Top Quirky, Weird, Off-Beat, Things to do in D.C. (Before You Die/Escape)

I made this list because I was homesick. D.C. isn’t New York City. D.C. isn’t Berkeley. And D.C. is certainly NOT Lima. I’ve lived here for two years, but I still miss the excitement of The City, the beauty of the Bay Area and the challenges of Latin America. HOWEVER, I’ve grown to appreciate this metropolis for what it is. There’s a lot of curious stuff going on here, too—I just had to dig a li’l deeper. This guide is for the hodgepodge of residents who, like me, don’t *quite* feel like Washingtonians and need more adventure in their lives. In no particular order, I give you the top quirky, weird, off-beat (sometimes free, always fun) things to do in D.C. (before you die/escape):

  1. Laughter yoga: Join a group of ridiculously fun people and chuckle, chortle and guffaw your way to happiness. Laughter yoga is a huge stress-reliever. No yoga experience (or spandex) required! Link here
  2. The Moth @ Howard Theater: Link here $
  3. Tea with Strangers: Link here
  4. Creative Mornings D.C.: Pretend you’re a morning person and hear some brilliant speakers like NPR’s Adam Cole and the Hirshhorn’s Linn Meyers. Link here
  5. O Street Mansion Bluegrass Jam: Link here
  6. Play cornhole: This sport (yeah, I called it a sport) is really more of an excuse to go drinking after (or is it before?) than actually playing, but some people get really into it. As a Best Coast gal, I’d never heard of proper cornhole technique, and it’s fascinating/annoying to hear some tipsy Georgetown boys explain it. Join the movement with this link here. $
  7. Arlington Cinema and Draft House: Link here $
  8. D.C. Bubble Run: There are bubbles! SO. MANY. BUBBLES, in fact, that you can almost forget the word “run” is also in there. Sneaky. Link here $
  9. Party (quietly) at D.C.’s silent disco: Link here $
  10. George Washington’s Birthday Parade: Where do you live again? That’s right, show some respect! Plus, the volunteer fire department is usually in attendance. Interested now? Link here
  11. No Pants Subway Ride: Link here
  12. DC science cafe: SCIENCE IS THE BEST. That is all. Link here
  13. Sledding on Capitol Hill: This is a winter must-do! If your partner forgets to buy sleds at the grocery store before they sell out (AHEM), just wrap a large piece of cardboard in a heavy duty garbage bag. Both to my surprise (and the stand-by medic’s) this actually works really, really well. Link here
  14. Square dancing: Link here $
  15. Mr. Yogato’s frozen yogurt: Where playing games gets you discounts on froyo! Link here $
  16. Sushi doughnuts: Forget sushi burritos. It’s all about the ‘nuts! Link here $
  17. AwesomeCon: It’s awesome. Do I really need to explain this one? Link here $
  18. Drag brunch at Nellie’s Sports Bar: Link here $
  19. Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park drum circle: Does your heart beat to the tune of a different drum? Do you wear your dreadlocks with pride (and beads)? Do you enjoy balancing on a tight rope? If that sounds like you, check out the drum circle. If not, bring a picnic blanket, some snacks and your sunglasses—it’s the HBO of people watching. Link here
  20. Drunk Science: Link here $
  21. Play your favorite board game at the Board Room bar: Link here
  22. Speakeasy: You are definitely cool enough to frequent one of D.C.’s speakeasys. The question is—can you afford both that vintage wicker chair, mousse for your man bun, those non-iPod issued headphones AND the price of a cocktail? Link here $
  23. Watch Teddy lose (again) at a Nat’s game: Link here $
  24. District trivia: Hang out with friends and coworkers, take advantage of happy hour specials and good noms. If you’re not a walking depository of random facts and arcane knowledge, no worries—the most important part is coming up with a funny team name. Link here
  25. Murder mystery scavenger hunt at the National Museum of History: Watson, the company that hosts the scavenger hunts also has Harry Potter-themed hunts and naked-themed hunts (but not naked Harry Potter-themed hunts, sorry). Link here $
