News & Politics  |  Things to Do

It’s Hot AF. Here’s a Guide to Cooling Off Around DC.

Swimming, boat rentals, indoor museum exhibits, and more ways to beat the heat.

Photograph courtesy of The Ven at Embassy Row.

A heat wave is hitting the East Coast, with temperatures expected to reach into the triple digits around Washington this weekend. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a hot weather emergency through Sunday and the city has set up cooling centers.

All that to say—it’s gonna be hot. Like, really hot. We’ve rounded up some activities and tips for those looking to beat the heat both indoors and out:

Indoor activities

Do arts-and-crafts in the AC

Photograph by Der Berzerker /Flickr.

The Art Room at Union Market

At this pottery and painting space inside Union Market, you can reserve a time slot with friends to gather and decorate your own mugs and other ceramics.

Shop Made in DC

Take part in a Wine & Watercolors evening class or attend a free Crafternoons gathering at the Georgetown or Union Market location of this shop, which is focused on locally made products and gifts.

Sip and develop

A unique pairing of activities—drinking wine and developing film—is the speciality at this downtown Silver Spring studio, where you can do a boozy photo shoot with friends and then see how the photos turned out.


Channel your inner Sporty Spice inside

“The Illusion” course at Puttery. Photograph courtesy of Puttery.

Play pickleball

Kraken Kourts & Skates, a vast new indoor sports complex in Northeast DC, is home to 14 pickleball courts and a roller rink. It comes from the owners of Kraken Axes, a kooky indoor axe-throwing space and “rage room” in Penn Quarter.

Play mini-golf

Putt-putt golf is a favorite indoor activity at some of DC’s roomier bars. H Street Country Club has offered it for years—along with an assortment of arcade games and pinball machines.  There are also the Dupont and Navy Yard outposts of the London-based Swingers, with their English golf club decor and high-end street food. Or check out the wild, immersive indoor holes at Puttery, which opened last year in the Penn Quarter.

Go bowling

Get drinks and kick back at a clubbier DC alley like NoMa’s The Eleanor. Or go classic at the fluorescent Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl, one of the area’s few remaining old-school bowling alleys.


Get cultured at summer museum exhibits

“Look Here” at the National Building Museum. Photograph by Malcolm Ferguson.

National Portrait Gallery

One Life: Frederick Douglass, a new photographic exhibition on the abolitionist and orator sometimes called the most photographed American of the 19th century, is up at the National Portrait Gallery through next April.

Phillips Collection

Frank Stewart’s Nexus: An American Photographer’s Journey, 1960s to the Present is a survey of the photographer’s intimate images of Black American life, his travels, and jazz icons like Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis over many decades. The show will continue through September 3.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Imagining the Future—Leonardo da Vinci: In the Mind of an Italian Genius, an exhibition of drawings never before seen in the US, is on view at the main library branch until August 20.

American University Museum

Rupert Garcia and the Chicano Art Movement, an exhibition of vivid activist posters by the Mexican American political artist, is on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center from June 17 – August 13.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea will make its way from small museums in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah to the Smithsonian American Art Museum starting July 28. It features work from modern and contemporary artists, many of them Indigenous, exploring the myths of the American frontier.

National Building Museum

The museum is hosting its seventh edition of its annual Summer Block Party series with the installment of “Look Here” by artist, architect, and founder of Reddymade Architecture and Design, Suchi Reddy. The exhibit will be on display through Labor Day, September 4.


Chill with a book

Photograph by Adam Burke via Flickr.

Crack open one of these DC books, which you can pick up at a local independent bookstore. There’s Lost City Books, in the heart of Adams Morgan, which got a major update just before the pandemic, or Politics & Prose, the 40-year-old anchor of Chevy Chase. Black-owned Mahogany Books, originally an online store, now has two physical locations in National Harbor and Anacostia. And Kramers, the Dupont Circle institution, is now something of a neighborhood in itself, with a bar, restaurant, and even a barbershop.


Inhale lots and lots of ice cream

Photograph courtesy of The Creamery at Union Market.

Nothing beats the heat quite like a freezing-cold scoop o’ cream. Luckily, the DC area has plenty of great spots to pick up a cone or a cup—think matcha soft-serve at Bon Tea House, sprinkle-topped custard at the Dairy Godmother, or gelato at Dolcezza. We’ve rounded up our 16 favorite local spots for sweet, chilly treats.


Head inside for a cocktail

There’s a martini for every taste at Silver Lyan in Penn Quarter. Photograph by Scott Suchman .

When it’s boiling outside, nothing says relief quite like a chilly drink in a basement bar. Washingtonian’s food team loves Silver Spring’s Quarry House Tavern for a subterranean hang, 14th Street’s Player’s Club for brews with a side of video games, and downtown’s Recessions for karaoke. If you’re not feeling the basement thing, they also recommend heading indoors for an elevated cocktail at OKPB or Silver Lyan.


Outdoor activities

Take to the high seas

Potomac Tiki Club’s Georgetown boat. Photograph by Adam Olsen.

If you want to get on the water, you could take the active approach and paddle board or rent a hydro bike. But for those looking for more of a chill experience, there are also local tiki cruises and nautical monument tours. We’ve compiled a round-up of 11 ways to get on the water this summer.


Stay cool at a pool—or splash park

Hang out on the deck at Hotel Zena with drinks from the onsite restaurant. Photograph courtesy of Hotel Zena.

While a backyard baby-pool hang is always fun, you can also hit up some legit swimming spots in the area. Check out our list of local hotels that let you book a day pass to their pools, as well as our round-up of lux private pools that you can book for a dip. We also have a list of all DC’s public pools, as well as splash parks.


Float down a river

Photograph by Lucky-Fim, via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Tubing is the best—minimal exertion, maximum enjoyment. Here are three spots within driving distance of DC for floating.


Be as non-sweaty as possible

Okay, okay, so this isn’t technically an activity, but Washingtonians take sweaty season seriously. If you’re going to hang outside in the heat, it can’t hurt to read up on some anti-schvitzing steps. If you have to commute in this sauna, we have some experts tips on what outfits are best for dewey bods. Also important: a guide on how to style sweaty hair and what products might best battle frizz.