What to do if you’re not from DC and visiting for the summer

Or you’re a local and need more to do. As many of you know, I started my internship with National Geographic yesterday! I had the chance to meet with the other 22 interns from other departments on campus and we went through a full day of orientation. Lunch time rolled around at about noon and I quickly realized… Most of the intern team is from out of state and are staying in the DC area all summer. This means there’s a high demand for how to live like a local and not only among the Nat Geo interns, but there are plenty of people from out of the country working jobs here for the next couple of months. Clubs? Food? Bars? Events? Shopping? Coffee? Sure, I’ve got it covered.

What gives me the right to talk about this?! My over-qualification of living in the DC area for over 20 years now (and surprisingly still learning about what to do here). Here’s some of my personal favorites. At the end, I’ll even include where I want to check out next!

Pro tip: Go to the museums and the monuments, but there’s much more to DC than the tourist attractions!

Clubs & Music Venues

The Anthem – Medium-large sized music venue located at The Wharf, Ticketed events only; Owned by I.M.P. which oversees other venues including 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theater, and U Street Music Hall; https://www.theanthemdc.com/
901 Wharf St SW, Washington, DC 20024

U Street Music Hall – Medium sized music venue located in the U Street Corridor; Pro tip: Cat calling is abundant on U Street! Wear whatever you want if you’re feelinya self, but always walk away from these weirdos!; This venue premieres indie, electronic, electronic, and the occasional dance music; https://www.ustreetmusichall.com/
1115A U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

9:30 Club – Medium sized music venue located in the U Street Corridor, see above, https://www.930.com/
815 V St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Flash – Day & nightclub with various dance/electronic acts, Located near Howard University & U St Corridor, https://www.flashdc.com/
645 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Decades – Decade themed & multi-level nightclub in DuPont Circle, $20 cover charge on weekend nights, New Y2K themed pop-up bar inside the club, https://decadesdc.com/
1219 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Mad Hatter – A 30 year old DC staple; Restaurant by day, club by night serving cocktails and their famous “Mad Hatter” hat drink (expensive but a must-try if you’re with a group of four or more); Located across from Decades in DuPont Circle; http://www.madhatterdc.com/
1319 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Restaurants & Quick Bites

Bantam King – $$, Ramen; My favorite is the spicy miso ramen with a nitamago (poached egg) added and a Japanese rice beer; Pro tip: Most people go to Izakaya Ramen Shop, but Bantam King’s broth is more enjoyable and balanced (plus less tourists!) – Make sure to beat the rush by coming early for lunch or dinner if on the weekend because they do not take call ahead reservations and the shop is small, but fast overall; https://www.bantamking.com/
501 G St NW, Washington, DC 20003

Tiger Fork – $$$, Traditional Chinese; A guy I dated and who’s a sous chef at Tiger Fork took me on a date here back in February and it was honestly some of the best Chinese I’ve ever had. I couldn’t tell you exactly everything we tried because the head chef continually sent out food to us until we just about popped. However, I remember the fried rice, green beans, Aphrodisiac TCM Cocktail, and the Izeko Sparkling Peach Jelly Sake (honestly, the only sake I’ve ever liked) all being delicious; https://www.tigerforkdc.com/
922 Blagden Alley, Washington, DC 20001

Union Market – $-$$, Various food hall cuisines; The OG food hall for over 200 years and a DC staple! I honestly haven’t been here in a while, but the last time I came, I had a delicious brunch meal with my family and I’ve heard that the other food stalls in the building are fantastic as well. This is a foodie’s paradise! https://unionmarketdc.com/
1309 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Taco Bamba – $-$$, (Biased, but) The best fast casual tacos in the DC area; Pork belly and bulgogi bullfight are my go to tacos with Mexican street corn and a classic marg. Chef Victor Albisu has been gaining increased popularity in the DC area in more recent months since the growth of his local Taco Bamba chain. Pro tip: Not all Taco Bamba locations have alcohol, so be sure to check first before you go. https://www.tacobamba.com/
DC location: 777 I (EYE) Street NW Washington , DC 20001 

Sweetgreen – $-$$, A local salad staple featuring produce and meats from the surrounding DC area; My favorite is the Guacamole Greens and I’m not sure I’ve strayed from it more than a handful of times – it’s addicting. https://order.sweetgreen.com/
Multiple locations in the DMV area

