Whether you stay on-campus at George Washington University (GW) this summer for an internship or classes, sometimes you just can’t escape the summer drain. At the start of the summer, you made grand plans: visit a new museum on your days off, explore the greater city, try a new restaurant once a week. Now on your free days you just seek refuge in the cool embrace of your air-conditioned dorm room. Need a refresher on other ways to fill your time?
Check out 10 summer haunts recommended by GW summer residents for your next free day.
1. Vern Pool
You just woke up and the air outside already feels sticky with heat. Anyone who spends a summer in DC will swear the humidity’s no joke. Seriously no joke. Even as temperatures stay in the 80s, humidity levels stick around 60 percent. That’ll leave anyone wanting to jump into a pool the minute you step outside.
“There’s days when I walk outside and it’s like a wet washcloth on my skin,” GW junior Madeline Fischer said.
Luckily, GW’s Mount Vernon campus offers an easy escape from the clammy heat with its pool. Whether living on the Mount Vernon or Foggy Bottom campus, fitting in some temporary relief to your morning can really kick off your day. What better way to do that than with a quick dip? During the weekday, the pool opens at noon, but on your day off during the weekend, it opens at 10 a.m. Sleep in a little, then grab your towel and cool down.
2. Tatte at Foggy Bottom
Alright, you dried off and can’t ignore your growling stomach—where to next? You could visit Pelham Commons (again), but maybe you want to broaden your horizons. Lucky for you, the new Tatte Bakery & Cafe just opened in July in Foggy Bottom. Situated on I Street, the location boasts pastries, breads, a brunch menu, an all-day menu and a coffee bar. So, order yourself a treat, grab a table and open your laptop for some stimulating work vibes. With less students on-campus for the summer, this might be the only chance to not find it packed to the brim with haggard undergrads.
3. Kreeger Art Museum
You glance up through the haze of your summer assignments only to discover midday rolled around. Maybe you need a break. If you live near the Mount Vernon campus, the Kreeger Art Museum provides the perfect distraction. The museum sits about a 10-minute walk from GW’s Mount Vernon campus. That makes it a perfect alternative for Vern residents wanting to visit a museum but not wanting to trek all the way to the National Mall. Made up of the personal collection of long-time DC residents David and Carmen Keeger, the museum features an impressive array of well-known contemporary artists: Monet, Picasso and Braque just scratch the surface. The museum does not require an entrance fee, but make sure to reserve a timed entry pass before visiting.
4. National Museum of African American History & Culture
If you happen to find yourself in Foggy Bottom around midday, of course, you might discover too many museum options. How to decide? Current special exhibits highlight the work and life of civil rights activist and lawyer Pauli Murray, as well as visual art’s connection to protest, commentary and escape. But these intriguing exhibits aren’t the only draw. The museum’s website lists free speaker events to pique your interest.
“As soon as I sampled the food [at the Nicole A. Taylor event], it brought back memories of my grandmother and Nana’s cooking,” GW junior Kayla Laws said. “My family and culture [are] similar to hers in terms of rich soul food.”
Laws attended “Watermelon & Red Birds: A Conversation with Nicole A. Taylor.” During the author event, Taylor spoke about the significance of the recipes in her cookbook during Juneteenth. Attendees sampled Taylor’s recipes, including key lime pie, peach cobbler, pulled pork sandwiches and red birds. Taylor’s event demonstrates the unique variety of experiences you can attend. From poetry readings to art workshops to educational talks, you’ll find plenty to enjoy at this museum.
5. Smithsonian National Zoological Park
You just spent all morning grinding out your summer work in Tatte (or even Pelham) and you feel brave. Maybe you’ll skip the museum and venture into the humidity. Maybe you won’t totally melt this time. In that case, the zoo makes a perfect solution. Home to over 2,700 animals (including Giant Pandas) and spanning 163 acres, you’ll get a nice bit of walking in while enjoying the 390 species the zoo hosts. Plus, with all the trees and foliage dotting the landscape, the heat might be just a little more bearable. Right?