  26. Robert Burns party: You gotta check this out. Pro tip: avoid the haggis! Link here
  27. Georgetown Glow: If you don’t mind all the boat shoes and popped collars that populate Georgetown, this looks gorgeous. Link here
  28. DC Roller Derby scrimmage: Watch these hardcore ladies kick butt! They also have classes and bootcamps so you can attempt to attain their level of badassery. Link here
  29. Try a Capoeira class: Free dance-fighting classes. What are you waiting for?! Check it out here, here and (heavily discounted) here
  30. International Day of Yoga: Link here
  31. Think tank discussion: Get a free education and (oftentimes!) free food. Check out the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Links here and here
  32. DuPont Underground: A subterranean arts and cultural organization, DuPont Underground takes visitors on a walk through old metro lines under DuPont. Step carefully around ever-growing art installations, explore an old foot court and take selfies in front of some gorgeous graffiti. Link here $
  33. Monday night meditation: Get your ooommm on at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Link here
  34. Atlas Arcade: Give your inner child beer, and don’t be stingy with the quarters. Link here $
  35. National Museum of Health and Medicine: Where else can you see a ginormous hairball IN SOMEONE’S INTESTINES? Link here
  36. Take a calligraphy class: Link here $
  37. Menstruation Museum: I’ll let your mother explain it to you. Link here
  38. Champagne Saber: A man gets dressed up, brandishes a sword and breaks the neck off a bottle of champagne. Then he pours free drinks for everyone. Every day. (Best. Job. EVER.) Link here
  39. Palisades Blair Witch Project: Creeptastic lair for witches (or teenagers smoking pot). It’s pretty cool. Definitely worth the (very short) trek! Links here and here
  40. Exorcist steps: These iconic steps don’t match the Palisades in their creepiness. They’re actually in a lovely part of the city. See if you can run up and down twice like former president Bill Clinton. Then go get a cupcake—you earned it. Link here
  41. Annual croquet match: Link here
  42. Protest something: Unless you work for the government or a strict NGO or the press. Then don’t. Link here
  43. Easter Egg roll: Link here
  44. Try mumbo sauce: Link here $
  45. 500 harmonica cases: Link here
  46. D.C. Underground Comedy show: Laugh till it hurts and then keep on laughing because life’s too short to be a fuddy duddy. Pro tip: don’t sit in the front unless you want to be heckled by the performers. Link here $
  47. Paddleboarding on the Potomac: Link here $
  48. Climb the big toe: Link here
  49. Visit a store devoted entirely to Peeps: Link here
  50. Try the world’s hottest pepper: You know you like it hot. Link here $
  51. Take a spin on the Capital Wheel: It’s wheel fun! Link here $
  52. Flying trapeze: Are you afraid of heights? Great, now go practice your flips. Links here and here $
  53. 9:30 Club: Link here
  54. Walk the C&O Canal Towpath: Link here
  55. Fourth of July on the mall: You can’t get more American (or sweatier) than this. Brave the crowds and the stifling humidity to experience Washington at its most patriotic! Link here
  56. Changing of the guard, Arlington cemetery: No snark for this one. It’s quite lovely. Respect. Link here
  57. Virginia Gold Cup: Link here $
  58. Eat Maryland blue crabs at longest continuously open market in US: Head to Maine St Market, buy a bushel of crabs (ask for either male or female depending on the season), chow down! Pro tip: You can ask for samples before you make a purchase. Link here $
  59. Capitol and White House Tour: Link here
  60. Drag Queen High Heel Race: YAS QWEEN! Link here
  61. House concert: (Crazy) cool people open up their houses to the masses and host performers from all over the U.S. Link here
  62. D.C.’s Holi celebration: Link here
  63. Get a library card from the Library of Congress: Link here
  64. Museums:  Gotta catch ’em all! Link here
  65. Dragon boat racing: Links here and here
