Summer is the most popular season for visitors to come and explore Washington, DC. It’s also when you can find the most things happening around town. These are five of our favorite summer in DC things to do.
1. Outdoor concerts
One of the best things about summer in DC is the awesome and free outdoor music. Summer concert season kicks off Memorial Day weekend with the National Memorial Day Concert. This is held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and broadcast live on PBS. During June, July, and August, you can listen to some awesome military band from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force at the Capitol. These bands perform Monday through Friday in the early evening.
Friday is the best day of the week if you are into outdoor music. Right on the Mall, find Jazz in the Garden. It is held at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. About a mile southeast of the Capitol in the Navy Yard neighborhood there are free concerts every Friday night at Yards Park. On Capitol Hill, you can head over to the Marine Barracks for a Friday night Marine parade.
2. Outdoor movies
A lot of neighborhoods host outdoor movie nights throughout the summer. Many follow a theme like spy movies or political movies, while some are based on a voting system where neighbors vote on their favorites.
Lineups are usually announced in the spring. So, you can check out what’s playing and decide if you want to see it when you’re in town. The best thing about these outdoor movie nights is that unlike going to the multiplex, they are completely free! Make sure you bring a blanket or something soft to sit on and bug spray, because this is DC in the summer after all.
3. Paddle around the sights
One of the more unique ways to experience summer in DC is by kayak. There are a few boat houses around the city where you can rent a kayak or a canoe and paddle it around. You can go out on the Potomac River and see sights such as the Kennedy Center, Watergate, and the Lincoln Memorial. To paddle the Potomac, check out the Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown. For a little bit different perspective on the city, you can check out the Ballpark Boathouse. This is located right near Nationals Ballpark and take your kayak out on the Anacostia River.
If you are not really feeling confident in either of these things, you can always take a paddle boat or a swan boat out on the Tidal basin. You will get amazing views of the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
4. Tour the monuments at night
Most locals prefer to go see the monuments and memorials after dark. It’s a challenge to see the monuments during the middle of the day in the summer due to the heat. During the summer, it’s much more pleasant to see the monuments at night when it’s cooler and it’s less crowded. If you don’t like to stay up late, even going in the early evening while it’s still light is a great experience and much less hot than mid-day.
5. Check out a festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is one of the coolest events here in DC. every year. It is about two weeks long and held around Independence Day every year. It’s a cultural heritage celebration and each year a different culture or cultures is celebrated.
In August, the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival brings together authors and people who love to read. The Book Festival was founded in 2001 by First Lady Bush, a librarian herself. There are author talks, activities for kids, panel presentations and just a general love of books. If you want to buy some of the books from the authors who are there you’ll have to pay for that, but otherwise it’s almost completely free.
Lastly, check out the Capital Fringe Festival which showcases theater, dance, music, and other performances throughout the city. The performances might not be professional caliber like you’d find at the Kennedy Center, but it’s a lot of fun to check out regardless!
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