s gorgeous skyline look even better? Seeing it from one of the city’s rooftop bars. Best of the best is POV, the W Washington Hotel’s iconic rooftop lounge, but trust us, you’ve got a LOT of options.
21. Charlottesville, Virginia has something for everyone. Love wine? You’re right in the center of some of Virginia’s best wineries, with over 30 to choose from in the surrounding area. History buff? Visit Monticello and tour the historic UVA campus. Feeling touristy? Walk one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country in downtown Charlottesville, peppered with numerous bars, restaurants, shops, and music venues.
22. Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake is the place to go for your water sports fix. Rent a boat (great for water skiing and wake boarding) or jet skis, or take it up a notch with their legendary white water rapids adventures.
23. A short drive from DC and an easy place to spend a weekend, National Harbor offers fresh oysters, gorgeous views of the Potomac River, and, best of all, rides on an enormous ferris wheel. Get started with a boat ride, then end up at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar.
24. Less than an hour away from DC, Annapolis offers boats for days, the gravitas of the United States Naval Academy, and good eats. Grab a pizza on the deck at Vin909, then check out some bars around the Main Street traffic circle.
25. St. Michaels, Maryland boasts a ton of summer fun like sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, shopping, biking and a great brewery, Eastern Shore Brewing -- which hosts live music every Saturday afternoon.
26. Turn a beach day into a weekend trip at the Delaware beaches. You have your pick of Dewey, Bethany or Rehoboth beaches, and each has its own vibe, whether it’s partying like it’s 1999, finding a place to chill with friends, or something in between.
27. Pack a tent and some hiking boots, and get ready for a waterfall weekend. Great Falls happens to be a great start, but don’t sleep on Gunpowder Falls State Park or Dark Hollow Falls and South River Falls, both conveniently located in Shenandoah National Park. We would say no skinny dipping, but really, no judgment.
28. Hit Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to float down a lazy river with a cooler full of something on a hot day. Take it a step further by joining one of the tours that paddle to the award-winning Bloomery Plantation Distillery.
29. Spend a weekend in Baltimore, DC’s northern neighbor. Our picks? Drinks and a bite at Inner Harbor, an Orioles game, and wandering the soon-to-be-completed R.House food market.
30. Get yourselves to Staunton, Virginia. Chef Ian Boden’s restaurant, The Shack, is worth a trip on its own, but throw in a $10 round of “foot golf” (it’s exactly what it sounds like) and your weekend is made.
Because summer without a little heat would be pretty boring. Add even more spice to your plans by escaping with Jack Fire, a red-hot blend of cinnamon liqueur and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
31. You can’t spend a summer in DC without hitting up at least one Washington Nationals game. Sunshine, a division leader, and, last but not least, a handy guide to pre and post-gaming around the ballpark.
32. The National Mall is legit incredible. Start at the U.S. Capitol, hit the American and Natural History Museums, take in the Washington, World War II, and Lincoln Monuments, then wander over to the Tidal Basin and pull off the FDR, MLK, and Jefferson Monument trifecta.
33. Bored with your typical Washington 9 to 5? Consider a new career path and take some trapeze lessons! $58 gets you a two-hour flying session.
34. DC’s football team has a long and storied history. Check out their first home preseason game to see if Washington can keep the momentum going from last year. Kickoff against the New York Jets is at 7:30 pm at FedEx Field.
35. Did we mention that summer in DC is hot? The perfect cure is, of course, lazing by the pool. Top picks are the newly renovated Liaison Capitol Hill or the Capitol Skyline Pool.
36. For outdoor beauty with a side of hiking, check out the Billy Goat Trail. The climb itself is not overly strenuous, and you’re rewarded with some of the best nature views in and around DC.
37. Round up a crew of thrill seekers and make your way to King’s Dominion. A morning drive south of DC, it’s home to the Intimidator 305, one of the scariest roller coasters in America. No big deal.
38. Rock Creek Park is huge, gorgeous, and right here. When you’re done geeking out over the park’s 32 hiking trails, there’s also tennis, golf, aquatic activities, and horseback riding.
39. Go kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on the Anacostia River and say hi to some native wildlife like beavers, eagles, 188 different species of birds, and nearly 50 species of fish.
40. Take a sunset party cruise on the Potomac River. Boomerang Boat Tours offers party boats with fully stocked bars. Sip a cocktail while watching the sun set over the monuments.
41. Nothing beats watching a movie outside on a warm night, comfy seats be damned. The Screen on the Green events, sponsored by HBO, start every Monday night at dusk, but get to the Mall early to stake out your spot. We’ll be at the screening of Back to the Future on August 10th.
42. You’ve probably been to Union Market before. BUT, did you know that Union Market hosts drive-in movies on its outside wall? Catch Ratatouille on August 5th or Grease on September 2nd.
43. Go country for a day at the Loudon County Fair in Leesburg, Virginia. Where else can you eat all kinds of gross/delicious fried foods, pet a baby calf, participate in a livestock auction, watch a hay bale toss (that’s a real thing), and see a PBR event? (That’s Professional Bull Riding, for you squares.)
44. Take the metro south and wander around beautiful Old Town Alexandria. Restaurants, bars, and shops line both sides of King St., which is pretty cool considering it was originally laid out in 1749.
45. The National Zoo’s Brew at the Zoo features beers from more than 70 craft breweries, live entertainment by local band The Reagan Years, lawn games, and animal demonstrations. Plus, proceeds from the event benefit the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in its mission to save species.
46. Go listen to a legend when Paul McCartney comes to the Verizon Center in DC. Will tickets be cheap? Nope. Will it be an incredible experience? Yup.
47. Visit the ICEBERGS exhibit in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum. First it was an enormous ball pit; now it’s a winter wonderland, with icebergs built from reusable construction materials.
48. See a show at Wolf Trap -- sure, it’s not as well known as, say, the 9:30 Club, but its status as the first national park for the performing arts and its seating capacity of 7,000 make it a vital part of the DC music scene.
49. Laugh your ass off at DC Improv. The open mic nights are epic (sometimes great, sometimes… not so great), but August and September are packed with big-name headliners.
50. Take a date to Jazz in the Garden, which takes place in the Sculpture Garden on the grounds of the National Gallery of Art every Friday evening this summer from 5:30pm - 8:30pm.