  66. Verizon Center: Beyonce has been here. Attend an event just to breathe the same air she did. (Oh, and there are, like, other concerts and hockey games and basketball games and stuff here, too. If you’re into those kinds of things.) Link here $
  67. Watch a Supreme Court trial: Link here
  68. Presidential debate watch party: Drink heavily. Shout expletives at the screen. Gravely offend the Republican at the next table. Exasperate and annoy the Democrat at the end of the bar. Oh, and watch the candidates debate. It’s a D.C. thing. Link here
  69. Hike in Rock Creek Park: Link here
  70. Inauguration: You can get tickets via your representative! *fingers crossed * your candidate wins. Link here
  71. Sunset at Gravelly Point: Bring a blanket + picnic fare and enjoy the sherbet-colored sunset as it illuminates the low-flying planes. *le sigh * How romantic! Link here
  72. White House Garden tour: Link here
  73. Ice Cream Luge: Like many great things in life, it’s slightly messy, requires chocolate and involves alcohol. Link here $
  74. Jazz in the Garden: Link here
  75. Screen on the Green: Link here
  76. Kennedy Center: Perfect date night. (Pssst, there are free events every evening!) Walk out into the garden area for a beautiful view of the Potomac. Link here
  77. Bargain for the coolest old license plates at Arlington Flea Market and Eastern Market Flea Market: Links here and here
  78. Politicians vs. Press Spelling Bee: It’s ridiculous as it sounds. Link here $
  79. Congressional Baseball Game: Ditto. Link here
  80. Marine Corps parade: Link here
  81. Climb to the top of Washington Monument: You can live in D.C. your entire life and never make it to the top of the Washington Monument. Put it on your to-do list before the next quake shuts it down (again). Just promise me you’ll leave your selfie stick at home—don’t be THAT person. You can (and should) get tickets online. Link here $
  82. West Wing Tour: Sadly, it’s nothing like The West Wing. I know. *sobs*
  83. Ride ducks on the Tidal Basin pond during cherry blossom season: Link here $
  84. Ice rink at the Sculpture Garden: There are plenty of ice rinks in and around D.C., but my favorite is the one at the Sculpture Garden. The entire place is lit up like a wonderland, and the ice is consistently fresh and smooth. Link here $
  85. Lily Festival at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens: Link here
  86. Free Improv Classes: No previous experience required. Get out there and have fun! Link here
  87. Upright Citizens Brigade @ 6th and I Historic Synagogue: Link here $
  88. Get your groove on with free dance classes: The Jam Cellar offers a free beginner’s lesson in dances like the Lindy Hop and Balboa. Links here and here (Note: I really disliked the instructor. He was very sarcastic to the point of being unapproachable. Also, you don’t get to keep the partner you bring.) There’s also free salsa lessons every Wednesday from 9-10 at El Centro! Link here
  89. Lunch at the American Indian MuseumLink here $
  90. Free Masons: Take a tour of the Free Masons Temple. My favorite part? There are dead people buried IN THE BUILDING, which is incredibly stunning and not haunted at all. The history is fascinating and the sexism is abhorrent—did you know they still don’t allow female members? WTAF, people! Link here
  91. Technicolor church: Link here
  92. Yoga Mortis: The corpse pose is just SO much easier in a cemetery. Link here
  93. Tour of the Pentagon: Link here
  94. Torpedo Factory: This old munitions factory from WWII has been transformed into an artist’s haven. Stroll through the factory and chat with artists at work. Then hit the waterfront for a relaxing (and tasty!) dinner. Link here
  95. VHS Nostalgia: Link here
  96. Daybreaker dance party: Link here $
  97. Rocky Horror Picture Show at E St. Cinema: This was a LOT of fun, and I’d definitely go again. Pro tips: wear nice underwear, and don’t tell anyone you’re a newb. Link here $
  98. Busboys and Poets 11th Hour Poetry Slam: Link here $
  99. All the monuments: Walk ’em at day AND at night before calling yourself a true Washingtonian. (Kayaking the monuments and seeing them from the water is also an option!)
