Pretty pink petals blow in the wind against the backdrop of the Jefferson Memorial. Droves of tourists buzz by on guided Segway tours through the National Mall. These springtime activities are typical in Washington, DC during a warm sunny day. However, it’s not just the bloom of the popular cherry blossom trees that encourage millions of tourists to travel to the Nation’s Capitol each year.
From private sails on the Potomac to sunsets at the Lincoln Memorial, read below to learn more about 16 amazing springtime activities you can’t miss during your next trip to Washington, DC. (Bonus: activities are divided by neighborhood, and some of them are free)!
1. The Wharf (Southwest DC)
Book a private sunset cruise with Yachtsy
If you’ve always dreamed of viewing the Nation’s Capitol from the deck of your own private boat, book a social boating session with Yachtsy for one of the best springtime activities!
A new way for people to leisurely network with friends, family, and co-workers, Yachtsy provides a luxurious experience straight from the waters of the Potomac. You and your crew can rent an 18-foot vesse (equipped with cooler and bluetooth audio system)l to sail past some of the city’s most beautiful monuments from Navy Yard down to the Tidal Basin.
If you prefer to hire a certified Yachtsy captain to guide the way, notify let Yachtsy upon booking. The additional cost for an operator is $25 per hour.
Guests are allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages for responsible consumption, but smoking of any kind is not allowed on board the Yachtsy vessel.
Yachtsy has taken extra measures to ensure safety and cleanliness on their vessels. All hired boat operators wear masks throughout the entirety of the ride, and boats are washed both in between bookings and daily with biodegradable, marine safe EPA boat cleaner. Chartered sails are currently only allowing groups of 8 people or less due to the pandemic.
To learn more about booking a Yachtsy experience, visit their website for a full list of FAQ’s and prices here.
Snag oysters on the half-shell and lobster bisque at Municipal Fish Market
Located next to DC’s popular Wharf area is the Municipal Fish Market. Here, you will find the tastiest seafood from a variety of floating riverside vendors. Seafood includes crab legs, fried jumbo shrimp, soft-shell crab, and more all for the taking. However, there are a few items you absolutely can’t miss!
Oysters on-the-half-shell are abundant here, and varieties differ depending on the catch of the day. Nonetheless, all from local DMV fishermen.
Served straight off the ice, at Jessi Taylor Seafood, they are shucked and paired with lemon halves, cocktail sauce, and butter crackers. Wash them down with a hot cup of lobster bisque soup full of fresh Maine lobster, and admire the sailboats streaming down the Potomac.
2. Adams Morgan (Northwest DC)
Admire the architecture of the Washington National Cathedral
Serving as a global place of worship for all, the Washington National Cathedral took 83 years to construct. Its no wonder, however, that it is considered one of the most intricate churches in the world and one of the most enjoyable springtime activities in DC!
While touring the inside of the Cathedral remains closed off to the public to the pandemic, you can still enjoy the beauty of its unique architecture from the outside. The famous frontal “Creation Rose Window” contains more than 10,000 pieces of glass.
The Cathedral also boasts 112 gargoyle carvings around its exterior that are meant to drain rainwater, but instead, mostly serve as one of the building’s most popular tourist attractions.
For flower enthusiasts, 59 acres of cultivated gardens surround the Cathedral’s property for exploring free-of-charge. Picnics are allowed, and mask wearing is enforced by ground security if actively walking. Online worship services are available daily, and a full schedule can be found here.
3. The National Mall (Southeast DC)
Take a stroll down the National Mall from Smithsonian to the Lincoln
A walk down the iconic National Mall to admire the monuments is a must when in DC. Starting at the Smithsonian Metro entrance on the orange and blue lines, walk away from the U.S. Capitol towards the Washington Monument. Make sure to stop and look up when you get to the base!
Keep walking straight down the path and cross Independence Avenue to the World War II Memorial.
First, take in the atmosphere and stunning stone sculptures that honor 16 million of America’s greatest heroes.
Second, find your respective state’s bronze statue and take a moment to pay your respects.
Lastly, slip off your shoes and dip your toes in the clear blue waters of the reflecting pond. Remember that out of respect, swimming is not allowed in any of the fountains or reflecting pools. Then, continue making your way to the Lincoln Memorial to witness a beautiful sunset.
Picnic at the National Arboretum
The National Arboretum povides a serene garden oasis amidst a bustling city. Established in 1927, the Arboretum features 446 acres of unique flora and fauna. This includes Japanese Bonsai’s, magnolias, maple trees, and the only living plant that survived the 1945 atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima.
