15 Things to Do Before Summer Is Over

How to make the most of the rest of your summer

By Amanda Hancock
|  Friday, Jul 18, 2014  |  Updated 3:41 PM EDT
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15 Things to Do Before Summer Is Over

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Composite image by NBC Washington

Consider this your mid-summer checkpoint.

Have you done all those sunshine-related things you were dreaming about back during the polar vortex? Or have you spent a few too many nights on the couch hitting "next episode" on Netflix?

Now that Fourth of July is over, there's only so many days left in the sunny season to eat ice cream, wear shorts and partake in all those outdoor adventures that sums up summer.

Read on for 15 ideas that'll make your D.C. summer shine.

1. Watch a movie outdoors

Pack a junk food-filled picnic, grab a blanket and watch a film underneath the D.C. night sky. From "Frozen" sing-a-longs to old favorites, there's plenty of titles for every movie enthusiast. 

One outdoor viewing experience you won't want to miss is Screen on the Green, which shows movies against the illustrious backdrop of the National Mall. The festival begins with a screening of 1984's "The Karate Kid" (July 21) followed by "Lover Come Back" (July 28), "Key Largo" (Aug. 4) and "A Soldier's Day" (Aug. 11). For more options all around the DMV area, check out our full outdoor summer movie schedule.

2. See the sights from atop the Capital Wheel

Have you seen the Capital Wheel from afar, but not taken a ride just yet? This summer is the perfect time. At 180 feet, the Capital Wheel gives riders a bird's eye view of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol and the Potomac River. It's the tallest observation wheel east of the Mississippi River.

You also get to ride in an air-conditioned gondola -- which is pretty cool. The wheel is open daily year-round and consists of 42 gondolas that seat up to eight people.

A ride in the Capital Wheel costs $15 for adults and  $11.25 for kids ages 3-11. If you want a trip in the VIP gondola (extra bucket list points), which features leather seats, a glass floor and a DVD player, seats are $50 per person.

3. Go to a county fair

You really can't let summer fade without getting your fix of fried dough, face paint and carousel rides. County fair season is coming up soon, so be on the lookout for one near you. From Arlington (Aug. 6-10) to Prince George's County (Sept. 4-7), and monster truck shows to pony rides, there's a whole lot of summer fun to look forward to. See our list to find a county fair near you.

4. Join in an Ice Cream taste test

There's nothing quite like enjoying a summer day with an ice cream cone in hand. Union Market (1309 5th St. NE) is putting all the area's best ice cream shops in one place for the D.C. Scoop Festival on July 19. You can expect rows of ice cream trucks, free samples from the area's shops and ice cream eating contest for those brave souls who are brain freeze-averse.

If you can't make it to the festival, don't worry -- July is National Ice Cream month, so you can keep on embracing summer's chosen sweet in your own style.

5. Buy fresh fruit at a farmer's market

It won't be prime peach-picking time for much longer. Spend a Saturday morning strolling through a local farmer's market, trying free samples and taking home a fresh selection of your favorites. Here's a few options: 

  • For a wide range of farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts, head to Eastern Market (225 7th St. SE) Tuesday through Sunday.
  • There's also the Dupont Circle market (20th Street NW between Massachusetts Avenue and Hillyer Place) , which is open Sundays.
  • You also might want to check out the farmer's market in Arlington's Court House neighborhood, open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

6. Cheer on the Nats from the stands

Mmm, a day at the ballpark. With hot dogs, nachos, beer -- and even some baseball -- catching a  Nationals game is an ideal way to spend a sunny afternoon. Grab your ball cap, check the summer schedule and cheer on the D.C. home team.

7. Go for a boat ride, or a bike ride or a hike

Just go outside. Just do it. Put your phone on silent and visit one of the area's nearby trails or national parks. There's dozens of spots to experience nature at its finest -- and these summer months are the perfect time to throw on your tennis shoes and get active.

Try parking at Fletcher's Cove, Carderock Recreational Area or the Georgetown Waterfront where you can rent a bike or boat by the hour.

Whether you're running down the C&O towpath or kayaking on the Potomac, an outdoor adventure is a stress-reducing summer activity that's sure to make you smile.

8. Watch the planes at Gravelly Point

Who knew watching airplanes land shockingly close to your head could be so entertaining? Post up in Gravelly Point Park for an afternoon and watch as the airplanes come in for a landing just a few hundred feet from Reagan National Airport.

Pack a picnic and find a spot in the grassy area with a great view of D.C. There's also a walking and biking path nearby if you need to stretch your legs.

9. Visit a small town

Trade in the bustling city vibe with all its traffic, noise and crowds for a day of small town charm. Stroll down main streets, uncover hidden gems and and take in the summery smells, sights and smiles of a town that's not so big. You won't have to travel far to uncover a peaceful hidden gem near D.C.

Here's a few options: 

  • Frederick, Maryland was named one of the top 25 "Small Art Cities in the USA." Try a guided walking tour of the historic sites.

  • Cambridge, Maryland is known as "The Heart of the Chesapeake Bay." As the birthplace of Harriet Tubman, this town has a slew of historical stories to tell.

  • Washington, Virginia was first surveyed by a young George Washington. Along the rolling countryside, check out some fine dining, a bed and breakfast and a gallery of fine art.

  • Leesburg, Virginia is just about 20 minutes past Dulles International Airport. You'll get the feel for historic architecture and a chance to shop at the Leesburg Premium Outlets.

10. Sing a long with your favorite band

Let's face it: there's at least one song on the radio you'd love to hear live this summer. It's definitely not too late to add a concert to your plans. You can catch a number of big and small acts in the D.C. area before those outdoor venues close up shop.

To give you a head start, here's three outdoor shows coming your way: 

  • Fall out Boy, Paramore at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 18
  • Queen with Adam Lambert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 20
  •  Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line at Nationals Park, July 25

11. Peek at a few lions, tigers and bears

Visit the National Zoo for your chance to hang out with all the animals, including a quite famous panda cub. Bao Bao is currently on exhibit and she makes for a perfect furry addition to your summer bucket list. Other than a panda sighting, the zoo has a full daily lineup -- including feeding the fish, elephant training demos, and seeing the newest and littlest lion cubs.

12. Spend a Friday evening at Jazz in the Park

Start your weekend with a cool rhythm -- head down to Sculpture Garden for a free jazz concert every Friday (you get extra points for sneaking in wine). The Pavilion Cafe features a creative menu of food and drinks, including sangria and beer.

13. Ride the biggest coaster at King's Dominion

What summer is complete without the long lines and high-pitched screams that accompany an amusement park? Head out to King's Dominion for a day and let your inner-child soar.

14. Walk around the monuments at sunset

Whether you're brand new to D.C. or a long-time resident, a nighttime stroll around the National Mall memorials is a must-do pretty much every summer. Stand on the steps of the lit-up Jefferson Memorial and pose next to the 19-foot-tall Abraham Lincoln, all while watching the sun go down.

15. Reach for the beach

Are you craving a day (or two) sitting in the sand and splashing in the sea? Well, the beach doesn't just exist on your computer's screensaver. Pack a bag and hop in the car for a weekend trip spent at nearby beach.

You could go for the bustling beach scene at Ocean City -- complete with amusement parks, arcades, miniature golf courses, a host of shopping and that iconic three-mile boardwalk. Or opt for a drive to Virginia Beach and enjoy restaurants, a round of golf, and the nearby state parks all while breathing in the ocean breeze.  And at the much quieter Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay, you can try all the best summer activities, from swimming to fishing to windsurfing and more.

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