Off campus guide to Washington, DC

October 12, 2017 / Washington, DC

Now that you’ve figured out where all your classes are and you’re in a good groove, it’s time to start exploring off-campus and discovering all that Washington, D.C. has to offer. The nation’s capital is obviously chock full of museums and other exciting tourist attractions, but feel free to save those for Parents Weekend. When you’re ready for a break from the confines of campus, you’ll find there’s a lot more to the District than the Smithsonian and the White House.

Study break spots in DC

1. Hike in Great Falls Park

Whether you’re looking for a fun way to avoid the freshman 15 or just a chance to clear your head away from the city, an afternoon of hiking in Great Falls Park is a perfect option. The 800-acre national park is home to deer, fox, coyotes, turtles, and over 150 species of birds, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk along the wooded trails. There are over 15 miles of hiking trails in total and individual hikes range from easy to difficult, so whatever your fitness level, you’ll be able to spend a couple of hours enjoying the outdoors before winter returns.

Where: 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA

2. Go apple picking

 If you’re feeling homesick and craving some of Mom’s apple pie, head to the countryside for some apple picking and then call her for the recipe. Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Mackintosh Fruit Farm is an idyllic, family-owned farm with over nine varieties of apples to choose from. There’s food for sale, but you’re welcome to pack a lunch and find a shady spot to enjoy a picnic. The apples are definitely the main draw, but while you’re there, you can also pick a variety of vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. This is also a great time to pick up a pumpkin or two to decorate your dorm room or apartment.

Where: Mackintosh Fruit Farm, 1608 Russell Rd, Berryville, VA

3. Cheer on the Wizards or the Capitals

When people talk about winners and losers in DC, they’re usually referring to who is up or down in the current political climate, not the outcome of last night’s game. In short, the District is not much of a sports town. The good news is that just means you can usually get a reasonably priced ticket to a game on short notice. The Wizards and Capitals both play at Capital One Arena downtown, so whether you favor basketball or hockey, you won’t have to go far.

Where: Capital One Arena, 601 F St NW, Washington, DC

4. Kayak or paddleboard on the Potomac

Escape the throngs of tourists on the Mall and explore the city from the Potomac. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or looking to try standup paddleboarding (SUP) for the first time, the folks at Boating in DC will get you set up. You can opt to rent equipment and venture out on your own for an hour or two, or sign up for a more structured activity like a SUP yoga workshop or a 90-minute guided kayak tour of DC’s iconic monuments. From the Key Bridge Boathouse, you can view the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center, and more.

Where: 3500 Water St NW, Washington, DC

5. Take in the monuments at night

The capital’s many monuments are impressive at any hour, but touring them after the sun has set and the crowds have dissipated is an experience every District resident should have at least once. There are plenty of guided tours available for $30 – $50 a person, but you’re a local now, so save the money for late night pizza and drinks and plot your own path. You can drive from one monument to the next, but it’s worth the effort to cover the three miles or so on foot or bicycle. Before you head out, download the National Parks Service’s free app, which includes maps, walking directions, and key information on each site.

Where: Begin at the Jefferson Memorial, 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC

6. Go to the All Things Go Fall Classic

Reward yourself for all of your scholastic success with a day or three of live music at the All Things Go Fall Classic. Returning to historic Union Market for the fourth year in a row, the three-day festival brings the best hip-hop, electronica, and alternative artists to northeast DC every fall. Headliners Foster the People, Young Thug, and Galantis are expected to draw huge crowds, so grab your tickets before they’re gone. Single-day admission starts at $74. A three-day VIP pass will run you $250, but in addition to premium viewing areas and dedicated bathrooms, it includes free food from incredible local vendors like &pizza, Sweetgreen, Takorean, and Buredo.

When: October 6, 4pm – 12am; October 7 – 8, 12pm – 12am
Where: Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE, Washington, DC

7. Check out the US Botanic Garden

The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a living museum dedicated to teaching visitors about the importance of plants and the cultural, aesthetic, and ecological role they play in our lives and on our planet. With both indoor and outdoor gardens, the USBG is home to thousands of species of plants. The Conservatory is a 29,000 square foot greenhouse with eight separate rooms, each representing a unique habitat from the jungle to the desert. Just west of the Conservatory is the three-acre National Garden, which features the Rose Garden, the First Ladies Water Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the Regional Garden, which highlights plants native to the mid-Atlantic. The USBG is free to visit and open 365 days a year, making it the perfect place to stop to catch up on your reading or just take a quick break.

Where: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC

Whether you’re looking for a solo study break or a fun activity for the whole crew, DC has plenty to offer.