Washington Area: Many Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Summer has finally arrived with a bang after an unusually cool spring that pushed back planting season and the usual outdoor activities until later in the season. But with the recent heating up of the atmosphere, everyone can do with some time outdoors in the fresh air.

While Jazz in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art on Friday evenings is now so popular that arrivals after 5 p.m. find it near-impossible to snag a seat, there are other places in the D.C. region to hear music and relax for free at the end of the week.

This year, Art on 8th — the joint project of Monroe Street Market, The Dance Place and Busboys and Poets next to Catholic University of America — takes on two nights per week. Thursday night through Sept. 29, live music from jazz to Latin takes up at the Arts Walk on the Monroe Street Market stage located on the plaza next to the Brookland Metro stop. Each third Thursday, the Monroe Street Market artists, Brookland Pint and Bike Rack restaurants and Filter present an extended evening of entertainment with live music, open artists’ studios, and family-friendly activities. Goldspur Bike Contests and a Beer Garden fill the alley from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. All other evenings start at 6:30 p.m.

On Fridays, the action moves to the plaza in front of Busboys and Poets with music and salsa- and hand-dancing lessons — all for free — at 6:30 p.m. In September, the activities move to the newly built 8th Street Arts Park, located behind the Dance Place and the adjacent artists’ studios. On Saturdays, “Get Creative” with workshops in arts and crafts, movement and gardening all in the Dance Place Arts Park and lobby. Call the Dance Place at 202-268-1600 for more information.

Want something a bit more structured? The United States Air Force Band has started its summer concert series, running Tuesdays on the U.S. Capitol lawn and Fridays at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington at One Air Force Memorial Drive. On Saturdays, the band goes to National Harbor. For more information on the concert series, visit www.usafband.af.mil.

How about a movie? RCN is sponsoring a Summer Cinema Series Tuesdays at the Carnegie Library East Lawn at Mount Vernon Square through Aug. 2; on Wednesdays at Gateway (at St. Elizabeth’s East) and Thursdays at the D.C. Armory Mall at ‎2001 East Capitol Street SE. For more information go to www.washingtoncitypaper.com/events for showings and more information. All films start at dusk.

What if it’s just a quiet place to have lunch that you’re looking for? On a brilliant and warm St. Patrick’s Day this year, the National Gallery of Art took custodianship of the newly renovated Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain — which had lain fallow for years, filled with trash, leaves and dirty rain water — from the National Park Service. The fountain sits on Pennsylvania Avenue and 5th Street in Northwest, opposite the Newseum and the National Gallery West Building.

As part of the 75th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, which was founded with the art collection of Mellon at its core, the fountain was restored to its original elegance that it displayed when first built in 1952. The three-tiered fountain is fashioned after one in Genoa, Italy which cascades shimmering veils of water into the lowest granite pool. When it was constructed, it was believed to be the largest bronze fountain known. Surrounded by shady trees, the curved concrete benches flank the fountain and provide a cool respite from a long, hot walk on the National Mall, or maybe just a quiet and peaceful place to have lunch.

“Since Andrew Mellon did not want his name on the museum he created, it was nice to have something with his name on it to pay tribute to our founder,” said Anabeth Guthrie, chief of the gallery’s Communications Office.

Of course, these aren’t the only free outdoor events this summer, with concerts everywhere from the Ronald Reagan Building’s Woodrow Wilson Plaza to the Sylvan Theater next to the Washington Monument. One can find something to cater to almost every taste, so get outside to enjoy the plethora of parks and recreation the D.C. metropolitan area has to offer during the hot and steamy months.

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