Is any day sweeter than “summer Friday”? If you’re lucky enough to enjoy the perk — an increasingly offered arrangement in which some office employees get days off or half-days this time of year — you probably have weekend getaways planned. But if you don’t, here are ideas on how to spend a free day in Washington to the max.
There are a few D.C. landmarks that are open only during the week, so take advantage of being able to get in without taking a vacation day:
Watch Congress in session: Plan ahead and get a pass to enter the Senate and House galleries from the office of your senator or representative (D.C. residents can head to House Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office), or stop by the Capitol Visitor Center to gain admittance during recess on the fly.
Tour the State Department’s diplomatic reception rooms: See the beautiful rooms where the secretary of state hosts official functions in this 45-minute guided fine arts tour. Only conducted Monday through Friday at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Reservations required.
U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing: See millions of dollars being printed during this free tour, which is only available to the public on weekdays.
Schedule a tour of the Pentagon: Plan at least two weeks in advance to take a guided mile-and-a-half walk through the Pentagon, one of the world’s largest office buildings. Tours are only available Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from noon to 4 p.m.
Find yourself (relatively) alone with your thoughts at these outdoor spots that are so lovely, they can get annoyingly crowded on the weekend:
Hains Point: According to fitness-record app Strava, the back mile-long stretch of Hains Point is the second-most popular route for cyclists in the entire United States, with more than 548,067 rides recorded. At that rate, it still might be busy on Friday, but it will be easier to dodge other cyclists than on the weekend.
Billy Goat Trail: This scenic hiking trail along the river in C&O Canal National Historical Park gets so crowded, the National Park Service advises showing up before 8 a.m. on weekends if you want to avoid waiting in lines along the trail.
Francis Pool: Finally snag a lawn chair and a spot under an umbrella at what the D.C. government says is the city’s busiest public swimming pool, located in the West End.
The Embassy Row Hotel: Take this hotel’s Hooky Friday event literally and spend your afternoon at the rooftop pool looking out on the Dupont Circle skyline and drinking half-price cocktails. The $30 day passes for locals starts at 3 p.m., and the half-off drinks run through 5 p.m. with a DJ playing from 5 to 8 p.m.
These classic restaurants are not open for lunch on weekends, and they may normally be out of reach for your afternoon meal on a regular week. So on a day when you don’t have to hustle back to the office — and you’re not limited to a four-block radius — plan your day around lunch:
Mangialardo’s: This Capitol Hill sandwich shop, known for mainly serving government workers and cops in the neighborhood, has been open for more than 60 years. Visit the carryout shop weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a taste of the elusive “G-Man” Italian-style hoagie sub, piled high with ham, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, fontina cheese, provolone cheese and oregano.
Greek Deli: For years, office workers have ordered avgolemono (chicken and lemon) soup from this classic lunch spot, which is only open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Time your visit before noon so you can beat the line that starts forming for owner Kostas Fostieris’s spanakopita and baklava.
Sushi Taro: This Dupont Circle restaurant, which only offers lunch Mondays through Fridays, earned a Michelin star for its omakase counter, but its lunch bento box earns its place in a penny pincher’s heart. It’s a veritable feast for $17.50, with rice, pickles, miso soup and compartments filled with sashimi and wild prawn and vegetable tempura, and a choice of such dishes as fried chicken or grilled marinated salmon.
This could be the perfect opportunity to leisurely catch up on all the newish restaurants and coffee shops you’ve been meaning to try at a time when not everyone has the same idea — or when you can get a jump ahead of other cubicle denizens in line:
Linger over a cup of coffee: Ditch the laptop and while away the afternoon with a novel at a sunny coffee shop, without staking out a table too aggressively. You could easily spend hours at Grace Street Coffee in Georgetown near the canal, which is located in a nondescript building but is all windows and minimalist decor inside. If your summer read gets really engrossing, order a PB&J acai bowl from South Block Juice Co., which shares the space with the coffee shop. Speaking of books, head to the West End Library’s futuristic new building and check out a few selections to bring to a window seat next door for a flat white at Bluestone Lane , a charming Aussie coffee shop that really embraces the fiddle-leaf fig trend.
Dine out: This can be the day you finally get to try Maydan and Bad Saint — on a Friday night, no less. Bring that book to pass the time as you line up for a walk-in slot at these two tough-to-get-into restaurants. The no-reservations Bad Saint advises that the line can sometimes start as early as 3:15 p.m. for the acclaimed Filipino restaurant. Meanwhile, live-fire restaurant Maydan opens at 5 p.m., so line up to score a walk-in table — and a taste of the Syrian seven-spice lamb shoulder.