Celebrate the season, the South, and family at an outdoor concert in our Nation's Capital.

June, July, and August sing a livelier song than any other time. Crickets chirp. Tiny voices giggle. Flip-flops slap on bare feet. Ice-cream trucks chime. Lawnmowers hum.

As the mercury rises, so does the chance to spend time with family, share a picnic, and let the sounds of a band join with the melodies of Mother Nature. Languishing in a summer night at an outdoor concert in D.C. is pure magic.

On the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building and at the Washington Monument, in front of the American flag waving against a clear blue sky, armed forces bands perform free concerts nearly every night during the summer. Rather than laughter and screams of joy, at these concerts you'll hear your heart pound in rhythm with the strains performed by those in uniform. Silence falls over the crowd as if every tune played were first cousin to "The Star-Spangled Banner." You dread the finale and make a pledge to return for more the following evening.

Meanwhile, a more lighthearted venue, and one that kids go absolutely ape over, is "Sunset Serenades" at the National Zoo. While an easygoing singer or band performs on stage, families congregate from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings (July 3 through August 14). Most bring a cooler or a bucket of chicken to feast on while watching the show.

If all you can squeeze in is a lunchtime break, join "Live! on Woodrow Wilson Plaza." From noon to 1:30 p.m. on weekdays (June 19 through September 19), sip on some of the city's top local and regional talents outdoors at the Woodrow Wilson Plaza. Programs range from talent searches to country tunes to jazz ensembles.

The best part about the concerts we've mentioned is that they are all free. So really there's no excuse for not making music part of your summer. Enjoy.

For more information: Contact the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation, (202) 789-7000 or www.washington.org.

Dancin' Under the Texas Sky
The stars overhead compete with the stars playing jazz on Thursdays May 15 through June 19 in Dallas. Thousands of music fans flock to the grassy lawn of Ross Avenue Plaza in front of the Dallas Museum of Art for twilight concerts. "Jazz Under the Stars" begins at 8, but lots of folks show up at 6 to reserve a good spot for their picnic quilt.

On a different day, leave the kids with a sitter and head to The Annette Strauss Artist Square downtown. In June and July, weekly concerts called "Tejano Wednesdays" cater to a less family-oriented and more energetic crowd. These are stand-and-boogie-type shows where you'll throw your arms above your head and let the worries of the world disappear for a few hours. With tejano and Latino concerts starting in the early evening, this event tends to fill the night with melodic partying.

This article is from the June 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.