With Labor Day behind us, summer has reached its unofficial end. While I don't believe summer meets its real completion for another few weeks, the fact is that pools have closed, kids are back in school, and the nights are a little cooler. I'm always sad to wave goodbye to this part of the year, but my mood can be slightly lifted by a quick recap of everything I checked off of my summer bucket list.
A few summers ago, I started creating a seasonal bucket list to ensure David and I took full advantage of all the experiences and activities available to us. Many of our neighbors use DC's heat and humidity as the perfect excuse to take a vacation, but we think DC is at it's best from Memorial Day to Labor Day (and a little after). This year was no exception; we walked, ate, explored, and relaxed our way through another perfect summer. Whether you are a fellow resident or are planning a visit, I hope this list points you in a good direction.
The perfect summer requires finding the ideal balance between being on the move and pure relaxation. I love a lazy Sunday afternoon at the pool, but given this city has so much to offer, it would be a crime to miss out on the numerous activities around us (many of which are free).
One of the best ways to take advantage of DC in the summer is by attending one of the many free outdoor concerts. Friday evening Jazz in the Garden will get any weekend off to a great start, but I actually prefer metroing to Navy Yard for the Capitol Riverfront concert series. Bring your friends, picnic blanket, and favorite snacks. For anyone with small children, don't shy away; a huge splash pool is waiting to create a wonderful evening for all ages. If you are looking for something a little extra special, reserve a free space for the Friday Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks, which puts the Marine's best pomp and circumstance on display.
You know what else is free in the summer? Outdoor movies! Neighborhoods across the city, and for that matter Northern VA and Maryland, host impressive lineups of classic and current films. This summer, we joined a few friends for Disney's Moana, complete with delicious popcorn from Popped Republic.
As you can tell, there's no shortage of free and very low cost activities around DC in the summer, and I am just highlighting those that David and I took advantage of this year. For a more extensive list, a simple Google search for "free things to do in DC" delivers.
While saving money brings me an unusual amount of joy, sometimes a little spending goes a long way. Tickets to a Nationals game can be bought/found for $17-$20 per ticket. There is no bad seat in the park, the food choices are incredible (please stop by Jammin' Island BBQ), and the atmosphere can't be beat. If you buy tickets for an afternoon game, I recommend sitting in sections 402-408 for prime shade. Also be sure to search for ticket deals through Travelzoo or The Washington Post.
Another successful outing this summer was our food walking tour through DC Metro Food Tours. I'll be honest, I was wary of how this tour would compare to others we have done, especially considering DC's food traditions fall short of Rome's, Santiago's, or NYC's. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the tour and the variety and amount of food. We chose the Capitol Hill tour, but I suspect Georgetown, U Street, and Adams Morgan are also enjoyable.
If you're really itching to spend a little more, look no further than a day trip to National Harbor, MD and the MGM National Harbor. We had an incredible day with close friends, which started with a water taxi ride (50 minutes) from Southwest DC to National Harbor. We spent a few hours strolling into shops, grabbing lunch, and relaxing in the lobby of the Gaylord National Resort. A quick Lyft (only 1.5 miles, but not walkable), dropped us off at the entrance of the MGM casino. Las Vegas is one of my favorite places (best people watching), so I tempered my expectations for this casino, but once again, was pleasantly surprised. The casino itself was much larger than I expected, bright, clean, and filled with enough penny slots to keep me happy.
Toward the end of the summer, David and I spent the afternoon visiting George Washington's Mount Vernon. Incredibly, I had never been. You could easily spend an entire day taking advantage of everything offered, but we took about 4 hours exploring, including a specialty tour of the farm. A big thanks go out to my grandparents who let us borrow a car; however, Mount Vernon is also accessible by metro and a bus. It's also a popular biking destination using the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River.
Of course, no summer is complete without some delicious eats. At the beginning of summer, we committed to trying 2-3 new restaurants each month, something we will gladly continue into the fall and winter. Thanks to our friends who kept us company on our culinary adventures! I'm easy to please when it comes to food, but there were some definite highlights. DC may not be known for spectacular Chinese cuisine, but Panda Gourmet is an exception. You need a car to reach this hidden restaurant attached to a Days Inn motel, but everything we ordered was worth the taxi. Just make sure to go with a group; large portions are meant for sharing.
Both Kapnos and Le Diplomate have been on my "must try" list for a while. Neither disappointed. At Kapnos, make sure to order the saganaki, a cheese-lovers dream, and the bread basket at Le Diplomate is actually as good as the hype. In the summer, the outdoor spaces at both are worth the wait. Another great spot for outdoor dining is The Bird, which, you guessed it, highlights all things poultry. And not just conventional chicken and turkey; ostrich sausages, duck meatballs, and cornish hen create a diverse menu. For something with a cozier vibe, head over to Brookland's Finest, and don't leave before ordering the onion rings. Fried in a refreshingly light tempura batter, they blow every other ring out of the water.
So, I know this summer bucket list is a little late; next you I promise to post it in May. However, many of these activities can be enjoyed year-round, as long as you are willing to bundle up. The take away for me is that where ever you live, I guarantee you can create a bucket list of your own. Road trips are great, but so is really getting to know your own home.
Walking enthusiast, kitchen experimenter, sports lover (watching, not playing), and future world traveler.
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