Things to Do in Washington DC in Summer 2018 – Attractions, Activities & More

D.C. is a fabulous city to visit in the summer. While the weather can be a little unpredictable, you’re guaranteed to find loads of great summer events to enjoy.

If you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in Washington DC in the summer 2018, check out our list of the top attractions and activities going on this year, including…

  • Georgetown Summer Sunset Cinema Series
  • Washington Monuments Cruise by Potomac Riverboat Company
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon
  • SAVOR at the National Building Museum
  • and more…

Heading to the area to celebrate Independence Day? Then check out our post on things to do in Washington DC 4th of July Weekend.

Oh, and here are a few fun things to do in DC during Labor Day Weekend – just in case you are visiting towards the tail end of summer.

If you’re looking for things to do in Washington DC in Summer 2018, check out our list of some of the best activities and attractions.

Save on Summertime Activities

Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Choose as you go from popular attractions and save up to 40% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Check out all Washington DC tourist passes, attractions and prices.

Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

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*Valid for All-Inclusive and Explorer purchases

Summer Event Series

George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Various dates

One of the gardens at Mount Vernon. Image credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon website.

One of the gardens at Mount Vernon. Image credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon website.

Spend an afternoon at George Washington’s Mount Vernon for an unforgettable historic experience.

Tour the house and grounds, including the many functional spaces like the farm, the distillery, and the gristmill, and be sure to leave time for the gardens.

While you’re in town, be sure to check their special events calendar for a sense of what’s going on at the time.

They run a number of special events throughout the summer, including their “Summer Day Camp” series for children.

Getting In: George Washington’s Mount Vernon tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass. Special events may be separately ticketed and not included with the pass.

Tour the City

Departing from Union Station
Daily in the summer

Hop-On-Hop-Off-big-bus-washington-dc-1-Day-Patriot-Tour-3A great way to spend a summer afternoon for first-time visitors to DC is on a comprehensive and informative Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus DC bus tour.

Ride all throughout the District’s hottest cultural and historical spots, or hop on and off as you please to customize your day.

Enjoy the sun and get a tan on the upper level, or relax in the air-conditioning below – it’s a win either way! 

Getting In: Big Bus DC tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Washington Monuments Cruise

DCA-potomacriverboatCool off from the humid DC summer heat with a cruise along the Potomac River, one of DC’s central waterways.

This 90-minute excursion is a great opportunity to sightsee along the waterfront, with chances to photograph all your favorite landmarks and sites from the Kennedy Center to the Washington Monument and many more.

Getting In: Washington Monuments Cruise tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Washington Nationals Game or Ballpark Tour

Nationals-Ballpark-TourSummer is the perfect time of year for baseball! The weather is sunny and the games are a great way to spend a long, lazy afternoon with a few beers and a hotdog or two.

Visit Nats Park for a chance to see one of Major League Baseball’s newer stadiums (and sample their more upscale/indie food options that go beyond the typical ballpark fare – think local favorites like Ben’s Chili Bowl).

If you don’t have time for a game, consider a tour of the park. It’s got a lot of cool areas to explore, and your tour will take you behind the scenes. It’s perfect for sports lovers!

Getting In: Washington Nationals Ballpark Tour tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass; game tickets are separately priced and are not included with the pass.

National Building Museum & SAVOR

If you’re looking to explore more about architecture in one of the country’s most beautiful cities, then the National Building Museum is the place to be.

Come here to learn all about the history of the built environment, from the earliest architectural developments to contemporary issues like LEED Certification and green building.

This summer, they’re also hosting a beer tasting event called SAVOR, with about 180 different brews to sample. The event runs on June 1-2, 2018.

Getting In: National Building Museum tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass; SAVOR is a separately ticketed event and is not included with the pass.

Capital Wheel

Wdc-CapitalWheel-day-4cIf you’re looking for more sightseeing opportunities and are craving that unique aerial view, head down to National Harbor and take a ride aboard the Capital Wheel.

This distinctive observation wheel brings you to heights of 180 feet above ground level — perfect for that high-up Instagram shot.

