Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Aug 08, 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.

Hi there. Right now, we're excited about weed-eating goats at Congressional Cemetery, a new vegan food truck and doughnut ice cream sandwiches. How about you?

Check out our list of the weekend's best events, and let us know what you're looking forward to -- and we're also ready to answer any questions you have on *most* topics. Ready? Let's get started.

Hello, I do not drive. This makes it relatively hard to go to any decent beaches. Would like to go to Myrtle Beach. Can you get there using any public transport? Where is the closest beach I can go using public transport? I have not been on a vacation in approx. ten years! I love the beach!

Well, you can always fly -- U.S. Airways flies non-stop from National Airport to Myrtle Beach. It would also be possible to take Amtrak to the Charleston station and get a Greyhound or other bus from there, but that might be expensive.

In terms of local beaches, we're fans of taking the DC2NY beach bus, which shuttles between downtown D.C. and Rehoboth and Dewey Beach every weekend. Buses leave every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and return on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It's handy for both a quick weekend getaway and for people who have, say, a Saturday-to-Saturday rental.

Going up to Baltimore for the concert tonight. I've pre-paid for parking in one of the stadium lots and would prefer to just use that instead of eating elsewhere and then moving my car to the stadium, particularly because I anticipate arriving in Baltimore around 6:30. Any suggestions on where to go that's within walking distance? Is there a safe way to walk from the lots to the restaurants on Charles Street? (Google maps shows that they're on the opposite side of the interstate, but the walking directions are still in "beta", so I don't want to trust that there is a pedestrian path.)

If you're at M&T, your best bet is really to walk over to Federal Hill. There are walkways that go under 395, which are used by football fans during the season. Depending on what you're looking for, I like the pizzas and house brews at Pub Dog, the sandwiches at Ropewalk, or the seafood at Ryleigh's. It's also hard to beat the steaks and seafood stalls at Cross Street Market.

Hi Gurus! My significant other's birthday is coming up and I would like to take him to a traditional Italian restaurant. He is Italian-American, but lives away from his family and I would like to give him a little slice of home cooking for his special day. Is there a restaurant, preferably owned or run by Italians so he can have the full Italian experience he gets at home? I have a car and am willing to drive anywhere, but preferably Virginia or DC in that order. Thank you :)

The new Casa Luca got a great First Bite from Tom Sietsema. It's owned by chef Fabio Trabocchi, whose family is from Le Marche, Italy. Enzo Fargione of Osteria Elisir is from Torino, and there's also Roberto Donna at Al Dente and its mini-restaurant within the restaurant, Roberto's 4.

Hoping to go with friends tomorrow afternoon for music, snacks & drinks after a round of minigolf at the Building Museum. Good idea? Is it rain or shine? And, do you know if kids are allowed? Thanks!

It's rain or shine. I've been a few times this year when summer showers have popped up, and so did umbrellas. There's not much cover, but I think 'cue and and a Shiner or margarita is the perfect post-mini-golf excursion.

The barbecue is open to all ages. Lots of kids there on weekends and early on Thursdays-Fridays, less so as you get closer to sundown.

Gurus, I need your wisdom to find a location for a group of 30 from my office. We are wrapping up our fiscal year with an afternoon mini-golf outing at the Building Museum at the end of the month, and then are looking for a place nearby around 4pm for a celebratory toast. Bonus points if they had cake or we could bring one in. It's a Tuesday, so the Hill Country backyard BBQ will not be open.

The lower level of Iron Horse Tap Room would get my vote -- they don't have a kitchen, so you can BYO food. You might also see about the actual Hill Country, which serves cakes with Blue Bell ice cream. The downstairs Boot Bar would work well for 30 or more.

I have family visiting with us through Sunday and I am stumped for ideas of things to do that would entertain and 11 yr old and 14 yr old. They are not crazy about museums and dont like amusement park rides. They do love to swim. Are there any nearby waterparks? Any other ideas you could share would be appreciated.

How about Great Waves in NoVa? You could also take them to mini-golf at the National Building Museum, or go kayaking by the Georgetown waterfront. Since they seem pretty active, you guys could rent bikes and lead them around the monuments, or if they've seen it all before, you could hit one of the trails, like the Capitol Crescent.

What are some good plays going on now?

August always means slim pickings for theater. The Shakespeare Theatre's Free For All, Much Ado About Nothing, is coming up on Aug. 20 -- watch the Weekend section next week for a big feature on this year's show. Other than that, I've been wanting to check out The Rocky Horror Show at Studio, and America All Better at Woolly. One Night with Janis Joplin is also back at Arena Stage, after getting good reviews the first time around.

