Washington in summer: best things to do and see

With outdoor malls, monuments, and river cruises, summertime is the best time in Washington.

As summer blooms, Washington bursts with life, offering fresh attractions that are as diverse as they are delightful.

The National Mall glistens in summer sunshine, while warm evenings are perfect for romance in the capital city. Stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old Town Alexandria with your partner or enjoy a serene boat ride on the historic Potomac River. 

Summer weather makes it easy to explore the malls and neighborhoods. Hop on a segue and get great pics of Washington’s landmarks and monuments during dazzling summer sunsets. Dine al fresco in Georgetown and head out to the top nightlife spots.

This summer guide will show you how to make the most of Washington in summer.

Best outdoor activities

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1. Chow down on a walking tour of Georgetown's top eateries

Georgetown's eateries are among the city's oldest and most beloved. Enjoy a sprawling summer lunch as you get to know Washington through its food. Flavors are at their best during this time of the year, whether you're eating award-winning pizza or savoring a refreshing summer drink.

Highlights:

On the Taste of Georgetown Walking Food Tour, step in the footsteps of revolutionaries as you hear how a humble fishing port was built into the nation's capital.

Address:

3210 Grace St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States. Start times vary.

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2. Journey through time on a monuments and memorials bike tour

Summer is the ideal time to experience the capital on a bike tour. Take a leisurely ride through the National Mall and along the Potomac Tidal Basin, lined with presidential and war memorials. Pedal through the meticulously manicured landscapes of these symbolic structures, a testament to the nation's past.

Highlights:

On the Monuments and Memorials Bike Tour, your guide shares the stories behind monumental structures like the Jefferson Memorial.

Address:

998 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States. Start times vary.

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3. Step into Georgetown's ghostly past on a walking tour

Amid Georgetown's historic streets and Victorian houses lies a forgotten past, shrouded in eerie coincidences, curses, and scenes from some of the most unsettling movies. Discover the haunting stories of this town's pre-revolutionary days, making this tour a unique twist on Washington in summer.

Highlights:

The Ghost Story Walking Tour's climax is a visit to the infamous Exorcist Stairs, a chilling scene from one of the scariest movies, The Exorcist.

Address:

Old Stone House, 3051 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States. Start times vary.

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4. Ride through history on an electric vehicle tour

Bask in the warm summer air, gliding through the city streets on a battery-operated electric vehicle. Get a unique perspective of the city's most famous monuments, like Capitol Hill and the White House. An expert guide narrates tales of the city, making it a perfect interactive summer activity.

Highlights:

Admire monuments dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington on a National Mall Tour by Electric Vehicle.

Address:

450 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States. Start times vary.

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5. Unearth poignant landmarks on an African American history tour

Stand where Martin Luther King stood when he gave his famous "I have a dream" in the summer of 1963. Gain a new perspective on the civil rights struggle with the The African American History Tour. See the iconic Emancipation Statue and the National Council of Negro Women to experience one of the most meaningful summer activities in Washington.

Highlights:

On the African American History Tour, you get to explore the National Museum of African American History and Culture after passing through the historic Logan Circle district.

Meeting points and start times vary.

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6. Experience an exciting glide through the heart of the capital on a Segway

Explore the best of Washington on a unique Segway tour. Glide past over 25 historic sites, including the White House, Lafayette Square, Constitution Gardens, the DC War Memorial, and the inspiring Washington Monument.

Highlights:

The See the City Segway Tour includes a state-of-the-art radio system that enables your guide to share captivating stories about these renowned locations.

Address:

818 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006, United States. Start times vary.

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7. Witness Washington in a moonlit glow on a trolley tour

Witness some of the city's most revered monuments as they bask in the glow of the moon and stars, including the Washington Memorial, the White House, and the National Mall.

Highlights:

The Monuments by Moonlight Nighttime Trolley Tour stops at several significant landmarks, including The Martin Luther King Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Address:

Washington DC Welcome Center, 1001 E St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States. Start times vary.

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8. Embark on a journey through history in Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon

Explore the historical neighborhoods of Alexandria and the lush landscape of Mount Vernon that were once home to George Washington.

Highlights:

On a 5-hour Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria tour, witness historical reenactments of events from George Washington's life.

Address:

US Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States. Start times vary.

Best water activities

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9. Float through Washington on a self-driven boat tour

Navigate your own boat over the peaceful waters while witnessing the city's landmarks and historical sites. Pack a picnic and enjoy a warm summer day in Washington.

Highlights:

The Washington DC: The Wharf Self-Driven Boat Tour with Map offers the chance to captain an environmentally friendly boat and choose your own route to create a unique adventure.

Address:

Southwest Washington, Washington, DC 20024, United States. Start times vary.

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10. Uncover a new perspective of the city on a river cruise

A cruise on the Potomac River is a refreshing way to see Washington in the summer. This waterway, stretching 405 miles to the Chesapeake Bay, has witnessed some pivotal moments that have shaped the nation. Marvel at world-famous landmarks on a sunset dinner cruise or board a DC Duck, an amphibious vehicle used to transport troops during World War II.

Highlights:

A cruise on the Potomac River unveils a breathtaking view of the National Harbor, a vibrant waterfront development.

Departure points and start times vary.

FAQs

Where can I go swimming or relax by the water in Washington?

In Washington, you can enjoy a swim or simply relax by the water at locations like the East Potomac Park Pool, the Banneker Pool, or Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay.

Are there any great summer festivals in Washington?

Washington hosts numerous summer festivals, such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the DC Jazz Festival, and the famous Independence Day Celebration, which includes a grand fireworks display.

What are the must-visit outdoor attractions in Washington?

Outdoor attractions you shouldn't miss in Washington include the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, and the US National Arboretum.

What are some great day trips to take from Washington in the summer?

During the summer, day trips from Washington can include the historic city of Alexandria, the scenic Shenandoah National Park, or the waterfront city of Annapolis.

What are some fun activities with kids in Washington in summer?

In Washington in summer, kids can enjoy the Smithsonian National Zoo, the interactive exhibits at the National Children's Museum, or a fun-filled day at Six Flags America amusement park.