Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jun 06, 2013

Every Thursday, the Going Out Guide staff discusses concerts, happy hours, cheap date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area. This week, the Going Out Guide staff is joined by the critics behind the Summer Arts Preview, which appeared in the paper on Sunday. Wondering which concerts, exhibits, films and plays need to be on your calendar? Our critics will fill you in.

Sure, there's a storm brewing right now,  but there are many hot, sunny days ahead with plenty of equally sizzling things to do, from the Capital Fringe Festival to the Castleton Festival. We're talking about the Summer Arts Preview, folks, and if you're in need of some guidance navigating the hundreds of performances, we've got Style's critics here to answer questions. Of course, we're also here to take all your pressing weekend questions. Let's get started.

There are so many things to do this summer and so little time. Could each of the critics pick one or two things that they think we absolutely MUST do this summer and explain what's so special about each one?

I selecteded the recommendations for the art galleries, so I know there are a lot of choices. It has become a tradition for some of the area's commercial galleries to have summer showcases spotlighting the work of recent art-school graduates. Connersmith is the gallery that started it all, and its "Academy" exhibition is still one of the best ways to catch rising art stars. "Academy 2013" opens on July 13.    

One of my favorite summer recommendations is a concert in the Overtures series at Evermay. You get to see a wonderful house in Georgetown that's not usually open to the public, get some cocktails and hors-d'oeuvres, hear a short concert by talented young artists, and get out in time for a nice dinner somewhere. 

Hi, My husband and I are going to have an entire week where our kids are at Grandma's! I want to explore H Street one night but everything is new to me. Can you tell me where to start? We are 40 so I don't want to go anywhere that we will make me feel SUPER old. Thanks Susana

I'd make it a progressive kind of night -- there are a lot of cool spaces, if you stay away from the baby-faced types (at H Street Country Club, Rock n' Roll Hotel). You could do a casual (very good) dinner of burgers at Big Board or neighborhood fave H& Pizza, or go fancy at Atlas Room (don't leave without ordering their pisco sour, one of my favorites in the city) or Le Grenier. Then I'd head to the dark and romantic Church & State if that's what you're in the mood for. If you're more in the mood for something recreational, try the new Vendetta for prosecco and bocce, or Atlas Arcade for the video games of your youth. Then, end your night with some pie and coffee  at Dangerously Delicious.

I'm working through my bucket list before leaving the DC area and I'm headed back to Baltimore (for only the 2nd, and likely final, time). We are planning on hitting Brewer's Art for dinner and the Aquarium. Would you recommend checking out Hon Fest and/or the St. Nicholas Greek Fest? Suggestions for only-in-Baltimore seafood lunch and hangover breakfast? Suggested post-Brewer's Art bar-hopping itinerary?

Hon Fest has gotten a little TOO commercial these days. I think St. Nicholas is a better representation of Baltimore's neighborhood charm. 

I think any Baltimore bar hopping itinerary has to include the (in)famous Mount Royal Tavern, near Penn Station. Since you're going to be at Brewer's Art, it's a short walk to the 13th Floor, atop the Belevedere Hotel, with views of the city, or the Pratt Street Alehouse, home of the Oliver Ale brewhouse.

As for dining, it doesn't get weirder than Mr. Rain's Fun House, the restaurant inside the American Visionary Art Museum, so I would definitely try to get there if you can. 

Hangover brunch: Paper Moon Diner. The food isn't gourmet, but the vibe, from action figures to strange paintings, is awesome.

Where is the Merriweather Post Pavilion?

Columbia, Md., about two-thirds of the way to Baltimore. There's a map (with directions) on our profile page. It is my second-least favorite venue to drive to.

I'm headed to Baltimore this weekend with my bf to explore the close, but seemingly foreign city. So far my To Do list only includes the Aquarium. Any suggestions on other day/night activities? I like being active so if there's cool running trails, place to rent bikes, kayaking, etc that might be nice. Also, would love some recommendations for restaurants/bar to check out. Weather forecast is looking good so rooftops/patios would be a plus! Any special events going on I should know about?? Thanks in advance!! You guys never steer me wrong!

