1. Go to a Live Music Performance
Because Washington DC is such a central location on the East Coast of the United States, it’s an amazing place to catch musicians passing through during a cross-country tour. You can see almost any artist you’d ever want to see somewhere in the city. From small, intimate venues like Sixth and I Synagogue to gigantic stadiums like the Verizon Center, there are dozens of venues dotted around the city where you can see your favorite artists perform.
If fine arts are more your thing, check out the upcoming performances of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. If you’re under 30, you can even get discounted tickets to certain shows at the Kennedy Center through the MyTix program.
2. Discover DC’s Hidden Art Scene
Formerly abandoned churches, refurbished underground urban planning spaces, and local cafes…what do they all have in common? In DC, these are all places you can find various pieces of work by local artists. If you’re looking for some beautiful, rotating gallery spaces, head to Blind Whino, a psychedelic repurposed church building that now serves as a workshop, performance venue, and gallery for local artists and performers. Alternatively, Dupont Underground, located in the heart of Dupont Circle, is an underground space that also hosts live performances and interactive artwork. For more immersive art experiences, check out the latest installations at ARTECHOUSE, a fascinating gallery with interactive exhibits.
3. Visit a Festival
Washington DC’s streets are always buzzing with life. Whether it’s the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or a Chinese New Year celebration, or the Folk Festival, or the Holiday Markets, there’s always some kind of interesting event going on in this city. On Friday evenings in the summer, you can attend Jazz in the Garden, where the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art turns into a picnic area full of young professionals who can be found sitting on blankets, drinking sangria, and listening to live jazz music.
4. Peruse the Food Stalls at Union Market
One of the newest and most interesting places to visit in Washington DC is Union Market. Situated in the up-and-coming NoMa neighborhood, this converted warehouse is home to several bustling stalls with various international and artisan foods, wines, beers, spirits, and desserts. Along with that, there are also small booths with home decorations, free-trade items, and more. It’s the perfect place to kick back and catch up with friends, or spend the afternoon reading and people watching. On weekends, you’ll find this place packed with people, so I recommend trying to visit on a weekday evening if you can.
5. Trek the Nearby Trails at Great Falls
Just 30 minutes outside of Washington DC lies a beautiful cascade of waterfalls jetting through some sharp rocks on the Potomac River. This waterfall area is a park known as Great Falls. Surrounding the falls are a network of trails that border the historic C&O Canal, which spans from Washington DC all the way to Ohio.
One of the most fun and challenging trails near Great Falls is called the Billy Goat Trail. If you enjoy scaling rocks, jumping over cracks, and beautiful views overlooking the river, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart!
6. Spend the Afternoon at a Brewery or Beer Garden
If there’s one thing people love in Washington DC, it’s beer. Within the city limits, you can find several local breweries and open-air beer gardens to sip and enjoy. Some of the most well-known breweries include DC Brau and Atlas, but there are some nice smaller ones like Right Proper too. Or, just hang out at a German-style beer garden like Sauf Haus in Dupont Circle or Dacha in Shaw. The brewery culture is ingrained in the culture of the city, and it’s a great way to unwind, especially during happy hour when great food and drink prices are rampant.
7. Wander Around the Neighborhoods
If it’s a beautiful, sunny day (which it very often is), spend some time wandering around the neighborhoods in Washington DC
. There’s gritty, unexpected Shaw, or the up-and-coming Atlas District, which is home to Atlas Brewery. Or, for the best eats in the city, head to 14th Street or Dupont Circle. If charming streets and bakeries are your ballpark, head to Georgetown and wander through the narrow streets or the bustling waterfront. Or, pick up your peanuts and Cracker Jacks in the Navy Yard area, home to the city’s baseball stadium and the brand new District Wharf area.
8. Join the City’s International Brunch Scene
One of the most “DC” ways to spend a weekend morning is by going to brunch in the city. While brunch isn’t unique to DC, the sheer number of international and fusion options very well may be. Among Washington DC’s varied brunch options are artisan Filipino food, Michelin-star luxury dining, farm-to-table, Chinese dim sum, Peruvian, and more. And, to top it off, you can expect there to be bloody marys and mimosas galore practically anywhere you go.
9. Join a Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park
If you happen to be near U Street, Adams Morgan, or Columbia Heights on a weekend, head to Meridian Hill Park and join in on a weekly tradition of rhythm, dance, and laughter with DC locals – the Drum Circle.
The Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle started off as an independent group of people who met weekly to share an afternoon in rhythm and dance. Today, this phenomenon has turned into a city-wide sensation, and you can find large crowds at the park on Sundays drumming, dancing, doing yoga, hula hooping, playing volleyball, or simply hanging out. You don’t actually need to own your own drums to join in; just bring yourself, your dancing shoes, and an open mind, and you’ll definitely have a blast.
10. Explore the City by Night
If you’re hoping to do some touristy things in DC but want to put a unique spin on them, try going on a night tour. You can find night tours by bus, by foot, and by boat – whatever best suits your fancy! Exploring the city by night will give you an amazing view of the city’s most spectacular sights, like the Capitol building, the monuments, the National Mall, and more. Better yet, these sights empty out substantially between the crowded afternoons and the darker evenings, making the whole experience a bit more personal and peaceful. Exploring the city by night will give you a fascinating alternative perspective to the normal tourist experience.
Author Name: Kay Rodriguez
Kay Rodriguez is the explorer-in-chief of Jetfarer
, a site geared to helping full-time professionals maximize their vacation days and travel the world.