Outdoor movies. Music and arts festival. Roller skating. Wineries and distillers. End of summer staycation or Capital City getaway, there's plenty to keep you entertained all three days of the long weekend!!
Celebrate Labor Day and the last weekend of the summer with free outdoor events, festivals and cultural experiences in the nation’s capital that are a little outside the norm. After all, you have a long weekend, so better make the most of it!
1. End summer on a high note at the Labor Day Capitol Concert
The annual Labor Day Capitol Concert takes place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. This free music event kicks off the beginning of the Kennedy Center's performing arts season, and features patriotic classics.
2. Go sunset schooner sailing on the Potomac River
Enjoy a sunset sail aboard the American Spirit and get a unique and relaxing view of the city from the deck of a classic-rigged 65-foot sailing ship. Pack a picnic and watch the sun and your cares slip away.
3. Get a preview of dozens of plays at Page-to-Stage
Enjoy free performances from 60 DC-area theater companies at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival (Aug 31 - Sep 2). Now entering its 18th year, the theatrical event boasts readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals in development by local, regional, and national playwrights, librettists, and composers—some with scripts in hand, others almost fully staged. Seating begins 30 minutes before each play, but it’s a good idea to arrive early.
4. Take a water taxi for a day out in Georgetown, Alexandria or National Harbor
If you’re checking out the region’s waterfront destinations, there’s no better way to travel than by water taxi. Catch a ride to Georgetown, Old Town in Alexandria or National Harbor in Maryland—and enjoy the scenic views of the nation’s capital from the Potomac. Or try a waterfront-hopping DIY booze cruise (by way of water taxi) for something completely different.
5. Celebrate DC’s music and arts scene at Flower Bomb Fest
Artist and DC native Chris Pyrate teams up with Pabst Blue Ribbon Sound Society for Flower Bomb Fest (Aug 31), a free event aimed at bringing local artists, DJs, rappers, producers and more together at Southwest’s Culture House DC (located inside Blind Whino). This one-day event, which gets its name from DC rapper Wale’s 2011 song, Lotus Flower Bomb, is a celebration of DC’s music and art scene. On display inside and outside the color-splashed church-turned-cultural center is an exhibit honoring the sixth anniversary of the Blind Whino space. Pyrate’s own work is set to be part of the installation, alongside pieces from Trapbob, another local, award-winning artist.
6. Lace up your roller skates at the Park Skate Pavilion
oll, skate, bounce. Take a fun and nostalgic spin around the only roller skating rink in the National Park Service at the Anacostia Park Skate Pavilion. Skate rentals are free seven days a week until Labor Day! And on summer weekends you can dance to DJ music as you enjoy this open air roller rink.
7. Walk like an Egyptian at National Geographic Society
Yaaas queen! The Queens of Egypt exhibit at the National Geographic Society, one of the best alternative Smithsonian museums in DC, takes you back in time some 3,500 years, to the 18th and 19th dynasties of ancient Egypt. Get to know such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra VII; see more than 300 prestigious objects, including monumental statues, sparkling jewelry, and impressive sarcophagi; and take a 3-D tour of one of the most well-preserved tombs in the Valley of the Queens.
8. Watch movies outside on the silver screen
Don’t pack up your blankets and lawn chairs yet. There’s still time to enjoy classic movies and first-run features under the stars. Many of the outdoor movie screenings in the District feature beautiful scenery and are free to attend. So head to the Capitol Riverfront, Chinatown Park or plenty of other great places and make summer nights into outdoor movie nights!
9. Paddle boat around the Tidal Basin
Say goodbye to summer with a final ride on the Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. Paddle your way around the Tidal Basin for a waterfront view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.
10. Find an end-of-summer read at the National Book Festival
On Aug 31, browse the pages of soon-to-be-favorites and rub elbows with more than 100 award-winning authors, illustrators, and poets who will be in attendance to discuss their works and sign their books at the free National Book Festival presented by the Library of Congress.
11. Get back to nature in a park or on a trail
Enjoy a leisurely walk, or challenge yourself with a hike, at one of the DC-area’s many public trails and parks. The Mount Vernon Trail is a great option, as is the Rock Creek Park in Northwest DC which is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park and also boasts options for horseback riding, golfing, tennis and other recreational activities.
12. Wander the woods of Theodore Roosevelt Island
The mustachioed 26th president, an avid conservationist, would adore his namesake wilderness preserve. The car- and bike-free isle floats in the Potomac River, offering birds, trails and tranquility via a footbridge from the mainland. The island features memorial plaza with a 17-foot statue of Roosevelt as-well-as nearly 2-miles of trails through forest and wetlands.
13. Explore water activities, music, and more at DC's waterfronts
From the Anacostia river to the Potomac, DC's waterfronts offer exciting entertainment and recreational activities. Bike ride along the Anacostia River on the Anacostia Trail; admire stunning views at restaurants just steps from the river at the Capitol Riverfront; and get out on the water in kayaks and canoes in Georgetown.
14. Raise a glass at a local winery or distillery
Cheers to summer! Raise a glass and enjoy fantastic river views at District Winery – DC’s first urban winery. Or try a DIY distillery crawl in Ivy City, DC’s unofficial distillery district, with four within walking distance from one another. There’s Green Hat, One Eight, Republic Restoratives, and Jos. A. Magnus. And throw Atlas Brew Works in the mix for good measure. If you hit them all and are somehow still thirsty, bounce around to some of the city’s other top shelf distilleries, like Cotton and Reed, District Distilling, or Don Ciccio & Figli.
15. Sip locally pressed cider
DC now has not one, not two, but three cideries! The first arrival, Anxo, has two locations where you can taste their cider paired with Spanish pinxtos. Supreme Core is distributing across the city, so stop by one of the restaurants or bars serving their stuff. And Capitol Cider House is the newest in the set, having opened in a casual space in Petworth.
