Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Jan 10, 2013

Every Thursday, the Going Out Gurus discuss concerts, happy hours, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ideas for fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Welcome chatters, to this free-for-all Got Plans? chat. Fritz is down for the count with that nasty flu going around, so it's just a bare-bones staff here today. But we'll plug through! Let's get started...

I can't find an official route map - is that because the route stays the same and there are a bunch out there on the internet? Or is it just too early?

You're timing is amazing. The route was just released this week, along with where the checkpoints are, and where you can stand if you don't have tickets. But seriously, you can still bother your congressman or congresswoman for tickets.

Actually, I'm taking questions from my deathbed.

Any suggestions for things to do outdoors this weekend ,on what might be the last nice weekend of the year?

The year is much too new for it to be the last nice weekend of the year, so lets call it the last nice weekend of January. There aren't really any events planned for outside in mid-January so I think you have to make your own fun. How about a long walk at the Arboretum or one of the many Washington gardens? Of course there won't be flowers blooming, but winter is a lovely time to enjoy a crowd-free visit. One more thought, KidsPost ran a really neat story about where to spot bald eagles that might also inspire you to get out.

No one ever seems to mention Bucks anymore. I bought a Groupon-type deal for the place and am thinking of going there tonight. Yay? Nay? What say you, GOGs?

Oops, as you all can see, Fritz is clinging to life, just so he can be here for you all. So, go on, ask your hard questions about beer and Civil War history. 

Back to this one: We still love us some Bucks. In fact, it wasn't too long ago that it scored a more than good three stars from Tom Sietsema. I think part of why perfectly good restaurants disappear from the radar is because there's just so much that's new each week. Places like Bucks become favorite neighborhood spots, or go-tos, not the buzzy restaurant you HAVE to be at.

Dearest GOGs, how's the list coming of bars/restaurants to watch the inauguration? Thanks!

We'll have a better idea in the days before the inauguration, but I'm not seeing a ton of places that are organizing anything special. You'll have Hill Country open early (and staying open late). The Hill bars on Pennsylvania Avenue, such as Capitol Lounge, will be open. Last time around, I watched the swearing in from the comfort of the Brightest Young Things party at Bohemian Caverns, where there was breakfast and mimosas, plus the event on big screens.

Hi GOGs! My organization wants to host a charity event at a bar in DC that will donate a portion of the proceeds. In a previous chat you mentioned that Maddy's & the Passenger do this. Do you know of any other bars or restaurants that will do this? Thanks

Plenty of bars will actually do this if you schedule far enough in advance and promise to bring a decent crowd. Blue Banana has done events with the Humane Society, BlackFinn, Sign of the Whale, Bottom Line, Fado and Science Club have hosted Leukemia and Lymphoma/Team in Training events. Laughing Man is another good one - they'll usually give you the downstairs bar for fundraisers.

Any arlington/dc bars that will have 49ers fans en masse on saturday night? or even packers fans - i don't mind being the lone fan.

The big Niners bar is the Town Tavern in Adams Morgan. They have a good number of game-day specials, such as $5 wings, $3 mixed drinks and $8 pitchers of beer.

For the Pack, I like Duffy's. Sound on, cheap beer, good brats.

Since this weekend is supposed to be so nice, my boyfriend and I wanted to get outside for a hike. We were going to head to one of the national parks or battlefields; but, wanted your input also. (We're in Arlington and are willing to drive an hour or so).

One of my favorite go-to hikes is Buzzard Rock in the George Washington National Forest. It's short, relatively easy and offer fantastic, panoramic views. Of course you can't go wrong with anything in Shenandoah National Park and they have plenty of printable maps with good advice to help you figure out which hike you want to do. One more thought, joining up with a local hiking club (I suggest Northern Virginia Hiking Club) is a good way to get someone else to do all the planning.

I know you guys have more ideas about things to do... but any tips for a lucky lady who landed inaugural ball tickets through her job but doesn't have much of a black-tie budget? Are there second-hand or thrift stores with a good formal selection? Or any department stores with great clearance sections? (In DC or Montgomery County would be excellent...)

