Plan your summer: 15 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day

May 15, 2014

There are 15 weekends from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, a mere fraction of the calendar in which to do all of those things you put off for when the weather improved, or when the kids were out of school, or when work quieted down, etc. We always make our summer bucket lists and then assume that summer will be endless, when it is anything but.

A productively unproductive summer takes planning. We took the liberty of sketching out, weekend by weekend, an ideal summer in the Washington area and beyond, making sure to include annual traditions and notable events around town.

May 23-26
Get your barbecue game in order


(Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Memorial Day weekend serves as the unofficial start of summer. As the start of grilling season, however, this weekend might as well come with a raised seal. With all due respect to the humble burger with American cheese, this should be the summer to elevate your grilling game. Skip the supermarket and head for a proper butcher, because a better piece of meat, whether brisket, pork shoulder, ribs or, if you're feeling truly ambitious, a whole pig, will make you and your guests happiest. Wagshal's (3201 New Mexico Ave. NW. 202-363-5698) has been providing top-notch cuts since 1925; Harvey's is one of two butchers at Union Market (1309 Fifth St. NE. 202-544-0400) along with Red Apron, which also has locations in Merrifield (8298 Glass Alley, Fairfax. 703-676-3550) and a new outpost in Penn Quarter (709 D St. NW. 202-524-5244). Want to go whole-hog? Eastern Market's Union Meat (225 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-2626) can order pigs from 12 pounds to more than 150 pounds. That'll please a crowd. -- Alex Baldinger

May 30-June 1
Ride the Ferris wheel at National Harbor


OXON HILL, MD - MAY 6: The Capital Ferris wheel at National Harbor is nearing completion, on May, 06, 2014 in Oxon Hill, MD. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

National Harbor will be setting the wheel in motion on Memorial Day weekend when the Capital Wheel, the region's answer to the London Eye, starts its first rotations. Those with no fear of heights can climb aboard one of the 42 climate-controlled, eight-person gondolas and ascend 180 feet for spectacular views of Washington's skyline. Sure to be a hit with your touristy out-of-town relatives, rides will cost $15 for an approximately 15-minute ride. If you're celebrating a special occasion, you can rent a VIP gondola: With views like this, the wheel is destined to be the spot for many summer marriage proposals. 165 Waterfront St., National Harbor. -- Maura Judkis

June 6-8
Crack some 'True Blue' Maryland crabs

A long, cold winter means Maryland's blue crab season has gotten off to a slow, expensive start. Watermen are hoping supplies will improve once the water warms up, which should make this early June weekend the perfect time for your annual crab feast. If you want the full experience, head for one of the waterfront standbys in Annapolis or on Maryland's Eastern Shore: Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn (4558 Forest Beach Rd., Annapolis. 410-757-1311), Harris Crab House (433 Kent Narrows Way N., Grasonville. 410-827-9500) or the Point Crab House and Grill (700 Mill Creek Rd., Arnold. 410-544-5448). Maryland's "True Blue" certification program guarantees the crabs you're cracking come from the state's waters, not the Gulf of Mexico or Southeast Asia, and all of the restaurants we recommend participate. -- Fritz Hahn

June 13-15
Catch World Cup fever

There's nothing like the World Cup to put the Washington area's worldly flavor on full view. The first weekend of the quadrennial tournament kicks off more than a month of crowds packing bars and restaurants, living and dying by every goal, foul and penalty kick. German fans at Biergarten Haus, Ghanaian fans at Ghana Cafe, Dutch fans at Mackey's: If there's an ethnic bar or restaurant in the area, expect it to be packed with ex-pats cheering on their home country. If you're cheering for the United States to make it out of the tournament's "Group of Death," make plans to join the bandanna-wearing American Outlaws supporters club at the Laughing Man Tavern (1306 G St. NW. 202-737-1797) near Metro Center for matches June 16, June 22 and June 26. -- Fritz Hahn

June 20-22
Drive to Delaware for the Firefly Festival


(Courtesy Firefly Music Festival)

A music road trip is one of summer's quintessential undertakings, and after only three years in existence, Delaware's increasingly cool Firefly Music Festival has the potential to quell the Coachella and Bonnaroo pangs of East Coasters. Load up on jorts and flower crowns and make the three-hour drive to the festival, which includes a who's who of headliners June 19-22 -- Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys play June 20, Outkast and Beck play June 21 -- plus a woodsy vibe, a farmers market, countless hammocks and a bar serving Dogfish Head. Single-day admission is $49 on June 19 and $99 June 20-22. -- Lavanya Ramanathan

June 27-29
Watch some of golf's greats up close

The Quicken Loans National (formerly the AT&T National) returns to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda during the last full week of June. Host Tiger Woods, recovering from back surgery, may not participate, but expect many other golfers who use the event as a tune-up between the U.S. Open and the British Open. Past participants include Woods, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Miguel Angel Cabrera and others who could be in the hunt come Sunday's final round. Congressional Country Club, 8500 River Rd., Bethesda. 800-594-8499. Daily grounds passes are $10-$30; parking passes $7-$50. -- Alex Baldinger

July 4-6
Get out of town to have a blast

July 4 in Washington brings crowds: Packed Metro cars, long lines at security checkpoints, no breathing room on the Mall. Skip the hassles this summer and get out of town for a smaller celebration with fireworks and all the trimmings. Frederick's 4th offers a full day of bathtub races, music and a petting zoo and pony rides for kids before fireworks begin at dusk. 121 N. Bentz St., Frederick. 301-600-2844. Free.