“I’ve been enjoying the AC of my room,” GW junior Estafania Hernandez said. “But I have liked visiting the zoo. My favorite is the small mammals exhibit—the micro monkeys are really cute.”
Besides the incredible variety of animal inhabitants, the zoo offers a few other attractions as well. Take a look at The Good of the Hive Mural, intended to spread awareness about the significance of pollinators. Painted by Matthew Willey, the mural currently contains 353 painted honeybees, but will one day include 50,000. If you want to feel youthful, head over to the Speedwell Conservation Carousel. For four dollars you can hitch a ride atop a naked mole rat, a panda or maybe a giraffe.
6. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Still not set on your midday activity? If museums and the National Mall ceased to pique your interest, you might discover yourself suffering from that dreaded urban drain. Thankfully, a short drive to Virginia offers a bit of reprieve and a change of scenery. 25 miles long and lining the Potomac River, the Parkway provides the ideal formula for rejuvenating yourself. The lush greenery and scenic woods will make it impossible not to take a deep breath in, breathe out and get back that sense of tranquility you had at the start of the summer.
7. Sweet Green
Midday activity fulfilled, by now you could probably devour the nearest National Mall ice cream truck. If you want a slightly healthier option, though, a salad from Sweet Green could be your savior. The chain’s fresh ingredients pair well with the heat of the day. With several locations in the DC area, no matter where you end up around lunchtime, Sweet Green will likely not be far.
“The Harvest Bowl is immaculate ,” Fischer said. “It cures all wounds, I swear.”
In addition to the cool salad options, Sweet Green also offers several warm bowls and local bowls. Feeling fishy? Try out the fish taco bowl with its roasted steelhead. Fischer personally recommends the Harvest Bowl. With roasted chicken, sweet potatoes apples, goat cheese and more, this bowl goes with any season.
8. Kennedy Center
Early evening—too late to go to another museum, but too soon to throw that kickback. The Kennedy Center offers an exciting option at its Millennium Stage. Every night after 6 p.m., the stage hosts a free performance. Check out the schedule online to decide whether you’ll view some jazz, opera, a play, or even a film screening.
“[My favorite was] the Dupont Brass Band for sure!” GW junior Laws said. “They are Howard university graduates!”
Besides Dupont Brass Band, plenty of other local groups will perform at the free shows this summer. The Millennium Stage brings artists from around the DMV area to you. All the performing artists and organizations belong to the Kennedy Center Culture Caucus, a group seeking to build community empowerment. So, grab some friends. You’ll benefit from a free evening—and learn more about a local artist you can continue to support in the future.
9. Flower Child
The day drags into evening, and you feel your stomach grumbling (again). If you plan on grabbing dinner with friends, you might hunt for a restaurant with various dietary options. Located just a short walk from the university hospital, Flower Child’s menu offers a variety of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. A bit of something for everyone.
“I have friends who are vegan and vegetarian,” Laws said. “So, I like how they have a lot of those options.”
Will you go for the vegetarian avocado Caesar salad? Maybe the vegan “Glow Bowl” with spicy sweet potato noodle? If you are a meat-lover, though, don’t worry. Flower Child has your back. Tuck in to “The Rebel,” a delectable grilled steak wrap. Or consider the “Flying Avocado” wrap, featuring smoked turkey. No matter your dietary preferences or restrictions, Flower Child’s menu offers an option for you.
10. Outdoor Movie Night
You want to finish the day off strong. A kickback in the welcoming AC of your dorm room with friends might sound appealing, but if you want to mix it up, consider picking an outdoor movie night. Several locations throughout DC offer movie nights throughout the summer. Visit Congressional Cinematery (housed in Congressional Cemetery) to catch a space-themed movie, or head over to the MLK memorial for a film touching on themes of equality, justice and love. Don’t be shy—grab that orientation-issued GW picnic blanket and cozy up under the sunset.