Photo courtesy of Smarter Travel
With the passage of the one-year anniversary – although maybe a different word would better fit the somber and depressing tone of this milestone – of COVID-19, students are tired of constantly staying at home, especially as the weather heats up. To prevent cabin fever and help students connect with each other in person again, The Pitch searched for some cool places to visit in Montgomery County, DC, and Northern Virginia within the next month or so. Regardless of your interests, you’re bound to find something.
Montgomery County Activities
The Capital Wheel at National Harbor, MD
If you’re afraid of heights, this 180-foot Ferris wheel is probably not for you, but the panoramic views of Alexandria, VA, DC’s monuments, and the Potomac River are gorgeous. It’s open Monday-Thursday from 4-8 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 12-8 p.m., and night-time or sunset rides are recommended by the company. There are also many restaurants and shops in the area to go to before and after the ride. Tickets are $16.35, but 10% off with code VISITDC. Buy them here.
Town Square Rockville
While the winter ice skating rink is closed during the spring, there is still a lot to do around this area. There are several restaurants like Woodside Deli (we recommend the French Dip Sub), Amici Miei (it’s Italian-Sardinian food, so you really can’t go wrong), Kyoto Matcha (the vanilla-matcha soft serve ice cream is great), and Buffalo Wild Wings (you can choose your own sauce and spice level, but Mango Habanero or Caribbean Jerk are arguably the best). For those looking for a good book, the Rockville Memorial Library is huge and will definitely have something to meet everyone’s interests. Books, movies, magazines or audiobooks can be returned at any Montgomery County Public Library, so it’s pretty convenient.
Downtown Silver Spring
Downtown Silver Spring has so much to offer. There are many good restaurants, a mall hidden in plain sight, and a record store on Colesville Road with a 90s atmosphere if you want CDs, posters, or vinyls of any genre for cheap. Panera, MOD Pizza, BIBIBOP, and CAVA are some of the restaurant chains there, but there are also a lot of small businesses. The new Sengalese Koité Grill, Sweetería bakery, and La Malinche, which serves Spanish tapas and Mexican food (the montaditos and datiles are must-tries) are some of the best ones in the area. There is also a cinema, H&M, DSW, Five Below, Michaels, and Ulta Beauty. Everything is COVID-safe, and most of the food is takeout-friendly.
The hidden garden behind The Woods Academy on Greentree Road is absolutely beautiful, especially now that everything is blooming. It’s a great place for pictures or spring photoshoots with friends; this little outcove makes the perfect setting. Picnic in one of the gazebos or on the grass and walk down all the different paths throughout the park.
Activities in the District: Georgetown
During the Cherry Blossom Festival, which ended on April 8, small businesses and restaurants in the Book Hill neighborhood were decked out in beautiful spring colors and ran discount and promotional programs. Even though the celebration is over, Book Hill is still a pretty area to walk around, shop, and eat at the small businesses and restaurants on Wisconsin Ave. Zannchi is a great Korean restaurant, Via Umbria has delicious Italian food, and Jaco Juice and Taco Bar are popular among Georgetown University students. Apart from Book Hill, Georgetown has cheap meals at Falafel Inc (trust me, the $3 sandwich is amazing), and Georgetown Cupcake and Olivia Macron always have great options for snacks. Walking along the waterfront is a lot of fun, and there are plenty of galleries for the artistically inclined.
The Building Museum
Yes, it sounds a little mundane, but if you take just a quick glance at the pictures on Google, I can guarantee your opinions will change. They just reopened on April 9, and they have exhibits exploring architectural photography, commemorating victims of gun violence, and displaying the connection between building design and global community service. Their collections detail how architecture and interior design have changed over the past several centuries, and how cities have evolved as well. Tickets are $10 for adults, but children ages 3-17 and students with IDs can get in for $7. Check out their website here.
Going boating, canoeing, or kayaking can be super fun during the spring and summer, and the Potomac is a fantastic place to do these outdoor (aka COVID-safe) activities. The Thompson Boat Center on Virginia Avenue and Fletcher’s Boathouse on Canal Road have rowboat and kayak rentals starting April 10 at affordable prices. Definitely plan a day with you and your friends and/or family on the water!
One of the most energetic areas of DC, China Town, which is right off the Metro at Gallery Place station, is an amazing place to go, especially at night. Chinatown Garden has fantastic dinners for moderate prices, and China Boy has more affordable cuisine available for takeout and delivery. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has good desserts and a variety of flavors. Apart from food, the International Spy Museum is one of the coolest ones in DC, and it doesn’t even feel like you’re at a museum. The Navy Memorial is open to the public and is cool to visit if you haven’t already been. The National Museum of Women in the Arts publicizes women’s contributions to art, has exhibitions on subjects like girlhood and the visual aspect of culinary arts. Tickets are free for anyone under 18, and $10 is the adult price (it’s $8 for students, so bring your student ID!). Buy them here.
Rock Creek Park
One of the most famous parks in DC is Rock Creek Park, and there are many trails for hiking, biking, and running. While many of the other activities here are canceled due to COVID, having a picnic with friends is still a fun way to experience the area and enjoy nature outside the city. If you’re into golf, you can reserve a tee time to play either 9 holes for $15 Monday-Thursday and $20 Friday-Sunday, or 18 holes (due to construction on the back nine, you play the front nine twice) for $20 Monday-Thursday and $25 Friday-Sunday at Rock Creek Golf Course, excluding an optional cart fee. No rentals are available due to COVID. Book a tee time here.
Northern Virginia Activities
If you’re in the mood to shop, need to refresh your wardrobe, or want to wear anything other than the sweatpants you’ve been living in for the past year, Tyson’s Corner has so many great stores to check out. From Altr’d State, Zara, Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, Express, and Foot Locker, to Adidas, All-Star Sports, American Eagle, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Francesca’s, Tyson’s has everything you could need to have a killer summer. If you get hungry, &Pizza, Auntie Anne’s, California Tortilla, Chipotle, Five Guys, Silver Diner, Kung Fu Tea, and more are all available in the shopping center.
There are several available fun weekend tours for visitors to take, each with a theme. There’s a garden landscape tour ($10 in addition to general admission), a Hamilton: The Musical tour ($10 in addition to general admission), a tour that goes over the lives of enslaved people on George Washington’s estate (free), and many others. The website suggests spending an hour looking at the mansion and grounds, an hour at the museum, and eat at the restaurant or food court, which have great Southern food. They also have a series of itineraries based on your plan for the day. The prices for general admission are $28 for anyone under 12 years old, but you can save $2 if you purchase three days in advance. Get tickets here.
In my experience, sometimes the best days in Virginia are when you don’t have an idea or plan and just get on the highway. Get a couple friends together and some good music going, and take a random exit to get food and gas. Then, explore that town from your car.
Have any different ideas? Drop them in the comments!