Sunday, December 13, 2009

D.C. on the cheap

First off, thank you to the people out there who have taken an interest in our blog. Even though we both (more or less) grew up with the internet, its ability to connect perfect strangers amazes us, and it is flattering to think that people not obligated by friendship or DNA have noticed our efforts.

We recently received an email from a young couple that is new to Alexandria. Like many of us at that stage in life, "bars don't have the same appeal they used to, mostly because in the real world its too hard to stay up past midnight, and going to the movies is just getting boring." With that in mind, here's a list of DC-based activities for our fans in Alexandria that we've enjoyed as a couple that are easy on the wallet (non-museum edition). We've also included some things that have been recommended to us, but that we've not had a chance to do ourselves.

Charity Work. Not surprisingly, D.C. is filled with people who want to make the world a better place. Perhaps not as obvious is that these events (see here and here) often double as social/networking events. Do a little good and meet some good people along the way.
Roadtrip. D.C. is great but sometimes you need a change of pace. In the time we've been here, we've enjoyed tips to Philly, Baltimore, Annapolis, New York, Atlanta, Indianapolis, West Virginia, Gettysburg, and Charlottesville, just to name a few. We like to drive but also consider the various luxury bus companies, like Bolt Bus and Mega Bus. We once snagged 2 roundtrips to NY for the grand total of $35. It probably would have cost that much in tolls, not to mention gas. Plus, our car doesn't have a bathroom or WiFi.
Cooking Classes. There are lots of options, and when you factor in the fact that you're learning something while also eating a top notch meal, it is a good deal too. Seek out classes at restaurants (we've had good experiences at Zola and Zengo), from private chefs (Chef Oliver Friendly), and cooking schools (L'Academie de Cuisine).
Scavenger Hunts. Appealing to everyone's geeky side (and most of us have one, especially in D.C.), you'd be surprised how many scavenger hunts you'll find in this city. In our experience (Post Hunt, Mr. Yogato sponsored hunt for the charity, A Plate for All), if you have a good team, a scavenger hunt can be one of the most goofy/fun times you'll have. And you'd be surprised what you can get away with when you tell a stranger on the street that you're doing a scavenger hunt...
Trivia/Game Night. What did we say about D.C. getting its geek on? When you go to a bar in most other cities, you'll find beer and bad pick-up lines. Here, you can find Trivial Pursuit tournaments.
The Great Outdoors. When surrounded by history and beautiful architecture, don't forget all the natural beauty that surrounds you. Ride your bike, visit Shenandoah, experience Great Falls, or explore Rock Creek Park.
Be a Tourist. There must be some reason millions of middle school kids flock to D.C. every year... Check out Mt. Vernon, the National Cathedral, any number of free downtown walking tours, jump on a Segway tour, see where fabulous lives, or join an embassy tour.
Eating Out. DC has its share of cheap eats, but to experience nicer restaurants when they are "on sale" check out Restaurant Week or try a food club such as Tastings Journal.
Smithsonian Resident Associates. You already know that the Smithsonian museums are free, but did you know that for a small membership fee you get access to a huge array of special events such as lectures, tours, and classes? They usually cost money but member discounts are available. We've been to some great events (An Evening With Tommy Lasorda) and a snoozer (Monet and Giverny) and encourage you to check out their extensive offerings.
Local Music. Since we were completely spoiled by the level of bar and coffeehouse musical talent in LA, this is something we have yet to experience in D.C. However, we've heard great things about the local music scene and it's one of our goals to get out their and listen. We'd love to hear about your favorite places.
Sport/Rec Leagues. Is sitting behind that computer all day making you crazy? Get outside and run around! Whether it is bocce ball, ultimate frisbee, or kickball, D.C. has a league for you.
Professional Sports Teams. It's true that tickets to the major sport teams aren't cheap but don't forget the secondary sports like MLS and lacrosse.
Blogging. Start a blog! Seriously. It is a great hobby to take up, and something you can do as a couple. And depending on your blog's theme, it tends to push you to explore things that you wouldn't otherwise pursue.
People Watching. D.C. has so many fantastic people watching places. Whether it's the American flag-shirted families that populate the National Mall or the frantic holiday shoppers at the shopping mall, there are plenty of interesting things to see if you just stop and look. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, find a bench, and let the games begin.

Anyone out there have any other good ideas for where to go when your bank account is as empty as a Washington Nationals game? New to the area and looking for some other suggestions? Contact us here.


blunoz said...

If you have a GPS receiver (or if you're willing to invest a little money in one in return for lots of "free" adventures), then I recommend giving geocaching a try.

People hide small treasure boxes all over town and post the GPS coordinates on the geocaching website ( Inside each geocache is a log book for you to sign to prove that you found it, and people will leave collectable coins, toys, and trinkets. The rule is if you take something out of the geoache, then you're supposed to leave something behind (trade a toy for a toy, or a coin for a coin, etc).

For me, it's more about the thrill of the hunt and finding objects hidden in plain sight than what's inside the geocache. Plus, geocaching has taken me to many historic spots around the DC area that I never would have known about if I hadn't been searching for the geocache. It's also taken me to some spectacular view points (a couple at Mount Vernon and Harpers Ferry come to mind).

TopDog said...

Like the bocce reference... will need to get this started in DC at some point.

blunoz said...

Another recommendation: The Sunset Parade. In the summertime, the USMC Silent Drill Team and Drum & Bugle Corps do a FREE parade / concert / performance on the grass in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. It's on Tuesday nights from like April through August, and it's open to the public.

Year-round they also do an evening parade at the Marine Barracks at 8th & I on Friday nights, but you have to get tickets in advance for that I think.

Just Google "Marine Barracks Washington" and click on "Evening Parade" or "Sunset Parade" for more info.

Anonymous said...

where do you find the trival pursuit games?

J said...

This article has a list of bars offering trivia

B said...

This link may also be helpful for bars with trivia, and specifically, trivial pursuit:,43411.html