Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 03, 2014

Need help making Fourth of July plans this late in the game? Ask us.

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.

Hi everyone, so let's get the Fourth of July info out of the way:
* A guide to seeing fireworks on the Mall

* A guide to seeing fireworks in the 'burbs (with extra things to see and do)

* A guide to rooftop parties, cookouts and DJ events

* A guide to partying until 4 a.m. at 150+ D.C. bars

What else is new? It's Rickey Month, and 52 bartenders are making their own variations on D.C.'s official cocktail.

The Trillectro lineup is out, with Migos, Big Sean and Baauer among the headliners.

Menu MBK has a vegetarian tasting menu for July.

And, oh yeah, Fort Reno is definitely on. Let's get to your questions.

Hi Gurus--I'm thinking about heading to the Capitol Fourth rehearsal this evening, but can find very little info on it online. What time does it start, do you need to show up early, can you bring food, anything else I should know? Thank you!

The rehearsal of A Capitol Fourth is tonight at 8 p.m., assuming that thunderstorms and flash floods and a rain of frogs don't cancel the event.

It's a more relaxed version of the usual program, but you might not see the stars billed to appear tomorrow. (There may a guy with a sign around his neck that says "Michael McDonald" instead of the actual Yacht Rock godfather.)

Same rules apply as the Fourth, though: No coolers, alcohol, etc.

Hi all. I moved to Alexandria at the end of last July. We live within walking distance of Old Town, and was wondering if we could see the capitol fireworks fine from there? Heading north into Arlington is fine, but we're trying to stay car free.

I don't think there's a great view from Old Town, but I haven't been there on the Fourth in years. (Chatters?) I'd say you have a better view from Long Bridge Park, which has bands (including '90s cover act White Ford Bronco), food trucks, kickball games and other activities, plus a pretty great view of the fireworks. There are free shuttles to the park running from the Pentagon station, and you can also bike from Old Town, as there's a Capital Bikeshare station at the park.

Gravelly Point is another option for seeing the D.C. Fireworks.

You'd probably have a pretty good view of the National Harbor fireworks from Old Town, but we've been told those have been cancelled.

Hi all, family from out-of-town, including my 91-year-old grandmother and my small town mom will be joining me to visit DC 4th of July weekend. I'd like to take them to brunch somewhere nice but reasonably priced and quiet. Any good suggestions in Foggy Bottom, Dupont or Georgetown? Thanks!

Hello! I bet your grandma would like the quiet, beautiful patio at Iron Gate, where you can sit in the shade under a wisteria trellis. I'm a huge fan of their pickled egg salad and orange blossom doughnuts. Alternatively, there's the underrated Kafe Leopold in Cady's Alley in Georgetown, with a quiet patio and excellent pastries. Urbana and Firefly would also be good choices.

what I really need to know is where you can see the DC fireworks in DC that isn't on the mall. Used to live in SW, where you could see them, but have since moved to Hill East and am clueless. I know there are spots all over town, like Meridian Hill Park and the Cathedral. Where else?

We have a guide to seeing them from all over the city. Hill East is pretty flat until you get to the Anacostia. There are multiple rooftop decks on H Street NE that have views of the Monument, including H Street Country Club and RedRocks, which aren't charging admission.

Do you think getting there at 11 will be okay? Also what is the best thing to do for food? Can you bring food in and are there any good take out places near by?

You'll be fine getting to Dacha an hour early. That's probably the only way to get there and make sure you have a view of the TVs. (Note: It's pretty much standing room only if you want to watch the match, as all three TVs are directly behind the bar.)

Dacha has a grill during the World Cup, serving bratwursts and other snacks.

Do you know of any places that offer free fitness classes? Any type of class is fine.

A few ideas for you:

Paces stores in Clarendon, Logan Circle and Alexandria all offer weekly fun runs in the mornings and evenings, depending on your schedule.

Lululemon holds free yoga classes in Dupont Circle on Wednesdays at 6 p.m.


Hi oh wonderful all knowing Gurus! With the imminent arrival of miserably hot, disgusting weather during those DC summers we all know and love, I'd like to go paddle boarding. But the idea of swimming in Potomac skeeves me out more than a little bit. What are the best rivers/lakes with vendors who rent paddle boards where I can swim? Or at least not fear for my life when I fall in the water?