Along with beautiful gardens, the park also features an outdoor exhibit of the original National Capitol Columns. Capitol Building. Admission is free, and it’s open every day of the year (except December 25th) from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
It is best to visit in the morning when it opens to avoid crowds, and make sure you come equipped with a photography permit if you plan on taking shots with a professional camera.
Grab a “Trellis Rose” cider at Supreme Core Cider
Located next to the National Arboretum is a hotspot for avid craft beer drinkers — Supreme Core Cider. Established in 2018, all ciders offered at the brewery are naturally made with apples from locally family-owned orchards.
These hard ciders come in “hella unique” flavors like the crisp and bubbly “Pounda Gold” and the “Ginger Lime” crusher filled with ginger and fresh lime juice.
Supreme Core also features seasonal ciders like the “Ginger Beard Man” during winter and the “Cherry Bloom” during the cherry blossom season.
A personal favorite is the “Trellis Rose”, which is made with red wine grape skins for an elegant rosé cider.
4. Georgetown (Northwest DC)
Sip a craft cocktail al-fresco at L’Annexe Bar in Georgetown
In DC’s posh Georgetown neighborhood, you will find the upscale L’Annexe Cocktail Bar. Known as “DC’s very own corner cocktail bar,” patrons frequent this M Street locale to sip on European inspired cocktails and snack on farm-to-table menu items.
Under the culinary direction of Andrew Markert, these dishes are some of the most sought after cuisines at the L’Annexe:
The “Mushroom Toast”
Thick rustic bread is covered with Bear Hill Cheese, pine nut jam, and brown butter powder (yes, butter in powder form);
The “Raclette Burger”
A classy yet sizeable burger stacked with Applewood smoked bacon, house made pickles, melty raclette cheese, and a side of roasted potato wedges; and
The “Vanilla Crème Brûlée”
A dessert classic featuring rich custard, caramelised sugar, and a spiced sugar cookie.
The ”Cranberry Martini”
Gin, vodka, dry vermouth, Lillet Rosé caper berry, and plum bitters; and
The “Trunk Bay”
Pineapple infused rum, aloe vera, almond, vanilla, egg whites, and chocolate bitters.
Enjoy waterfront views and luxe cuisine at Fiola Mare
If you’re looking for a memorable meal, look no further than Fiola Mare. This sophisticated Georgetown Italian restaurant is steps from the Potomac River. With Chef Anton Bolling at the kitchen’s helm, it serves up some of the most innovative cocktails and cuisine in the city.
Fiola Mare’s menu is unique in the sense that it changes both seasonally and daily to ensure they offer patrons the finest, freshest ingredients possible.
The beverage program, directed by Storm Isaac, is second to none. Cocktails aren’t just served, they are displayed to the fullest extent with fire, smoke, and an array of special decor. The below are two of the best:
The “Sexy Fish” cocktail (pictured below)
Served in a Cristal shaped fish bowl with tequila, ginger & lime liqueur, strawberry, and lime; and
A staple for any meal with fresh rose wine, strawberries, and Cointreau.
For food, don’t pass up on the. below:
The “Baby Gem & Tuna Crudo Caesar” salad;
The “Fiola Mare Lobster Ravioli,”; and
The “Adriatic Mixed Grilled Seafood” tower.
Check out the full Fiola Mare menu here.
Paddle the Potomac from Key Bridge Boathouse
To help burn off the calories from filet mignon ramen and raclette burgers, there are plenty of opportunities to get active in DC. Moreover, DC has been consecutively ranked as the “healthiest city in the U.S.” by the American Fitness Index.
One of the best outdoor springtime activities is through a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard tour with Key Bridge Boathouse. Located on Water Street, the boathouse offers 1, 2, or 4 hour rentals. Prices vary based on the activity and length of rental, but a full list of options and classes are available on the Key Bridge website here.
Bonus: The boathouse is also home to a super Instagrammable rainbow staircase that is perfect for pretty photos.
Explore the historic Dumbarton Oaks Museum
Situated on 32nd Street NW, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum is the former residence of American diplomat Robert Bliss and his wife and Mildred. The property is 10 acres of magical wooded pathways, multiple gardens, a research library, and a museum that displays Byzantine and Pre-Columbian era tapestry and art.
Interior museum and exterior garden tours will reopen to season pass holders on April 20th. The second phase of reopening for tours to the general public will begin on May 15, 2021.
Just a heads up: picnics are not allowed in the garden, and neither are tripods or selfie sticks.
Check the Dumbarton Oaks website here for a full schedule and details regarding their phased re-opening plans.