Kaliwa – $$$, A South East Asian fusion restaurant in The Wharf owned by DC renowned chef, Cathal Armstrong; A great place to go on a date because of the high prices. A few of my favorite dishes include the Filipino Street BBQ Skewers (pork belly with house banana ketchup, yum!), Gochujang (Korean style pork belly with caramelized onions), and Thai blue crab with red curry. https://www.kaliwadc.com/
751 Wharf Street SW Washington, DC 20024

Pi Pizzeria – $$, Chicago Style Pizza located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of DC; One of the only Chicago style pizza restaurants in the area, but it’s quite delicious. I had a serious craving for this kind of pizza way back in Fall 2018 and finally had the chance to go this Spring. Their draft list is nothing short of local craft brews and perfect pairings for heavy pie slices. http://pi-pizza.com/
910 F Street NW Washington, DC 20004

Halfsmoke – $$, American-style eatery focusing on the Washington DC “halfsmoke”, a half pork/half beef sausage; Honestly, the first time I came here, it wasn’t on purpose and my reason for going was purely a hunger move. Now that I’ve eaten the food and read more about it, I see it as a local food staple and must-try for every DC visitor! My favorite items were the build-your-own halfsmoke with various toppings I chose, the fried jalapeño mac and cheese bites, and the berry smoke-quila cocktail. Next time I come back, I am most definitely getting the Breakfast of Shaw Bloody Mary decorated with tater tots, corn dogs, mac & cheese bites, and other foods and one of the mile high Super Shakes they offer. But, not at the same time because I would be an actual blimp. Check them out if you head to Flash DC for a show because they’re conveniently located on the same block. Also, did I mention they have 90s themed decor and music videos playing?!; http://halfsmoke.com/#america-restaurant
651 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001


Pride Parade
Saturday, June 8th, 2019
Metro – Start of parade: (RED) Dupont Circle
Metro – End of parade: (GREEN) U Street/African-Amer Civil War 


I would argue that Pride is one of the best celebrations in DC all year long (ok maybe besides the Cherry Blossom Festival). The events go through the month of June, but the most popular events tend to be the festival and the parade. The parade brings together a diverse group of people from different countries, genders, and sexualities. It’s truly a utopia of intersectionality! I’ve been for the past three years and my favorite elements of the parade are the colorful costumes, music, dancing, and the good vibes that generally are felt throughout the streets all day long.

It’s important to remember that the festival goes for over three hours at a warmer time of day. Bring sunblock, a large bottle of water, a speaker for walking around before the parade (increases hype), deodorant, sunglasses, and an extra pair of pants and/or a shirt because it’s likely to get hot! The streets will be lined with people behind the fences watching the parade go on. Parade walkers throw different promo products and beads, so have a decent sized bag ready to carry all of it. Last year, Chipotle parade walkers threw BOGO coupons and I scored six of them. But, I would advise being closer to DuPont circle to catch the best items before they run out and arrive early!

Pride Festival
Sunday, June 9th, 2019
Pennsylvania Ave. & 3rd St. NW
Metro: (GREEN) Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter


Last year was the first time I truly enjoyed the festival, but this was because I had the time and went with a large group of friends. The festival is lined along Pennsylvania Avenue, which goes towards the Capital building. There are booths with organizations categorized from travel, faith, LGBTA, food, and educational services. Some of them are selling items and others have freebies, so be on the lookout if you’re interested in finding something like a beer koozie that says “Glamazon”, obviously promoting Amazon (*wink, wink*). Last year, there was also a booth for groups to take silly photos and wearable balloon creations to walk around in! My favorite part of the parade is definitively the live music. Troye Sivan was one of the main singers last year and he was incredible on stage. This year features Marshmello, Zara Larsson, and other artists. Check out the full lineup and activities at the link above!

