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The night is young and so are the residents of DC: With the median age a youthful 35, the city is alive with college-age students, hipsters, party girls, the newly employed, and up-and-comers, all looking to let off some steam after hours.
It also has its share of longtime locals, a sophisticated, learned bunch who’ve grown up on the city’s after-work party scene and continue to expect much from it. And as a government town somewhat insulated from economic turmoil, Washington’s population seems to have the cash to spare for a night out.
What’s on your agenda—cool jazz served with smooth martinis? A punk show punctuated by smoke and strobes? A gin and house-made tonic sipped in an übersleek space listening to Esperanza Spalding? Maybe it’s a late-night burger and jukebox tunes at the city’s finest hole-in-the-wall. Fortunately, all of it can be found in Washington DC.
Just two decades ago, much of the city’s late-night entertainment was restricted to two main neighborhoods: Georgetown and the then-edgy Adams Morgan. Today, revitalization has attracted a bevy of entrepreneurs seeking to create the best thing across the city, and traditional nightlife borders have disappeared.
Excitement and entertainment can be found citywide: on U Street, in Dupont Circle, in the Atlas District, and in Arlington. There’s also no shortage of revelers; lines are often out the door, and tickets for shows stay in hot demand, regardless of the night of the week.
Georgetown and Adams Morgan continue to reign as legendary nightlife destinations, especially for the young and boisterous. Bars and pubs line the main streets, a mix of casual nightspots and tightly packed dance floors, urban lounges, and eclectic small music venues.
Georgetown tends to attract more out-of-towners and college kids (it is, after all, sandwiched between Georgetown and George Washington Universities), while Adams Morgan is more diverse, drawing visitors and locals alike, a post-21 set seeking a night of letting loose.
U Street has emerged as the destination for live music and sophisticated revelry, with venues ranging from the rambunctious to the high-end, including rocking live music halls, jazz halls, clubs, and packed dance floors. Dupont Circle is very much a local scene, with chic clubs, lounges, and sports bars, while Capitol Hill’s few watering holes fill up, especially at happy hour during the week, with congressional staffers and interns seeking cheap eats and drinks.
DC’s drinking age is 21, as it is elsewhere in the United States. But some of the city’s music venues allow patrons 18 and over to get in the door for a show and to dance. Having an identification card is a must. Without one, you stand very little chance of getting in the door. Over 18 gets you inside; over 21 and you’ll get a hand stamp that allows you to buy alcohol. Details regarding bars’ policies are included in the listings.
For a good sense of what’s happening in DC at any given time, check out the Washington Post’s Going Out Gurus, who seem to be among the most savvy folks on the planet when it comes to fun in Washington. They have a blog (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-gurus) and are contributors to the Post’s Going Out Guide, also found on the web. Also, at www.dcist.com, editor in chief Aaron Morrissey has assembled a litany of DC-nophiles who keep current concert listings and other items of local interest.
- Best Beer Selection: ChurchKey
- Best Live Music Venue: Madam’s Organ
- Best Drink With a View: POV
- Best Neighborhood Bar: Tune Inn
- Best Place to Get Your Groove On: U-Street Music Hall
- Best Alternative Music Venue: Black Cat
- Best Jazz Club: Blues Alley
- Only in DC: 18th Street Lounge
- Best Spot to Take a Date: Bistrot Lepic
© Patricia Nevins Kime from Moon Washington DC, 1st Edition