Definitely go to the American Visionary Art Museum - it's an amazing, fun, alternative space and I know of nothing else quite like it. The restaurant is good too. I leave the restaurant recommendations to our experts, but The Brewer's Art is a Baltimore standby. 

Do you know of any DC events to celebrate June 16 - Bloomsday? I've read about ReJoyce at the Scena theatre, but are there any other readings taking place around town?

The Harvard Club of Washington has been hosting Bloomsday celebrations for six years. They'll be at James Hoban's on June 16, reading "Ulysses" out loud from 2 to 6 p.m. There's no charge -- you just drop in and have a pint of plain and stay as long as you'd like to listen. 

Just started dating someone new. What are some low-key, fun things we could do this weekend? Not looking for an over the top date, as we're pretty comfortable being casual with each other already, just some fun things to check out over the next couple days. Thanks.

There's nothing quite like dating in the summer. And this weekend, you're in luck - there's a lot going on, including Supernova in Arlington, which will be weird enough that it should make for a memorable date (afterward, duck up the street to Bayou Bakery for a spiked snowball or to Boccatto for coffee and gelato). But there's also Asia After Dark, which has a Korean theme, cocktails and food. Sunday at Union Market is an Israeli food festival; I like Union Market for a cool, lazy day date of progressive snacking. Here is our list of best events for the weekend -- there's a lot on there that could make for a chilled-out date. Have fun!

Do you have ideas for places to go to on summer afternoons when you have no one around to hang with but just want to people watch? Do you go to certain coffee shops, parks?

This is a great way to kill a lazy summer afternoon. A couple of my favorites: The Hill Country Backyard BBQ; a beer at Tony and Joe's on the Georgetown waterfront; a table outside Tunnicliff's or Boxcar to watch the Eastern Market crowds wander past; the window seat at Bar Dupont in the Jury's Hotel, which looks out onto Dupont Circle; a perch on the rooftop deck of the Brixton ...

Chatters, what are your favorite afternoon people-watching spots?

I'm looking forward to checking these out with a friend a few Saturdays from now. Any suggestions for a good place for lunch within walking distance or a short drive? We enjoy pretty much all types of food and restaurants and know you have good taste. Thanks!

This is one of those places that isn't quite next to anything, which actually could explain why it's so quiet and beautiful. But there are picnic tables at Kenilworth - why not gather yourself a cute picnic (you can pick up items from a place such as  Union Market, which isn't too far away, actually) and snack while you're there. Oh, and a tip, the flowers can be a little peevish - they don't like too much heat (they'll close); so the best time to see them is in the morning, so get there before noon for the best experience.

Hi- my husband is turning 40 this summer and I wanted to throw him a happy hour in Arlington for about 25 people btw ages of 30 and 45. Thinking Spider Kelleys but is there some where else thats FUN and not too "young" I should look? Somewhere with some "things to do" besides stand around and drink?

I mean, Spider Kelly's *is* the "things to do" bar in Clarendon, with video games, darts, pool, pop-a-shot basketball, TVs -- you'd be hard-pressed to match it.

I do enjoy the vibes on the rooftops at Whitlow's (as long as you're not trying to do it on a Friday night or late Saturday) and the Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill.

A classy option would be to set up a wine-tasting happy hour at Screwtop or Northside Social. (That upstairs wine bar continues to be a go-to date spot, especially at happy hour.)

I've been tasked with buying a wedding gift for a co-worker; he & his fiance are early 30-ish and fairly well off so they don't have the typical Pottery Barn/Target wedding registry. I'd like to get them a gift certificate to some cool restaurant in WDC or unique hotel that hipster types would enjoy, but alas, I know nothing about hot spots for hipster. I know they like to go clubbing in Adams Morgan & the National Harbor if that helps narrow it down. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

If you're looking for cool hotel restaurant/bar recs, I'd say the Graham in Georgetown or P.O.V. at the W are the way to go. Trendy, good drinks, fantastic views.

