DC is a fabulous city to visit in the summer. High temperatures bring the sun to the city and you’re guaranteed to find loads of great events where you can enjoy the sunshine.
If you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in Washington DC in summer 2020, 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 2020, check out our list of some of the best activities and attractions.
Save on Summertime Activities
Regular admission to a number of these attractions is 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.
Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.
Summer Event Series
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
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 Go Washington DC pass. Special events may be separately ticketed and not included with the pass.
Tour the City
Departing from Union Station
Daily in the summer
A 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 Classic Tour.
Ride all throughout the District’s hottest cultural and historical spots, or hop on and off as you please to customize your day. Highlights include The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial and more.
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: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Classic Tour tickets are available as an option with the Go Washington DC pass.
Washington Monuments Cruise
Cool 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 sight-see 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 Go Washington DC pass.
If 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?
Afterward 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.
Washington Nationals Game or Ballpark Tour
Summer 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 Go Washington DC pass; game tickets are separately priced and are not included with the pass.
National Building Museum
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.
Getting In: National Building Museum tickets are available as an option with the Go Washington DC pass.
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.
Georgetown Summer Sunset Cinema Series
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Every Tuesday from July 7 – August 4, 2020
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.
Stay tuned for this year’s theme and summer line-up. 2019 gave us ‘Out of Office’ with iconic summer vacation movies, so we’re excited to see what 2020 has to offer!
Movies start at sunset between 8.30 – 8.45PM but come along early to grab a bite from a food truck or nearby restaurant.
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
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 Go Washington DC pass.
Jazz in the Garden
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Mid-May until August 2020
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. During the concerts, the Pavilion Café offers a special menu of creative American cuisine and refreshments.
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 24 – 28 and July 1 – 5, 2020
This large-scale free outdoor festival is a perfect family event. The cultural agenda focuses on everything from traditions to science to design with artisan demonstrations, craft workshops and musical performances. You can also enjoy evening concerts and dance. Don’t forget to snag an official Folklife Festival t-shirt or tote bag – they’re collectibles!
Getting In: The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is free to attend.
Brew at the Zoo
July 16, 2020
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.
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 pass.
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.