From outdoor events to rooftop views, we’ve put together a dreamy DC bucket list for your next adventure.
In the spirit of welcoming all back to DC, we’ve gathered up some of the most exciting reasons to visit the nation’s capital this summer, culminating in a lively Labor Day send-off.
What you need to know: capacity limits have been lifted and museums and attractions have reopened, meaning you have plenty of ways to explore DC. If you’re interested in catching a baseball game, savoring a Michelin-starred meal or exploring colorful street murals throughout the city, it’s all possible. Right now is the perfect time to plan your next visit to DC with these memory-making, only-in-DC trip ideas.
Learn more about the latest travel status and health precautions in DC.
Plan an adventure with your pup in DC
When it comes to traveling with Fido, you want to ensure your pooch gets the VIP treatment. The pet-friendly Capital Hilton in downtown DC delivers. Your furry family member can expect a local treat, access to the best pet-friendly spots in town, a take-home portable bowl and bag dispenser, and a grassy front lawn for easy potty trips. Round out the itinerary with trips to the National Mall, Rock Creek Park, one of DC’s pet-friendly tours and plenty of puppy-watching at countless dining establishments.
Enjoy a movie outdoors
Summertime and movies go hand-in-hand. Yes, the biggest blockbusters are in theaters, but step your movie-going experience out to make your next movie more memorable. DC’s outdoor movie screenings are filled with beautiful scenes, local vibes and are often free to attend.
Catch the national pastime in America’s capital city
The Washington Nationals are back in action. Cheer on Juan Soto, Max Scherzer and the whole crew from the best seats in the house at Nationals Park. No ticket? No problem. You can catch a birds’ eye view of the ballpark on game days from Top of the Yard at Hampton Inn & Suites Washington DC Navy Yard, which is situated right next to Nationals Park in Capitol Riverfront.
Visit reopened Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo
Many of DC's most beloved museums have reopened their doors with capacity limits, timed tickets and health policies in place. The list of reopenings includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian's National Zoo. More museums are scheduled to open their doors throughout the rest of summer.
Splash around at a hotel pool
Kick back and relax poolside at the Washington Hilton, whether staying with your friends or the whole family. Toddlers and tykes splash around the kids’ pool, which has plenty of seating around the perimeter. The main pool has two swimming lanes and a large free-swim area, while the pool deck offers views of the Washington Monument – and plenty of seats to work on your tan.
Check out The Phillips Collection during its centennial year
This year marks the centennial of The Phillips Collection, which is considered America’s first museum of modern art. The museum honors the occasion with a breathtaking exhibit that highlights more than 200 works from the museum’s 6,000-piece collection, taking you on a 200-year journey through the artistic themes of setting, history and identity via videos, paintings, prints, sculptures and more.
Get a new perspective from a rooftop bar
A great view and a cold drink are reason enough to head to Summit, The Rooftop at the Conrad Washington, DC hotel, but that’s not all you’ll enjoy. Much of the menu, from beer and spirits to food, is sourced from hyper local vendors, while the wine list includes a selection honoring inspirational women in wine. Guests can glimpse the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building with ease, and then enjoy something just as all-American: the barbecue pork, perfected in a solar oven.
Experience Black Lives Matter Plaza
Located along a two-block area of 16th Street NW in Downtown DC, the famous mural features the words “Black Lives Matter” in 50-foot-tall letters, in yellow and all caps, as well as the flag of the District. The area is open to visitors at any time of the day, allowing for reflection on the words emblazoned on the street. Many visitors take photographs of the large yellow letters that stretch down one of the nation's most iconic streets.
Explore Washington, DC’s Chinatown and Penn Quarter neighborhoods
Set up shop at the Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center, located steps from Chinatown’s Friendship Archway on H Street NW. The neighborhood is home to a lively Asian food scene with Chinese restaurants and ramen shops, all within a few blocks. Surrounding the area is Penn Quarter, where you’ll find the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Building Museum. Crimson View, located on the penthouse level of Motto DC, provides the ultimate lay of the land, plus a memorable sunset of DC’s iconic skyline.
