Rachel’s Guide to Washington DC: The Arts

While DC is best-known for its politics, it also has an art scene that is worth talking about! There are a number of concert venues that cater to every possible interest, outdoor music experiences, and quirky theaters for cinephiles. Check out my recs for the best places to enjoy the arts in Washington DC! 🙂

The Anthem

This new concert venue on at The Wharf is a must-visit for a few reasons: 1) they have an amazing lineup, 2) it’s close to a bunch of great restaurants, and 3) it’s right on the water! I went to see The Head and The Heart there this spring and absolutely loved it. Before the show, grab dinner or drinks at somewhere nearby like Hank’s Oyster Bar or Mi Vida.

The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center, credit @amber_kendrick_

The Kennedy Center is definitely the most famous concert location in DC, and for good reason. I never caught a show here while I lived in DC, but it’s on my bucket list….maybe I’ll go when I’m back in DC for the holidays? 🙂 There are tons of famous ballets and Broadway shows that come through here which can be pretty pricey, but there are also free shows at the Millenium Stage every day at 6pm if you’re on a budget!

Air Force Memorial Concert

Air Force Memorial, credit @airforcememorial

Seeing an outdoor concert at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington is a quintessential DC summer activity. The memorial itself is breathtaking (I mean look at this place!), and the music is amazing, too. Check out the schedule here to see when the next concert is.

Black Cat

Black Cat, credit Black Cat

If you passed this place on the street during the daytime, you’d have no idea that it’s a concert venue. The garage door entrance is pretty unassuming, making it the perfect place for all the *hip* indie bands to perform when they come through DC. If Black Cat were a playlist, it would be called Deep Cuts. If I look at their lineup on any given day, I am lucky if I know even 2 of the bands. I never made it to a show here, but it was always on my list. Do yourself a favor and check this place out!

9:30 Club

930 Club, credit John Stone

I love the 9:30 Club. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s the perfect place to catch a show in the city. The first concert I saw here was Switchfoot in 9th grade and I’ll never forget it (yes, I still listen to Switchfoot!). I’ve also seen The Wombats and Ren Weaver here and enjoyed both immensely. My advice is to go early and head upstairs– there’s a little bar where you can grab a drink and of course their famous 9:30 cupcakes from Buzz Bakeshop!

Meridian Hill Drum Circle

Meridian Hill Park, credit @ssykids

This Sunday tradition has been going on for literally decades and is like nothing else in Washington. People of all backgrounds and walks of life gather in Meridian Hill Park to drum, dance, and be in community together. If you’re interested in joining the group, email drumcircle.talkindrum@gmail.com to register your drum. Otherwise just show up and soak in the good vibes!

Marine Silent Drill Parade

Marine Barracks, credit @matthewharris5774

Summer Friday nights are a big deal on Barracks Row. The entire strip of stores and restaurants hums with activity as the community prepares for the weekly Marine Corps Silent Drill Parade. People come from all over the country to see this– how lucky is DC to have it right here! This is definitely an event you’ll want to dress nice for, so go ahead and make an evening of it with dinner at one of the nearby restaurants like Rose’s Luxury or Chiko.

E Street Cinema

E Street Cinema, credit Washington DC Stock Photography

This is probably my favorite movie theater in the city. They show some blockbuster hits here, but their specialty is definitely lesser-known titles. Think movies with Oscar-potential that wouldn’t play at Regal Cinemas just up the street. In addition to playing current movies, E Street Cinema also hosts special film events. I went to their Japanese Film Festival in honor of the cherry blossom festival this spring and loved it.

Miracle Theater

The Miracle Theater, credit @themiracledc

If E Street Cinema is the Indie theater, Miracle is definitely the throwback. This small, intimate location on Barracks Row only shows 4-5 movies at a time, but they’re definitely not ones found in other theaters. I’ve walked past their doors before and seen signs for Harry Potter night, Rom Com throwbacks for Valentine’s Day, and even an Alfred Hitchcock Friday series for the month of October. Not only do they show great movies– they also have the cutest interior ever! It’s what I imagine old movie theaters used to look like “back in the day.” Definitely one of my favorite places to catch a movie in the city!

Feature image credit @theagnesapp