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An Intern’s Guide to Summer in D.C.: Places to Go and Things to Do

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Like thousands of other college upperclassmen eager to embark on the first steps of their early career journeys, I packed three months of my life into two suitcases in late May and boarded a plane headed to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Prior to this summer, my last trip to Washington D.C. was when I was 10-years-old. Fuzzy memories of visiting the White House and seeing taxidermy foxes and bears at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History were my only personal points of reference. I would be spending 12 weeks working in Arlington, Virginia, just over the Potomac River from D.C. Almost everything would be unknown to me. So I did what thousands of other college upperclassmen did and will continue to do for years; I explored as much as I could outside of my 40-hour work weeks. D.C. comes in a variety of flavors; here’s a little taste that I got as a summer intern.

The Cute & The Charming


Cobblestone streets, trendy boutiques, and Instagram-worthy coffee shops: Georgetown has it all! This historical college town is home to the renowned Georgetown University (and the original Georgetown Cupcake), whose student population has definitely shaped Georgetown into an exciting and lovable place for those in their early 20s. I spent many of my weekends walking down M Street, passing by some of my favorite stores and cafés in just a 10-minute stroll. The pastel pinks, blues, and greens of the shops’ buildings were reflected onto the pedestrians on the sidewalk, whose outfits were preppy and bright to match the town’s atmosphere. Walking in Georgetown is the perfect casual weekend plan where you can grab a little lunch, an iced drink, and shop outdoors.

Alexandria: Old Town

Alexandria’s King Street and Old Town are a little ways away from D.C. as it is over the river in Virginia, but it is a wonderful place to get away from the crowds in the city. I loved the walk down King Street from Alexandria’s metro stop all the way to the water’s edge in Old Town. The streets are wide and quiet, lined with small brick shops and restaurants. The seafood places in Old Town are delectable — I highly recommend Chart House by the water — and the quaint streets make Alexandria an adorable date spot.

Calling All Nature Lovers

Botanic Garden

With sky-high trees, picture-perfect flowers and trellises, and plants found from all corners of the world, the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory is an indoor-outdoor hybrid garden that provides a place of natural respite. When you’re surrounded by the stone and marble that make up the metropolis of D.C., it’s nice to walk through greenhouse recreations of rainforest and desert environments and admire the artfully arranged gardens of the outdoor grounds. The best part? Admission is free!

National Zoo

Tigers, pandas, and elephants, oh my! All of these animals and so many more can be seen in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park for free. The National Zoo is a place you need to make a day out of. Put on your walking shoes, slather on sunscreen, and bring your biggest water bottle. Long lines and D.C. heat can make a simple zoo visit a difficult one! I recommend visiting in the middle of the week on a day when temperatures are as low as they can be. Waiting in long lines behind oodles of families on a sweltering 95-degree day is a recipe for grumpiness and passing out.

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The Heart of D.C.

National Mall & Monument Grounds

If you’re new to D.C., this is the place you want to play tourist. The National Mall & Monument Grounds is home to most of the landmark locations that make up D.C. Visit the Lincoln Memorial that’s featured on the back of the penny. See the towering Washington Monument that is visible from even miles away. Pay a visit to the somber war memorials to see pieces of history represented in sculpture. Most places are within walking distance and you can see other beautiful buildings such as the White House, The Capitol, and the Library of Congress all in one day.

Smithsonian Museums

Night at the Museum Fan? See the Museum of Natural History and all of the fossils, creatures, and gemstones it has to offer. Want to see iconic portraits? Take a look at the National Portrait Gallery. The Smithsonian boasts over 20 different museums, galleries, and sights. Whether you want to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture or walk through an outdoor sculpture garden, the Smithsonian will find a way to suit your fancy!

Day to Night

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is a smorgasbord of restaurants, cafés, embassies, shops, nightclubs, and more. Visit in the daytime for lunch and a walk or enjoy the blocks of dance clubs and themed bars that await you at night. It’s an iconic neighborhood whose circular layout is definitely one you want to explore!

The Wharf

The Wharf is a new but popular development filled with upscale restaurants, quick bites, live music halls, and rooftop bars. I spent many different days on its boardwalk-like setup with friends, family, and my intern colleagues. Walking from the L’Enfant Plaza metro stop to The Wharf and feeling the humidity cool down into the darkness of the night during sunset is one of the most peaceful memories I have from my time in D.C.

Although I shared many of my favorite summer D.C. sights and activities, I couldn’t fit them all into one article! Being a summer intern seems fleeting, but you have time for so many adventures. D.C. is a city with a rich yet evolving history that is ready to welcome its class of interns each summer with open arms.

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Vera Gold

U Mass Amherst '23

Vera is a senior communication major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the Facebook Coordinator of her chapter and loves writing about digital media, beauty, and entertainment.