Now 122 years young, Rock Creek Park is still the ultimate sanctuary for folks who want to escape into nature close to home. If you’re not adventurous enough to wander around on your own (and risk a solo run-in with white-tailed deer), you can take a ranger-led hike. The park, which bisects the city, also offers tons of children’s programming, such as a weekly invitation for budding astronomers ages 4 through 8 to check out the night sky from the only planetarium in the National Park Service system.
Gym: Balance Gym
Balance is so gung-ho about growing a different kind of fitness culture that co-owner Mark Crick actually bought a farm. The new West Virginia outpost, which hosted hiking and tubing retreats this summer, is part of the local chain’s quest to find inventive ways to whip folks into shape. Expect even more movement over the next few months as Balance vacates its original Kalorama location and expands dramatically at both Thomas Circle and Glover Park to accommodate more members and more classes.
Specialty Gym: CrossFit Dupont
CrossFit’s Workout of the Day is brutal no matter where you do it. Smiles can lighten the load of those barbells, though, which is why the members of this CrossFit affiliate work hard to make it seem easy. There are T-shirts that say, “It’s not conditioning. It’s getting sexy,” and there’s a unicorn mascot. But they take their kettlebell swings, muscle-ups and burpees just as seriously as any other box.
Pool: Wilson Aquatic Center
Sniping continues over which configuration is better, but whether the city’s premier pool is set up as 50 meters or 25 yards, it’s one attractive body of water. The setup changes regularly; the one constant is the stream of masters teams, high school programs and recreational swimmers who fill the lanes. Youngsters go crazy for the aquatic center’s kiddie pool, equipped with jets and other surprises. The best part is the price: free for District residents.
Yoga Studio: Yoga District
It’s always happy hour at Yoga District, where the faces are friendly and the price — just $10 a class — is right. “Instead of neighborhood bars, we’re neighborhood yoga studios,” says founder Jasmine Chehrazi, who opened a fifth location in April. In case you’re worried the do-gooder chain is becoming a corporate behemoth, Chehrazi disclosed the financials online, showing that half of every dollar is spent on teacher pay and the rest on fulfilling the mission of making yoga more accessible. We’ll drink a coconut water to that.
Bike Shop: BicycleSPACE
“Many places sell bikes and then people just leave them in closets,” says BicycleSPACE manager Jordan Mittelman, who couldn’t imagine anything worse. The shop is obsessed with organizing social outings — often to tunes blasting out of a boom box and culminating with baked goods. One of its monthly full-moon rides this summer attracted nearly 900 riders, and there are plans to channel that energy into a cycling advocacy organization.