As we learned in 2013 when he made a daring escape from the National Zoo, Rusty the red panda is a scofflaw, a rogue, a loose cannon. On the other hand, Bei Bei, the zoo’s adorable giant panda cub, is clearly a good citizen, the kind of panda you could take home to your mother. We enlisted these two D.C. icons to illustrate how you can do D.C. summer right — or, if you’re anything like Rusty, what you’re probably doing wrong.
Granted, Bei Bei knows there will still be crowds on Fourth of July Eve, but they won’t be as big — and this way he can spend the actual Fourth watching fireworks from one of his eagle buddies’ high perches. All of the featured acts, including standbys the National Symphony Orchestra, the United States Army Band and the Choral Arts Society of Washington, as well as this year’s special guests — including The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett — are slated to perform at the rehearsal. There won’t be fireworks, but there will be a boom: the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery will attend to fire the cannons. The Third of July fun starts at 8 p.m.; gates usually open at 3 p.m., but that’s subject to change.
There’s no need to smuggle in your flask if you’ve got lawn seats for a summer concert at the Filene Center: Wolf Trap allows you to bring in food and drinks, including alcohol. The maximum size allowed for coolers on the lawn is 48 quarts (which is really big), but otherwise, anything goes. Lawn chairs also have rules: There’s a special section for them, while the rest of the lawn is limited to cushions with backs. If you’re worried about being able to see the entertainment, fear not: There are two giant screens on either side of the stage to ensure a good view. And never forget that the lawn opens 90 minutes before showtime, so get ready to run for a good spot.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival assembles people from around the world to demonstrate their cultures on the National Mall — during the peak of D.C.’s summer heat. (This year’s festival runs June 27-July 1 and July 4-8.) We feel sorry for these international visitors out there in the beating sun, but you don’t have to sweat alongside them. Instead of visiting the festival during the day, drop by for evening performances, which begin daily at 6:30 p.m. In addition to taking place when it’s cooler, these shows often feature the festival’s top musicians and dancers.
The Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan stop seems to be the most logical choice if you’re visiting the zoo. It is not. Bei Bei knows that getting off there means you’ll be making a long slog uphill to the zoo’s main entrance on Connecticut Avenue — a real problem if you’ve got little cubs and/or a stroller. Instead, get off at Cleveland Park and head downhill and south to the zoo’s main entrance. After you’re finished with your visit, turn south, coast downhill and hop on the train at Woodley Park. If your cubs are still whining, just know in your heart that it could have been worse.
Once summer starts, you can barely throw a bamboo stick without hitting a free outdoor workout class. Chinatown Park’s options include barre, Zumba and yoga; the Golden Triangle BID’s TriFit series offers yoga on Tuesdays, barre on Wednesdays and Pilates on Thursdays through September (Bei Bei knows he has to register on Eventbrite to sign the waiver). Thanks to the Anacostia Watershed Society, you can hit the river during the summer for a guided canoe tour or an open paddle night. Or you can stay on dry land and tone up throughout June with FlyBarre classes (kind of a weight workout) on Tuesday evenings in the Park at CityCenter.
You can drop by the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center anytime (during business hours) for a tour of the Capitol building, but these tours are a bit cookie-cutter. You’ll spend most of your time looking at statues in the crypt and paintings in the Rotunda. If you call ahead and schedule a tour with one of your representatives, you’ll get to see the Capitol with an intern, who can personalize the tour to your interests, give you some state-themed swag and perhaps even take you on the nifty old trains that run between the congressional office buildings and the Capitol.