A summer free-for-all: Free and fun in the Washington area
By Katherine Boyle,
Free lunches? Not since the food trucks rolled into town. Yet Washington has long been a town of free events.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that getting off the couch is expensive. Hobbies cost money, don’t they? It’s so much easier to watch reruns of “Mad Men” than to dodge tourists on the Mall.
But laziness is no excuse to avoid a city you probably haven’t seen fully. Disclosure: We haven’t been to all these places, and by no means is this a complete list of free events in the area. (For that list, visit Going Out Guide, the experts on the fun you should be having year round). Instead, we offer a sampling of popular free staples and must-dos to whet your appetite. Think of the tips below as a quick summer checklist, and a push to get you to explore the sites that you’ve ignored.
Jazz in the Sculpture Garden
If you’re single in Washington and under 35, you’ve probably been invited to attend Jazz in the Garden . Held Friday nights through August in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, it’s a right of passage for many — a field day of young professionals who skip over on Friday evenings between 5:30 and 8:30 to enjoy fruity beverages and free music, from blues fusion to jazz piano. Sangria not included or necessary, but enjoyed by many. (Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW; Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial and Judiciary Square. pavilioncafe.com/jazz.html)
Golden Triangle concerts
Occupy that other square on K Street during the Golden Triangle Summer Concert Series. Every Thursday evening until June 21, the Farragut West contingent can enjoy free rock, alternative and salsa concerts from 5:30 to 7:30 at Farragut Square Park. (17th and K streets; Metro: Farragut West. goldentriangledc.com )
New-to-town 20-somethings should take advantage of the free, often informative walking tours offered by DC by Foot that cover everything from the Mall to Lincoln’s assassination. There are free daily tours, with three free tours on Sundays. Locations and times vary, so visit freetoursbyfoot.com/dc for details.
The National Zoo
Who doesn’t love the zoo? The National Zoo is free year round, and in addition to the animals, the zoo holds free lectures, concerts and featured-creature days throughout the summer. Before you visit, check the feeding times of your favorite animals and the calendar of events online. Grounds are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (3001 Connecticut Ave. NW; Metro: Woodley Park or Cleveland Park; nationalzoo.si.edu )
Free outdoor movies
Washingtonians know about Screen on the Green, but there may be an outdoor movie showing closer to you this summer. In Maryland, Bethesda’s Outdoor Movies runs from July 24 to 28 at Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. “Crystal Screen: Rom Com” is on Mondays starting June 4, featuring romantic films including “Sleepless in Seattle” and “The Proposal” (1851 S. Bell St., Arlington County; crystalcity.org/do/ crystal-screen-rom-com). Every Sunday through August, Movies on the Potomac at the National Harbor has family-friendly movies such as “Cars 2” and “Smurfs” starting after sunset in National Harbor’s main plaza in Oxon Hill. (nationalharbor.com/consumer/ entertainment.htm#movies)
No one could visit all 17 of the free Smithsonian museums in a weekend, and chances are you wouldn’t want to. If you’re sick of dinosaurs and you’ve seen the Hope Diamond, try less tourist-ridden ones like the Renwick Gallery, a.k.a. America’s Craft Museum (1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Metro: Farragut West), or the Freer Gallery of Art, which focuses on Asian art. (1050 Independence Ave. SW; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Metro: Smithsonian).
So your friends want to see the White House Situation Room. Ha! Appease their appetite for power and take them on a free tour of the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms . The 45-minute tours of the department’s fine-art collection, conducted weekdays, are not for children younger than 12. Diplomacy is a popular attraction; request tickets 90 days in advance at receptiontours. state.gov. (2201 C St. NW; Metro: Foggy Bottom)
The Kennedy Center
There’s no excuse not to take the family to a show. Every day, there’s a free performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage at 6 p.m. There are also free tours daily from 10 to 5 p.m., starting every 10 minutes. Whether you’re visiting for the building or aching to see something on a stage, the Kennedy Center offers free, easy events year round — and those friends will wonder why you don’t go more often. (2700 F St. NW; Metro: Foggy Bottom)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Summer in Washington is brimming with free events, and free time in the District isn’t just for tourists. This summer, take the family to see the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives or just enjoy some great music in a beautiful venue. For the cost of gas or Metro fares, you might make a priceless memory.
Happy Memorial Day
Target’s new pop-up-shop series has collected and curated items from favorite boutiques nationwide. Find a hurricane candle holder ($34.99) from Connecticut’s Privet House, sleeveless jersey shifts ($30) from the Webster in Miami Beach, and soaps and body scrubs ($6) from cutting-edge beauty palace Cos Bar in Aspen. target.com
During Anthropologie’s semiannual clearance sale, a sleek, black-and-yellow-dotted one-piece Marimekko swimsuit is $99.95, reduced from $198. For the preppy in you, patent-leather bow-tied sandals are now $79.95, down from $128. Through Tuesday. See anthropologie.com for hours and addresses of stores in the District, Chevy Chase, Alexandria and Annapolis.
Don’t miss Ekster Antiques’ June barn sale in a historic 8,000-square-foot former dairy barn just outside Leesburg. Look for European, Belgian and Scandinavian-style antiques, furniture and home accessories, including urns, outdoor tables, statuary, benches and cupboards. The head of Apollo ($98) would make a lovely garden accent. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 1-3. 38532 Pheasant Hill Lane , Hamilton, Va., 540-454-2944. eksterantiques.com
The spring sale continues through the end of May at Tory Burch. Take up to 40 percent off current season styles. Sorry, Revas not included. 10 a.m.-9 p.m Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Tysons Galleria. 703- 288-0786. tysonsgalleria.com/sales/ tory-burch-spring-sale
— Janet Bennett Kelly