10 things to do before you graduate

You may have seen the list already, and if you have, you probably think it’s daunting. “101 things to do at GW before you graduate,” proclaims the my.gwu.edu homepage, with a myriad of choices ending in “graduate in the city of presidents.”

Well, sure. Assuming you don’t hate it here and transfer to State U halfway through the semester, you’ll do that and half of the other things on the list without even thinking about it. Number 10: Take the Metro after midnight? Every weekend. Number 65: Move out of the way of a presidential motorcade? They’ll soon become an irritation.

Since the University’s list of things to do before you graduate has a tendency for the mundane (Number 54: Grab a cup of Starbucks’ coffee and chat in Kogan Plaza. Puh-leeze.), The Hatchet has taken the liberty of picking up where GW left off. And instead of 101 lame things to do before you graduate, we’ve suggested 10 really good things to fill your weekends with between now and May 2010.

1. Check out the jazz scene:

The D.C. jazz scene has a rich history, and is very much a part of the city’s heart and soul. Whether you check out the free jazz jam sessions on campus (every Friday afternoon next to Phillips Hall) or go to a show at Blues Alley in Georgetown, one of D.C.’s oldest and most famous blues club, your educational experience will not be complete in D.C. without some blues. Though many consider Blues Alley to be one of the best places to hear live music in the city, it can be a little on the pricey side. Luckily, there are a lot of alternatives, especially near U Street, where you’ll find Twins Jazz, Velvet Lounge and Bohemian Caverns, all of which are within walking distance of the U Street Metro stop. And if you want a jazz experience at no cost at all, check out the Smithsonian’s Web site – both the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Natural History have jazz events throughout the year.

2. Go to a film festival:

Film festivals of the world aren’t limited to Sundance, Cannes and Tribeca. D.C. hosts a few of its own each year where you can see anything from Oscar-nominated shorts to foreign-language documentaries. A short list of the festivals held in the city includes Filmfest DC (international films), the DC Independent Film Festival, The Environmental Film Festival, Reel Affirmations (Gay and Lesbian-related films), Washington Jewish Film Festival and DC Shorts (short-length films). Most are held at various theaters and embassies throughout the city, and enable students to see films that don’t make it to wide release.

3. Drink alcohol that isn’t a handle of Zelko:

Sure, Natty Light is great for parties, but some evenings call for something more. With an abundance of bars in the area, once you’re of age (or perhaps have a little card that says you are), you can head out to some bars where you can drink to savor, not just to get wasted. The first name in D.C. drinking is definitely Brickskeller. This Dupont bar is actually in the Guinness book of world records for having the most varieties of beer readily available – with 1,000 choices, the options are staggering. Go there for the imported brews and sit down with friends to talk politics. Another option for high-class boozing is to try the swanky, sometimes-expensive lounges and bars in the Chinatown area. There are always interesting twists on classic drinks at places such as Drinx, Indebleu and Matchbox, where all manner of girlie pink cocktails can be found, as well as a variety of martinis and shots.

4. Try some theater:

D.C. is home to many theaters, and each has its own personality. Whether you’re a hard-core drama queen, or think that you’re about 60 years too young to go to plays, you’ll find a production worth seeing. The Shakespeare Theater is the closest thing D.C. has to Stratford-upon-Avon’s Globe, with both traditional and modern updates of Shakespearean plays, and other ancient playwrights. For more up-to-date fare, try Arena Stage, one of D.C.’s oldest theaters, which stages anything from musicals to modern dramas. For very contemporary plays, try Studio Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theater, where you’ll find plays about post 9-11 angst and lots of swear words. And finally, for some really avant-garde shows with low production values, there’s the black-box-style Warehouse Theater, where you never know what you’ll get. Most theaters love young people in the audience, so you’ll get all kinds of special ticket deals, with prices as cheap as $10.

