You are here

10 Things To Do Indoors, Day & Night in Washington, DC

Union Market

Places to escape the sun (or snow) around town include an up-and-coming food hall, impressive IMAX theaters and a museum where you can take selfies with presidents.

DC’s monuments and outdoor spaces get a lot of press, but you can also find plenty of things to do inside, whether you’re fleeing wintery weather or trying to beat the heat in summer. From off-beat museums to plush spas, we’ve literally got you covered.

1 Catch an IMAX flick at the Smithsonian Institution
Catch an IMAX flick at the Smithsonian Institution Paul E. Alers/NASA

You’ll be amazed at the jumbo screens that measure up to six stories high at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Musuem or the three-screen Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater at the Natural History Museum. Daily movies (many in 3D) include big Hollywood releases and educational, family-friendly fare, and there’s also a planetarium in the same complex.

2 Go eye to eye with celebs at Madame Tussauds
Go eye to eye with celebs at Madame Tussauds Madam Tussauds Washington, DC

Snap selfies with wax figures of all 44 presidents (wow, Lincoln really is tall!) and get paparazzi-close to likenesses of celebs like Taylor Swift and Stephen Colbert at the DC branch of the famed wax museum. Selfies are encouraged, and there’s a small section on how Tussaud, an 18th-century French woman, got her start creating images of luminaries like Voltaire and members of the aristocracy.

Did you know you can save up to 40% on attractions like Madame Tussauds with the Go Washington, DC Explorer Pass?

3 Browse the stacks (and have some snacks) at Kramerbooks & Afterwords
Browse the stacks (and have some snacks) at Kramerbooks & Afterwords

This long-running (since 1976) Dupont Circle bookstore and café is open from early until late, and 24 hours a day on the weekends. Enjoy this buzzy, boho spot where couples and singles hunt for paperback novels and travel guides or tuck into hearty breakfasts (or spiked coffees) in the cozy interior.

 

4 Explore modern art (or hear a concert) at the Phillips Collection
Explore modern art (or hear a concert) at the Phillips Collection The Phillips Collection

In an elegant Dupont Circle mansion, find paintings by Rothko, Renoir and van Gogh displayed in an intimate, home-like setting. You can check out ticketed concerts most Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. and also enjoy Thursday evening hours and frequently changing special exhibits. There’s also a pleasant on-site cafe.

5 Say “ahh” at a hotel spa
Say “ahh” at a hotel spa The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

Most hotels offers spa services, but a few DC properties up the appeal with on-site jacuzzis, pools and other escapist fare. The Spa at the Four Seasons in Georgetown features massage, facial and couples’ treatments, and also includes an indoor pool, a eucalyptus steam room and a sauna. Plus, couples can book private, ultra-romantic night spa appointments there. The zen-like Spa at the Mandarin Oriental fills 10,000 square feet with jetted jacuzzis, a serene relaxation area and treatment rooms for East-meets-West services like cherry blossom massages or customized facials.

6 Hit some pins or roll some balls at Pinstripes
Hit some pins or roll some balls at Pinstripes

You’ll find lots of diversions at this upscale, 32,000-square-foot bowling alley and entertainment complex not far from Georgetown’s main drag. 14 moodily lit, retro bowling lanes and six faux turfed bocce courts encourage lively competition. There’s also an on-site Italian bistro with great happy hour deals.

7 Pretend like you’re in the Holy Land at the Franciscan Monastery
Pretend like you’re in the Holy Land at the Franciscan Monastery Farragutful via Wikimedia Commons

In nice weather, there’s a lovely garden at this Brookland religious enclave near Catholic University. But the Byzantine-style church, with its basement-level replicas of Holy Land shrines like Jesus’ tomb and Roman catacombs, is among the most-compelling, least-expected attractions in Washington. You can see both on guided tours given by brown-robed friars.

8 Get hooked on classical plays at the Shakespeare Theatre
Get hooked on classical plays at the Shakespeare Theatre Shakespeare Theatre Company

Theater lovers can take in comedies, tragedies and French farces most months of the year at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s two Penn Quarter playhouses. The acclaimed, venerable company (founded in 1986) received a regional Tony Award in 2012, and it’s known for its canny, contemporary takes on the classics by the Bard and other playwrights.

9 Play sleuth to escape
Play sleuth to escape

Georgetown’s Escape Room Live DC is essentially an on-site game of Clue. You show up, join a small group and get “locked” into a clue-filled, set-like room. Hilarity and lots of quick thinking ensue as you and your fellow investigators try to crack spy rings and solve cold cases in an hour or less.

10 Indulge your inner foodie at Union Market
Indulge your inner foodie at Union Market @domestikateblog

Located in a restored 1930s food hall in the NoMa, the hip Union Market shelters a range of local food vendors offering everything from eat-while-you’re-here Korean tacos and Chesapeake oysters to take-home African spices and French wines. The industrial-cool space is host to frequent weekend festivals, too.

For diversions both indoor and out, check out all things to do in Washington, DC.