Plus, you can enjoy Wolfgang Puck concessions during your (air-conditioned) ride. What’s not to love?

Afterwards, spend some time exploring the National Harbor and their selection of summer events and activities.

Getting In: Capital Wheel tickets are available as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

DC Museums

Image Credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum

Image Credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum

DC is basically the museum capital of the country. You’ll find a stellar educational institution devoted to just about anything you can think of, from art and architecture to science and space.

A few of our favorites are the National Geographic Museum (which highlights the photography and artifacts that their magazine has focused on) and the Newseum (showcasing the history and heritage of news in the modern world).

Additional great options include the National Gallery (for the art lovers), the National Museum of American History (great for families) and the brand new National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Just keep in mind that summer in DC is a very busy time, so plan to arrive to museums when they open if you want to avoid the heaviest crowds.

Getting In: National Geographic Museum tickets and Newseum tickets are available as options with the Washington DC Explorer Pass. All Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery are free.

Georgetown Summer Sunset Cinema Series

Georgetown Waterfront Park
Tuesdays, July 10 – August 7, 2018

This is one for the movie lovers. Relax in Georgetown’s charming Waterfront Park with a blanket and some snacks (no chairs, please) and get ready to enjoy this free films series.

This year’s theme is “Movies That Rock,” so expect classic and iconic movies with musical elements. Films start just around sunset, 8:30/8:45.

If you’re looking for more activities, check out our things to do in Georgetown post – you’ll find some fun things to do during the day before the movie, like a  Potomac River Cruise.

Getting In: The Georgetown Summer Sunset Cinema Series is free to attend.

Capital Fringe Festival

Multiple venues
July 7 – 29, 2018

Also known as the DC Fringe Festival, this massive movie festival features over 130 different performing groups that include everything from theater and dance to poetry and even puppet shows.

All of the venues are located in the Waterfront neighborhood in Southwest DC, so it’s easy to get to via the Metro.

For more information about participating groups and to purchase tickets, visit the official event website.

Getting In: The Capital Fringe Festival is separately ticketed and is not included with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Jazz in the Garden

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Fridays in the summer

If you’re looking for a fun evening of free music – or a great date idea – then Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art is a must.

It’s a delightful evening of music in an inspiring setting. Listen to the musical stylings of some of the best jazz artists in the country, and stroll around looking at the NGA’s unique collection of outdoor sculptures.

Remember, you can also visit the National Gallery of Art during the day (with extended summer hours) for free!

Getting In: Jazz in the Garden is free to attend.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

National Mall (btw 4th & 7th Streets)
June 27-July 1 and July 4-8, 2018

We’ve already talked about how awesome this is in our 4th of July post, but it’s worth bringing up again.

This large-scale free outdoor festival is a perfect family event. It’s culturally focused, with this year’s emphases on “Armenia,” “Catalonia,” and the Sisterfire music festivals that were held in DC in the 80s.

There’s everything from artisan demonstrations and musical performances to an awesome gift shop and more.

Don’t forget to snag an official Folklife Festival t-shirt or tote bag – they’re collectables!

Getting In: The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is free to attend.

Brew at the Zoo

National Zoo
July 19, 2018

This is one for the beer-lovers in your group. Head to the National Zoo and sample wares from more than 70 different microbreweries and several local food trucks.

Proceeds from the event go to benefit the conservation and care efforts for the animals at this fantastic zoo.

Please note: This is an adults-only event, and children / babies will not be admitted (even with a parent).

Getting In: Regular admission to the National Zoo is free; this special event is separately ticketed and is not included with the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Let’s Recap

So there you have it. Our picks for some of the top things to do in Washington DC in the summer.

Whether you want to scope out a few free neighborhood celebrations, or take your pick of fabulous historic and artistic attractions, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this list.

Please note, the summer events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go Washington DC Card.

Plan to visit some of these top attractions during your trip. Whether you are traveling with your family or a couple of friends, we’re sure you will have a great time.

Washington DC Explorer Pass

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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