Oh, girl, you need to get to Nordstrom Rack, pronto. There's one conveniently located in Gaithersburg. But the one at Pentagon is having an inaugural event TONIGHT. So go!  I have seen formalwear at Unique Thift and at Goodwill (both in Virginia), but it tends to look really dated. So, I'm actually working on a post about this today, and  I think you'll have to stop at a few places to do this right.  The best way to save a few bucks is to skip the heavy beading and the weird taffeta, and go with a to-the-floor simple chiffon (or whatever you can find) that's in a stunning color. Really, I saw beautiful floor-length dresses at BCBG in Georgetown last night in juicy red -- I mean stunning. And it was just over $300, rather than $500, mostly because it was bead-free. (Not saying that this is "cheap," just that it's a way to save, clearly.)  For accessories, while you're at Pentagon mall, go to the XXII (Forever 21) and check out their jewelry -- it's surprisingly good,  and stones are very hot now, so you should be able to pick up a fantastic blingy necklace or earrings that are ball-appropriate for in the neighborhood of $15.  I saw some pretty awesome platforms open-toed numbers in black/snakeskin that are on sale at H&M for a mere $20, and should be better to stand in all night than a pump. Okay, that's all for now - I'll post more on the GOG blog later today.

It's supposed to be a gorgeous day on Sunday--maybe the last one we'll see for a while. Husband and I would like to take advantage of this and go somewhere where we can walk around outside and maybe look at some natural or historic attraction or interesting neighborhood. We've done all the usual things..the Mall, the towpath, Great Falls, most of the neighborhoods in DC, etc. We're willing to travel an hour or so from Montgomery County for something a little different that's worth seeing in winter. Any suggestions?

I cannot say enough about the Arboretum and the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. As for walks around the city, have you tried a Neighborhood Heritage Trail? Finally, are you familiar with the Gold Mine Trail in Great Falls? It doesn't get much traffic because it doesn't overlook the river, but it is pretty neat.

Hi Gurus - help! My husband and beer-lover-extraordinaire turns 40 at the end of Feb. As a non-beer drinker, I'm not up on where those without a hops allergy go ... I know 40-50+ people would be interested in joining us for a happy hour. Any suggestions? Would be happy to rent out space and open a tab, but where? Laurel

The basement of Meridian Pint comes to mind, for a start. You can reserve half/all of the room, including those fancy tap tables if your husband and his friends want to pour their own. The Black Squirrel's upstairs might be a little small for your needs, but there's no rental fee. I'd give them a call about maybe doing your event in the basement, where there are dozens of taps, and seeing what they can do for you.

Since it's a big birthday, I'll share this: I've always wanted to host a happy hour party in the basement of Birreria Paradiso, which holds 75 people. There's no rental fee, but the minimum food and drink tabs of $1,200 to $3,000 to reserve the space from 6-8:30 p.m. on weeknights is a little prohibitive. Maybe not for turning the big 4-0, though.

HI! I'm sure all will be answered in time but do you happen to know whether there will be big screens on the mall like last time to watch the ceremony from far back? Or if you don't have tix your best bet is to watch it on a television? Thanks!

We do expect there to be Jumbotrons, we just haven't heard where yet.  We DO know the non-ticketed area will stretch on the Mall from Fourth Street to 12th Street  -- I would fully expect there will be several of them in that little area. Looking at 2009, there were about 20,  which sounds like not nearly enough for that many people -- vision, according to everyone I talked with and reports, was limited. This time, I'm hoping they stick with the 20, and that with fewer people, it's an all-around more pleasurable experience for everyone.

why didn't you get your flu shot. Wait, does this meant that this year's liver vacation will result in fewer recommendation's for places that are good at virgin cocktails? We wouldn't want your illness to hurt us in any way... Sorry, my snark machine was on. Feel better.

Thanks. For what it's worth, my annual break from drinking is off until after the inauguration. But there are so many good places to get non-alcoholic drinks these days. (Firefly is the new favorite.)

String broke on my pearls (college graduation present from parents). Any places you can recommend? They are baroque so I would prefer the order stay the same and the string is about 22 inches long. The closure is complete and intact. I am near Friendship Heights but could drive to places in MoCo like Bethesda and Rockville. Work near Union Station, but I don't think the area has this sort of service provider yet. Last time I had to do this it was in NY or NJ and cost about $30. Is that reasonable or have things changed. I'm guessing that I don't want to ask for an estimate at Tiffany & Co. which is close by.

I sent your question to fashion scribe Janet Bennett Kelly, who replies: "I’d take it to Boone & Sons – there’s one in Friendship Heights. I can’t say I know what it will cost. Another possibility is Amethyst in Bethesda on Woodmont Ave."


