8 Free (& Awesome) Ways To Have Fun This Summer

UPDATE: It's officially summer, so it's time to get in gear and make the most of the season — without spending a dime. This story was originally published on May 24, 2013.
Without a doubt, summer is the season for the social butterfly: Opportunities to dine, drink, shop, party, and vacay are plentiful. But that spike in socializing can take a toll on the ol' bank account. So, to prep for the sunny days ahead, we've concocted an amazing summer agenda — and it's all 100% FREE. From tastings and exhibits, to comedy and live music, read on for the ultimate guide to having a blast without spending a dime!
Harold Night at Source Theater
Every Tuesday night at Source Theater, Washington Improv Theater puts on a free comedy performance in the "Harold" technique — the classic improv method where audience members shout out ideas and the performers, well, just roll with it. The hour-long experience entails a series of acted-out scenes evolving in real time based on audience participation. Um, can we say fun?
Source Theater, 1835 14th Street NW; 202-204-7800.
Summer Concert Series in Bethesda
Few things epitomize summer like live outdoor music, and the experience is made even better when the al fresco shows in question are free. Thursday evenings this June and July, the Bethesda Summer Concert Series features local acts playing funk, blues, bluegrass, rock, and jazz at Veteran's Park.
Veteran's Park, corner of Norfolk and Woodmont avenues, Bethesda; no phone.
Photo: Courtesy of The Dunes
Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes at the National Gallery of Art
If there is one cultural experience to put on your to-do list this summer, it's the National Gallery of Art's Ballets Russes exhibition — trust us. Now through September 2 in the museum's 18,000-square-foot East Building, over 150 original costumes, set designs, painting, sculptures, prints, drawing, photos, posters, and film clips are on display. The artifacts serve as stunning highlights from the most innovative dance company of the 20th century, one that collaborated with the likes of Picasso, Stravinksy, and Henri Matisse. If you have even the most remote interest in history, art, dance, music, photography, or costuming, we're pretty sure the eye candy here will blow your mind. Bonus: The National Gallery of Art is the sole U.S. venue to host the exhibit.
National Gallery of Art, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; 202-737-4215.
Summer Jams at Fort Reno
For diehard music fanatics with a penchant for punk, there's always Fort Reno to look forward to. The annual series has long drawn the crowds and consistently delivers those you'll-still-be-talking-about-this-next-week performances. This year's schedule has not been released yet, but check the website for updates.
Fort Reno Park, 3800 Donaldson Place NW; no phone.
Photos: Courtesy of National Gallery of Art/Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume Council Fund/Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Industry Takeover Night at Graffiato
Industry takeover night is one of our favorite events happening on the D.C. food scene of late. The first Monday of every month, the Mike Isabella-helmed kitchen at Graffiato opens its doors to some of the biggest names in the industry, both local and national. The guest chefs serve complimentary late-night snacks between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., and past events have involved Top Chef contenders Spike Mendelsohn and Bryan Voltaggio, as well as Toki Underground's Erik Bruner-Yang and Scott Drewno from The Source. Sample grub has included everything from fried chicken and doughnuts to custard from Shake Shack. Special libations concocted by guest mixologists are also available, and though the booze isn't gratis, the free food certainly makes up for it!
Graffiato, 707 6th Street NW; 202-289-3600.
Golden Triangle Hollywood Cinema Series
In honor of the "golden age" of Hollywood, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District has teamed up with The Heurich House Museum (a gorg D.C. mansion with lush grounds) to offer free film screenings every Friday from June 7 through July 12. The movies will be projected in the Heurich House Museum courtyard garden beginning at sunset, and the selections are all from the 1940s and '50s — think Casablanca, Some Like it Hot, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. All you have to do is show up, and don't forget a blanket for comfy viewing.
Heurich House Museum, 1307 New Hampshire Avenue NW; 202-429-1894.
Photo: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Outdoor Pilates
Pilates in the Park, another cool program from the Golden Triangle BID, happens every Tuesday through June 25. From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Farragut Square Park, you can take advantage of a no-cost way to unwind in the outdoors after a day glued to your desk. And remember: BYOM (bring your own mat)!
Farragut Square Park, 17th Street NW; no phone.
Wonderland Circus at Wonderland
On the fourth Wednesday of every month, Wonderland Ballroom hosts a variety show in the "circus" tradition, put on by The Capital City Showcase. From musicians and storytellers to comedians and burlesque artists, it's an awesome out-of-the-box option for your hump day. Doors open at 8 p.m., and seats are first come, first served.
Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon Street NW; 202-232-5263.
Photo: Courtesy of Golden Triangle BID
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