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17 Fabulous Things to Do This Summer in Washington, DC

Visitors at the Lincoln Memorial - Free Things to Do in Washington, DC

From fireworks by the monuments to biking tours around town and holiday festivities, there are so many ways to explore DC this summer.

Sunny days, loads of free things to do and a cultural scene that doesn’t go on summer vacation make Washington, DC a cool place to be in hotter months. Check out the National Mall, where free festivals and museums lure, catch exciting baseball action at Nationals Park or make a splash at the District’s waterfronts. No matter which adventure you choose, you’ll find the capital city fascinating in summertime.

1 Kick off summer with Memorial Day weekend celebrations

@canowine - Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Weekend Parade on the National Mall - Memorial Day Events in Washington, DC

There’s no better place to spend Memorial Day weekend than the District. Memorials are our specialty, and DC celebrates with unique and meaningful events recognizing the service and sacrifice of our active duty military and veterans. Experience the country’s largest Memorial Day parade, hear thousands of motorcycles roar through the District during Rolling Thunder and more during this start-of-summer holiday.

2 Discover free and affordable summer fun

Family on National Mall near Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture - Summer Vacation in Washington, DC

As you plan your family trip to DC, we’re here to remind you of all the free things to do this summer in the District. From Fourth of July fireworks and holiday concerts to special events like the Memorial Day parade, summer in the District makes for an unforgettable time, and it doesn’t have to hurt your wallet.

Your ultimate guide to summer in Washington, DC

3 Take yourself out to the ballpark

Washington Nationals fans cheering at baseball game - The best things to do this spring and summer in Washington, DC

There are plenty of reasons to check out DC’s Major League Baseball team, the Washington Nationals, who play their home games at Nationals Park on the bustling Capitol Riverfront. The state-of-the-art ballpark boasts terrific views, friendly fans and plenty of great places to eat, some of which offer up local brews and specialties from DC restaurants. During the fourth inning, the popular Presidents Race features costumed, jumbo-headed commander-in-chief lookalikes running – and sometimes cheating – their way to glory. And don't forget to score an exclusive discount and save big on Nationals tickets. Just go to the single game tickets page, select the game you wish to attend and enter the promotional code VISITDC to experience one of baseball’s most exciting teams in action.

4 Celebrate the Fourth of July amidst the monuments

@abpanphoto - Fourth of July Fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC - Summer Holidays in DC

There’s probably no city that’ll give you a more all-American, patriotic Independence Day than Washington, DC. Take in the pomp-and-circumstance filled National Independence Day Parade in the morning along Constitution Avenue NW, then stake out a spot on the National Mall or across the Potomac River near the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington – or check out these other spots to watch the fireworks. The fireworks typically start just after 9 p.m. Basking in the rockets’ red, white and blue glare with a backdrop of glowing white monuments and memorials is an unforgettable – and highly Instagrammable – thrill.

5 Make a splash at DC's waterfronts

Recreation Pier at The Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront - Dining, Shopping and Entertainment Destination in Washington, DC

With two rivers, the Potomac and the Anacostia, and a number of fantastic waterfronts in different neighborhoods, DC is full of things to do on and near the water. Head to The Wharf for a day filled with so many things to do, eat and drink, from awesome waterfront views and an array of stylish restaurants to four distinct piers and free family-friendly programming. You can also choose from plenty of waterfront activities for the perfect summer day in the District.

6 Explore music, crafts and more at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall - Free international music, crafts and arts festival in Washington, DC

The Smithsonian’s annual summer cultural treat brings crafters, musicians, cooks and artists to the National Mall for a free, fascinating festival taking place from June 27 – July 1 and July 4-8. This year’s event focuses on Armenian and Catalan cultures. Expect plenty of family-friendly demonstrations, concerts and even more great reasons to check out this can't-miss summer festival.

Looking for parking near the National Mall during the festival? Compare prices at garages and lots with ParkWhiz to reserve your space before you arrive.

7 Paddle a boat past the monuments

Family canoeing on Potomac River past Kennedy Center, Washington DC

You’ll get a new perspective on iconic structures like the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center if you see them via kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Rent boats and boards from Boating in DC's boathouse in Georgetown or Capital SUP's boathouse on the Capitol Riverfront, then take off on your own or via a guided tour. Bird-watching and a good workout come with the deal.