  100. Newseum: Link here $
  101. Lock picking class: Nothing is safe. I repeat, NOTHING is safe. Not only will this class teach you how to pick everything from bike locks to front doors, it’ll also instill you with a queasy feeling that none of your worldly possessions are secure in any way, whatsoever. Link here
  102. Hike the Great Falls: Link here
  103. Kickball on the mall: Link here
  104. Christmas and Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar: Links here and here $
  105. Zombie Run: Break out the fake blood, torn clothes and let loose your obsession for BrrRRaaaiNsSSS! Links here and here
  106. The Perfect Liars Club Link here $
  107. Darth Vader Gargoyle at the National Cathedral: I am not making this one up. Ask one of the docents for a map and binoculars and pay homage to the Sith Lord. Link here
  108. National Arboretum: Link here
  109. Monkeys With Typewriters: No monkeys were harmed during the scheduling of this event. Link here
  110. Ride the trippy Wheaton Station escalator: Link here
  111. Ride the Dentzel Carousel: Link here
  112. Kayak Around Ghost Ships: Mallows Bay is a bastion of old war ships. Pro tip: you can find cheaper guided tours if you shop around. Link here
  113. Smithsonian The Future is Here Festival: Link here
  114. Tree lighting/Menorah lighting ceremonies: Links here and here
  115. Hear authors at Politics and Prose: Link here
  116. Photo from the top of the GW Masonic National Memorial, the Old Post Office and the highest point in D.C., Fort Reno Park: Links here, here and here
  117. Botanic Garden: Come for the gorgeous vegetation. Stay for the corpse flower. Link here
  118. Stoke Your Inner Genius at the National Math Festival: Link here
  119. Sheep Shearing at Oxon Cove: If this doesn’t automatically intrigue you, we can’t be friends. Link here
  120. Tour Cool Buildings During Architecture Month: Link here $
  121. Porch Fest: Porches and stoops are transformed into stages for this yearly event. Link here
  122. D.C.’s Secret Gardens: You loved the movie, now check out the real deal Link here
  123. Office Hours at Ben’s Chili Bowl: Link here
  124. Get Schooled at the Academy of Funk: Links herehere and here
  125. Walk in the footsteps of spies and traitors (without actually being one): Link here
  126. Reenact the Boston Tea Party in MD: It’s not your grandma’s tea party! Link here
  127. Grab Some Grub From D.C.’s Floating Food Truck: Link here
  128. Critter Yoga: Nicola from “Life is a Zoo Yoga” will guide you through a 1-hour yoga class with some very special guests. Meet baby goats, lambs and bunnies as you flow through your practice. SOMUCHADORABLE! Link here
  129. Celebrate Atlas Obscura Day: Link here
  130. Running of the Chihuahuas: Links here and here
  131. Annual Sundress Fest: Link here
  132. Celebrate the White House Correspondents Dinner: Link here
  133. Free lunch with scientists!: The Broad Branch Road campus of Carnegie Science has shared home-cooked meals with the public every day since 1947. Head to the Merle Tuve Room (dining hall) of the Greenewalt Building at 12:30 for some delectable food cooked by Lunch Club members. Link here
  134. Riverpalooza: Link here
  135. Travel around the world in a day: Links here, here and here
  136. Instameet: Obsessed with photography? They are, too. Link here
  137. Shameless, An Open Mic Variety Show: Lose your open-mic virginity at Shameless. Link here $
  138. Bike for Coffee: Every week, Arlingtonians (is that a word? I’ll roll with it) meet up for a cup o’ joe. Link here $
  139. Story District: Link here $
  140. Naval Academy plebes scale a 21-foot obelisk slicked with lard: It’s an annual tradition, according to The Washington Post. The first-year students can’t begin their summer until they replace an underclassman’s “dixie cup” hat at the top of the monument with an upperclassman’s hat. Link here
  141. The D.C. Air Sex Championship: Don’t ask. Just read (it’s safe for work). Link here
  142. Free Meditation Retreat: Link here
  143. American Ninja Warrior-Themed Pool Competition: OMG OMG OMG Link here
  144. Go ice skating in the summer: Link here
  145. World Bonsai Day Festival: Link here
  146. Aerial Yoga Nidra aka “yogic sleep”: Link here
  147. Tombs and Tomes (the Congressional Cemetery’s book club): Link here
  148. Maryland Faerie Festival: Link here $
  149. Acroyoga: Link here