Otherwise, a gift certificate to the buzzy new Le Diplomate would be appreciated. I've been to the bar, and it can get a little pricey -- it's one of those things where it would be nice if someone else was picking up the tab, or at least paying for a special bottle of wine.

Meridian Hill Park on a nice weekend is great for people watching. You might find any (and sometimes all) of the following: Ultimate Frisbee, a game of  badminton, jugglers, giant-bubble blowers, yoga, tightrope walkers, and, of course, the drum circle on Sunday afternoon, at the south end of the park's upper level. Lots of benches to just sit back and take it in.

Hi gurus! We're looking for ideas of things to do/see with our baby in tow. Not necessarily kid activities as she's only 7 months so isn't necessarily needing a hands-on museum or anything. But activities where it's easy to bring a baby to - she's easy going and loves being out with us, checking out new scenes and people. For instance, we love the kid friendly happy hour at The Reef. Thanks for any ideas you may have!

As the mother of a 19-month-old, I'm sobered that I remember so little of what we did with him last summer. We do often go to brunch at Southern Hospitality, where there's a big outdoor dining area well back from the road, or The Diner on 18th Street. And at that age you can go to almost any museum - at the Phillips Collection the art is closer and the baby can see it better than at, say, the National Gallery. On my own to-do list for our son are outdoor concerts at the National Harbor, where you have some latitude if the baby acts up. 

Hi Gurus, My fiance and l live in NoVA and are having a small, quick wedding ceremony on the 22nd in Arlington. After our family leaves that afternoon, we want to spend the rest of the day doing something fun and/or romantic, just the two of us. We're looking for suggestions and are open to outdoor activities, dancing, exploring, etc. Only requests: good (veg/seafood friendly) food and a hotel are nearby and we want to be within an hour of downtown DC. Any recommendations? Thanks!

You might consider Old Town, which has a kind of romantic charm all on its own. I'd plan on dining at the cafe at Restaurant Eve (since getting a reservation in the restaurant might be tough), or dine at the Majestic. Call ahead and ask whether they can accommodate your dining needs. Then, you could always zip over to the docks and hop a dusk/moonlight cruise (at 8:30 pm) of the monuments. Potomac Riverboat Company runs them, and it sounds like a dreamy way to end the day. Come back, then stay at a hotel like Morrison House?

Is it safe for a single female to walk to the subway from Big Bear Cafe at 11 p.m. or so on a weekend night? Which subway stop is best?

The sad fact is that you can be robbed almost anywhere these days, though the increasing number of bars and restaurants in Bloomingdale, such as Showtime and the Red Hen, certainly helps with foot traffic.

There's a Capital Bikeshare station right at Florida and R. You could grab a bike for the short ride over to the Shaw (7th and R) or U Street (9th and U) stations, both of which have bikeshare docks.


Hi guys, my sister is visiting DC for the weekend. Given the weather forecast, I was thinking of heading down to H St Country Club on Saturday for some indoor games. Anything we can tack on in the H St neighborhood that's a little more edifying to round out the itinerary - art galleries or historic monuments/buildings?

For something a little different, you could go to a performance of Step Afrika at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, just a couple of doors down, billed as a merger of stepping and classical music. There are shows at 2 and 8 pm on Saturday. 

Hi! I'm in desperate need of help before my best friend from back home arrives into town next weekend. She is super excited for a night out on the town next Saturday but this means very different things to the two of us! She loves to dance (top 40, pop, some hip-hop) and would love to go out to a place with great music and at least the potential to dance. I would be much happier at a wine bar or a fun, lively bar - but the dancing club is just not my thing. Is there any compromise of a good spot for the two of us? Or if not, I'll surrender and we can go somewhere she would love. We're both 33 and it'd likely be the two of us (ps, she's recently single and undoubtedly would prefer a place where she can flirt. Me, I'm happily married and will just be egging her on). I live in Old Town and would prefer to stick to VA if possible (Clarendon?) but can do DC if that's where she'll have the best time. Thank you SO much!!