I am turning 27, and want to organize a birthday happy hour for 15-20 people. I am looking for somewhere on fourteenth with decently good drink specials. I don't necessarily need seating for everyone - just a place where people can come and go freely. Any suggestions? Thanks!

PS Kind of tired of Masa 14 and El Centro at this point.

You're stumping us. We keep coming up with ideas for good drink specials (B Too's half-price beers, Piola's $3 beers, $4 and free food), but the spaces are too small for 20 people to gather together. The places where you could take over the spot (Saint Ex's Gate 54, Black Whiskey, the upstairs of the Gibson) don't really have great happy hour deals. 

Our two best options: Drafting Table, which has $4 beers and often has room at the bar; and Policy, where happy hour runs until 8 p.m. and the joint doesn't get packed until later, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. 

Hi Gurus, Do you have any suggestions for best places to drink alone? Basically I'm finding it difficult to find many places with open spaces at the bar to sit down and just have a few beers and some food during prime hours. Bonus points of course for friendly crowds are activities that make it easier to mingle with cute patrons. I'm in my early 30's, and open to most central / metro accessible areas.

I go out on my own pretty often, and I feel like it's often easier to find a stool for one at Proof, Casa Luca or even PX than it is when I'm out on a date or with a small group. Any of those places would be on my list of top solo spots, and I'd toss in Daikaya, Kapnos, Room 11 and Estadio, too.

Bartenders are kind of key -- they're going to make it easier for people to interact with each other.

Chatters? Favorite solo drinking/dining spots?

Hello! Do any bars around here show preseason football? I'm hoping to catch the Ravens game, but not sure where it will be shown. Thanks!

Most bars will show pre-season football if it's on an available channel. For Ravens games, steer yourself towards Mason Inn in Glover Park, which is an "official" Ravens bar. (They say they'll also be an official Atlanta Falcons bar this season, after repeated requests from the UGA alumni who meet there.)

I'm looking for a place to host a birthday happy hour next week (preferably Wednesday). I'm trying to find a place that has a happy hour that goes later than 7 as most of my friends can't get out of work before then - somewhere that does a food special on Wednesdays in lieu of drink specials would also work. For a group of late twenty-somethings. Thanks!

You don't say where in the city you're looking, so hopefully this isn't too far afield, but DC Reynolds' happy hour goes from 5-9 and is buy one drink, get one free. To give you a variety of choices in geography and ambiance -- Iron Horse Tap Room, Piola on 14th (free snacks), Vendetta, and H Street Country Club all have happy hours that go til 8. If you're looking for something that goes much later, here's a whole list of late night happy hours.

Hello, Are there any horseback riding trails deals out there close by?

How about going riding without leaving the city? Rock Creek Park offers 1-hour trail rides every Saturday and Sunday through the end of October. They cost $40, and no experience is required. You just have to book in advance, because the available slots fill up early.

I missed the Dr. Gridlock chat this week; but was hoping that you could help. Going to North Carolina for the weekend - is it absolutely crazy for me to leave Friday after work?

I wouldn't drive to Richmond after work on a weeknight, let alone a weekend. Can only imagine what going to NC would be like. I would treat it like the beach: Go early or go late. Chatters?

My 22-year old super-fit Cross-Fitter niece had such a good time hiking the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls last year, that she and my sister are coming this weekend to do it again. Can you suggest a similarly-challenging hike for their second day here? Our perennial favorite is Maryland Heights at Harper's Ferry (they used to live in Winchester) but I'd love to find a new hike to add to our "favorites" list. We're looking for 2-4 hours of hiking, something more ambitious than Sugarloaf, but preferably within an hour's drive of Germantown. What about Frederick County or eastern Washington County? Views a huge plus.

(Answer on behalf of our resident outdoors expert Amy Orndorff:)

Maryland Heights is a gem. Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park seems like an easy pick if you were willing to drive farther and don’t mind crowds. (I prefer it in the winter.) Closer in, I’d suggest Patapsco Valley State Park . It is a big park outside of Baltimore with a number of trails of varying lengths and difficulties. There are plenty of options.

Another one of my favorite nearby hikes is from Gathland Park to Weverton Cliffs. All three on this list are good, but that one is definitely the hardest.

And a quick note about Sugarloaf. There are actually some lesser-used trails closer to the base that can be added together to make it a longer, more challenging hike.

Hi, My boyfriend and I are planning to take a long weekend this month and take a day (or overnight) trip somewhere in driving distance. I like wine, and he LOVES history, so we're thinking that a historic site visit followed by a winery tour/tasting would be a good trip for us. Any suggestions of VA (or MD) wineries near one or two historic sites? Thanks!

Oh, this is a fun idea -- and something I've done before, too. A few pairing ideas:

Charlottesville/Monticello and King Family Vineyards or Jefferson Vineyards.