  150. Free Film & Beer at Bistro Bohem: Link here
  151. Spinning classes… in a pool?!: Link here $
  152. Netwalking: Netwalking takes The District’s No. 1 obsession—networking—to a whole new level (of ridiculousness). If you can’t figure out how to walk and talk, this event is for you. Netwalking teaches participants to network while they walk a la The West Wing. So get out there! Take what could’ve been a nice, relaxing stroll and turn it into work! Link here $
  153. Happy hour challenge: Some enterprising soul with far too much time on their hands made a database of ALL the happy hours in D.C. Will you catch them all? Link here $
  154. Polish wreath making: Link here
  155. Floor workshop: You roll around on the floor and somehow that makes you relax. I guess it works for dogs so why not people? Link here $
  156. Capital Fringe Festival: Link here $
  157. Roam: It’s a dance party and finding it is half the fun. Link here $
  158. Free fishing and Kayaking: Summer only! Link here
  159. Jane Austen Ball: Link here $
  160. Bastille Day Baguette Race: Link here
  161. Bastille Day French Maid Race: Link here $
  162. Skeleton dressed up with nowhere to go: The Franciscan Monastery is interesting. Link here
  163. Free roller skating: Reenact your fav ’80s fantasies here. Link here
  164. Try the Bagel Doughnut: BLASPHEMY! Link here $
  165. Boundary stones of D.C.: Link here
  166. Pop-up concert: Link here
  167. Secret bar: Walk through this Peruvian restaurant and through a freezer door. Your cocktail awaits! Link here $
  168. Mini gold FTW: Link here $
  169. Dungeons & Dragons for newbs: Link here
  170. Capitol Steps: Link here $
  171. Nerd Nite D.C.: Be there and be square. Link here
  172. Greater Washington Soap Box Derby: Link here
  173. Freddie’s Beach Bar drag bingo: Link here $
  174. Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Co.Link here
  175. Glen Echo Park: Link here
  176. D.C. capitol stones: Link here
  177. Fal(s)e University: A comedy show that makes philosophy (etc.) way more fun than your professor did Link here $
  178. Haunted hospital: Check out this totally haunted hospital… if you DARE. Link here
  179. Pet parade: at the D.C. State (*ahem!) Fair Link here Bonus points if you also participate in the hula hooping competition! Link here
  180. Full moon gong bath: I got nothin’. Give it a go? Link here $
  181. HUMP Amateur Porn Festival: Unrelated to the full moon gong bath, but in full support of showing your full moon, Dan Savage hosts an annual amateur porn festival right here in The District. NSFW and not for the faint of heart, porn becomes a communal and (dare I suggest it?) heart-warming experience. Link here $
  182. The Lantern Fest: Link here $
  183. DistrictCryo: *shivers Link here $
  184. Rehabilitate raptors: Link here
  185. Dr. Who extravaganza: Fire up your Tardis and beam yourself over to the Black Cat for Saturday night Dr. Who showings and drink specials! Link here
  186. Bluegrass jamming class: Anyone with any musical talent needs to get on this ASAP. Link here $

BONUS: The Best Food (According to Me)

  • Sandwiches: Secret Sandwich Society in Richmond, VA
  • Waffles: Open City chai waffles in Woodley Park
  • Korean BBQ: Honey Pig in Falls Church
  • Cupcakes: Georgetown cupcake
  • Themed bar: Bonfire
  • Dumplings: Bob’s Soup Dumplings
  • Doughnuts: Astro Donuts (go right before closing for free doughnuts with your purchase!)
  • Burger: Rebellion korean burger
  • Milkshake: Ted’s Bulletin
  • Vietnamese: The Four Sisters in Falls Church (don’t go to their other chains, poor quality)
  • Chicken and waffles: Founding Farmers (after 11 a.m.)
  • Fried Duck heads: Thip Kao in Columbia Heights
  • Crab Cake: Dennson’s Grocery in Colonial Beach
  • Coffee: Killer ESP and/or Cafe Tryst
  • Karaoke: Hill Country
  • Diner: Silver Diner in Arlington

Cool Stuff to do Outside and Around D.C.

Oftentimes, the best way to appreciate D.C. is to leave D.C. Let’s face it, the weather is only nice for a few weeks (if that) in the spring and fall, but even that’s ruined by the multitude of tourists who don’t understand crosswalks and can’t figure out that they need to STAND ON THE RIGHT. If you’re a little wound up from all the crazy (tourists/politicians/press briefings/take your pick) then get out of town and head to:

Have recommendations? Advice? Cautionary tales? Message me at or via twitter.

Photo Credit: Delete