Actually Cool Things to Do in Washington DC
As the natin’s capital, DC is an infinitely popular spot for tourists from all over the world. And while photographing cherry blossoms and taking a Segway tour around the monuments are all well and good, there are plenty of things to do in the District that are perfect for locals and first-timers alike. Consider getting a energy drink in Washington DC for your needs to shop with some passion.
We’ve rounded up all the fun stuff around town, including plenty of free activities as well as splurge-worthy spots. We skipped the one-off events and the infamous stand-in-line destinations, since that’s really no way to spend a trip. Otherwise, it’s all here, from brewery tours and must-hit restaurants, to legitimately cool museums and gorgeous parks. And don’t worry: We won’t make you ride a double-decker bus.
Experience augmented reality cocktails at Artechouse
Tired of the Smithsonians? Head to Artechouse for a totally different kind of gallery experience. The popular space is located between the National Mall and the District Wharf, making it a great indoor reprieve from the heat. A rotating exhibit that merges experiential art and technology makes for a fun and interactive experience, and don’t forget to download their free app before heading to the bar for an augmented reality cocktail.
Go for a scenic walk or run on the C&O Canal
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal used to function as a waterway for coal, lumber, and agricultural products to float to market for nearly 100 years. Today it’s enjoyed as a peaceful pathway to run, hike, or bike along, featuring a whopping 184.5 miles of trail that stretches from mile 0 in Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. No need to stress at the sight of that overwhelming number though, there are plenty of points on the trail to turn around for a way shorter run.
Bike and grab a brew or two on the LoCo Ale Trail
In case you didn’t know, Loudoun County has become something of a craft beer capital in Northern Virginia with more than 30 active breweries. If you’re looking for something fun and outdoorsy to do this weekend then this is the one for you. Grab (or rent) a bike and head over to the LoCo Ale Trail — a scenic biking trail that will bring you past tasting rooms on farms, industrial parks, mountain tops, historic downtowns and right off the bike trail.
Shop (and eat) your heart out in Georgetown
Despite being DC’s oldest neighborhood, Georgetown remains one of the best areas of the city to spend time in — especially on an afternoon with optimal walking weather. Grab your morning brew at Grace Street Coffee Roasters or enjoy brunch al fresco at the euro-centric Kafe Leopold before strolling your way down M Street for some quality shopping, where you can find storefronts from big retailers like J.Crew or the more trendy Outdoor Voices and Reformation.
Catch a drum circle at Meridian Hill Park
Meridian Hill Park isn’t just home to North America’s longest cascading fountain, it’s also where you can find a DC tradition that’s been going strong for 40 years — a lively drum circle that takes place at the park every Sunday. Get to the park early for some quality picnicking and dog-watching and then get ready for all the drumming, dancing, and excitement that starts at 3pm.
Pick your own produce at Butler’s Orchard
There’s something so fun about paying to pick your own fruit, no matter the season. You’ll need a car for this one — but go ahead and pile everyone in for a whole afternoon at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown (about a 45 minute drive from DC). There’s fun to be had there all year-round, whether you’re heading to the orchard in the summertime to take advantage of ripe blueberries by the bucket-full, or in the fall for your annual apple-picking photo opportunity.
See a trendy exhibit at the Renwick Gallery
This art museum always has an Instagram-worthy exhibition with themes like Disrupting Craft and Reforestation of the Imagination, but you can check out what’s currently on view before your visit here. Bring your cool friends here and explore the large-scale works from the annual desert phenomenon.
Check out the Natural History Museum
Put this at the top of the list of actually cool museums on the Mall. The massive institution has an endless supply of trivia fodder, but some of the coolest exhibits are sleepers, like the bone hall (giraffes only have seven neck vertebrae?!), the software that lets you turn your face into an early human, and all the crazy rocks in the geology exhibit.
Have a photoshoot at the National Arboretum
The 446-acre National Arboretum is the perfect backdrop for some artsy shots, whether you strike a pose in front of the iconic National Capitol Columns or frolic in the grove of state trees. (Note that professional or commercial photography requires a permit.) Don’t miss the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum where you can learn about miniature masterpieces.
Become a card-carrying member of the Library of Congress
Did you know you can get a library card for the Library of Congress? The free “Reader Identification Card” gives you access to the Library’s research areas and generally makes you a bookish badass. Settle in to a reading room and dig up some history.
Do some planespotting at Gravelly Point
This park is just a few hundred feet from the north end of one of the runways at Reagan National, so it’s a prime spot to sit by the river and contemplate the meaning of life as you watch planes soar overhead. Grab a blanket and a picnic and plan to stay for a few hours.