Right in Old Town, you've got the Light Horse, which has a DJ and cover bands. But you could also go up to Clarendon: Split the difference and have dinner at Screwtop or Lyon Hall, where you can have classy wines with dinner. Then hit the rooftop at Whitlows, which has loud tunes, or actual dance floors at Clarendon Grill or the Ballroom. Honestly, I think you'd be happier at Whitlow's, so try that first. Just don't show up so late that you're at the end of the line, which can go down the block.

How long is Company going to play at Signature?

It's playing through June 30th. 

So we're checking out Little Serow for the first time for our anniversary dinner, I plan to get there before 5. Do you think there will be a long line on a Thursday night? We were going to go for my husband's birthday on Sunday but they're closed on Sundays.

If you get there before 5, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Just give them your number and head over to Hank's Oyster Bar for their happy hour (oysters and drink specials).

I'm taking my boyfriend out on Saturday for his birthday and I'm trying to pick a restaurant. I love all kinds of food, but he is a really, REALLY picky eater. The short list of things he will eat includes burgers, steak, chicken, pizza, some seafood (mussels, salmon, shrimp, calamari have all been deemed okay), french fries, and dessert. No veggies, and no "weird" preparations. I'd like to take him somewhere nice, but still somewhere he can get something relatively basic. Right now, at the top of my list is J&G Steakhouse, but was wondering if you all had any other ideas...

This is the kind of story that makes me weep a little inside. Sigh. Okay, your  J&G Steakhouse idea tells me you're thinking slightly more upscale. Another classic option, honestly, is at Le Diplomate, where there's steak frites (check and check), mac and cheese (you don't have to tell him it's gruyere...), chicken, etc, all served in boyfriend-worthy portions, and none of prepared in a way that offend the birthday boy. If you DO want to go downmarket, 14th Street NW has become a kind of pizza Mecca in recent weeks. Your boyfriend might enjoy Piola, where there are tons of options (and you and Picky don't necessarily have to eat the same pie); another option is the Matchbox there.

My parents are coming into town next weekend, and as my brother and I have lived here for 10+ years, we've done a lot of touristy stuff with them. This time, we were thinking of maybe heading to Annapolis. Recommendations? What to do? Boat tour? Naval Academy tour? (do they do that?) GOOD places to eat?? Thanks so much!!

A narrated tour of Annapolis (departing from the City Dock) is a good introduction to the city. The Academy is open daily, and the visitors center has a short film they show before guided tours of the campus. (Afterwards, make sure you check out the most excellent War of 1812 exhibit and walking tour, which starts at the Academy and goes through downtown. You might also like the William Paca House and ornamental gardens. 

To eat: I like the fresh seafood across the river in Eastport, at Boatyard Bar and Grill or Rockfish. I mean, you don't go to Annapolis for burgers.

Hi gurus, I'm looking for a fun nighttime activity for approximately 50 youth ages 14-18. Any ideas in and around DC, preferably that aren't dependent on good weather? We're looking to rent out a space, last year we did Lucky Strike for the same event, but wanted to provide a new experience. Any suggestions you have would be helpful!

You know, I might call Penn Social, which rents out its game rooms for private parties. They have skee-ball, pool, darts, basketball, shuffleboard -- the works. They do have age restrictions at night, but if you're booking it for a private party, I don't think that would be a concern.

Need new ideas of things to do with my parents next weekend? Was thinking maybe Mt. Vernon? Anything else to do on our way to or from there? Anywhere to eat? Any other different ideas? Thanks!

Take them to a show at the Kennedy Center - on Saturday Night you can choose between The Guardsman, the National Symphony Orchestra, or a new opera based on a journalist's encounters with Muhammad Ali. Before or after, you can go to dinner at Ancora, Bob Kinkead's new restaurant in the Watergate, just across the street.  

Okay, we have to run, but first: Your Post Points code is GG3308. 

Also, you may have seen that we gave away Fall Out Boy tickets on Twitter last week. Follow @goingoutguide now, because we're going to be giving you a chance to win tickets to the Roots' D.C. Jazz Fest performance on June 15. Just keep watching the feed for more info.

Thanks, and we'll see you next week.

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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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