Travel

Actually Cool Things To Do in Washington DC During Quarantine

There are still so many options.

We get it. You’re probably beyond tired of hearing about how we’re living in unprecedented times. You may also be tired of rewatching Netflix specials and attempts at baking bread from scratch. The silver lining? All that time spent at home is helping to flatten the curve, which means the more of us that stay indoors and live cautiously now, the sooner we’ll all feel safe once the city is reopened for business.

While some states may be lifting restrictions, the nation's capital isn't opening up any time soon. Governors of neighboring states Virginia and Maryland have recently hinted that they’re moving toward an initial reopening as early as mid-May, while Mayor Muriel Bowser isn’t settling on any particular date just yet, saying that she’s looking at “several things before we enter Phase One of reopening.”

So, we’re stuck inside for now, but all hope for more enjoyable spring activities are far from lost. From digital comedy nights to ways that you can seriously elevate your indoor gardening game, here are some actually cool things to do in DC right now.

Take a virtual tour of the National Gallery of Art

Free
The Smithsonian Institution might still be closed for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate its collections from afar. Tour the National Gallery of Art from your sofa with its True to Nature Virtual Tour, which allows you to explore each room of the exhibition True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe. You can zoom in to read wall texts, view super high-resolution photos of the artwork, and read artists biographies. 

Learn about history the fun way with Profs and Pints

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These talks are nothing like the snooze-inducing lessons you sat through in school. Profs and Pints brings renowned college faculty members online (as well as into bars, cafés and other off-campus venues during non-quarantine times) to give fascinating talks and instructive workshops on topics like the treason of Benedict Arnold or the history of witches and witch hunts. 

Watch local comedy online or take a class 

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Crack open a cold one tonight and give the news a rest tonight with a live online comedy show put on by the local comedy gurus at DC Improv. The chock-full calendar of virtual shows includes a popular pun competition and cringey, hilarious discussions about relationships and single strife. You can even sharpen your own comedic skills by signing up for one-on-one coaching from their stand-up comedy instructors, which are all conducted via video conferencing.

Support local restaurants through takeout and delivery

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There are a ton of ways to support the local restaurant industry right now, including takeout and delivery options, work from home lunch ideas, and supporting global cuisine throughout the city. To go even further, think about supporting local causes like World Central Kitchen, The Power of 10 Initiative, or simply donating a Ben’s Chili Bowl gift card to local frontline workers.

And don’t forget about the booze!

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Now that DC, Maryland, and Virginia have gotten all of its alcohol legislation worked out during the shutdown, there are more options than ever to get local booze. Try your hand at curbside pickup, carryout cocktail kits, online delivery, or tacking on a to-go cocktail with your next restaurant order.

Look back at the past four years of NMAAHC

Free
Though the National Museum of African American History & Culture is, of course, currently closed to the public, you can still take in its stories. Since opening in 2016, the museum has been archiving its events and educational seminars on YouTube. Enjoy visitor interviews, in-depth exhibit exploration, Patti LaBelle’s performance from the opening, and a revealing interview with Oprah.

Buy 9:30 Club merch and donate to staff

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We all miss concerts -- and honestly it feels like a lifetime ago we were all packed into 9:30 Club, The Anthem, or any of the IMP venues. But in order to make sure they’re still standing after the pandemic, you can buy merch like bandanas that make great face masks, t-shirts, and even a piece of the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage. Plus, you can donate directly to provide need-based relief to IMP staff members.

Paint and sip from the comfort of your home

Free
We’re always up for a good paint and sip class, but letting us participate in our pajamas? Even better. Check out local Dupont studio ArtJamz, which has a full roster of live virtual painting experiences taught by talented artists. All you need to do is order one of their At-Home Paint Kits and sign up for a class that sounds fun to you. 

Listen to live performances from renowned local musicians

Free
Break out your lawn chair (and laptop) and get ready for some live music.  The Parks at Walter Reed are putting on a weekly series every Sunday through July called Sunset Sessions -- virtual music events broadcast from their lawn featuring performances by some of DC’s most renowned musicians. Check out singer Imani Grace, who has headlined as a vocalist at venues such as the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center. 

Experience Downtown Alexandria from home

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The tourism arm for Alexandria launched ALX at Home, which aggregates all the social distancing experiences you can do from home. The website lists are the retail spots where you can online shop, restaurants offering curbside pickup or delivery, and local businesses offering gift cards. The organizations just launched a weekly Facebook Live on Tuesdays at 2pm that will feature local businesses and community members hosting workshops and guided exercises.

Make your indoor jungle flourish

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We know you’ve probably gotten much closer to your house plants since the start of stay-at-home orders. Now you can bring them home a stylish friend from local plant shop Rewild, and give yourself a fun evening activity in the process. The shop has joined up with Rock Paper Plant for an ongoing series of botanical workshops, like learning how to mount and care for jungle-y anthuriums or making DIY planter baskets. 

Find new (stacks of) books to read

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If you’re missing the leisurely fun of perusing the stacks at the bookstore for an undiscovered treasure, you’re not alone. Capitol Hill Books luckily has the answer to your woes, and is now mailing out “Grab Bags” of books daily during the pandemic. Just fill out their form, including your budget and authors or genres you like, and they'll send over a picture of a proposed stack of books. Thrill seekers can even go with a blind stack for what they call “the full mystery effect.” 

View the online collections of Dumbarton Oaks

Free
Normally, we love perusing this Georgetown country house for its beautifully designed grounds, hillside of cherry trees, and immaculate rose garden. But now we get to focus on the heart of the matter, which is the art and collections inside. With its online portal, you can explore artifacts from the Byzantine era, digitized rare books, and ancient Peruvian iconography. (If you’re really missing the garden, there are historical photos of that, too.)

Get educated with think tank discussions

Free
This is the nation’s capital, after all, and if you miss free-wheeling, intellectual discussions at networking events or happy hours, there is a solution for you. Think tanks like the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have plenty of upcoming online talks and informative discussions scheduled, helping to keep you educated on topics big and small. 

Watch famous artists take the Kennedy Center’s digital stage 

Free
Already made it through your Discover Weekly on Spotify? Check out some of the most extraordinary performances from the Kennedy Center, which is releasing new videos daily. From special series and original stories to performances from world renowned artists such as John Legend and Beyonce, these are the next best thing to catching a live performance at the historic venue. 

Explore the National Cathedral

Free
Even those who have visited the National Cathedral in person haven’t experienced it like this before. Videos focused on the art and architecture of the historical building capture some of its quirkier features, like a 10,650-pipe organ to a sliver of the moon to a nearly 100,000 LEGO brick replica of the building. The cathedral’s online programming also includes the opportunity to participate in daily meditations or watch an organist play songs from Star Wars.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen is an LA native turned DC resident. During the day, she works for National Geographic Partners on their digital news team. By night, she is a freelance food writer with a particular proclivity for restaurants that source locally, and loves a good happy hour. Over the weekend she loves hiking, exploring the city, and traveling. Follow her on Instagram.