Where to Play Hooky on a Sunny Summer Day

By Katie Wilmeth
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 27, 2008

Be honest. You know you've done it. That day you awoke to a brilliantly sunny sky and warm weather that forbids wearing a suit? Instead of sitting in your cubicle looking longingly out the window (that is, if you have a window at all), you called in . . . "sick."

You're not the only one. Nearly a third of employees have claimed illness to get out of a day at the office, according to CareerBuilder.com's 2007 survey on sick days (and we're guessing that number is actually much higher).

Of course, we would never condone lying to your boss so you can lie in the sun or gallivant about. But if for whatever reason you find yourself away from the office on a weekday, here are four options for a great way to spend it.

PRACTICE YOUR SWING. Why is TopGolf in Alexandria so popular among the sick-day set?

"Nobody tells on you out here," Eugene Howard, a ticket agent for US Airways and avid TopGolf customer, said while hitting golf balls on a recent sunny weekday afternoon -- a day off for him, not a sick day.

TopGolf, a British import that opened in the States three years ago, is best described as the driving range of the future. With gadgets for the iPhone generation, this is where James Bond might relax if he ever took a sick day. Each ball contains a microchip tagged with your name. When you hit a ball onto the range, which is outfitted with electronic targets, a monitor tells you how far your ball traveled and keeps score for you. It can't, thankfully, tell if you've called in sick or you're just on your lunch hour. Beer and burgers can be delivered right to you at one of the 78 stalls on two levels.

"My business partner does not know I'm here right now," said Mark Gianturco, a chief technology officer at a local company, who brought his wife and kids to TopGolf on the first day of summer break. "I'm taking a long lunch."

TopGolf:6625 S. Van Dorn St., Alexandria, 703-924-2600 http://www.topgolfusa.com/locations/kingstowne. Open daily, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Pay-and-play day pass $5. A bucket of balls costs $3.80 to $5.80, depending on time of day. Monday special, 100 balls for $12.

TAKE YOURSELF OUT TO THE BALLPARK. The new Nationals Park is a great place to spend your sick day, as long as the Nats aren't there. That's not a knock on the team. It's just that if you go to a game, there's a chance that the Jumbotron will sell you out in a tragic, sitcom-style manner. Not that anyone's actually watching the games, but you get the picture.

No, the reason to go on non-game days is to take an all-access tour of the shiny new stadium. Stops include the locker room, a visit to the Washington Suite (price for sitting there on a game day: $6,000) and even a chance to throw a pitch in the bullpen.

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