Actually Cool Things To Do in DC This Spring

Is that optimism in the air?

Washington Monument during the spring cherry blossom season
Washington Monument during the spring cherry blossom season | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
Washington Monument during the spring cherry blossom season | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

You’re probably beyond tired of hearing about how we’re living in unprecedented times. You may also be tired of rewatching Netflix specials on Saturday nights instead of hitting the bars, or who knows, maybe you’re not (we’re looking at you, introverts). The silver lining? All that time spent at home is helping to #flattenthecurve and keep people safe. 

With that being said, we’re finally reaching the end of a cold winter in more ways than one. More hours of daylight are finally ours, temps are rising with each passing day, and cautious optimism is being inspired by the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. We should all still play our part in keeping new case numbers down, but there’s also plenty to look forward to in DC this spring. 

Just walking around the District with a quality cup of iced coffee during the spring is an event in-and-of itself, as floral blooms turn the city colorful once again. Other causes for celebration include the reopening of some of the city’s best art museums, the return of peak brunch season, and of course the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. So, from brand new art exhibits to scenic outdoor adventures, here are some actually cool things to do in DC this spring.

Celebrate the start of spring with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival

Multiple locations
As all Washingtonians know, springtime in DC means the inevitable return of cherry blossom season—when the city is in bloom and tourists are crowding around the Tidal Pool to take selfies with the millions of small pink Yoshino cherry blossoms that fill the tree branches. This year the “hybrid” online and in-person festival begins on March 20, but peak bloom is expected at the beginning of April. Organizers are still advising people to stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and hope they will take advantage of the live BloomCam.

Visit the Phillips Collection for its 100th anniversary

Dupont Circle
Art lovers can rejoice over the Phillips Collection’s reopening on March 6, as it opens its doors for a centennial anniversary celebration. On display will be a new exhibit called Seeing Differently, which will highlight over 200 works from the 19th century to the present from the museum's permanent collection, showcasing how the museum has grown over time.

Do “Shrooms” tonight

Arlington, Virginia
While we’re not actually encouraging you to partake in illicit substances, we can advise you to check out the new immersive pop-up art installation called The Shrooms, now on display in Crystal City on 12th Street South. There, you can see giant, inflatable, glowing fungi that are meant to represent good luck—part of a collaboration between the National Landing BID and Aussie light and design studio amigo & amigo

Observe Women’s History Month at the only museum dedicated to female artists

Each year, the month of March is federally designated as a time to pay the long overdue recognition to women’s contributions throughout the history of this country. We think that recognition should extend to the full year, and luckily so does the National Museum of Women in the Arts—the only museum solely dedicated to women artists. After being closed for months the museum is finally reopened with two new exhibits: Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend, which addresses race and explores Blackness through mixed mediums, and  Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood with photographs of girls from all walks of life.

40-foot piece made of crochet squares depicting Vice President Kamala Harris at The Wharf
40-foot piece made of crochet squares depicting Vice President Kamala Harris | Photo Courtesy of Southwest BID

And wander the city to find more empowering artwork

DC would be nothing without its public art and murals bedazzling every street corner. Whether you’re checking out a 40-foot piece made of crochet squares depicting Vice President Kamala Harris at The Wharf, the bold and colorful murals of local artist Trap Bob, or towering portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on U Street and Amanda Gorman in Dupont Circle, there is no shortage of work that inspires.

Visit refreshing swimming holes near the city

Multiple locations

Mild weather seems to last for approximately one week in the District before it begins to swelter, and we know the best way to beat the impending heat. Find your closest friend with a car and entice them with a short trip outside of the city to hike to one of the area’s many swimming holes, such as Overall Run in Shenandoah National Park or Cunningham Falls State Park.

Appreciate art and landscape at Glenstone

Glenstone is technically around a 40-minute drive outside of the city, but it’s a quick and scenic trip that delivers you to nearly 300 acres of beautiful landscape, sculpture, and other art. A privately-owned gallery, the just-reopened Glenstone is always free but a reservation is necessary and slots can book up well in advance. Arriving there, you’ll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city—surrounded by nature and in an artsy world of your own (it’s also the perfect place to grab a pic for the ‘gram). 

Plan a spring photoshoot at the sunflower fields

Poolesville, Maryland
If you missed the magnificent sunflower display at McKee-Beshers last year, make sure to get a front row seat as they bloom once again, starting in late April. A short drive away from the city, the McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area bursts each spring with rows upon rows of tall sunflower stalks, perfect for an afternoon picnic, a sunset walk, or a picturesque engagement shoot.

Stroll the grounds of the National Cathedral

Cathedral Heights

Those who spend most of their time on Capitol Hill or downtown might not think to venture north to the National Cathedral, so we’re here to tell you that it’s worth the trip. While the cathedral itself is still closed for public safety reasons, the 59 gorgeous acres surrounding it are now reopened to the public, from dawn until dusk each day. Bring a date, some friends, or even your pet and take a scenic walk through areas like the Bishop’s Garden and the Olmsted Woods.

Learn about history the fun way with Profs and Pints

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

Crack open a cold one and give the news a rest tonight with a live online comedy show put on by local comedy club, DC Improv. They have a packed calendar of virtual shows, from their popular pun competition to cringe and laugh-packed 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.

Hone your cocktail-mixing skills 

Finally tired of cracking open mango White Claws after work? Your partner probably is, too. Luckily you can now level up your cocktail game complements of Carlie Steiner, the restaurateur and cocktail savant behind Himitsu, Pom Pom, and Dos Mamis. Sign up for her online classes that’ll help guide you around your bar cart and give you the cocktail mixing skills you need to impress your pod this holiday season.

Paint and sip from the comfort of your home

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 is dedicated to making the world a more creative place. They’ve got 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.

Grab some grub from Union Market

Union Market
Everyone’s favorite food hall is back open with outdoor seating, which means that you can now grab fusion tacos from Takorean, an acai bowl from South Block and a burger from Lucky Buns (all at the same time if you’re feelin’ it). Those craving a cold beer or a little bit of sunshine can also head up to Hi-Lawn on the rooftop to hang for a while on the grass or at a picnic table.

Make your indoor jungle flourish

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. They’ve joined up with Rock Paper Plant for an ongoing series of botanical workshops, like learning how to mount and care for jungle-y hoyas and staghorn ferns.

Tap into mindfulness with the Freer Gallery of Art

We could all use a little bit of meditation and mindfulness in these trying times, which is exactly what you can get four times per week from the Freer Gallery of Art. Tune in online to access regular event programming that’ll help you channel some much-needed inner peace for 30 minutes each session.

Find a new (stack of) books to read

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.”

Get educated with think tank discussions

This is the nation's capital, after all, and that means that many smart people make it their business to discuss and communicate their smarts here. 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 

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. 

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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.
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