Living Social is hosting the company this weekend. Sessions are $8. There might still be spaces left. Why own when you can rent?

Off-topic, but I own a tux. Much, much cheaper than paying $100+ a couple of times a year. 

A few years ago, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern was great when I was organizing an event for Team Challenge (CCFA). MUCH easier/better than Blackfinn if you aren't expecting a zillion people.


This is a good thing to stress: Know the size of the crowd you're expecting. If you think dozens and dozens of people will come, do BlackFinn or Laughing Man. PQST or Bottom Line or Maddy's might work better for a smaller crowd.

Hi Gurus -- Since Sunday is supposed to be so nice out, I'm looking for some sort of outdoor event during the day. Looked at the Going Out Guide but didn't see anything. Are there any fairs, outside music, etc. going on? Want to stay in DC. Thanks!

Sadly, with the exception of the federal government, few organizations are crazy enough to plan big events outdoors during January. The chances are simply too great that it will be cold, gray and miserable. As I told another chatter, if you want to go outside you will have to make your own fun. How about the reliable standby: a walk around Easter Market?

Is it pet friendly?

You bet. There is even a lab in the picture!

Try Antietam or Monocacy National Battlefields

Both are good choices and aren't too far away.

I've had the same problem (my wedding pearls broke). The price will depend on whether or not they are individually hand-knotted (a knot between each pearl). A few years ago, I was quoted a price of $5.00 per pearl for hand-knotted restringing. It's not an inexpensive repair.

Some advice for the pearl stringer. Can you tell us where you had it done (and whether you were happy with it)?

It's my work bestie's birthday and she wants to do karaoke for happy hour on Friday, but Muzette is all booked up. Anywhere else in the district (we don't want to go out to Annandale) we can vocalize on Friday after work? Private rooms preferred. Audience tolerated. Get well soon Fritz!

We were just discussing how private-room karaoke in the city is pretty much Muzette. So Cafe Japone (old standard, but still kicking) or Zabb (not sure of the days they do this, but I seem to always be walking by when they are), might be good options. I think they do it after happy hour. Here's a list of our best karaoke events in the city.

The 40-party might also try Smoke and Barrel, or the Reef. Both have space you can rent for cheap, decent food for a decent price, and good beer.

Both true. I had a party on the first floor of the Reef (the Jungle Room) and it went over great. Went to a friend's birthday happy hour in the Smoke and Barrel basement, and she'd even negotiated some happy hour deals for us. S&B has one of the best beer lists in the city at the moment; I do think the the basement's just a little dingy, though. Could be the years it spent as Asylum.

Don't want to start a holy war about kids in bars... but any bars come to mind that would be friendly for a beer for dad with baby napping in a stroller after a mild winter walk? I was thinking of Elephant and Castle's patio on Penn, anything else? Thanks.

Westover Market in Arlington is cool with this, Wonderland Ballroom, particularly earlier in the evening, is a hangout for neighborhood parents and their stroller-strapped little ones  -- and I see a lot of kids and cool parents at El Chucho, across the street too. Twisted Vines in Arlington has a stroller happy hour, too. (It was yesterday, unfortunately.) I agree that patios are a good option to keep the baby from the drunkies, and the drunkies from whining about the baby. But this isn't the best time of year for them, as a lot of them are closed. Readers: Any one seen strollers out and about?

Hi Gurus -- beach house help! Heading to yoga to keep my summer-fit bikini bod. As a 40-something, I want to find a relaxed beach house share with fun folks and hope you have suggestions. I love Rehoboth, which feels a bit like Mayberry by the Sea (yah, I know i's a boomer reference).

Cheers and thanks

Chatters, where to start for beach house shares? The Starboard has a bulletin board for beach house shares in Dewey. Anyone know of a similar resource for Rehoboth?

Hi Gurus, forgive me if you've written about this and I can't find it. Skiing takes a little too much commitment for me -- the gear, the all day thing, etc-- but I'd love some winter fun that's outside of the city. Are there any winter tubing or similar fun ice/snow parks? Something we can drive to from DC for a day but doesn't cost $100 to get in? Thanks!

The Post's Travel section puts out a great ski guide every year and they have a fantastic guide to Washington Winter Wonderlands. Mountain Coaster at Wisp Resort? Yes, please!

If the pearls are from Tiffany & Co. they might restring for free. At least they polish for free.

