Labor Day Weekend 2020: Celebrate with socially-distanced activities

There’s no doubt it has been a strange summer in 2020. Instead of trips to the beach and outdoor concerts, many people have been limiting their activities due to the pandemic. However, the traditional final week of summer is just ahead, starting on Friday, Sept. 4 and culminating with Labor Day on Sept. 7.

While you can’t attend a Nats game this weekend or a preseason NFL game, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy.

But while you’re enjoying the day off Monday, be sure to remember the contributions of American workers who are honored with the holiday.

The first Labor Day celebrations came on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

As you move about this weekend, be sure to wear and mask and check ahead for extra safety measures including social distancing that are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is open each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in a timed-entry protocol in order to limit the number of people on campus at once. Face coverings are required for all visitors ages 6 and older, with recommendations that younger children wear them as well.

The big news of recent weeks is the birth of a new panda cub. While Mei Xiang’s baby won’t have a name for about 100 days after its birth, and its gender has yet to be revealed, you can still get a view of the older pandas.

The Giant Panda House is closed due to the pandemic, but between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., it’s likely you can catch a glimpse of the animals via the upper outdoor viewing path.


While many of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall remain closed for indoor guests, one of the most interesting outdoor-only attractions recently opened back up. The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, located on the Mall side of the Hirshhorn Museum near the intersection of 7th Street and Jefferson Drive SW, opened in mid August.

The grounds, which include works by artists including Rodin and even Yoko Ono, are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Enter from the National Mall, but capacity is limited.

Newly-installed sculptures by Huma Bhabha and Sterling Ruby are now on display.

The traditional outdoor NSO concert on the National Mall has been canceled for 2020, but the symphony is offering a live simulcast at Park Up DC, one of the parking lots that is part of the RFK Stadium complex in Southeast.

The symphony plays Sunday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. The concert is free, but tickets are required.

The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a number of Labor Day festivities in D.C.’s surrounding suburbs, and even the Virginia Scottish Games in The Plains, Virginia. Be sure to check with the town or city you may be visiting to see if there is a properly distanced in-person event or a virtual remembrance in honor of the holiday.

In Bluemont, Virginia, for example, the Corn Maze and Farmers Market and apple picking is still open, while some festival activities are reduced. Timed access tickets are suggested. No festival activities will be available on Labor Day, though.

One of the special tours offered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is of the distillery. Each year, the estate produces rye whiskey of the same style the nation’s first president distilled when he lived there.

Tours are offered during weekends in September, including on Labor Day weekend.

The tour on Sept. 5 includes a whiskey tasting.

There’s also a virtual George Washington Patriot Run, where participants can submit their 5k and 10-miler times between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12.

Visit the bust of President Kennedy at the Kennedy Center, walk the grounds of the 1-year-old The Reach campus, and have a glass of wine overlooking the Potomac River.

The outdoor expansion of the Kennedy Center, unveiled last fall, is open for visits. As is the center’s Grand Foyer, where you can see President John F. Kennedy’s statue.

After walking the grounds and checking out the views of D.C. and Virginia, you can stop for a glass of wine at the pop-up wine bar, Victura Park. It’s open each day of Labor Day weekend, starting at noon.

Murals from the recent social justice protests at the Building Museum

While the National Building Museum has recently installed exhibits to celebrate summer during the year’s hottest months, it has pivoted to an outdoor exhibit this summer. While last year saw The Lawn host dance parties and yoga classes, this year, the actual lawn outside of the museum has some protest artwork saved from events of the past summer.

The outdoor exhibit is called Murals That Matter, and it’s on display through November. The art is on the building’s west side, along 5th Street NW. The exhibit opened Aug. 28.

Six new murals, in honor of the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, were painted live on the grounds of the museum and honor six important figures who organized the 1963 march.

If you’ve missed out on the summer’s traditional haul of fireworks due to coronavirus-related cancellations, you may be able to get some “bang, zoom” back in your life on Saturday, Sept. 5, in the Northern Virginia city of Manassas.

A nine-minute firework display should be easy to see from just about anywhere in the city, so no need to crowd together. The display begins at 8 p.m.


The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens reopened in June

On the east side of the Anacostia River, take a socially-distanced stroll through the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The facility is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Learn the history of the gardens and how the plants in the marsh and wetlands have contributed to food, medicine and shelter for centuries.

One of the best socially distant activities you can do in this pandemic-marked summer? Get in a boat by yourself.

Most of the boat launches in D.C. and Virginia are open, according to Boating in D.C., whose manager, Jen Nuessle, told WTOP in late August that “paddling offers a great opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors while socially distancing.”

Be sure to check the Boating in D.C. website ahead of time and make a reservation if you want to hit the water.


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Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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