Compiling a list of the summer’s best events and destinations is never an easy task — especially when you’re talking to people who live in different parts of the area and believe the beach or summer cocktail they grew up with is obviously the best.
Geography is also a factor: Sometimes you just want an outdoor bar or movie series that’s in your backyard. There are also weekends when a day trip to a special restaurant or concert seems like the perfect quick summer getaway.
We asked three experts to make the case for the best summer fun in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, but crossing state and city lines over the next few months is highly encouraged.
D.C.: Is there a better way to drain the swampy feelings a summer in the District can bring than by sipping on a refreshing mix of bittersweet Italian liqueur and bubbly wine? Yep, sorry frosé, but it is no longer 2016 and the spritz — with variations beyond Aperol — is our drink of choice. Find them at All-Purpose, No Kisses, Little Coco’s, Dacha Navy Yard and Bar Sirenis from Don Ciccio & Figli, among many other bars and restaurants.
Maryland: Of course Maryland’s official summer cocktail was invented at an Ocean City dock bar: On a sunny afternoon, you want a drink that washes over you like an evening sunset. The Orange Crush is simple: Orange vodka, orange liqueur, juice from a fresh-squeezed orange, and Sprite, but there’s a reason it’s found at bars all over the state.
Virginia: Set aside the many great cocktails you could make using Virginia’s official state spirit (rye whiskey made in George Washington’s reconstructed distillery), and take advantage of the Commonwealth’s flourishing wine country. Head to Barboursville Vineyards — near Montpelier, the home of another Founding Father — to sip some rosé while enjoying the lush views of Central Virginia.
D.C. : Get a slew of cold cuts, cheese and pickled peppers (or one of the many sandwiches) from A. Litteri, a small Italian grocery near Union Market, then head over to the National Arboretum to enjoy your DIY feast under the magnolia trees.
Maryland : Nothing brings family, friends and neighbors together like a pile of steamed blue crabs, hush puppies and pitchers of cold beer. If you don’t have room to invite everyone over, head in just about any direction to find a traditional crab house: L.P. Steamers in Baltimore; the Point Crab House in Arnold; Harris Crab House on Kent Narrows; or the Drift Inn in St. Mary’s County.
Virginia : All respect to crabs, but think smart here and don’t tire yourself out getting that meat. Go for oysters instead. You have a few great options, whether it’s Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town Alexandria, Rappahannock in Richmond or Chick’s Oyster Bar in Virginia Beach.
D.C. : For a beachy vibe head to DNV Rooftop Lounge (atop the Kimpton Donovan Hotel) for its revamped “beach hideaway,” with pool access ($5-$10) every Sunday afternoon between Memorial and Labor day weekends. The only sand you’ll find is a $27 shareable cocktail with rum, bourbon, Licor 43, passion fruit and pineapple, dubbed the “Sand in Ya Shorts.”
Maryland : Ocean City is its own animal. It isn’t as preppy as the Outer Banks or as quaint as Cape May. It revels in its kitschy T-shirt shops and rowdy crowds of teenagers who flock to the boardwalk. It’s also home to family movie nights on the beach, waterfront dock bars with stunning sunset views, and plenty of outdoor fun (Go-Karts, mini-golf, golf) that doesn’t involve setting foot on sand.
Virginia : Arguably the Virginians with the strongest sense of local pride are residents of the 757, which encompasses Virginia Beach and its mishmash of beach town with families jostling with partyers. Look to Norfolk as the area’s standout, with its burgeoning restaurant scene and an array of fun things to do, including a Triple-A minor league baseball game at a riverfront stadium.
D.C. : Climb a whopping 409 feet to the highest natural point in Washington, D.C., located in Tenleytown’s Fort Reno Park, then trek back down and take a dip at the nearby Wilson Aquatic Center to really capture that mountain-getaway-with-a-lake feeling.