Thanks! You would be surprised at what luxury brands will do for ya. Or at least, I am surprised, because I own nothing of value...

Fritz, you are a man who can wear a classic tux to an event. Some women prefer to not wear the same gown to different events.

This is true. Although how many times does one wear full-length ballgowns every year?

I have no personal experience with them, but when I was shopping at Pampillonia last month they were in the process of a bunch of restringing projects. Since they work with vintage jewelry, they might be a good bet.

Thanks! That's Pampillonia in Mazza Gallerie, FYI. I think there are enough options that you can even shop around for a good price. 

I love a man who owns his own tux.


My mom, who just recently celebrated her 60th, is coming to visit this weekend. She's a huge Pats fan so we will be watching the game on Sunday, but other than that no real plans. Any good ideas for mother-daughter bonding this weekend? She's fairly active and enjoys culture, but will easily bore with museum hopping.

Saturday night, why not try to squeeze into the NSO in Your Neighborhood show at Twins Jazz -- U Street can be pretty chaotic, so if she's easily perturbed, then you might try another jazz joint, such as Blues Alley, but this show should be pretty great; Three NSO musicians - violist Ruth Wicker Schaaf, bassist Jeffrey Weisner and cellist David Teie - will join the Eric Wheeler Trio for two sets that will alternate between jazz and classical. There are shows at 8 and 10 p.m. Get there VERY early for a seat. I thnk that if there were one museum to hit, it would be the Ai Weiwei show at the Hirshhorn - it's very easy to digest, and the fact that it begins with images of his work on China's Olympic structures also makes it really recognizable. It's art that's accessible.

Hi - My college friends and I have a party every year for about 50-60 people at a bar in DC. Last year we rented out RFD and this year are looking for a similar bar to rent. Any ideas? It would be during the day on a Saturday.

Great call: During the day on Saturday is often an easier solution than at night. Iron Horse Tap Room, Bar 201, the Black Squirrel, the mezzanine level at Public Bar (especially now that college football season is over), Meridian Pint's basement, or even the upstairs of Cause: The Philanthropub would work. (The latter, again, is free.)

It totally makes sense for a man to buy a tux, but for women who don't attend formal very often, renting can be better. A guy can wear a tux for all occassions and seasons - a woman has to vary the type of dress by occassion, weather, season, etc. One caveat about Rent the Runway - their selections over size 12 are limited.

Wonderful suggestion! Ah, yes, for the inaugural ball-goer in search of a inexpensive dress, do also consider Rent the Runway! A great way to snag a gown on the cheap, then send it back when you're done, so you don't have to stare at a gorgeous sequin number in your closet and wonder when you're ever going to wear it again.

My gf is shipping off to Southeast Asia for 8 weeks for work and I wanted to get her friends together for a shin dig before she leaves. Unfortunately by the time she gets out of work, it's rarely still happy hour, but I'm thinking a lowkey bar where 20+ people can come and go and wish her well. What about Penn Social, or the new Board Room? Any other recommendations? This would be on a Friday.

Penn Social over Board Room, just because it's easier to congregate there. Last few times I've been by Board Room around happy hour, it's been hard to get four seats, let alone 20.

Other options: The lower level of Hill Country rarely has a cover, except when there's a really good band (like, say, Yarn this Saturday), and seating at long tables makes it easy to socialize. The large but compartmentalized basement of Iron Horse works well for something like this -- tell your friends "We're by the skee-ball machines" or something. The main level of the Reef in Adams Morgan would work, too, or the old standby of Buffao Billiards.

They welcome children on the main floor of Meridian Pint (just not the basement).


Isn't there a new Nordstrom Rack in Friendship Heights? And maybe a Lohmanns? I got a nice cocktail dress at Lohmanns in Maryland (Rockville, I think?) a while ago.

Yup, both are still there. Thanks for the suggestion. I think it's worth knowing several of the locations because unlike department stores, the goods will vary from store to store, so I'd hit a few locations of each. I actually would think that the ones closer to the city will be more inaugural-prepared, but it's worth a call to see who's actually got gowns. Most stores, to be honest, are more likely to carry cocktail dress than ball-appropriate wear.

Seems that bars all around the city are pouring 12 oz glasses of the hoppy stuff. I'm really disliking this trend. Know of a few bars that still serve up good and great beers in pints? Bonus points if they also enroll in HH, too. Thanks.

