A new Bourbon Street is being created right here in our capital city, with the help of all the now-furloughed 20-somethings. You could join them, spending your money on cheap drinks, or you could stay in your PJs and watch every season of “Breaking Bad.” Reliving all the glorious moments of Walt’s path toward destruction, or was it redemption?
Better yet, you could check out some of these great things to do with your free time. Most of them are DC-centric but you can adapt these for any number of cities. Look, I get that it’s depressing, frustrating, angering and any number of other emotions. After a few days of drunken debauchery, sleeping in and watching movies on your Netflix cue, you may want to find something to keep your mind occupied and get you out of the house. Take it from someone who has been marginally employed for, well, months, plenty of free and nearly free things are available in town to occupy your time, distract and enlighten you. Here they are:
1. Organize something — That closet that you don’t let your parents open, or even you are afraid to open. The one with the funky smell from the gym shoes, or a stale takeout container left in a backpack. Yes, that one. You finally have the time to clean it out. You can take out everything, throw away the old takeout containers, and find the blue sock with the stripe, whose match sits in your top drawer hoping for a reunion. You can try on all those jackets and decide that maybe you don’t need four sweatshirts. You may also find all those Christmas and birthday presents you bought ahead of time and forgot to give.
2. Get Physical —Remember that gym membership that you signed up for last January. The one at the expensive place down the street. Do you even remember where it is? After you clean your closet, you will probably find your membership key in a sweatshirt. So put on those shoes and the blue striped socks. Take a whirl on one of the bikes. Try one of the classes that always happened too early for you to attend. Some gyms are even offering free classes. Let’s get some natural endorphins flowing, you’ll need it when you remember why you aren’t at work.
If you don’t have a gym membership, check out this great park workout routine by my friend Errick McAdams.
3. Get outside — Rock Creek is one of several National Parks celebrating their 100th year, including Yosemite National Park. While the parking lots, tennis courts, and restrooms are closed, or at least they are sometimes, the trail systems and walking paths are not. Who can really close a park? So check out the trails. Don’t say I sent you.
4. Ride a Bike — If you’re in DC, you know that fall is one of the most amazing seasons. The trees suddenly burst into reds, oranges and yellows. The leaves begin to fall and crunch under your feet. Best thing to do in fall is to ride the C&O Canal or the Mt. Vernon trail. Yes, these trails are also National Park trails and are closed as well. Community message boards report that little to no enforcement is happening, with the exception that facilities and parking lots are closed. However, any blockades are easily and generally bypassed to access the trails. These are great paths that are always begging for us to enjoy them, as we rush to and from work. DC was also just listed as #13 in top 50 friendliest bike cities. Find out for yourself why.
5. Read a Book — I spent the first day of the shutdown glued to the screen, waiting for some breakthrough, before I finally couldn’t take it anymore and picked up a book. Watching the news cycle through every single update, over and over, can be depressing. Remember that great book you’ve been meaning to read? Take a blanket, some lunch, perhaps a friend or two, and have an afternoon of reading about faraway lands and shades of grey. The news will still be there when you turn the screen back on. If you don’t have a book, go to your local library. They are beautiful and have tons of books you can check out for free. Don’t have a library card yet? You can apply online or in person. Find your nearest DC Library branch and check out a book today.
6. Volunteer* — DC is full of nonprofits and other social service agencies who are generally begging for volunteer workers. Pick one. Use some of those administrative skills to help organize an office, pick up a hammer and help build a new home, read to someone, visit a nursing home or an animal shelter and walk a dog, or help serve meals at a homeless shelter. Many volunteer opportunities require some paperwork, but now that you have time on your hands, take 15 minutes to fill out the form. Here are some great options:
- Volunteer Match is probably the most comprehensive.
- Capital Area Food Bank can always use volunteers to box food for local distribution.
- Habitat For Humanity DC builds Wednesday through Saturday. It takes just a few minutes to sign up and get an assignment.
- United Way has a great volunteer matching program. Read to kids, or tutor.
- Washington Humane Society
* Volunteering may be hard since you need to plan ahead and you may not know when the shutdown will end, requiring you to report back. You can still take the time to find a place and fill in paperwork for the opportunities you usually miss. Some might take you on the same day.
7. Donate Something — Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet, make a pile of the clothes you didn’t wear this summer or last winter, or really you don’t remember when. Clothes drop-off and donation points are throughout the city. And if you’re really ambitious and you get your whole house, or friends, to donate with you, you can schedule a pickup. Check out these websites to help you find the nearest donation points:
Most consignment shops, including Buffalo Exchange, will donate any clothing they don’t buy. So you might get some cash or store credit. Either way, your closet is clean and someone is benefiting from your unused jackets and shoes.
8. Cook — That cookbook, which may or may not be holding up the window, has some cool recipes. Chose something, go get the ingredients, and then invite some friends for a game or movie night. Make it a potluck and everyone can get in the action. The best potlucks are themed, some favorites include Breakfast for dinner, Italian, Southern, and, of course, BBQ. Worried about the cost? Check out these budget-friendly food blogs:
8a. Speaking of Food, While the shutdown has closed federal agencies, it is also affecting the people who support federal workers. Some of these people had a hard time putting food on the table all year long, before this economic hit. For the $20 you’re about to spend at another happy hour, you could help feed a family. Donate to Martha’s table or DC Central Kitchen. When you’re having those friends over for the potluck, have everyone bring canned or dry goods, and then take the donations to the nearest drop-off location.
9. See some Art or create Art– Several museums are offering free admission to federal employees, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Philips Collection, The Fibre Space in Alexandria, the Sixth & I historic Synagogue and the National Geographic Museum. They may be extra crowded with tourists and other furloughed workers, but you’ll be glad you finally saw Ted Kaczynsky’s cabin at the Newseum or the Bond Villains exhibit at the Spy Museum.
10. Check out a Lecture — LinkTank is a fantastic resource of lectures, panel discussions, and congressional hearings happening around town. Every day of the week there is something happening. Sometimes they even offer a free lunch.
11. Socktober! –I just finished watching Kid President’s new Youtube video. You can watch it here, you don’t have to feel guilty since you aren’t at work today. Or if you are, why are you reading this anyway?
Did you know Americans spend $600,000 a DAY on Candy Crush! What!? Kid President has challenged people to do something awesome on the Internet, to raise money and awareness about the 1 Million people who are homeless. So instead of a crazy sweater party, hold a crazy sock party and have everyone bring a package of new socks. Then donate them to one of the organizations listed above. How awesome is that!?