Washington D.C. City Guide

By: Ann Cochran

Washington, DC, Nightlife & Entertainment

©2006 Washington, DC, Convention and Tourism Corporation Washington, DC, doesn't shut down when the sun sets.The nation's capital has a thriving nightlife.

Washingtonians were long known for being serious, wonkish workaholics, but that was before Bill Clinton, the blogger known as Wonkette, and the West Wing TV show. Although DC will never rival South Beach, it does have its charms after dark.

The variety of live performances is second only to New York City. With a theater scene that blankets a large metropolitan area and no central "Broadway," no wonder it's a secret.


Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC

The 930 Club (815 V St NW) is a nightclub with a bi-level balcony and stage that has welcomed the Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others. The club serves a phenomenal beer list and good food, and can accommodate up to 1,200 people. The Barbie and Ken dolls that mark the restrooms doors are a quirky, but nice, touch.

The Black Cat (1811 14th St NW) is a low-key club that features indie and alternative music groups and has space for 600-plus people to dance. When you need a break, head to the Red Room Bar, which is a red-walled lounge with red leather sofa, booths, and a pinball machine and pool table. There's a $5 to $20 cover charge when bands perform, but the price varies depending on the artist. Platinum Nightclub (915 F St NW, 202-393-3555) is an upscale dance club with three dance floors housed in a 19th-century building.

One of the newest clubs in DC is the aviation-inspired Fly Lounge (1802 Jefferson Place NW). There's always the Georgetown waterfront, which is appealing in every season but winter. Sequoia and Cabanas are two to check out before claiming a bar stool.

Nightclubs come and go with frequency, so the best way to find out what's happening after dark is to pick up a free Washington City Paper, or go online for current listings.

J Paul's (3218 M St NW, 202-333-3450) is designed to make you feel like you're back in an old saloon. The mahogany bar is the place to drink down handcrafted beers, Bloody Marys, or Scotch. The Lucky Bar (1221 Connecticut Ave NW, 202-331-3733) is the place for a laidback drink as you look out onto Connecticut Avenue, or on a couch in the backroom waiting your turn at a game of pool. The bar usually has a DJ with a periodic visit from a live group. Monday nights is a good time to visit for free salsa lessons. If the TVs on, most likely its showing a soccer game from somewhere around the world.

Rooftop Terrace (515 15th St NW) is located in the Mobil Two-Star Hotel Washington with an amazing terrace view of the Washington Monument and The White House. This is the place to sit back and watch the sun set on landmarks. Hawk 'n Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 202-543-3300) is a quaint bar filled with political memorabilia, campaign signs, and other novelty items. Usually the well-dressed crowd of Capitol Hill workers come for the free buffet food during happy hour, then stay for a laidback game of pool or sitting back by the fireplace.

The Smithsonian Atrium Cafe (10th St NW and Constitution Ave, in the Natural Museum of National History) turns into a jazz cafe with local talent on Fridays from 6 to 10 pm. The $10 fee pays for cover and a cocktail. HR-57 (1610 14th St NW) is another place to go for quality jazz jams on Wednesday through Saturday evenings.

The Birchmere Music Hall and Bandstand (3701 Mt. Vernon Ave, Alexandria), where many careers have been launched, features close-up live music in a casual 500-seat venue with reasonably priced food and drinks.

The innovative Arena Stage (101 Sixth St SW) is the spot to catch quality performances from a nonprofit theatre group in an intimate 120-seat setting. Their performances run the gamut, from epics to dramas to musicals.

Many local theaters are growing. Exciting new performance spaces include the main stage at 68-year-old Olney Theatre Center (2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd, Olney).

After 25 years in begged and borrowed churches, an auto shop, and elsewhere, Woolly Mammoth has new downtown digs (641 D St, NW); and the 16-year old Signature Theatre (2800 Stafford St, Arlington), nationally known for its Sondheim interpretations is now housed in a $12.5-million two-stage complex in the Village of Shirlington.

For same-day half-price tickets, go to TICKETPlace at 407 7th St or call (202) TIC-KETS for information. For links to all the theater Web sites, go to the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington site and click on "Member Directory."

If sports appeal, many teams play at night. In addition to the Washington Wizards basketball games at MCI Center (601 F St NW) and Washington Redskins football at FedEx Field (1 Redskins Rd), the Nationals baseball team is a new pride and joy in DC. With ticket prices as low as $8, Washington Mystics women's basketball is a great family evening out, especially for girls, at MCI Center (601 F St NW). Halftime includes contests, games, the Mystic Mayhem (dancing, cheering girls and boys, ages 7 to 17) and a breakdancing rabbit mascot.

If you'd rather relax than party, Washington, DC, is dotted with parks and open spaces. Keep reading to learn more about relaxing and unwinding in Washington, DC.