The average American spends nearly half of each day in front of a screen. A consistent digital diet might be crucial for conducting business and keeping up with the news, but it can often feel exhausting.
While some folks pay thousands on digital-detox retreats in faraway places, dodging news alerts is easier than you think. These local spots offer their own twist on downtime — and encourage you to play along.
The Kreeger Museum
Peaceful woods surrounding five-and-a half acres of sculpture-dotted gardens guard the Kreeger Museum from the bustle of the outside world. So it's no surprise that this private nonprofit art museum, the former home of local philanthropists David and Carmen Kreeger, can bring art lovers and wanderers into the present. Personal photography is permitted in most exhibits, but the tranquil setting practically begs visitors to disconnect.
The residence, designed in 1963 by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Philip Johnson with Richard Foster, is an artistic feat. Soaring modern archways and wide hallways display the Kreegers’ private art collection — works by impressionists Monet and Renoir have a home here, alongside such Washington artists as William Christenberry and Betsy Stewart — while the building’s many picture windows dissolve the boundaries between the building and the nature surrounding it. Outside, meandering trails deliver visitors to formidable outdoor sculptures. Budget extra time for the museum’s reflecting pool; you’re likely to lose track of it. 2401 Foxhall Rd. NW.
A Baked Joint
You won’t find WiFi at A Baked Joint or its Georgetown sister, Baked & Wired. But you will find a delicious cold brew, a warm slice of quiche and something else: a refreshing absence of screens. When the place opened in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood about two and a half years ago, A Baked Joint caused a bit of a stir by advising customers to put away their laptops. Although there’s no official screen-free policy at the Joint, there is an intentional effort to minimize the influence of technology for customers.
“If you’re surrounded by computers, it feels like you can’t unwind, even if you’re not yourself on your computer,” explains Tessa Velazquez, operations director for both stores. “We really try to encourage more of an environment where people can sit and unplug and connect with the people around them.” 440 K St. NW. 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW.
The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress
Don’t be intimidated by the bronze statues, the marble columns or the deafening quiet. As long as you’re curious (and age 16 or older), you're welcome to use and enjoy the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room. The myth that the library contains a copy of every book ever published isn’t true, but with more than 66,000 volumes in print alone, there’s bound to be something that piques your interest — as if the opportunity to flip the pages of an actual book in the country’s oldest federal cultural institution weren’t enough. If not, the computer catalogue center provides access to an additional 800 databases, around 600 of which can only be used at the library.
Though the Main Reading Room offers WiFi for its guests, and phones and laptops are allowed, it's a quiet place to start that book, learn something or simply soak up inspiration. Before you can unplug there, you’ll need a reader identification card, which can be obtained free by completing a registration process and presenting a valid ID. 101 Independence Ave. SE.
Hidden in plain view, the Underground is a subterranean arts space tucked beneath Dupont Circle. Fifteen thousand square feet of repurposed subway infrastructure have been transformed into an immersive space for play and inspiration. White subway tiles give way to full-height graffiti murals, while artistic projections (part of a rotating art display) hover on concrete above still-visible subway tracks.
Dupont Underground can be visited any time there’s a performance scheduled, which include dance, music, theater and comedy shows. Your phone won’t display any of those friendly little signal bars down here (there's very little signal), but in truth, this space isn’t completely unplugged. Photography is encouraged — and the space practically begs for it — but at least you’ll have to wait until you surface before you can share what you’ve found. 19 Dupont Cir. NW.
No TV. No phones at the bar. No standing. No martinis. Those are the rules at the Saloon in Shaw.
The piped-in classical music may seem like a strange bedfellow to a menu of burgers and German and Belgian ales, but the Saloon has a clear mission: It’s a place to connect with people, in person. “I’ve noticed that people talk, but they don’t communicate,” owner Kamal “Commy” Jahanbein says. “You want a conversation without shouting. You should be relaxed, not exhausted, trying to talk to someone.”
There’s something else that makes this unassuming place unique. In the 18 years the Saloon has been in business, its associated nonprofit, the Kamal Foundation, has built more than 20 schools around the world, with building sites in Iran, Cameroon and Guatemala. The pub’s signature bricks are scribed with the names of local donors, and Xerox-paper announcements beside the taps keep visitors apprised of the latest projects.
The building sites can be suggested by anyone. Jahanbein says he is always looking for ideas. The best way to make a suggestion? With a conversation at the bar. 1205 U St. NW.