Prepare yourselves, it’s getting hot around here. Summer is officially starting in the District, so here is a list of some favorite activities and getaways from a local. From casual Saturday plans to weekend getaways to where to take visitors for ice cream, this list has something for everyone.
We seem to adjust to a new normal of acceptable temperatures by the time mid-summer rolls around. For those days when you want to go out and about, there are great spots to get active around DC.
Kayaking on the river: Head down to the waterfront in Georgetown, at the Key Bridge Boathouse, to rent a couple of kayaks – or a paddleboard if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Make your way over to Teddy Roosevelt Island or just meander around with friends. Make sure to bring lots of water, and of course sunscreen.
Play softball on the Mall: Or volleyball, or soccer…or whatever your fancy. There are plenty of leagues that have summer teams. Apparently, plenty of people (like myself) are crazy enough to play sports outside in the middle of summer. But there’s nothing like a casual game of softball right under the Washington Monument. I’m part of a league run by Zogsports DC, which has assigned softball fields out by West Potomac Park. Make sure to bring red cups for your beer and of course sunscreen.
Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle: A very popular event on Sundays, and perfect for the late weekend sleeper. Wander over to the top of Meridian Hill Park, and bring a blanket and/or picnic while you listen to the music and people watch. It’s the closest thing to a jamboree I think I’ve ever been to. Sunscreen might be needed, if you are not under a shady tree.
Outdoor movies: These are are all over town – look for a showing in your neighborhood here. As a bonus, the movies happen after the sun goes down so you have a chance to cool off. The waterfront at Georgetown is especially picturesque for movie nights. No sunscreen needed.
Head to a Nationals Game: A favorite summer activity of mine. You can get cheap seats for $25 and the ballpark is right off of the Navy Yard metro. I have found that biking is the easiest way to get to and from the stadium, and there is even special bike parking. Car parking is extremely difficult, Ubering is kind of a mess, and you need patience if you’re going to take the metro. BUT once you’re settled into your seats, you’re good to go. Snag some seats on the west side of the ballpark for some shade, or bring sunscreen and a hat. And don’t forget to pick up some cheesy fries from Ben’s Chili Bowl.
SPECIAL BIKE SEGMENT BY NICO STAPLE
There are a lot of great bike rides in and around DC—read on for some of the best trails as selected by my husband Nico!
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved trail that stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. There are a few great stops along the way and you definitely don’t have to do the whole 36-mile round trip for a nice ride. The north end of the trail starts in Rosslyn just off the Key Bridge where you’ll find easy access to Theodore Roosevelt Island. You can’t bike on the island but you can park your bike just off the trail and take the footbridge to explore the island and memorial. Heading south from T.R. Island you’ll reach Gravelly Point (after about 3 miles) which sits next to National Airport, and is a great spot to watch the planes and have a picnic. From there it’s about 4.5 miles to Old Town Alexandria (and lots of ice cream shops). From Old Town, it’s another 10 miles to the Mt. Vernon estate. The trail follows the Potomac and there are frequent picnic areas along the way with great views of the river and wetlands.
From the National Park Service website: “Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation’s capital. This 1,754-acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the 3rd national park to be designated by the federal government. It offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history.” On Saturday and Sunday, the park’s main road Beach Drive is closed to cars making it a great destination for a weekend ride (see the park’s map here or Bike Washington’s here). The bikeable section of Beach Drive within Rock Creek Park runs about 5 miles from just north of Pierce Mill to the Maryland border.
You can easily extend or connect this ride in a few ways: 1) Start at the Georgetown Waterfront and ride north along the Rock Creek Trail to meet up with the closed Beach Drive section after about 5 miles; 2) Connect to the Capital Crescent Trail about 1.5 miles north of the Maryland border on Beach Drive to or from Bethesda and continuing on to Georgetown; 3) If you’re looking for a long ride, take the Rock Creek Trail all the way to Lake Needwood—about 24 miles one-way from the Georgetown waterfront via Rock Creek.
If you’re looking for a nice easy cruise, check out Hanes Point aka East Potomac Park. It’s a manmade island directly across the Potomac River from National Airport and just south of the Jefferson Memorial. The ring road (Ohio Drive) has minimal car traffic and offers an approximately 3 mile loop around the park and golf course that occupies the middle of the island. There are many picnic spots and benches to stop at and in the center of the park is a mini-golf course.
TOO HOT TO TROT?
DC summer also means you’re seeking out air conditioning. Besides the usual Smithsonian museums, check out the Phillips Collection, or head to National Cathedral for a tour, gargoyles, and some awesome views of DC. Or have you been to the Portrait Gallery? It’s actually quite great. There’s usually a cool exhibit happening at The Building Museum as well.
You can also tour around the many famous monuments at night. Granted, when the sun goes down it doesn’t necessarily get a lot cooler, but at least there’s no rays beating down on you. Bike around the lit monuments for a truly awesome view.
Another option is to escape to the pool, obviously. But my favorite way to cool down is, of course, ice cream. Try Thomas Sweet in Georgetown, or Ice Cream Jubilee is a new favorite of mine too. If you’d prefer a more grown-up version of fun, sip on a few frozen drinks. You might get dehydrated but you’ll have a good time in the process.
GET OUTTA TOWN
I love getting out of the city in the summer. Weekends are for getaways.
Tubing is always a good idea. There are two drastically different options I’ve tried: one is lazy floating along the Shenandoah by Front Royal (my preferred method). It’s almost too slow for some people – if the water is low, you might have to walk your tube in parts. But I like the lazy floating pace. The second option is to drive up to Harper’s Ferry, which was a bit more intense in my experience. There are a few more rapids and I managed to lose my sunglasses, get sunburned, and scrape up my legs. Tips for tubing: waterproof cooler for drinks, and ropes to tie the tubes together so your cooler tube doesn’t float away. Sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy. I’ve gotten sunburned on a trip when it was lightly drizzling, no joke.
Shenandoah National Park is a 2.5 hour drive, great for a weekend camping getaway to the mountains. There is a good chance that it is cooler there than in the city. Favorite campground would have to be Lewis Mountain; favorite hike is Whiteoak Canyon Falls. And you must stop for pizza on the way home. There is an awesome spot in Sperryville.
If all else fails, head to the beach! Embrace the heat and play in the ocean. Rehoboth Beach boardwalk in Delaware is amazing, with lots to do, and DUH beach fries. MUCH sunscreen needed.
Do you have any favorite spots for the summer? Share them below!