Things to Do

Stop Doomscrolling and Take a Mental Health Break at These DC Spots

Escape the news: cuddle with kittens, indulge on mac and cheese, or walk through gardens instead.

Klingle Valley Trail in Rock Creek Park. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user angela n.

Following Friday’s SCOTUS decision, this scene might look familiar: You, clutching your phone in bed, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through heartbreak, outrage, and infuriating takes. You’re not alone. We’re practically wired to doomscroll—in fact, our brains latch on to negativity as an evolutionary survival tactic. However, as important as it is to stay informed, letting the news consume you is not helpful, nor productive. At some point, it’s time to step back and escape somewhere so restorative you forget Twitter even exists. Here are several places to do just that in DC:

Capitol columns at the National Arboretum. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user julian meade.

Escape the Noise 

For a quiet place away from all the noise, take in the beauty of Tudor Place’s historic mansion and five-and-a-half acres of lush gardens in Georgetown. You must reserve tickets to tour the mansion, but no advanced registration is required for the gardens, which feature colorful summer flowers in June and July. For more natural beauty, you can also head to DC’s Botanical Gardens on the National Mall or, if the heat subsides for a day, the National Arboretum in Northeast DC. The recently-renovated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Penn Quarter also offers plenty of indoor and outdoor places to escape into a book, listen to music, or just sit quietly. The library’s new landscaped rooftop and terrace provides some peace right in the middle of the city. 

Cuddle with kittens. Photograph courtesy Crumbs & Whiskers.

Cuddle or Watch Furry Critters

Just watching any animal take a little snooze—so blissfully unaware of work and politics—is enough to pull you out of the human-centric world. Reserve a time slot for yourself at one of the area’s two cat cafes, Crumbs and Whiskers in Georgetown and Mount Purrnon in Alexandria, where you’ll find an abundance of bean toes and purrs. Both cafes allow you to spend time with adoptable cats and kittens in a soothing environment. For the dog folks out there, you’ll find wet noses and kisses at one of several dog-friendly bars in the area, such as Bark Social in North Bethesda, where you can sip and drink while watching dogs play in the beer garden’s dog park. And, of course, don’t forget about the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. While you obviously can’t pet the animals, watching pandas munch on bamboo is still a great escape from the messy world of humans.

Tuck into some carbs at Caruso’s Grocery. Photography by Stacey Windsor.

Savor Some Comfort Food

Sometimes comfort food is the best healer. Fill up on cheese and carbs at Caruso’s Grocery on Capitol Hill. This old-school-style Italian place offers classic pasta dinners with delicious sauces as well as cheesecakes, cannolis, tiramisu, and more for dessert (plus a fun “antipasti” martini). If you’re looking for straight American, you can find all the chicken wings and mac and cheese you could need at Hen and Fin in Petworth. The chicken joint also has delicious collards, sweet potatoes, and plenty of satisfying breakfast options. Get your burger fix at the Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring with massive messy burgers and fried pickles on the side. Or, if you’re craving some pho or other Vietnamese specialties, try Four Sisters in Merrifield, Virginia, which has excellent broken rice dishes, shrimp toast, rice crepes, and more.

Billy Goat Trail Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Take a Tranquil Walk in the Woods 

The DC area is full of gorgeous areas to go for a mental health walk or hike and get some endorphins flowing. Though only short drive from DC, Great Falls Park feels far away and is the perfect place to challenge your inner rock climber, including several easy to moderate trails (none of which are longer than 2 miles) with stunning views of the Potomac as well as opportunities for kayaking and horseback riding. Just southeast of the park’s visitor center in Potomac, Maryland, is the Billy Goat Trail, which includes more river and rock views and 8 miles of walking paths. You can also find an urban forest at Theodore Roosevelt Island, with several short trails that loop around and through the island, or, if you’re looking for a longer, perhaps less crowded, journey, Rock Creek Park offers a range of trails that you can catch from several places, such as the 8-mile Bridge Loop, the 2-mile Rapids Bridge Hike, or the 3.5-mile Boulder Bridge Hike

People sitting on picnic blankets in the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden at Jazz in the Garden
People sitting on picnic blankets in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden at Jazz in the Garden. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

Lose Yourself to Music

While silence is soothing, sometimes it’s easier to escape your worried thoughts through music. Luckily, it’s summer in DC, which means there’s an abundance of free, outdoor concerts. If you aren’t able to snag any tickets to the National Gallery of Art’s Jazz in the Gardens on Friday nights, you can alternatively venture to Eastern Market Metro Plaza Park for Live, on the Hill: Jazz Concerts, also every Friday, only from 5 to 6:30 PM instead. Or, on Wednesday nights, head to the Wharf for its Transit Pier Concerts from 7 to 9 PM. Otherwise, for reliable, live music every night of the week, year round, head to Madam’s Organ in Adams Morgan. For just a $5 cover charge, you can enjoy the bar’s 9:30 PM shows. Over in Union Market, Songbyrd Music House also hosts concerts, usually under $20 a ticket, just about every night.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor
Maggie Hicks
Editorial Fellow