Help me not see DC! I'm a twenty-something guy trying to build a modest life outside the house on a correspondingly modest budget. I live and work in College Park, MD.
The goal is to avoid taking the metro into the city for everything and instead to focus on local activities and outings. Metro fare is not especially high, but the ride to downtown is pretty long and the money does add up. Afternoon rush hour fares are more than $4 one way — add the return fare, and that's like throwing away a Chipotle burrito whenever I go out.
Driving to nearby suburbs after work is also a less-than-desirable option, since in the evening the roads carry traffic way over capacity. A weekday-evening drive from College Park, MD, to the nearby downtown Silver Spring, MD, where there is lots to do just a few miles away, takes about 30 minutes, and then there's the cost of garage parking to consider. So it probably shouldn't be a "once every few days" thing.
The Smithsonians downtown close shortly after I leave work. I've tried going to concerts and shows in the city, but that gets tricky (and expensive) because the Metro stops running after midnight.
I've looked into things to do at the nearby University of Maryland. Occasionally, there are talks and other free events outside regular business hours, but they're relatively few. There's a lot of evening concerts and performances, but they're priced accordingly. The cost of parking during the day is horrendous. Most of the student groups on campus are also probably not a very good match for me, as I am not an undergrad or a graduate student.
I've been looking for a place to hang out if I wanted to work away from the office for a day, but College Park doesn't even have an independent coffee shop. Well, it did
, but that got closed down years ago. The best I have is a Starbucks. An always-full Starbucks in a shopping strip with a metered parking lot. It still boggles my mind that this is a college town with a student population of 15,000.
I've checked Meetup.com for groups within a 5-mile radius, and the laundry list of the nearest groups is a capoeira roda, a Ron Paul supporters group, several biker groups, a group for "practitioners of results-based magick," an Eckankar
group, a kirtan
group, the "Mommy and Me Tennis Meetup," "DC Metro Area Wealth Builders," and a tabletop gaming group led by my supervisor from work. Finding even a single thing to do would be a start. I gave capoeira a spin for a semester in undergrad and didn't enjoy it.
Things I want from the hive mind:
- resources for enjoying life in College Park and environs (Greenbelt, Beltsville, Beltburg, Beltstown, etc.)
- ways to find local groups that I may be overlooking (bookish/open-mic/arty/cinema-y/current-events-y/etc.)
- any nearby cheap hangouts
- suggestions for cheap weekend outings in the city proper (beyond the Smithsonian museums/zoo)
- local volunteering activities that work with my full-time job and evening classes (i.e., irregular, short-term, etc.)
I've checked several previous answers to questions like mine, and restaurant suggestions tend to come up a lot. I am not looking for expensive places to dine alone. Pottery-type classes that cost over $100 are right out. Moving into DC is also not an option right now. Thanks.