DC Area Summer Outdoor Movies
All summer long
All over the DC area


Churchkey – Award winning craft beer bar with carefully selected beers from the US and around the world located in Logan Circle neighborhood; The selection of beers never ceases to blow my mind each time I’ve gone here. Greg Engert, who I deem as the man who’s rapidly shaping the DC beer scene, not only curates the beer at Churchkey, but a few other locations in the DC area including The Sovereign (below). I’d provide a favorites list of beers, but they’re different every time I’ve gone, however, please get the tater tots. Best damn tots I’ve had in my life. If you want beer recommendations, message me in some way, shape, form because I’ve drank a lot of it between now being 23 and when I first became legal. https://churchkeydc.com/
1337 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Calico – Urban and scenic backyard bar located in Blagden Alley serving adult juice boxes, frozen drinks, and other cocktails; I absolutely adore this bar because of it’s more low-key and adult-y vibe. I most likely was the youngest one in there the first time I went, but the bar attracts people that seem to be mid twenties to early thirties. There’s an outside area that has a “feel good” atmosphere with a wrought iron/open air gazebo and plenty of tables and chairs. Inside there’s picnic style and bar seating with a great selection of music loud enough to enjoy in the background, but not loud enough to be a dance club. https://www.calicodc.com/
50 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001

The Sovereign – A primarily Belgian beer bar and restaurant located in Georgetown; Once again, Greg Engert everybody. The man knows what’s up. If you like Belgian beer, this is your place, if not… see Churchkey above. I haven’t had the food yet, but I hear it’s fantastic! https://thesovereigndc.com/
1206 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

Lost & Found – A vinyl record decorated bar in Blagden Alley/Shaw with a good selection of craft beers and cocktails; Not a bar curated by Greg Engert, but this place has some great beats and beer! I haven’t had the cocktails yet, but this is not only a craft beer bar like the places I mentioned previously. If you get bored or overwhelmed at Calico, come here and enjoy the chill vibes. https://www.lostandfounddc.com/
1240 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Tiki TNT – A Hawaiian-themed tiki bar owned by renowned DC mixologist, Todd Thrasher and located at The Wharf; I’m a huge fan of tiki drinks, especially once the warmer months roll around and this specific tiki bar is one of my absolute favorites I’ve ever been to. The cocktails are an even mixture between liquor and mixture to create that “knock you over” feel after only one drink. Partly what makes a good tiki drink is this and the fresh ingredients used for the mix (not the bottled/fake flavor mix you can buy at the store). I highly recommend a traditional Piña Colada in a fun tiki glass and the Wicked Wahine. https://www.tikitnt.com/
1130 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Players Club – A 70s/80s themed space where alcohol and arcade games come together to make the “Beercade” love child; These venues have been exploding across the country, but I have a personal affinity for Players Club because of their smaller space and more tempered crowds. The place features two floors of fun – the basement which includes the arcade games, foosball, and pool tables, while the rooftop is mainly a bar and lookout area to view the city. I don’t have any recommendations for drinks because I already hit my limit by the time I went in, but there’s a decent small selection of cocktails and craft beers. https://www.playersclubdc.com/
1400 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

El Centro D.F. – A Mexican inspired restaurant, rooftop bar, and nightclub located on 14th St. and in Georgetown; I have only been to the 14th Street location, so I’m not entirely sure how the one in Georgetown compares. This is my favorite non-ticketed nightclub in all of DC because it plays great Latin music and has very low lighting inside to give a feel of being in a Latin American country. The traditional margaritas and mojitos are some of the best DC has to offer. https://www.eatelcentro.com/
1819 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Hawthorne – A four story bar and restaurant located in the U St/14th St Corridor; Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Hawthorne overall because I enjoy a better selection of cocktails and beers when I go out. This is a great place to start your night with music and cheaper drinks (compared to other DC bars). I’ve heard the brunch is also pretty good! https://www.hawthornedc.com/
1336 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Nellie’s Sports Bar – A casual multi-level bar on 14th street featuring weekend drag brunches; This is a highlight bar to go to both Friday and Saturday nights of the Pride Parade and Festival weekend because of its pleasant customer base and “bubbly pop” music playing all night long to celebrate Pride. https://www.nelliessportsbar.com/
900 U Street NW Washington, DC 20001

