Summer Nights: What to do in DC

Saturday, July 07, 2012

I should really call this “What to do in DC when it’s not 105 degrees outside…”  It has been out of control hot here over the past two weeks and with a heat index of 115 today, I deem it too hot even for the pool.  Yuck.

However, summer is still my favorite season here—by March I’m craving green grass and blankets and free outdoor movies.  Everyone knows DC has a wealth of free entertainment {Thank you, Smithsonian!}, but if you’re a local or frequent-er of the city, this stuff quickly gets old.  So in case you’re new to the area, here for a visit, or just running out of local ideas for entertainment, here is a list of my favorite things to do in and around DC in the summa-summa-summa-time.

First, the free stuff…

There are a TON of outdoor movie festivals here—you can almost cover every night of the week and each one I know of is free.  So grab a blanket, a bucket of KFC, your favorite wine! {But check each site for alcohol rules…or be discreet!}

Rosslyn Movie Festival {Friday nights}

This one is our favorite.  There’s a small park right by the Key Bridge, nestled in between Georgetown and Rosslyn that is quite hidden but close to everything, Metro accessible and there’s plenty of parking.  Before Georgetown Cupcakes went all crazy town, we used to grab cupcakes before hand and polish them off with a glass of wine.  This summer’s theme: Election Nights.

Screen on the Green {nights vary}

Screen on the Green doesn’t happen as regularly as some of the other movie nights, but it takes place on the National Mall.  Sitting on the Mall at night, surrounded by the monuments and the Capitol lit by the moonlight is hard to beat!

Crystal City {Monday nights}

Never actually been to this one, but it has the best movies I’ve seen among the festivals.  It’s metro accessible, plenty of parking, and surrounded by a ton of restaurant options {though mostly chains}.  This summer’s theme: Romcoms.

All in all, there are 19 different outdoor movie nights in the DMV area—a great list is compiled here.

Other festivals and local events…

First Thursdays in Del Ray

Del Ray is a neighborhood in Alexandria.  It is the quintessential all-American neighborhood with a main avenue strung with unique restaurants and cute shops—we love coming here but always feel a little out of place without a stroller or a dog!  The first Thursday of every month {May through September}, all of the stores and shops open up and have specials and freebies.  We always hit Planet Wine for their 5 cent wine tasting {they can’t legally pour for free}, Del Ray Pizzeria,  and the Dairy God Mother for custard.  It’s a great area any day of the week, but First Thursdays are especially fun!  Every month has a different theme—more info here.

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden 

The sculpture garden is behind the National Gallery of Art right on the Mall.  You can bring your own picnic or purchase food at the pavilion or from local food carts, but alcohol cannot be brought in.  You used to be able to purchase pitchers of sangria inside, but I haven’t been this season and I’m not sure if this is still true… It lasts from 5 to 8:30 and folks usually come straight from the office, so it fills up early!  But it’s a great spot for a happy hour social scene.

And the not-free-but-still-awesome stuff…

Wolf Trap Filene Center

My favorite music venue here in DC {so it’s actually a ways out in Vienna, Virginia but it’s still amazing}.  It’s a non-profit venue geared to an older crowd so most of the artists are of the 70s classic rock genre and Broadway musicals.  But it also means the atmosphere is relaxed and relatively not crowded {if you want to see Kenny Chesney and dance in drunken crowds, Jiffy Lube Live is the place for you…}. Prices for seats in the covered pavilion vary, but lawn tickets are always $20-25 {parking is free} and you can bring in all the food, beverages, and alcohol you want {only if you’re on the lawn}.  We typically come armed with a big blanket and a cooler of cheese, fruit, wine, and brownies.  It’s so fun, it doesn’t even matter if you know the artist or not.  Some of my favorites coming this summer: Counting Crows, Colbie Callait, Wilco, Indina Menzel, Steve Miller, and Rock of Ages…

Nationals Games

Even though the Nats are having a great season, the team is still relatively new so tickets are cheap and easy to come by.  We can usually grab tickets for $20-25 in the outfield, or $10 in the upper decks—if you’re in the cheap seats, just head to one of the bars or restaurants that overlooks the field, you can stay all night with a great view of the game.  The stadium is brand new and beautiful, it’s Metro accessible, and you can park easily but it’ll cost you.  No matter how hot it is, don’t leave before the Racing Presidents…

Washington Kastles

Washington’s professional tennis team, they’re only here for a few weeks each summer.  Ticket prices vary {$15-85}, but the stadium is small so there’s not a bad seat in the house.  And when else do you get to see Venus or Serena play in DC?  It’s a great something to do on a nice night outside.  Grab a margarita afterward at Cantina Marina, just down the street on the waterfront.


And last but not least—Truckeroo!  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love for this event once or twice.  Once a month {June through October}, when the baseball team is away, all of the food trucks park at the Fairgrounds across from the baseball stadium.  They bring in bands and bars and tada—food festival!  Admission is free, you only pay for the food you eat.  Port-a-potties and picnic tables abound, it’s easy to stay all night.  Mac & cheese, grilled cheese, korean bbq tacos, cupcakes, lobster rolls… You name it, it’s there!

I hope that’s enough to get you started!  I confess to being bad at following through, but this has inspired enough ideas to carry me through spring and winter.  Check back for more seasonal ideas in the coming months—hopefully I’ll have more ideas then.  Until then, stay cool, hydrate, and enjoy!

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