Spending your summer in Washington, D.C., affords you the opportunity to explore neighborhoods beyond M Street and Wisconsin Avenue — simply taking a walk through the city’s other vibrant districts is a great, cheap way to spend a warm summer day.
Out and About
For those attempting to uncover some of the city’s architectural gems, head to “Little Rome” in Brookland. Founded in 1899, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land (1) is a spectacular sight — a Byzantine-style church with immense gardens, grottos and covered walks, all spread over 42 acres. It is a surprisingly peaceful spot just a short drive from Georgetown, and with free daily tours, it is well worth a visit.
If you’re looking for somewhere farther afield to just sit down and relax, the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard between the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (2) is an ideal spot. The space is light, tranquil, beautiful and just a short stroll from the two free museums, with the added bonus of free Wi-Fi.
Make a trip to the vibrant neighborhood of Mount Pleasant (3) to visit the shops and restaurants owned by the Salvadoran and Dominican communities that have long inhabited the area. Summer is the perfect time to visit, as the farmers market is stocked with fresh produce, including mangos, rhubarb and other varieties that undoubtedly beat what you will find at Safeway.
If window shopping along M Street is getting too dull, head over to Barracks Row (4) — the stretch of Eighth Street SE between D Street SE and L Street SE. With a vast array of coffee shops, retail stores, restaurants and bars, it is a great place to spend a lazy Saturday. One highlight is District Doughnut, which has had a stand at Georgetown’s farmers market, and sells hand-made treats with unusual flavors such as chocolate creme brulee and mocha crunch for as little as $2.50.
For a combination of great food, live music and beautiful spaces to explore, head to Eastern Market (5) at 225 Seventh St. SE. During the week, the South Hall Market is always full of diverse vendors selling meats, baked goods, flowers and more. But it is during the weekends when the area really comes to life, teeming with more than 100 vendors offering samples of seasonal produce. There are also several bands that frequently perform alongside artisans selling paintings, sculptures and furniture.
Students love their brunches, and perhaps one of the best deals is the Sunday brunch at Pinstripes (7) — for $30 you have access to a bottomless buffet, which includes an omelet and waffle station, a chocolate fountain and anything else you could want on a Sunday morning. For those over 21, this also includes bottomless mimosas or bloody marys. This is potentially the best brunch deal you will find in Georgetown, and with its location next to the canal, it is a very tempting one.
Greater D.C. is brimming with cheap eats. The famed Ben’s Chili Bowl (8) is a must — Ben’s famous all-meat chili dog is the perfect post-night-out meal, and, for $4.50, is an absolute bargain.
Rub shoulders with politicians on Capitol Hill at Pete’s Diner (9), which serves everything you would expect from a greasy diner, including egg platters, pancakes and sandwiches. The stack of three sweet potato pancakes for $5.95 is a steal, and the portion sizes will keep you full for the rest of the day.
For those looking for a slightly more upscale breakfast, try The Coupe (10). The options are healthy and stacked with a few more vegetables than at Pete’s, but with dishes ranging in price from $7.50 to $13.50, it is just as easy on your wallet.
There is a huge range of ramen spots throughout D.C., with many offering reasonably priced menus. Try Donburi and Sakuramen on 18th Street. for some of the best and biggest dishes, ranging in price from $8 to $13. For pizza fans, look a little farther afield than Pizza Movers and Domino’s. &pizza is quickly becoming a student favorite, and deserves the praise it receives. The small but delicious menu offers an incredible combination of toppings — Moonstruck, Maverick and Farmer’s Daughter pizzas are not to be missed.
If you’re looking to update your wardrobe but can’t afford a hefty price tag, explore the best of D.C.’s vintage and thrift stores.
If you manage to make your way up to Brookland to see the Franciscan Monastery, take full advantage of the trip and peruse consignment stores Battered Threads and Analog, each bursting with a colorful assortment of attire. At Analog, there are also a few racks with new clothes made by local vendors with scraps of donations.
A little closer to home, head to Buffalo Exchange, Second Time Around and Georgetown Trade for a mix of low- and high-end garments at reasonable prices.
Music lovers should make a visit to Smash! Records (6) in Adams Morgan to find a treasure trove of vinyl records, CDs and 1960s and ’70s punk-rock gear.
Those on an intern’s salary should make full use of D.C.’s happy hours. On warm summer nights, head to Biergarten Haus (11) on H Street. and take advantage of the cheap German food and beer. Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. you can get half-liters for just $6 and liter mugs for $10.
District Commons (12) has one of the best happy hour deals around. Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close and Saturday 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday 4 p.m. to close, specialty cocktails, a selection of wines and draft beers go for just $5.
The Partisan (13) is not exceptionally cheap on its drinks, but its late-night bar food menu makes it well worth a visit — the $7 chili cheese fries, the $8 schnitzel sandwich and the $7 flatbread pizza are just a few of the standouts.
Another excellent happy hour deal that has an equally tempting menu is Latin-Asian fusion restaurant Zengo (Monday through Friday from 3p.m. to 8 p.m.), with Latin cocktails such as caiprinhas and mojitos for $6, and tacos, sushi and small plates from $5 to $9. Mojito Mondays are not to be missed, with a variety of flavored mojitos — guava, mango and passion fruit among them — at just $6 each.
Locally, though, the best happy hour hangout has to be El Centro D.F. (14). On Wednesdays, margaritas are $5 all night (plus, they offer free salsa dancing lessons). Happy hour stands with its $5 margarita deal from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily. With The Tombs’ closure for renovations this summer, and El Centro’s bar terrace and unbelievable guacamole and tortilla chips, it is likely going to be a student staple this summer.