Explaining why a ridiculous amount of people under the age of 30 would go to a jazz concert on a Friday after work is fairly easy: sangria and beer. In the case of "Jazz in the Garden," hosted by the National Gallery of Art, the sangria is undoubtedly the main event. But make no mistake about it. This is still a civilized affair. Held Fridays at 5 p.m., "Jazz" is more sophisticated than your average happy hour, and it makes for an extra classy and cultured way to mark the end of the work week.
The outdoor soiree takes place in the gallery's 6.1-acre sculpture garden on the Mall. Plan to pack your favorite picnic foods, grandma's patchwork quilt and your coolest shades to sit alongside some of the better examples of 20th-century American sculpture. Popular lounging spots under Alexander Calder's "Cheval Rouge" or in front of Claes Oldenburg's giant typewriter eraser go quickly, as do a handful of outdoor patio tables and chairs set up near the concert stage and garden cafe.
Even if you don't score prime seating near the band, the peripheral lawns or seats around the fountain can be just as good. With sound speakers set up around the area, you won't need to worry about not hearing the music. Once you set up camp, kick off your loafers and take it easy. Surrounded by blooming perennials, lush grasses and well-trimmed greenery, you'll feel as though you've walked into an ad for Estee Lauder Pleasures.
If you've left the potato salad at home, don't fret. You can buy chow onsite from the museum's Pavilion Café, which offers fancy finger foods – sushi, Cuban shrimp kabobs, gourmet fruit and cheese – as well as food for people who are actually hungry, like the chicken Florentine, crab cake sandwich and pulled pork sandwich soaked in a bourbon-tinged barbeque sauce. For the after-work crowd looking for a quick snack, the café plate of choice is the chilled spinach and artichoke dip served in a crusty bread bowl with two shards of pita wedged on top. Menu items range from $6 to $11.95.
Drink lines outside the café tend to get long around 6 p.m., but most say that the tangy sangria ($5.50 for a glass, $17.50 for the pitcher) is worth the wait. Other concessions include a gelato stand ($4.50 for a racquetball-sized scoop) and mobile wine cart.
"Jazz in the Garden" is a free event that runs until Oct. 3 and features a great range of sounds within the genre, including tango, jazz rock, rhythm and blues, Caribbean and swing. Click here for more details and the 2009 schedule.