5. Get outdoors:

Just because you’ve moved to the city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors. There are a lot of chances to enjoy green spaces in D.C., and not all of them even require a car. The Mall, of course, is the first place to go when you need a little green grass, but you’ll soon tire of it from the tourists clogging the paths. Instead, try Rock Creek Park – a great place to bicycle and take in the great outdoors. There are canoes available for rental in Georgetown for those who want to test out the waters of the Potomac. And for a national park experience that doesn’t involve a lot of cameras flashing and children screaming, head across the Roosevelt Bridge and down the off-ramp to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s a beautiful, wooded island that stays relatively tourist-free, and has a dog park so that you can pet another man’s best friend if you miss your own pet back at home.

6. See a show at the Kennedy Center – but not the Milennium Stage:

The Milennium Stage – a stage at the Kennedy Center, the nation’s largest performing arts venue – gives free performances every day at 6 p.m. It’s a nice thing, and they’re definitely worth checking out. But to get the true Kennedy Center experience, you’ll have to buy a ticket to a symphony, ballet or opera. “But I’m a poor college kid now,” you say. “How will I ever afford tickets to the opera?” Finances can no longer be an excuse for you, because these performances offer tickets for as little as $10. The National Symphony Orchestra, the American Ballet Theater, the National Opera – all of these perform in the venue, and provide one of the richest cultural experiences one can possibly have in the city.

7. Be a cheap college kid:

And speaking of finances, yours will probably be about zip very soon. This is why it’s important to do as many free things as you can get your hands on while you are in college. There is a lot of free entertainment to be had, from street festivals to movie series to concerts, that won’t stretch your wallet. The Program Board offers sporadic vouchers to get into premiere screenings of first-run movies throughout the year. Classes at dance and athletic associations are also great free activities that aren’t too hard to find (ever wanted to learn how to flamenco?). Many clubs in the area also have open mic nights for music, comedy and poetry, which can be quite fun with a group of friends. Keep your ears and eyes open for fun stuff that doesn’t cost a lot – you’ll be surprised at the abundance.

8. Realize that museums aren’t just for kids:

The best part about museums in D.C. is that a majority of them are free, and they each offer something totally different. Museums in this city aren’t stuffy old collections of antiques and dinosaur bones – they make their collections relevant to an audience of all ages. For art, the National Gallery and Hirshhorn top the list because of their free admission and extracurricular events. The National Gallery, which exhibits anything from Renoir to Rothko, always has free musical or theatrical performances to go along with their main exhibits. The Hirshhorn appeals to the college demographic because of their Thursday night art socials with cocktails and a DJ in the midst of contemporary art. One museum that has been closed for a while, the Portrait Gallery, is reopening over the summer, and the buzz around town has been that it is definitely something to see. For some fun and learning, try the International Spy Museum, where you can play James Bond or Valerie Plame. And for somber remembrance, a visit to the Holocaust Museum is in order.

9. Buy tickets to a concert for a band you’ve never heard of:

D.C. is a stop for most major tours, but many of these clubs also host musicians that are relatively obscure. The 9:30 Club, D.C.’s most popular venue, hosts the latest “it” band, but also brings musicians unknown to even the hippest of music hipsters. There’s also the Black Cat, Iota, State Theater and DC9, which bring lesser-known pop, country, rock and hip-hop. So, one night this year when you have nothing to do, pick a music venue and buy a ticket (they usually run around $15) – without looking at the band that’s playing. You may discover the next big thing, or the next big flop, but either way, you’re guaranteed an experience.

10. Get out of the GWorld:

With the new venues being put into J Street, it will seem really great – at first. But after your tenth time at the new Chik-fil-a, or maybe once the friendly people at Hunan Peking have your address and phone number memorized, you’ll be craving something different. With all of the top-rated restaurants in this city, it is important to splurge at least once a year on a really fantastic meal. Try Poste Moderne Brasserie in Chinatown for American with a French flair and hip, modern d?cor. If you’re craving comfort food, Acadiana on New York Avenue will give you a taste of the Big Easy. Both Seafood and Italian fare can be found at Al Tiramisu, and for tapas, try Taberna del Alabardero. After all, you can’t do the Easy Mac thing all year.

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