Orange Va./Montpelier and Barboursville Vineyards (plus the Barboursville ruins are cool) -- and you could always extend to do the Wilderness/Chancellorsville battlefields, which are near Lake Anna and a couple of other smaller wineries.

Absolutely go very early (before Noon) or really late (after 8pm). I often make that trip to see family in Raleigh. Once I made the mistake of leaving after work (4pm) on a Friday and it took me 2 hours to get to Dumfries, which is normally a 30 - 40 minute trip, and the entire trip was 6 hours to NC. If you absolutely can't leave until after work, grab a couple slugs and make use of the HOV lanes at least.

One answer about travelling to Carolina ...

Where in NC and where are you leaving from? IF MD or DC, Route 301 is an alternative. I-95 in VA is usually a parking lot but once you get south of Fredericksburg, there are side roads you can take to get down to Richmond or to the OBX (Rtes. 2, 301, and 17).

More travel advice ....

Hi Gurus, I'd like to take an art class this fall -- something that's once a week and I can learn skills but not super intense -- just recreation. I see a lot of wine and drawing classes but fewer regular classes. Do you know of any reputable ones, ideally in DC itself? Thanks!

We have a ton of ideas -- so many, in fact, that we made this question a separate blog post instead answering it during the chat. Hope you find those suggestions helpful.

The Winery at Bull Run is right next to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. The wines aren't as good as at some of the better known wineries farther out, but some of them are tasty and the grounds are perfect for picnicking.

History and wine are perfect. I also love pairing the Valley battlefields (MacDowell, Cross Keys) and historic Staunton with the wineries and breweries on the Brew Ridge Trail.

Have family coming to Baltimore for the Anime Convention in Baltimore. Where do you recommend to eat somewhere between Baltimore and Alexandria?

Hmm, do you mean you want to meet exactly halfway between the two cities, or will anything off of 95 do? In Columbia, there's the Aida Wine Bar and Cafe De Paris, and Sushi Sono. In Lanham, Jerry's Seafood.  It doesn't offer much in the way of ambiance, but near College Park, Woodlands is a super-tasty and inexpensive Indian restaurant. Shoot us a note if you're looking for recommendations for Alexandria and Baltimore proper, too.

Hi there - I'm planning a party in early September for a friend whose birthday it is and who is also moving away. Do you have any recs for DC where we can set up shop and people can swing by but still be able to hear each other? She'll probably invite about 25 people but not all come in together. I know this isn't an easy request -- doesn't need to be trendy, if that helps. Ideally would be NW due to her location. Thanks!!

Hotel bars are probably going to be your best bet here -- they tend to be quieter. Look into the bars at the Kimpton Hotels (except for Poste, which can get more of a crowd) -- maybe Firefly, or Helix, which has a nice patio. Also, generally the more expensive bars are going to be the quieter ones. Fritz is chiming in with 14K, Off the Record, and Sonoma.

How about Catoctin Mt. Park in Thurmont, MD? Could even do both Catoctin and Cunningham Falls.

Near Sugarloaf is also Little Bennett Regional Park in Clarksburg. Covers a few thousand acres.

what if i open up the geography to include metro center or chinatown? any other ideas? thanks!!

Ooh, I'll chime in on this one, because I recently had my own birthday happy hour at Daikaya for a similar-sized group, and had a blast. Drink specials and $3 small plates from 5-7. Highly recommended.

My wife and I are trying to find somewhere to host a going away party for all of our DC friends before we move away after 8 years. I know you answer this question somewhat often, but there are so many new places in DC (and I can't find an answer easily in recent chats). We are hoping to have a place where 30-35 people could come and go over a few hours one evening (we would prefer a weekend, but realize we probably need to be flexible) where people could get decent drinks and food. We asked around at a few restaurants with private rooms (Lyon Hall, etc.), but it sounds like lots of those places want a set dinner or some other requirement that makes things less flexible than we would like. Only requirement is that the place be metro accessible. Thanks!

Reserving private space for a party -- especially on a weekend -- is going to mean high minimums, and sometimes dinner requirements. Places that rent rooms for free, such as Cause or Science Club, is one option, but there aren't too many of those.

Your other option, which can be a little riskier, is just to pick a large space where your group of 20-35 can just blend in without reservations, and the flux in attendence won't be an issue. Examples might be Poste's courtyard, Penn Social, Buffalo Billiards, Bier Baron or the Hill Country BBQ. (Of course, if you pick somewhere outdoors, you're at the mercy of the elements, but if you can also change your plans pretty quickly if you don't have a reservation.)

Okay, we have to run. Thanks for all your questions, comments and traffic and driving tips. We'll see you next week.

This week's Post Points Code: GG8326.


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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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