Walk it out on the Exorcist Stairs
“What an excellent day for an exorcism” (said no one ever), but people surely don’t mind visiting the famous staircase where The Exorcist movie was filmed in 1973.
Located next to the ExxonMobil gas station at 3535 Prospect Street NW in Georgetown, the eery staircase is the site of the climactic scene between the priest and the demon from the classic horror film.
While the view is nothing special once you get to the top, it’s a worthwhile stop for movie buffs as well as those looking to get a quick picture for the Gram.
Bike a portion of the C & O Canal
The C & O Canal is a 184.5 mile long canal that starts in DC and ends in Cumberland, Maryland. Previously used to transport coal, it’s pathway now exists for walkers and bikers to enjoy outdoor springtime activities.
Shorter sections of the trail are perfect for an hour walk or ride during the day since biking the entire towpath takes at least five days! Bicycles are available for rent throughout Georgetown at any Capitol Bikeshare station for $8 a day or $2 per 30 minute ride.
A portion of the C & O Canal in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. (Photo by William Manning/Alamy).
Before starting the trail in Georgetown, make a pit stop into Chaia Tacos to fuel up on some of their gorgeous vegan taco selections. It is next to the canal (next to Soul Cycle!) and won’t disappoint.
5. Chinatown (Northwest DC)
Slurp the filet mignon ramen at Umaya Izakaya
A Western-style beer garden melded with a traditional Asian dining experience, Umaya Izakaya is an unstuffy, laid back dining scene. Here, diners order a variety of upscale ramen bowls plus other Japanese fusion dishes.
The “Tomato Filet Mignon” ramen at Umaya Izakaya. (Photo by East Coast Contessa)
The most unique and flavorful is the “Filet Mignon Tomato Ramen.” The flavourful soup is full of charcoal grilled filet mignon pieces, grilled plum tomato, baby spinach, bean sprouts, and a seasoned egg. For sharing, make sure you place an order for the below:
The “Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura”;
The seared Japanese Grade5 “Wagyu Tataki” with Ponzu sauce; and
The bone-in deep fried “Umaya Teriyaki Wings” with house made spicy mayo sauce.
6. DC Suburbs (Maryland & Northern Virginia)
Treat yourself to a spa day at Green Revolution Skin Studios
Located in neighboring Bethesda, Maryland, Green Revolution Skin Studio (GRSS) will heal both your skin and soul. Featuring unique holistic skin treatments and skin care products, a visit here after a long day of travel will leave you feeling brand new from the inside out!
Green Revolution Skin Studio performs a healing service at their studio in Bethesda, Maryland (Photo by East Coast Contessa).
Master Estheticians Amanda, Claire, Sherri, and owner Laura specialize in a variety of glow up services including Reiki, waxing, brow/lash tinting, and pressure point techniques.
GRSS launched a new oxygen treatment nicknamed the “Highest Self” facial (20 minutes under the machine equals a full day in the Amazon rainforest! In addition to great services, it’s also been consecutively voted as the “Best Facial in DC”, so you know you are in great hands. Who doesn’t love springtime activities that promote self-care and holistic health?
Savor authentic Spanish cuisine at SER Restaurant
For a taste of real España without leaving the DMV, the beautiful space at SER will do the trick. Owned and operated by a couple from Southern Spain, SER’s menu features authentic Spanish fare, tapas dishes, and global wines and cocktails.
In addition to great food, the partially covered outdoor patio is perfect for al-fresco dining — one of the most popular springtime activities in DC! Don’t leave SER without ordering the dishes for the table:
The “Gambas al Ajillo”
Sautéed shrimp simmered in a sizzling pool of Evoo, Garlic, and Cayenne);
Diced and fried potatoes covered in a mayo based Brava Sauce with Aioli;
A loaf of fresh French bread halved and covered in a crushed tomato, Evoo, and Garlic spread;
“Pimientos del Padrón”
Fried Shishito peppers with Maldon salt; and
“Chacinas Ibérica with Quesos”
Cured meats and select cheeses. Jamon Pata Negra paired with Manchego cheese is a solid choice.
Furthermore, SER boasts an amazingly cozy, partially covered outdoor dining area fully outfitted with space heaters and twinkly lights.
Grab a house special “Campos Rose” cocktail created using Javier’s house-infused gin, elderflower, and rose bitters, or a glass of sangria on fruit-infused ice.
Planning an upcoming trip to Washington, DC? Check out my recent “Guide to Washington, DC” to learn more about the top springtime activities and the best places to eat, stay, and play.