How to Enjoy Washington, D.C. While Social Distancing

August 3, 2020 The Washington Center

How to Enjoy Washington, D.C. While Social Distancing

There are still plenty of ways to enjoy Washington, D.C. from both inside and outside of your home.

Washington, D.C. is an awesome destination – there’s rich history, fantastic architecture, world-class museums, unbelievable food from all over the globe and tons of friendly residents. But, for many of us, social distancing has meant a whole lot of staying inside.

Fortunately, D.C. has adapted to life while social distancing, and there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the city both from inside and outside of your home. Here’s a quick guide to what you can do in D.C. and how to do it safely.

First Things First: Know Before You Go

Lots of businesses have changed their hours, practices and rules over the past few months, so it’s important to always double-check what’s changed before you go anywhere. For example, most museums that have reopened are requiring timed entry tickets to be reserved ahead of time so don’t forget to do that (and remember to bring them with you)!

Of course, never leave home without a couple of items to make sure you keep yourself and those around you healthy. A mask or face-covering that adequately covers your nose and mouth, some hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes in case you need to touch any high traffic surfaces should do the trick. 

To stay up to date with the reopening of attractions as they happen: check out this article from Washingtonian that regularly updates as new places open up. 

Getting Around

Washington, D.C. Capital Bike Share
Capital Bikeshare and electric scooters are still available throughout the city to help get you from place to place.

D.C. has a robust public transportation system but you may not love the idea of hopping on a bus or a train for every little adventure. Lucky for you, D.C. is a walker’s paradise and getting around the city above ground or on the sidewalk can be an activity in and of itself. 

Capital Bikeshare and electric scooters are still available throughout the city to help get you from place to place. With these, just make sure to bring your cleaning wipes to wipe down any surfaces you intend to touch and you’ll be off on a relaxing afternoon ride. 

Ridesharing services (like Uber and Lyft) are also still available but it’s advised that you use them sparingly – and you’ll need to wear a mask inside the car.

Outdoor Attractions

Washington, D.C. Outdoor Attractions
You can still go to the National Mall to take in the monuments and memorials.

Many of D.C.’s best sights are open-air, which makes social distancing a lot easier. 

You can still go to the National Mall to take in the monuments and memorials, lounge in the grass, take selfies and get your steps in walking up and down the promenade. You can also take an afternoon hike on one of many trails in Rock Creek Park, stop by the National Arboretum to find all the state trees or just take in the architecture around town. 

If you’re looking for more of an all-day adventure, head to the National Zoo, which has reopened most of its must-see exhibits. The zoo is free but requires a timed entry pass, so reserve yours before you go. 

Museums

George Washington’s Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Alexandria has many open-air attractions.

There are great things to do outdoors in D.C., but some of D.C.’s best-kept secrets are found in its many museums. Though most museums are still closed, a select few have started reopening at lowered capacity for mask-wearing, socially distanced guests. 

Within the District you can see classic James Bond props at the International Spy Museum, explore an old hotel at the Mansion on O Street or wander the gardens at the Heurich House Museum. If you’re willing to venture a little further: George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Glenstone Museum are both open-air museums allowing a limited number of visitors.

Even among D.C.’s cultural institutions whose doors are shut, they’re still doing what they can to help get you back inside without actually making you leave your home.

The Smithsonian is offering virtual tours of many of its most popular museums in the capital. You can hop online to see the dinosaur skeletons at the Museum of Natural History or Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at the Air and Space Museum. Beyond virtual tours, the Smithsonian has tons of free educational material for you to peruse year-round. 

If you can’t make it to the National Zoo in person, there are live feeds of some of the zoo’s most popular animals. Watch cheetah cubs, pandas, elephants and even naked mole rats in real-time from home.

Dining

Some D.C. restaurants offer spacious patios for drinking and eating while social distancing.
Some D.C. restaurants offer spacious patios for drinking and eating while social distancing.

Every Washingtonian will tell you that a trip to D.C. is not complete without checking out the local restaurant scene. Some restaurants have begun opening back up for outdoor dining and are offering spacious patios for drinking and eating while social distancing.

Even if you’re not ready to go to a restaurant in person, many of the same restaurants are offering take out and delivery options so you can enjoy world-class dining wherever you are.

If you’re going to be in D.C. soon, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy some of what the city has to offer while staying safe. And while social distancing may be keeping us apart physically, every one of these activities will be better with a buddy. Whether it’s a roommate, a family member or a friend, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy D.C. while you’re here. 

Wherever you go in Washington, don’t forget to wear your mask, keep six feet apart and be courteous to those around you. For more information on staying safe when you’re out and about, please see the CDC’s guidelines

About the Author

The Washington Center

The Washington Center is the largest and most established student internship program in Washington, D.C. Since our founding, we've helped more than 60,000 young people translate their college majors into career paths. We use our scale and expertise to customize each student’s experience to be truly transformative.

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