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Posted at 8:43 PM ET, 06/17/2010

Introducing the 2010 Interns' Guide

By Lavanya Ramanathan

The Coolout, a happening party held every Sunday atop the Beacon Hotel downtown, offers the chance to see some of D.C.'s top DJs for free. (2008 photo by Garai Rice)

UPDATE: Submit your photos to the 2010 Intern Scrapbook.

You've got an awesome gig on the Hill, a sweet pad in a bustling city and three whole months to make your time in Washington count. All you need now is to figure out what to do with your off-hours.

This is where we come in.

We've compiled guides to point you to the most happening happy hours, free nightlife, cheap eats and city scenes -- all of it perfect for the "over 21 but totally underpaid" set. If you're looking for classic summertime fun, from outdoor movies to winery-hopping, we've got that too.

And if you want to really do Washington like a local? Begin with this checklist, with nine ways to live it up like a true D.C. denizen.

Soak up the Sun, Washington-Style
By "Washington-style," we really mean "Ways we invented because most of us don't have backyards, two-story decks or fabulous pools." Perfect example: The Sunday afternoon Spike'd Sundays parties at the Capitol Skyline pool, where $15 buys you entry to the city's coolest pool and a burger cooked to perfection on a grill (another thing most of us don't have). The Beacon Hotel's rooftop has been buzzing on Sunday afternoons for two summers now, thanks to the party dubbed the Coolout; this year, a rotating cast of the city's most notable DJs and bands join the mix to keep the free party going strong. But the spectacular view and stylish people don't hurt, either.

But parties are only one way to enjoy the outdoors. Rock Creek Park is where we go to picnic (under shade), run and bike, and hey, public pools have their charms, especially the public waterparks in the 'burbs.

Street-Eat
The obsession with eating food purchased off of moving vehicles has reached a fever pitch. Join in on the collective feasting. Thanks to this fleet of tweeting trucks, you can get banh mi, chicken curry, cupcakes, pizza and even frozen yogurt on the go; this story has everything you need to know about how to find them.

Have a Drink Unlike Any Other. Worry About the Bill Later.
Washington has a handful of amazing mixologists, super-bartenders who pour so much thought (and love) into their drinks, that cocktail fans have come to know them by name. There's Gina Chersevani, the bartendress at PS 7's, whose Gnome's Water cocktail (cucumber water, gin, miscellaneous good stuffs) is the most refreshing summer drink you'll ever have. Todd Thrasher, the man behind Alexandria's speakeasy PX, sometimes pulls out an incredible bloody mary that you have to see to believe (it's clear). Room 11's Dan Searing is a classic cocktails man, the kind of guy who will pour obscure spirits and offer little history lessons for particularly inquisitive customers. Get the full Searing experience by finding a seat at the bar on a Monday or Tuesday.
Here's the thing to remember: Organic ingredients, fine liquors, handmade bitters -- they can all crank up the price of your cocktail to significantly more than your average vodka soda. Expect a D.C. craft cocktail to run you anywhere from $8 to $13. For more, check out this list of food critic Tom Sietsema's favorite Washington sips.

(Find plenty of other ideas after the jump.)

Hit an Art Party
It's really enriching to see art and meet new people at a gallery reception -- add a little free wine, and you've got a pretty great (inexpensive) evening out. Check out this list to get started tonight. Other art parties you shouldn't miss:

The opening receptions at Irvine Contemporary on 14th Street NW are fun because of the eclectic crowds they draw. But the gallery's proximity to bars and clubs (including ChurchKey, Café Saint-Ex, the Black Cat) and restaurants (Masa 14, Bar Pilar, Posto) also make it a great launching point for a night out. The next opening is this Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The small galleries that dot R Street attract hundreds of 20-somethings once a month for Dupont Circle's First Friday openings, held, as the name suggests, the first Friday of each month. The one to visit? Hillyer Art Space, where guests linger to hear DJs, chat in the secluded alley and sip beer and wine (a $5 donation is suggested).

Hirshhorn After Hours is, by far, the biggest art party around; the Smithsonian museum hosts the late-night fete every few months in its massive outdoor terrace space with DJs, projections, dancing, and drinking. It's so popular, the event (whose tickets hover at $18, not including drinks) is perennially sold out; get tickets in advance for the next installment on July 23.