I've asked some bars why they ration out good beers like this, and the answer is twofold. First is price control: 12 ounces of Nugget Nectar maycost $9 (I'm making the number up), and putting that on the chalkboard won't turn off as many people as seeing it cost $12 for a full pint. (It's not like you'll save any money getting a larger glass.)

The other answer is just pure ABV. When a beer packs a punch, bartenders prefer to keep the pours small so people get less drunk.

I'm sure that bar owners don't mind when people order more than one glass of beer, either.

As for places that only serve 16-ounce pours of really hoppy beers: I can't say I know of too many. Even the Big Hunt was serving small glasses of the Bear Republic last week.

Hey GOG... we'll young and poor and fabulous. What're some cool inaugural events that don't require black tie attire and expensive tickets?

I just did this piece this week flagging some of the low-key stuff. Hill Country will have an inauguration night with free karaoke and $1 Jell-o shots. The Chefs Ball is hot hot hot -- still $75 a ticket, but hey, the next time there's an inaug, you might be living somewhere else, no longer young and poor.... Check back in the middle of next week, we'll have a lot more options - they're still coming in. 

I'm one of the lucky ones with tickets to the official inaugural ball at the Convention Center. I realize with it being the 1 of 2 official balls this year things could be different, but what's your best advice on how to make the most of this experience? I'm relatively new to the area and this is our first time doing a "night out on the town" (I realize the following: get there early b/c of security, expect lines for everything...)

Start with this guide to the balls -- frankly, I think the photo of people sitting on the stairs looking miserable should give you an idea of how it could all go.  One way to ensure you have  a good time: Comfortable shoes. If you're a girl, I'd suggest some jeweled flats that you wear all of next week to break them in. If you must wear a heel, look for a platform and possibly an open toe, so you're not killing your feet (and your toes) all night. Don't wear your shoes for the very first time on inauguration day - you will regret it, because they won't be broken in, and you won't know if they're slippery/if they hurt till you're an hour in.

I would definitely get there very early - be aware that the Mount Vernon Metro (the closest one to the balls at the Convention Center) will be  closed, so your best bet will be to hike there from Chinatown Metro.

Eat dinner first, or at least a big lunch. Lines for food will be long, and you won't get as much to eat as you think you will. (Also, the hors d'oeuvres are always smaller than necessary.) Look, you don't want to get drunk. I saw it happen four years ago, with people who'd had too much after maybe an hour or so. 

If it's not too much of a splurge, take an Uber or a cab to the ball, and don't walk from Chinatown. You'll just be happier, and this is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime (once every four years) experience, and you should try to cut as few corners as possible.

Also, if you can avoid checking a coat, do that. At one ball last year, it took longer to get a coat at the end of the night than it did to get drinks, food, get through the metal detector, etc.

It never ceases to amaze me that DC has so many bars/restaurants and yet every bar with a decent beer or wine list (and sometimes they don't even need that) in the downtown area always is full at between 6 and 8 pm. Now that I'm 30, I find that I am too lazy to want to stand around and hold a drink. Do you guys have any "go-to" places where you know you'll always find a spot for two people? (Of course, once you tell me, you may never be able to find a seat there again.) I don't even require happy hour deals - just a seat.

I actually was shocked to have a nice conversation and a seat at Hogo on a Friday night last week. My drink was awesome, the service good. I actually want to go back. You're right, this all could change as soon as people really begin to discover it, but for now, it's exactly what you're looking for. Another thought -- get to Estadio, for example, at 5:30 or 5:45 instead of 6.  I swear, I use this trick all the time, and it works. Get to a bar before the dinner crowd rolls in. By the time I'm leaving, there are 20 rabid people waiting to grab my chair.

Now, let's treat these tips like Fight Club, guys.  Rule 1: You do NOT talk about Seat  Club.

Hello! I hope you guys don't get tired of planning people's birthday parties. :) I have a birthday coming up and I was thinking of going to a nice lounge or hotel bar for drinks and dessert. Any recommendations?

Okay, this is going to be the last one, today, since Fritz's pulse is fading, and we'll have arrangements to make. We love the dessert at Room 11 - it's really really good, and now that Paisley Fig is making it in house, it's so good. If your birthday is soon, pair it with some hot cocktails! Sit at the bar, it's the best seat in the house! Happy birthday!

Thanks guys, that's it for today. For more Inauguration news, see

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The Going Out Gurus
The Going Out Gurus are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
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