8 Spot wildlife and water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Lotus and Water Lily Festival at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens - Summer Events in Washington, DC

Dream you’re in a Monet painting at this serene, off-the-beaten-track park near Anacostia, where hundreds of water lilies, aquatic bamboo and wild flowers can be reached via boardwalks and pathways. Critters from blue herons to turtles also thrive here, and summer might be the most pleasant time to visit. Rangers lead free nature walks daily at 2 p.m.

9 Chill out on a rooftop or kick back on a patio

Top of the Yard rooftop bar next to Nationals Park - Rooftop bar in DC's Capitol Riverfront neighborhood

It's always the right time to take your outdoor dining experience to new heights by heading to these rooftop bars and restaurants. If terra firma is more your thing, the District is filled with delightful outdoor patios for your warm weather pleasure.

10 Catch a new museum exhibit

Henry the Elephant at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - Free museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC

DC is a gallery-goers’ paradise, with showplaces devoted to everything from modern art to postage stamps. In a class all of its own, start your adventure at any of these DC museums, or for a truly interactive experience head to on of DC's kid-friendly museums and hands-on attractions that will transport the whole family from the ho-hum of touring to the “Wow!” of experiencing. In addition to the fabulous slate of museums along the National Mall, the District is also home to a vast collection of cool museums off the Mall.

11 Panda spot at the National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo Giant Panda - Washington, DC

The free-to-enter Smithsonian National Zoo has the happy, totally cute honor of housing three pandas – cub Bei Bei, born in August 2015, and parents Mei Xang and Tian Tian. Watch them climb trees and gobble bamboo at the Panda House, or check out the red pandas, smaller Asian animals known for their climbing abilities.

12 Bike wherever you like

@poodz - Capital Bikeshare riders on Washington Monument grounds - Summer activities in Washington, DC

Yes, Capitol Hill is genuinely an incline, but most of DC’s major tourist zones are flat and filled with green spaces, bike lanes and trails. Capital Bikeshare, one of the largest cycle-share systems in the country, makes it easy to rent wheels and zip around town for an hour or a day. There are over 3,000 bikes and 300 stations around town.

13 Enjoy an outdoor flick

NoMa Summer Screen - Outdoor Summer Movies In Washington, DC

Summertime and movies go hand-in-hand. Yes, the biggest blockbusters are in theaters, but step your movie-going experience up a notch and relax outdoors while taking in a classic film or one you’ve never seen before. Find out when and where to catch an outdoor screening and turn summer nights into summer memories.

14 Celebrate 'Hamilton' all summer long

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash 'Hamilton' - Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC

Broadway’s award-winning Hamilton: An American Musical is the hottest ticket in town this summer. Even if you don't see the show at the Kennedy Center, the DC metro area welcomes home one of the nation’s founding fathers with museum exhibits and plenty of Hamilton-inspired things to do.

15 Witness summer’s most exciting baseball event

Sunset at Washington Nationals game on the Capitol Riverfront - Guide to baseball in Washington, DC

The Washington Nationals™ and the city of DC welcome fans from across the globe for the 2018 MLB® All-Star Week festivities July 13-17. Meet legends of the game, top your best pitch speed and celebrate the stars of today and tomorrow over five fun-filled days of exciting baseball action. Check out MLB All-Star Week events and learn more about how the rest of the nation’s capital is celebrating the sport of baseball.

16 Groove to the smooth sounds of jazz

DC Jazz Festival - Summer music festival with free concerts in Washington, DC

The DC Jazz Festival honors one of America’s greatest art forms with an annual summer showcase in DC. Many of the concerts are free, but there are so many more reasons to check it out. If that doesn't satisfy your jazz fix, don't miss out on Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden, a popular Friday evening event embarking on its 18th season.

17 Close out summer with Labor Day festivities

@watergatehotel - Top of the Gate rooftop bar at The Watergate Hotel - Sunset overlooking Potomac River in Washington, DC

Celebrate summer’s last big weekend with music, food, outdoor activities and culture in the nation's capital.We’re taking the work out of making your Labor Day weekend plans with these ways to make your holiday memorable.

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