Explore Washington D.C.

Enjoying Washington's Favorite Outdoor Spots

6 suggestions on enjoying DC outside after the sun goes down.

Washington’s daytime temps often mean desperate quests for air-conditioning, but breezy summer nights are best spent en plein air, preferably with an icy drink in hand. Seek out evening movies and concerts (many free) at these favorite outdoor spots.

Singer Graham Nash once said, “playing at Wolf Trap is like playing inside a Stradivarius.” With band mates David Crosby and Stephen Stills, Nash returned July 3 to Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, the soaring amphitheater in Vienna, Va., on 100 acres of woodsy national park. The National Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to Beethoven (July 28), while Buddy Guy (July 12), Wilco (July 17-18) and Rufus Wainwright (July 24) rock their fans, half of them seated under the rafters and half sprawled (with BYO and for-purchase picnics!) on the sloped lawn.

Gaze at stars in the sky and on screen during Crystal City, Virginia’s annual free film festival. Movie buffs come out for trivia nights, costume contests and screenings every Monday at sundown. This year’s theme? “Summer of Romance,” featuring favorite romantic comedies: “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (July 16), “The Proposal” (July 23) and “You’ve Got Mail” (July 30). Find the “crystal” screen at 18th and Bell streets across from the Crystal City Metro station.

As part of the "Serenade! Washington DC Choral Festival," this Bethesda, Md., music center hosted choirs from South Africa, Colombia, Australia and Czech Republic conducted by Philip Brunelle on July 1. Behind a stately mansion, green acres beckon music lovers for free concerts each Wednesday at 7 pm. Hip-hopper and Silver Spring native Incwell hits the stage July 11; saxophonist Elijah Balbed plays jazz July 18; and up-and-comer Lyndsey Highlander sings country tunes July 25.

Thursday nights mean family-friendly flicks in this waterside neighborhood near Navy Yard and Nationals Park. Arrive early for Wii games on the big screen, trivia and Hula-hooping. On the schedule: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (July 12), “The Da Vinci Code” (July 19) and “Muppet Treasure Island” (July 26). Films show at 8:45 pm behind the U.S. Department of Transportation building at New Jersey Avenue and Tingey Street SE.

A D.C. rite of summer in its 12th year, Jazz in the Garden draws hundreds to the gallery’s sculpture garden for Friday performances. Crowds arrive early to snag prime perches and picnic spots around the circular fountain, and the Pavilion Café adds to the happy-hour vibe with beer and sangria by glass or pitcher. The 5 pm shows, all free, feature Juanita Williams (July 13), The Young Lions (July 20) and Incendio (July 27).

This riverside new town in Maryland now buzzes on weekends. Catch free sunset film screenings on Fridays (getaway-themed films like “Dirty Dancing” (July 13) and Sundays (fish tales like “Flipper,” July 15). Saturdays the Chesapeake Orchestra takes the stage at 7 pm for Pops on the Potomac. Expect Tchaikovsky and Mozart works plus guests like Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and his band (July 14) and country singer Suzy Bogguss (July 28). All shows are free, but VIP tickets ($40) include special seating and pre-show wine and hors d’oeuvres.

www.wolftrap.org, www.crystalcity.org, www.strathmore.org, www.capitolriverfront.org, www.nga.gov, www.nationalharbor.com