And finally, Asia After Dark launched last summer at the Mall's Asian art museums, the Freer and Sackler galleries. Modeled after After Hours, the bash features DJs, food, performers and a chance to roam a museum on your time. On July 15, New York's mistress of bhangra, DJ Rekha, will set the vibe for the new exhibition, "Arts of the Indian Subcontinent and the Himalayas." Good to know: Tickets (priced at $18-$20) include one drink.

Visit the Top of the Washington Monument (and Other Touristy Locales)
We've all played tourists in this town at least once. You can stand out from the usual out-of-town crowd by sparing yourself the midday heat and doing your sightseeing by moonlight, when it's cooler in more ways than one. You can visit most monuments (including the Lincoln and WWII memorials) at all hours of the night, and, frankly, many of them look even more grand when they're lit from within. In the summer, tours of the Washington Monument are extended till 9:30 p.m. (reserving tickets online is imperative). For more touristy itineraries, check out this story.

Relive Washington's Punk Days
There are outdoor concerts, and then there is Fort Reno. Free summer concerts have been held for nearly 45 years on the site of this old Civil War fort, where many a D.C. band -- including, yes, Fugazi -- has taken the stage and overcome heat and bugs to deliver a mind-blowing show. Today, it remains a way to get an overview of the D.C. indie scene (including bands whose members haven't even started high school yet). The series kicks off June 28. (So far only two dates have been announced: June 28 and July 1, but keep checking back.)

Watch Fourth of July Fireworks From the Best Vantage Point in the World
How to have the most memorable Fourth ever: Enlist at least five friends. Pack a killer picnic (but make it alcohol-free, because booze is banned on the Mall) and a blanket to sit on. While away a few hours eating, people-watching and playing cards, and then, just after 9 p.m., allow yourself to ooh and ahh a little when the nation's most spectacular fireworks show kicks off -- with the monuments and the Capitol as the backdrop. Yes, it's crowded, but that doesn't make it any less awesome.

Get to Know Jazz And Go-Go
At some point this summer, someone will probably say to you: "There is Washington, and then there is D.C." Get to know D.C. Talk a walk on U Street, taste mambo sauce (available at any of our fine carryouts), and check out the city's musical traditions -- jazz and funky, drum-driven go-go. Duke Ellington grew up on 13th Street NW and made his name playing the clubs of U Street along with such major jazz stars as Miles Davis and Cab Calloway. Today, the best and brightest musicians stop at Twins Jazz and, farther afield, Blues Alley. Both venues can be budget-blowing when you factor in $10-per-person minimums, but interns can take advantage of discounts. At Twins, students with ID can get half-price tickets for certain Friday shows. And at Blues Alley, admission to the 10 p.m. show Sunday through Thursday is half-price for students and congressional staffers.
Or get a taste of the old U Street cool for free at Cafe Nema, where every Thursday night for years, local stalwarts the Young Lions have played a long set, free for customers (there is a two-drink minimum).

For the definitive introduction to go-go, your go-to man is octogenarian Chuck Brown, the official "Godfather of Go-Go." He headlines the (also very D.C.) National Capital Barbecue Battle on June 26. And fellow go-go legends Troublefunk will play a show on June 18 at U Street's Prince Hall Masonic Temple.

If You See One Piece of Theater, Make it Fringe
The annual oddball-theater festival Capital Fringe runs July 8-25 and features a smorgasboard of one-man and one-woman shows, mini-musicals, spoofs, sendups, standups...well, you get the picture. Having trouble picking from the pack? No problem. Since Fringe is all about new and untested fare, we're all playing roulette. You can't really go wrong picking the wackiest titles: There's "Twisted: A Collection Of Urban Fairytales," "Chlamydia dell'Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque" or "Illegal Sex Acts: Live On Stage!"
If you're wary of a gamble, try "Finn Mc Cool," "Handbook for Hosts" or "Showcase Showdown" -- all three were produced by troupes who have delivered critical and audience hits in previous years. Tickets go on sale here on June 21.

-- Lavanya Ramanathan

By Lavanya Ramanathan  | June 17, 2010; 8:43 PM ET
Categories:  Interns' Guide  
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