Eat at a Michelin-starred or Bib Gourmand restaurant
For roving gastronomes and travelers seeking out experiences centered on food, it’s time to reserve a table in the nation’s capital. The city is synonymous with dining excellence, as evidenced by its list of Michelin-starred restaurants. Michelin also puts together a list of Bib Gourmand selections, which are exceptional eateries that offer two courses and wine or dessert for around $40. That’s just some food for thought.
Fix your gaze on Georgetown GLOW all summer long
After the 2020 edition was postponed, Georgetown GLOW has returned with a two-part series of outdoor installations – the first lighting up DC’s most historic neighborhood through June 27. The region’s only free, curated, outdoor public light experience is open to all both day and night and features a range of prominent and local artists and installations. The summer edition will run from July 16 to Sept. 26.
Introduce yourself to DC’s pop-up restaurant scene
Check out how creative, made-to-order masterpieces have become the new can’t-miss dining experience. Since the pandemic began last year, chefs reimagined their kitchens for all kinds of interesting concepts. Next time you’re looking to grab a bite, check out DC’s tasty, tantalizing pop-up options spanning everything from dumplings to tacos to breakfast sandwiches.
Kick back at a beer garden
DC’s booming food and drink scene has propelled forth a buzzworthy beer community. Expect an ambiance that rivals the selection of craft brews at the many beer gardens in and around Washington, DC. Each one puts its own spin on the Bavarian beer-drinking tradition, offering up a variety of suds, snacks, games and convivial settings for downing a cold one alfresco.
Witness top-flight tennis action at Citi Open, July 31 – Aug. 8
One of DC’s longest-standing sports traditions, the Citi Open will take place at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center from July 31 to Aug. 8. You can enjoy world-class talent compete for valuable tour points and a prestigious trophy from seats that are all close to the action. This year, the lineup includes Coco Gauff, Nick Kyrgios and, for the first time, 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal. Grab tickets ASAP, as Nadal's presence makes them very high in demand!
Take in scenery at the city’s gorgeous parks and gardens
Pierre L’Enfant, DC’s first urban planner, designed “The Federal City” to be beautified by public parks and gardens, and so it is today. In fact, The Trust for Public Land gave DC the #1 ParkScore in America. You’ll find scenic landscaping around the National Mall, a bonsai museum at the U.S. National Arboretum, hiking trails in Rock Creek Park and meticulously manicured gardens open to the public throughout DC.
Savor delicious deals during Summer Restaurant Week, Aug. 9-15
Summer in the District would not be complete without Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, which runs from Aug. 9 to 15. Throughout the promotion, dozens of restaurants across the DC area offer three-course, prix-fixe meals for brunch, lunch and dinner, making it one of the best ways to get out into the neighborhoods of DC.
Get out on DC’s waterways
The nation’s capital offers two rivers, the Potomac and Anacostia, which double as recreational playgrounds – perfect for kids and adults. Whether you’re looking to get on the water on a boat, kayak or paddleboard or find the perfect riverside vibe for food and drinks, there’s so much to experience along DC’s waterfronts.
Spend Labor Day weekend in DC
It’s been a year. If you want to go big, we get it. Make the most of summer’s last big weekend with free events, outdoor activities and cultural experiences in the nation's capital. Get your share of on-the-water revelry in Georgetown or at The Wharf, check out cool museums, experience all two miles of the National Mall and dine outdoors before it’s too late.
Discover monumental murals all over the District
DC’s color palette is not confined to museums or its bounty of natural beauty. The city’s neighborhood walls are covered with vibrant and unique murals, celebrating everything from hometown heroes to Founding Fathers and even fruit! Aniekan Udofia, one of the most prominent mural artists in the city, explains how he perceives the artform and how it serves as “the pulse of the city.
Groove to DCJazzFest, Sept. 1-5
The largest music festival in the nation’s capital, the DCJazzFest honors one of America’s greatest artforms with an annual summer showcase. Its signature event, DC JazzFest at The Wharf (Sept. 4-5), attracts headliners and up-and-coming talents. Across the city, you can groove to 20-plus other shows, many of which are free to attend, making this an ideal way to jazz up your summer.