Two hours north, the Pennsylvania town of Lititz hosts one of America's oldest July 4 commemorations in a movie-perfect small-town setting. The celebration begins July 3 with music and a parade. 717-626-8981. $10 for age 13 and older; free for children 12 and younger-- Fritz Hahn

July 11-13
Bid farewell to Fort Fringe


Fort Fringe, headquarters of the Capital Fringe Festival, is set to be demolished.

Sweating through your shirt in the name of experimental theater has become a rite of summer in Washington. But this will be the last summer for the Capital Fringe Festival's dilapidated hub on New York Avenue NW, Fort Fringe, and its saunalike Baldacchino Tent. But you have one more Fringe season to say farewell when 145 eclectic and offbeat performances descend upon Fort Fringe, as well as other stages around the city, July 10-27. This summer, the festival is branching out with shows at Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE. Visit capitalfringe.org for tickets (on sale June 19) and showtimes. 866-811-4111. $17 per ticket, plus the one-time purchase of a $5-$7 Fringe button-- Stephanie Merry

July 18-20
Celebrate Baltimore's creative side

Artscape, Baltimore's 33rd annual outdoor celebration of culture, means sweltering heat, chicken on a stick and the sounds of an indie band you've never heard of. (Like any of that is bad?) This summer's edition of the free arts festival includes all that and more. In addition to such Artscape traditions as a display of art cars, arts and craft vendors and edgy contemporary exhibitions (on view inside blissfully air-conditioned galleries), this year's event features such new attractions as an after-hours dance party July 19 and a mobile app to help you navigate the dizzying array of offerings. Artscape takes place in the neighborhood surrounding Baltimore's Maryland Institute College of Art1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-8632. -- Michael O'Sullivan

July 25-27
Let the wild horses take you away

At less than four hours from Washington, Chincoteague Island is ideal for a kid-friendly weekend getaway. July is prime pony-viewing season on an island known for its multitude of wild equines: Each summer, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company rounds up the wild ponies on adjacent Assateague Island before leading them a short distance through the sound where part of the herd is auctioned off, as a way to control its size. Watch the pony roundup July 26-27 and the famed swim July 30. When you're not kayaking in the sound, relaxing on the beach or exploring Assateague's nature trails, a quaint fireman's carnival, with rides, games and fairground food, takes place every Friday and Saturday, as well as July 28-31. -- Maura Judkis

Aug. 1-3
Follow the football team to Richmond


(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Thousands of Washingtonians will decamp for Richmond in early August to watch the Washington Redskins practice before the start of the 2014 National Football League season. Kids love the chance to get autographs and see their favorite players up close; grown-ups can get an early look at what the team can do under first-year coach Jay Gruden. A weekend in Richmond offers plenty for non-football fans, too, from Civil War heritage sites to a growing restaurant scene - Mike Isabella is opening a Graffiato in downtown Richmond this summer - to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, 2401 W. Leigh St., Richmond. redskinsrva.com. Free. -- Alex Baldinger

Aug. 8-10
Make the most of deep-fried Twinkie season

County fair season in the Washington area runs from mid-July through September, but the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair is always one of the local highlights. The 66th annual fair, which runs Aug. 8-16, includes carnival rides and a blitz of colored lights, demolition derbies, music, craft vendors, wrestling matches, paddock after paddock of animals, pig races and, yes, even the opportunity to milk a cow. Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg. 301-963-3247. $10, free for age 11 and younger. -- Margaret Ely

Aug. 15-17
Dine out while the District is deserted


Where is everybody? (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Where is everybody? The August recess applies to more than just members of Congress, as Washington empties out in the weeks before school starts. Staying in town? While everyone else is at the beach, swoop in and steal their seats: This is the weekend to dine at those hard-to-get-into places you've been putting off going to for months. That line at Little Serow or Rose's Luxury, below, is likely to get cut in half; you'll have an easier time getting reservations at Le Diplomate and a shorter wait time at Etto; you might even have a fighting chance at one of those prime window bar seats at Ghibellina. -- Maura Judkis

Aug. 22-24
Celebrate beer in the nation's capital

We're all thirsty by this point in the summer, which makes late August an ideal time for the sixth annual DC Beer Week. Specific events have yet to be announced, but expect tap takeovers at local bars, food-and-beer pairing events at restaurants, outdoor music and release parties for limited-edition beers beginning Aug. 17. Look for the full schedule at dcbeerweek.net-- Fritz Hahn

Aug. 29-Sept. 1
Get out on the water

As the dog days of August drag into September, the most comfortable spot is near - and preferably on - a body of water. If you're not beach-bound, catch some rays and a breeze while boating along the Potomac River. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and pedal boats by the hour from Boating in D.C., the Boathouse at Fletcher's Cove and Thompson Boat Center. A single kayak from Boating in D.C. and Thompson's runs $15 per hour, while it's $11 at Fletcher's. For a longer outing, Potomac Paddle Sports offers day trips, including a four-hour whitewater rafting trip through the Potomac River's Mather Gorge. -- Margaret Ely

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