Penn Social – A large, two story sports and gaming bar located in Penn Quarter; I stumbled upon this last summer when I planned to meet a friend from Maryland in DC at a nightclub called Soundcheck. We were originally going to have dinner at Teaism in DC, but the food and drinks were more than we were willing to spend, especially being recent graduates. Penn Social was up the street and a perfect place to start our night with games and a decent selection of drinks. Looking on their website, they have up to 23 different types of games to choose from and play. https://www.pennsocialdc.com/games
801 E St NW, Washington, DC 20004


Tyson’s Corner Center – The largest shopping mall in the entire DC area with two main floors of shopping, including all types of clothing styles; https://www.tysonscornercenter.com/
1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102

Georgetown – An accommodating selection of stores with all types of clothing styles, restaurants, and specialty shops such as Ladurée Macaron; Georgetown shopping mainly falls on M St. in DC and is located closest to Foggy Bottom Metro (with a 1 mile walk).

City Center DC – Luxury high end label shopping located near Penn Quarter; http://citycenterdc.com/
25 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20001


La Colombe – A coffee roaster and cafe based out of Philly; https://www.lacolombe.com/pages/cafes#washington-d-c
Five locations in DC

Baked & Wired – A local DC cupcake and coffee house located in Georgetown; Best coffee I’ve had in DC – I always go here if I’m in need of a perk up while in the area. Unpopular opinion: Baked & Wired is WAY better than Georgetown Cupcake. End of story. Goodbye. https://bakedandwired.com/
1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Bluestone Lane – An Aussie-inspired coffee house also in Georgetown; This is the only Australian coffee bar I’ve been able to find outside Australia so far. This Aussies don’t mess around with their coffee and neither does Bluestone Lane. No, I didn’t go here by choice (see above). Yes, their flat white was really tasty. Fun fact: The flat white was invented in Sydney, Australia at Moors Espresso Bar. https://bluestonelane.com/coffee-shops/georgetown-1066-wisconsin-ave-washington-dc/
1066 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

Syd’s Bucket List

Coconut Club – Island themed tiki bar near Union Market, https://www.hellococonutclub.com/
540 Penn Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

DC Jazz Fest – Jazz Music Festival celebration in DC, June 7th-16th, 2019, https://dcjazzfest.org/2019-dc-jazz-fest-schedule
Various locations

18th Street Lounge – Local and hip live music club in Adams Morgan, https://www.18thstlounge.com/
1212 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

DC Folklife Festival – A festival honoring cultural traditions practiced and sustained; June 29th & 30th, 2019; https://festival.si.edu/
Various locations

DC Around the World Cultural Food Festival Food festival celebrating cuisines in different countries; August 17th, 2019; https://www.aroundtheworldfestival.com/
Freedom Plaza, Downtown DC

Fourth of July Fireworks on the Mall – Independence Day celebration of fireworks in DC on the National Mall; July 4th, 2019; https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalmall4th/index.htm

Brew at the Zoo (National Zoo) – Thursday, July 18th, 2019; https://nationalzoo.si.edu/events/brew-zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC 20008

DC Water Lantern Festival – August 3rd, 2019; https://www.waterlanternfestival.com/washington-dc.php
165 Waterfront Street National Harbor, MD 20745

By the People Festival – Large local DC art festival; June 15th-23rd, 2019; https://bythepeople.org/
Various locations

Truckeroo – Monthly food truck festival near Nationals Park; https://thebullpendc.com/truckeroo/
1201 Half St. SE, Washington, DC 20003

Jazz at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden – Live Friday Jazz at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden; https://www.nga.gov/calendar/jazz.html
Constitution Ave NW & 7th Street, Washington, DC 20408

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardenshttps://www.nps.gov/keaq/index.htm;
1550 Anacostia Ave, NE, Washington, DC 20019 

POV Bar at the W Hotel – Picturesque view of the National Mall and Capital building while sipping fancy cocktails; https://www.povrooftop.com/
515 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004

Cortez Bar – Tex-mex style bar with light bites and fun cocktails on a rooftop bar; https://www.cortezbardc.com/
1905 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Momofuku CCDC – Asian style cuisine located in City Center; https://ccdc.momofuku.com/
1090 I Street NW Washington, DC 20001

Momo Yakitori – Japanese meat skewers and other traditional food items; https://www.momoyakitori.com/
2214 Rhode Island Ave NE, Washington, DC 20018

Leave a Reply