16. Sample DC’s international eats
With more than 175 foreign embassies, residences, chanceries, and diplomatic missions, DC is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the nation, and that goes for its cuisine too. Thanks to its role as global host, the ethnic-restaurant scene is both authentic and innovative. Take your tastebuds on a global culinary journey and sample some of the best international eats in the District.
17. Get out of the Uber and on a bike
Take your own personal tour of DC from the seat of a bike and see the city in a whole new light. Cycle the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which extends through many of D.C.’s residential neighborhoods, including NoMa, Brookland, Brightwood, and Takoma Park. There are also plenty of murals along the way thanks to POW! WOW! DC worth checking out. Or test your stamina with a circuit on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, one of the top five family-friendly bike rides in the D.C. area. The trail is approximately 20 miles long, circling around the Anacostia River and offering scenic views of the city and the nearby fauna. No bike? No problem. Capital Bikeshare makes it easy for everyone to ride.
18. Play a round of miniature golf at East Potomac's Miniature Golf Course
Foooore! Hit the greens for 19 holes of miniature golf at the historic Hains Point mini-golf course. It's the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's also the only outdoor mini-golf course in DC.
19. Dive in to an outdoor public pool
Many of DC’s coolest neighborhoods feature public pools managed by the Department of Parks of Recreation that are perfect for enjoying a pretty summer day. Banneker Pool in Shaw is a favorite among locals. Francis Pooll in Foggy Bottom is accessible by Metro and offers two 25-yard lap lanes. Just one block from Wisconsin Avenue, Volta Park Pool in Georgetown is another convenient option. DC residents swim free with proof of residency. For a full list of outdoor public pools in the city, visit the DC Department of Parks and Recreation’s website.
20. Get your art appreciation on at non-Smithsonian museums
Venture beyond the National Mall to check out some of DC’s smaller art museums beyond the ones in the Smithsonian family. The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle is an exceptional collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh. Also in Dupont, Hillyer supports a dynamic and rotating collection of works from local, regional and international artists. The Katzen Arts Center at American University hosts rotating exhibitions of contemporary art from around the globe and the art history of DC.
Tucked away in Georgetown, the Kreeger museum is a true hidden gem resting on five acres of sculpture-filled gardens and is surrounded by tranquil woods. Kreeger focuses on 19th and 20th century paintings is evidenced by works of Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Chagall, Miro, and Stella. Also included in the permanent collection are works of prominent Washington artists and outstanding examples of traditional African and Asian art. Follow the graffitti to The Fridge in Barracks Row, a funky art space that celebrates the power and vibrancy of street art, and contemporary art hub Honfleur Gallery in Anacostia exhibits a variety of cutting-edge experimental & classic media by global artists.
21. Up, Up and Away! Visit Superheroes on Display at American History Museum
The National Museum of American History's newest exhibit, Superheroes, puts all your favorite superheroes on display. Explore items in the collection related to superheroes, including comic books, original comic art, movie and television costumes and props, and memorabilia, including George Reeves's Superman costume from the Adventures of Superman TV program, Halle Berry's Storm costume from X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the shield used by Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
22. Fly through the air with the greatest of ease
You might not be a superhero but you still fly the high wire at the Trapeze School New York’s location in Washington, D.C. They offer classes for every skill level. And depending on your fearless appreciation for heights, you can learn a range of aerial arts that include the silks, trapeze, and trampoline; you can also take a juggling class. Classes can be as small as two people or accommodate different group sizes – and there are classes for kids too.
23. Level up at the Drink Company's eSports pop-up bar
Take advantage of the end-of-summer lull and pop in the the latest pop-up bar from the folks and Drink Company. This time around they've partnered with Events DC on "Levels Unlocked: House of DC Heroes," an eSports themed bar that includes three game-themed rooms centered around DC’s esports teams, including Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s NBA2K Team, NRG’s Smash Bros. Ultimate and Overwatch League’s newest team, the Washington Justice. Each game has a dedicated room featuring themed cocktails, live gameplay, and art of the main characters.
24. Don’t miss your last chance to check out the summer’s hottest installation at the National Building Museum
Each summer, the National Building Museum hosts the exciting Summer Block Party installations, an innovative and interactive experience that highlights incredible feats of design and engineering in the building's magnificent Great Hall.
Since 2014, we've played hide-and-seek inside a giant maze, relaxed at the Beach and last year we hung out and "swam" in the pool at the Fun House. This year, chill and play croquet on the LAWN, an incredible superstructure that transports visitors to a sun-strewn summer afternoon. Set on an incline, LAWN offers communal areas that will make you automatically shift into summertime lounge mode with hammocks hanging from a 100-foot-tall ceiling grid and a gorgeous fountain that rises from the floor well below. Enjoy late-night LAWN and movie night before it closes on September 2.
25. Check out the final weekend of the “Infinite Space" art exhibit
ARTECHOUSE’s summer exhibition is Instagram-friendly art at its finest. Dubbed Infinite Space (Ends Sept 2), the show—Refik Anadol’s first major retrospective—unfolds across four galleries featuring eight works, including immersive data sculptures and digital paintings. Each exemplifies the artist’s signature scientific rigor, transforming data on subjects including urban wind patterns, photographs of Mars, and machine learning algorithms into monumental visual spectacles.
And there you have it, plenty of awesome and off-the-beaten-path ways to close out your summer this Labor Day weekend! If you already made your summer plans or want to go on another exciting vacation to Washington, DC, in the fall or winter, contact Curious Caravan to custom-design your perfect trip with recommendations hot and fresh from locals, not algorithms!
Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it