Let's see. There are a number of parks in Virginia which offer Stand Up Paddling, including Pohick Bay, Algonkian Regional Park, and Bull Run.  Stand Up Paddleboarding Annapolis offers lessons and rentals on scenic Forked Creek in Severna Park. 

If you want to make a weekend out of it, our outdoorsy Amy Orndorff spent a long weekend paddleboarding at Assateague Island and absolutely loved it.


Which lunch spots are worth Restaurant Week reservations? I booked Fiola, but the menu is pretty paltry (no pasta?!).

Restaurant week is always tricky, because restaurants often serve a special menu that is not comparable to what a full-price customer is paying. Some veteran diners avoid it altogether because service is not always up to snuff, either. I'll refer you to the City Paper's excellent story calling out some of these offenders, where (at least in the winter restaurant week) you would not be getting your money's worth. Without going through every RW menu, I'd say a good rule of thumb is to check and see if the RW menu items are on the regular menu or not, so you can add up your expected order to see if you're getting a deal (CP found that some meals during this week were actually ripping customers off!).  If they're serving a special Restaurant Week menu with no items from their regular menu, it's probably a cost-cutting measure.

Are there any bars other than the W where you can watch the fireworks indoors? Thanks!

The revolving SkyDome Lounge atop the Doubletree in Crystal City immediately comes to mind.

Aren't there a lot of steps leading down to Leopolds?

You can also come in through the 33rd Street side, which is flat.

A friend and I are looking for a day trip on Sunday. We thought about going to Cunningham Falls State Park or William Houck Area. Do you think they will be packed since it is a long holiday weekend? I figure they should be cool, temperature wise.

We think they're going to be packed, honestly -- many people who might have thought about daytrips to the Eastern Shore are going to be deterred by Arthur. Plus, honestly, you never want to put yourself in a situation where you're driving home on 70/270 or 95 on the Sunday of a holiday weekend ...

I'm looking to experience July 4th a little differently this year and thought about checking out one of the regional fireworks displays in suburban MD or VA. But I can't find any info on whether these fireworks displays are good or not. I'm not expecting National Mall quality, but which ones are pretty darn good and which ones are pathetic? I'm particularly interested in McLean, Falls Church, Fairfax, Takoma Park, or College Park. Has anyone been to any of these? Thanks!!

I'll throw this out to the crowd, but there are votes in the office for Takoma Park and Vienna, partially for the atmosphere (the parade in Takoma, the car show and kids events in Vienna) but also for the fireworks, which are fun without being "Mall quality."

I feel like I'm giving away my own secret - but the lawn in front of Indigo Landing is an excellent spot. Or park at Jones Point and walk up the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Or wait until next weekend for the Alexandria Birthday Party Fireworks.....

Some advice for Old Town. I always like the weekend-after-July 4 fireworks at Oronoco Bay. I mean, they'll have Marines from Quantico firing cannons while the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra plays the 1812 Overture. How can you say no to that?

I'll be watching the fireworks near D and 3rd streets NW tomorrow night. Any suggestions on where to get dinner before? I'll have my two young sons, so something that is fast, easy, cheap, and kid-friendly would be great! (Or some subset of that.) Thanks!

I'd head to Chinatown for Vapiano's, Nando's, Luke's Lobster, or Taylor Gourmet. Good luck braving the crowds!

Will anywhere be open for brunch tomorrow? I know the regular restaurant lunch deals will be in place, but would prefer brunch with my day drinking.

So far, I've heard that all of the EatWell DC restaurants (The Pig, The Heights, Commissary, Logan Tavern, Grillfish) will be open for Brunch tomorrow. Also the Richard Sandoval restaurants (El Centro, Masa 14, Ambar, Toro Toro, Zengo) will be doing $35 bottomless brunch.

Getting out of work early, yay! Now looking for a place to start the holiday weekend - it seems like a lot of bars don't open until 4 or 5pm (and I would like to avoid the bar crawl in Dupont). Any suggestions for metro accessible bars that are open this afternoon, maybe something new or someplace that is normally impossible to get into otherwise?

Many of the "new" spaces I've been digging recently are outdoors, and man, there's no way I could recommend them today. (I spent 45 min walking around this morning for a story and was drenched.) 