Maryland : Like every other lake in Maryland, Deep Creek Lake is man-made — the 3,900 acres of water are the result of a 1920s dam project. But it’s become one of Maryland’s prized outdoor recreation regions, with swimming, sailing, hiking, fly-fishing and white-water rafting among the activities luring families and tourists back year after year.
Virginia : There’s not a bad time of year to get out to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Get on Interstate 81 and take your pick of idyllic views. Want a little bustle to your retreat? Head to nearby Roanoke or Staunton. If you want an all-natural experience, rent a cabin in Luray for some of the best views of Shenandoah National Park and, of course, the famous caverns.
D.C. : The 15th annual DC Jazz Festival (June 7-16) brings names both big (Jon Batiste) and local (Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes), with more than 40 acts playing over 10 days at venues around the District, including outdoor stages at the Wharf. Many events, including the Jazz ’n Families Fun Days, are free.
Maryland: Baltimore’s annual, free Artscape festival (July 19-21) features dozens of bands over a couple of city blocks, so you’ll hear up-and-coming jazz and hip-hop artists and the Baltimore Rock Opera Society in addition to the featured headliners, which have included TLC and Trombone Shorty in previous years. (This year’s performers will be announced in June.) Between shows, wander around the Station North neighborhood to explore visual and performing arts at dozens of sites.
Virginia: For 50 years running, a quaint amphitheater nestled in Lubber Run Park in Arlington has hosted a series of free summer concerts (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, June 14-Sept. 15). It’s a great time for all ages, and while the schedule includes the usual rotating cast of performers, there are also some standouts such as Grammy-nominated jazz singer Raul Midón (June 14) and local bossa nova powerhouse Verroneau (Aug. 10).
D.C.: Even city dwellers occasionally pine for the sprawling vibe of the suburbs. Enter Suburbia, an outdoor bar from Buffalo & Bergen serving cocktails, frozen drinks, wine and beer from an Airstream trailer parked in front of Union Market. The turf-covered space comes with a perk: the option to chase adulthood angst with one of the many food options located inside the market.
Maryland: The Tiki Bar in Solomons Island and Vera’s White Sands in Lusby will always have their fans, but the Sandlot in Baltimore is bringing a cool urban vibe to the idea of a waterfront bar. Created by chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, this 30,000-square-foot lot in Harbor East holds beach volleyball and bocce courts, an Airstream trailer bar serving frozen tiki drinks and cheap cans of beer, and areas for both dogs and kids to play. Live music is featured on weekends.
Virginia: More and more bars around various hip Arlington neighborhoods are trying to capture the feel of the outdoor beer garden experience, but stick with a classic just a little farther south. Tim’s Rivershore, on the Potomac River in Dumfries, gives you a great waterfront view, all sorts of delectable fried seafood and an alluring drink list, with both known and mysterious ingredients.
D.C.: There’s no shortage of outdoor movie venues around the District, but head to Can I Kick It? on Freedom Plaza for something a bit more unique: films scored live by DJ 2-Tone Jones, who mixes an original soundtrack of hip-hop and soul — this year, to a lineup of Marvel movies (Tuesdays, June 4-July 9). Get there early to claim your spot and dance to pre-movie tunes starting at 7:30 p.m. There’s even free popcorn and a martial arts demo.
Maryland: Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, which showcases the works of self-taught artists, is like no other in Maryland. Neither is the setting for its outdoor movie series. On Thursday nights in July and August, the slope of Federal Hill becomes natural seating facing a 30-foot movie screen. Flicks From the Hill begins July 11 with a singalong “Sound of Music,” where costumes are encouraged. Arrive between 5 and 9 p.m. for free access to the museum.
Virginia: While Rosslyn is mostly known for its myriad office buildings, tucked near its border is Gateway Park, which offers over a month-long movie series on Fridays (June 7-July 12). There are food trucks parked at one end of the park, so you can enjoy some snacks beyond just popcorn while watching films that include the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” (June 7) and the beyond charming “Paddington” (June 14).
Correction: A previous version of this article mentioned a pub in the park at Rosslyn’s movie series, but that will no longer be a feature of the event. This version has been updated.