DC Metblogs’ Favorites: Ways to Beat the Heat

DC’s a hot town. In the summer, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more uncomfortable place in the mid-atlantic than DC. Hot. Damp. Swampy. It’s downright unlivable. In the days before Air Conditioning, DC was considered so undesireable in the summer that politicians used to take all of August off and head for the hills, and diplomats were given hazard pay. Now, though, there are many ways to beat the heat, from air conditioning, to downtown shopping, to ice cream. Here are some of our favorite ways to beat the heat.


If I am out and about (which has been my experience viewing apartments in the city, etc.) of buildings, I usually devise a strategy of ducking in and out of different bookstores in the city.

I choose mostly big chains, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. because you can have a cold drink, a snack and catch up on what’s new in the literary world. Sometimes I even get so engrossed in a book that I’ll end up resting in one of the comfortable chairs and reading quite a few chapters. Bottom line: I can satisfy several hobbies while staying cool.

Diving in with the Mayor

When I am not wandering around Rock Creek in wonder, or sweating my ass off with the DC Tri Club workouts, I can always be found at a pool party.

There is nothing better than to dive into cold, clear water on a hot, sticky DC summer afternoon. Better yet, if you can be sipping beer + lime + ice is damn fine and nice. Usually, I find this nirvana at my friend Scott’s swank rooftop pool. When he’s outta town, I’m cut off form that lux and revert to the faithful backup – public pools.

While those in Northern Virginia are nice, and about the best and only reason to cross the river, they aren’t free. Nor were the DC pools, which are more getto but also more colorful, until now.

Starting today, it won’t just be kids who can swim and pee for free. Our own blogathon D.C. Mayor says that thanks to a generous donation by the Kaiser Permanente health insurance company, the rest of this summer, and all of next summer, swimming is free for everyone.

That’s right, free for you and me!

You know where I’ll be now – jumping in with Cannonball dive Tony!


These three words have often kept me sane on the hottest of days in the cement jungle downtown: Dickey’s Frozen Custard.

I used to frequent the one on I St. when the weather was good and I worked just upstairs. Get a mid-afternoon break and head to Farragut Square with a large vanilla cone. I’d sit in the park, experiencing ice cream nirvana, oblivious to the oppressive heat and damp. Every once in a while, I’d catch the concerts in the park, enjoying a nice cone, relaxing in the midst of summer. I remember those days quite fondly now that I work farther from the

Frozen Custard is more than just soft-serve, it’s a delectable thick and creamy frozen custard. Luscious on the tongue, delicious in a shake, it’s the way to go, when it comes to ice cream.


I beat the heat by staying in my air conditioned home and surrounding myself with mountains of DVD’s old and new. Through the month of August I live off of ice water, Dr. Pepper and leftovers while I catch-up on about a thousand movies. Pretty much the only times I leave my house in August is to make a quick run to a movie theater or to stock up on Dr. Pepper. I will occasionally leave the house after dark to sit in an air-conditioned bar with my friends, but I get very cranky if someone suggests barhopping during the August heat wave.

Jenn B:
The Sprays at the National Zoo

The absolutely best way to cool off on a hot day in D.C. might make you feel foolish. It might make you feel like a little kid. It might even embarrass you and make you not want to share. But that’s part of the appeal. I’ve found that the best way to cool off is to take a run through the sprays of water at the National Zoo.

Not too far beyond the entrance to the zoo is an area full of fine sprays of cool water. I suggest taking a stroll through them before going anywhere else in the zoo – it’ll help keep you cool throughout the long day ahead of you. Yes, you might feel dumb soaking yourself like a little kid playing in a sprinkler, but it’ll be worth it, trust me. You’ll also appreciate
stepping through the sprays on your way out of the zoo (even though you’ll be a little damp for the trip home). D.C. officials need to take a lesson from the zoo officials and install these sprays all over the city for a welcome relief during the summer.

As Azrael says in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, “No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than central air.”

I don’t have any particular ritual for cooling off in the sticky DC summer other than the simple formula of air conditioning, wherever I go. Restaurants, movie theaters, my home, my office, my car, stores, whatever. My best recommendation for beating the heat is to stay out of it to begin with.

As we all know, the DC area is basically a big drained swamp- we lost all the cool marshland but kept all the heat, humidity, and mosquitos we can stand. DC would be barely habitable by humankind if it weren’t for cooling technologies, so treat the heat as something to be tolerated only as you scurry from one air-conditioned oasis to another.

Viva la air-condicion!

Jenn L:

My favorite way to beat the heat is to enjoy my long-awaited central air conditioning…

Back in 2000, we bought our house, an 1890’s Victorian in the U Street neighborhood that, luckily for two architecture freaks, was relatively untouched through it’s long history. Unfortunately, this also meant it had no air conditioning. Nada. We moved in over Memorial Day weekend and braced ourselves.

That first summer was a blazer – and we also had to quickly renovate the upstairs bathroom, whose plumbing was slowly leaking downstairs. Imagine ripping out a bathroom to the old horsehair-and-plaster insulation, smashing up a fiberglass tub, and retiling everything, all in 100-degree heat. Not pretty. We had one little AC unit in the master bedroom to which we retreated, doors closed to trap the precious icey air. Funds are tight when you buy your first house and have to renovate at the same time, and we plotted out the months before we could install central air.

Months turned to years.

We were at least able to install ceiling fans in every room. It was then that we discovered the brilliance of 1890’s design – opening the front and back doors of the house with the fans spinning furiously actually did a decent job of keeping things cool. For a while it was slightly glamorous a la Tennessee Williams – “Honey, pour me another mint tea” – until August
hit, and it was time to bemoan our CAC-less state yet again.

Finally, we could refinance and cash out on some hard-earned equity. The choice was between a new kitchen or CAC. No contest. We installed SpaceVac, which allows you to have lovely cold air without sacrificing the architectural integrity of the house – no duct work, just snaking tubes from the attic.

That first summer with CAC was the happiest summer ever. Coming home from anywhere outside was like entering the Ice Hotel. The house’s plaster walls held the frigid air perfectly. Aaaaaahhhhhh… so good.

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