The much-buzzed-about Rural Society in the Loews Madison opens tonight, and I'm intrigued by the Argentinian cocktail menu. You could one of the first to try the Fernet Con Cola!

But I feel you on the opening early: So many of my favorites don't open until 5 or so, especially since there's no World Cup today. One place to do like for very good cocktails on a quiet afternoon: Boundary Road, on H St. NE.

Hi GOGs! I love your chat and the suggestions you give, so I thought I would give this a try. I am planning a bachelorette in July for a group of about 10 girls. We would all like to go out dancing but I am stumped as to where to go as I haven't hit the DC club scene in a while. We would like good dancing at a club or lounge that plays top 40/hip hop. We also might want to club hop, so bonus points if your suggestions are relatively close together. Any new places we should try for a guaranteed great night? Thanks!

You have two options, really.

If you head for 14th Street, you'll be able to find the music you're looking for at Cafe Saint-Ex, El Centro DF, Lost Society and Policy-- if you're going to Lost Society, you might look into getting a table for the group, and maybe trying to make a reservation for some fun cocktails at the Gibson first. (Ask if you can reserve a room upstairs with Frank.) El Centro is always fun for dancing and margaritas on the rooftop.

Over on H Street, there's dancing at Little Miss Whiskey's and Rock and Roll Hotel, but you can also do drinks on the roof of H Street Country Club or RedRocks. 

I am looking for a place to eat with my husband and two small children before we see the fireworks on the Mall. Thinking near Judiciary Square metro, if possible. Thanks!

I think the Hill Country Backyard BBQ is a great bet with two children. It's outdoors, so there's room to run -- I've seen plenty of kids when I've been there this year. They have sausages, barbecue, cole slaw, potato salad and lemonade -- the usual picnic fare. Plus there's music from 5 p.m. on. Bonus: If the kids are hot, they can go inside the National Building Museum. 

I moved away from DC 2 years ago after loving it there for 12 years (and getting all of my best going out ideas from the Gurus). So much has changed since I was there that I have no idea where to begin looking for a great place for a group dinner. I'll be headed back in the fall for a bachelorette weekend. We're looking for a great place for dinner for about 10 women and men to have dinner and drinks. Some context: We're a group in our early 40s, the great food and drink part is most important, a little scene-y would be good, near some other places you'd recommend for drinks would be nice, and ideal in the District. Thanks in advance for your suggestions. I live in NYC now and we don't have any resources nearly as great as you all.

OK, so since you don't mention cost and say that the great food is the most important part, I'll start with the splurge option -- the Rose's Luxury rooftop garden. It is exactly what you're looking for, and will be a very memorable meal -- but at $125 per guest, it's actually going to cost you about $200 per person when you add in drinks and tax and tip. Yikes. But if you're the type of person who is willing to shell out $200 for a meal, this will be a very good place to spend it! You'd get personalized service and a beautiful patio at D.C.'s best restaurant, all to yourselves.

I realize that is a huge expense, of course, so here are some more affordable options:  Soi 38 for spicy Thai street food at a table overlooking the open kitchen; Kapnos for Greek food in a chic setting; Daikaya Izakaya for small-plates Japanese and interesting cocktails; Latin American steakhouse Del Campo; or the meaty Partisan in Penn Quarter.

As a TP native, I second your recommendation of our 4th of July fireworks and parade. However, please note that the parade starts at 10:00 am and the fireworks program doesn't start until like 7:00 pm. Visitors to the neighborhood will be hard pressed to occupy themselves between the two events, unless they can wrangle themselves an invite to (or crash) a local's backyard cookout. If you try to crash, I recommend bringing veggie dogs and craft beer to bribe your way in.

If I want to take my 11 and 8 year old kids to the parade in DC tomorrow, what time should we plan to get there for a decent viewing spot?

The parade starts at 11:45, and our advice is usually to try to be on Constitution Ave. between 11-11:15. For what it's worth, I like the end towards the Ellipse, between 14th and 17th streets, because it's more shady than the part near the museums.

Okay, everyone. We have to run -- the long weekend is ALMOST HERE! -- and we hope you have a fantastic Fourth. See you next Thursday.


Today's Post Points code is GG4148.

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The Going Out Guide
The Going Out Guide staff 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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