There are still plenty of ways to experience Washington, D.C. while observing social distancing guidelines.
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, COVID-19 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. 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 and practices to combat the spread of COVID-19, so it’s important to double-check the rules at the place you’re visiting before you arrive.
As of May 2021, the CDC has determined that masks are not necessary if you're fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people should still wear their masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. D.C. is a densely populated city (and some places are more crowded than others), so always use your best judgment when choosing whether to mask up. You’ll likely still see plenty of Washingtonians wearing masks wherever they go!
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.
D.C. has a robust public transportation system, the Metro, to help you get from place to place. The Metro has made some adaptations to make rides as safe as possible, such as social distancing on board, requiring masks in stations and on trains/buses, and extra cleaning.
If you’re not ready to hop on public transit, you’re in luck. 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. In the summer, D.C. is known for unexpected showers and thunderstorms, so you may want to check the weather forecast before committing to a long walk.
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. Again, check the weather forecast before you set out.
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.
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.
There are also plenty of summer staples in D.C. to look forward to. You could spend a Friday evening listening to live jazz in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden. If you want something more active, you could rent a paddle boat to explore the Tidal Basin.
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 many museums are still closed, some 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 is an open-air museum allowing a limited number of visitors.
Many more of D.C.’s most famous museums, such as the National Portrait Gallery, the American Art Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be reopening for the summertime. If you plan to go to any of the reopening museums, check out their websites for details about their specific policies.
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.
Every Washingtonian will tell you that a trip to D.C. is not complete without checking out the local restaurant scene. Outdoor dining is permitted in D.C. and many restaurants offer a range of cozy patios and sidewalk tables for eating and people watching.
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.
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