To anyone who thinks Washington is too serious a town, too buttoned-up, summer is evidence to the contrary. Between Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the season, and Labor Day, the city takes on a more relaxed vibe. It’s beyond the breaking out of flip-flops and the OOO notices on email. It’s the people happily toting blankets and picnics to outdoor movies—which seem to happen almost nightly this time of year. It’s outdoor bars full of people playing silly lawn games, the lines at ice cream shops, the many who can’t resist public pools and waterparks. We all become kids again, to some extent.
To help you make the most of this time of year, this Best Of Washington guide highlights our 101 favorite things to do here in the summer. Read on to find out our picks for fun festivals, ways to get out on the water, refreshing cocktails, rooftop bars, pick-your-own farms, tasty pies, and lots more.
A Perennial Favorite: The Mall Fireworks
Sure, it can be a pain to get to the National Mall early to stake out a blanket-size patch of grass. And the day is inevitably hot and muggy. But watching those “rockets’ red glare” paint the sky above the Washington Monument can stir the souls of even the staunchest of cynics. Usually launched from both sides of the Reflecting Pool, the roughly 20-minute display has in recent years cost more than $250,000 for the fireworks alone. Why refuse a front-row seat to a show with that type of price tag?
Can’t stand the heat? No sweat. Here are some fun, new—and air-conditioned—things to do in the DMV.
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The Votes Are In: Reader Picks for Best of Summer
Best Rooftop Bar
Best Picnic Spot
Best Camping Spot
Shenandoah National Park
Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park
Best Spray Park
Best Pick-Your-Own Produce
Best Dog Park
Shirlington Dog Park
Best Day Trip
The area’s best festivals, pools, outdoor movies, and more. Plus, fun new ways to get out on the water.
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Another Reason to Love Summer 2022: the Heat and Humidity Don’t Seem So Bad Anymore
If there’s one thing Washington is known for, it’s the swamp-like summer weather. Oh, wait, there’s more than one thing: complaining about the swamp-like summer weather. But after two-plus years of a pandemic in which we were often cooped up inside (yay, it’s safe to get back to normal life—no, wait, it’s not—okay, maybe now it is?), what’s a little sweat if the upside is socializing in person in a backyard or on a patio? So raise a glass. Isn’t it great to be outside?
New rooftop lounges, summery cocktails, terrific happy hour deals, and more reasons to raise a glass.
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Six Local Celebrities Tell Us Why They Love Summer in DC
“DC has great places to run outdoors, like the National Mall and Rock Creek Park.”
—Norah O’Donnell, CBS Evening News anchor
“There are times when it seems like everyone skips town and all the restaurant reservations can be mine.”
—Tommy McFly, host of The Tommy + Kelly Show and NBC4 Scene correspondent
“I like that everyone’s a little bit less serious. I feel like people are more willing to give themselves a break and take a day off here or there.”
—Maggie O’Neill, cofounder of the design agency Swatchroom
“I love going to the Wharf for the water, eating outside, and being able to go to fish markets and grab the crabs there.”
—Doug Kammerer, NBC4 chief meteorologist
“I like Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens—I think it’s a great place to go for a picnic because it’s kind of out of the way.”
—Carla Hall, celebrity chef
“The beauty of the city is on full display. I love seeing the beautiful yards and how people take such pride, as I do, contributing to the beauty of the city.”
—Nolan Williams Jr., composer
The season’s best sandwiches, pick-your-own farms, pies, gazpacho, and more.