The official start of summer begins on June 21st and there’s more than one reason to look forward to the season change this year in Washington DC.
As businesses closed and activities were canceled last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic the world collectively took a pause. A year and many vaccines later, places are now starting to get back into the swing of things. Not only are sporting events expanding their in-person attendance and museums reopening but the mask mandate in Washington DC has also been lifted for vaccinated individuals.
With a renewed appreciation for going out after staying home for the last year, there is plenty to do in DC as the weather heats up. Swap out your house shoes for walking shoes and explore all that the nation’s capital has to offer this summer.
Known for its historic landmarks, sporting events, and cultural institutions, those signature activities of Washington DC have been closed to the public for most of this year. Now that the capacity for indoor and outdoor events has resumed, most of the favorite spots for locals and visitors alike are now welcoming visitors back.
What better way to kick off the summer than with performances that make you want to laugh, sing, and dance? Those who have missed live performances can catch concerts and comedians at The Kennedy Center. Their upcoming schedule has something for everyone including the screening of the comedy short film The Zeke Sanders Story, the three-day mini-festival Relax | Relate | Release, Sweeney Todd performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, and much more.
The Washington Nationals’ season is underway and they have recently increased their attendance capacity to 100% in line with the end of the mask mandate. The team’s upcoming schedule includes home games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. Sports lovers are also able to attend this summer’s DC United games and the Washington Football Team’s preseason matches. Fans that are vaccinated are allowed to enjoy the games mask-free, however, unvaccinated attendees are asked to keep their masks on.
The Smithsonian Institution, which includes some of the area’s most cherished and frequented cultural spaces, are opening some of their sites after being shut for a majority of the year.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, as well as the National Zoo are now accepting visitors. You must reserve a free timed-entry pass ahead of time online and don’t forget to bring your mask.
While the DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project and other local organizations are hoping to make the area’s waterways swimmable by 2025, it’s still illegal to take a dip in the Potomac River. You can drive a couple of hours into Maryland or Virginia to visit their lakes and swimming holes or you can try several of the water activities available in DC. Cool off, catch a breeze, or take some water sports lessons this summer.
At the Potomac Paddle Club, you can rent out an entire paddle boat that seats up to 16 people. Celebrate a special occasion or hit the water just because and bring along your own beer, wine, and food to enjoy during your 90-minute ride. Once all COVID restrictions are lifted, you’ll also be able to purchase an individual ticket and mingle with other peddlers.
Boating in DC has over half a dozen boathouses in the DC area and each offers a wide variety of things to do on the water. You can rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, rowboats, and dragon boats or take lessons on how to maneuver them. They also offer stand-up paddleboard yoga classes, a July 4th event where you can paddle past the fireworks, and more. For young water sports enthusiasts, there are Youth Boating Day Camps open to kids ages 8-13.
There are several family-friendly public pools that are perfect for swimmers of all levels such as the outdoor Banneker Pool or the indoor William H. Rumsey Aquatics Center. The Yards Park along the Anacostia River is a green space with an 11-inch deep canal basin for wading and dancing fountains to run through. For a poolside experience with cocktails included, there is the lounge-like Penthouse Pool Club with two locations on U St and in The Yard.
Have you ever wanted to combine sightseeing with a never-before-seen ride that has unobstructed views of the city? Now you can with USA Guided Tours’ Open Top Convertible Bus Tour.
Feel the wind on your face while seeing the sites in a stylish, comfortable, and intimate open-top Mercedes Benz Sprinter.
Perfect for family outings, special occasions, and everything in between, hop in and tour the area’s top spots. Your expert tour guide will give you insights as your ride past over a dozen DC landmarks including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, National Cathedral, Embassy Row, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. You should definitely add this to your list of top five things to do in Washington DC this summer!
USA Guided Tours also offers the premier Discover DC tour that not only gives you panoramic views of the nation’s capital and northern Virginia, but in the end, you can also relax on a Potomac Riverboat cruise. Combining a walking tour and bus tour, see the US Navy Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and more. Enjoy the full experience including the boat cruise and included lunch break at L’Enfant Plaza or customize the tour with a length that works best for you.
Rain in the weather forecast? You won’t have to worry. These convertible tour buses also have a glass-top option. Either way, you’ll have the best views on the most exclusive ride in town.
The summer weather in DC can make you feel like staying inside where the AC lives but these ice cream and frozen yogurt shops can make venturing outside worth the heat.
Alongside the waterfront, overlooking the Potomac River, you’ll find the Southwest Soda Pop Shop, a small business owned by four sisters, that offers an extensive menu of ice cream-based desserts. Their menu boasts traditional sweets like soft service ice cream, shakes, or a banana split along with the lighter option of a healthy fruit smoothie where you can add chia seeds, B-12, and more. Save room for their “Strawberry Supreme”, a towering dessert where you can choose strawberry shortcake bites or funnel cake and top them off with cheesecake ice cream, strawberry sauce, shortcake crumbles, and whipped cream.
A short walk from U St. just past Howard University lies Here’s The Scoop! Describing themselves as the only hand-dipped ice cream dessert shop in the area, they offer both dairy-based and vegan ice cream—both varieties are available in small, large, or a pint. Their menu also includes milkshakes, an ice cream sandwich, or a sundae with your choice of toppings. You’ll have more than enough flavors to choose from with classics like cookies and cream or butter pecan as well as bolder options like pumpkin and campfire smores.
The 1950s-inspired Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats has brought Wisconsin-style custard to the DC area. They traditionally serve customers out of their Ice House in a historic building out of Alexandria, Virginia but they also have a retro-style truck that dishes out treats in different locations throughout DC. From donut, brownie, or red velvet frozen custard sandwiches to peach cobbler and rum cake, you’re definitely going to want to save room for dessert. Stay tuned to their Instagram page to find out where you can pick up a custard on the go or you can also hire them to set up shop in their signature truck if you’re planning any gatherings this summer.
With these Washington DC area activities and hotspots, you’ll have plenty to do to beat the heat this summer and take advantage of the city getting back to its bustling ways. While you’re taking advantage of these activities, please keep in mind that some stores and businesses may still require mask usage for their patrons.
Serita Braxton, USA Guided Tours Blog Contributor