Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Oct 11, 2012

The Going Out Gurus discussed concerts, happy hours, weekend getaways and other ideas for seasonal fun.

For the first time ever, U.S. vice presidential candidates debate on the same night that a Washington baseball team plays a playoff game. Should be something. 

Greetings, everyone. Hope you're having a better week than the Nationals' starting pitching. We're ready to take your questions about fall festivals, the last Oktoberfest celebrations, debate watching and anything else on your mind.

That is all.


I just moved to cleveland park. Do you have any suggestions where I could grab a few beers and watch the debate and the baseball games? Thanks

First -- plug, plug -- if you're new to Cleveland Park, check out our Cleveland Park Neighborhood Guide.

I haven't heard from anywhere in Cleveland Park that's showing the debate with sound. Maybe the new Uptown Tap Room? For baseball viewing, though, I like the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill (plenty of TVs) and Nanny O'Brien's (good atmosphere).

We're looking for a place for our wedding after-party, a place people can go to have a drinks, socialize, and -- if possible -- to dance after our wedding venue kicks us our around 11:30 pm. Venue is in Columbia Heights, so we're ideally looking at some place in the U Street neighborhood, for about 40-50 people. Ideas?!

This one depends on the kind of clubs you're generally into, and the kind of music you're hoping to dance to. And since you're hoping for 40 or 50 people to show up, you can't just turn up at Saint-Ex and exceed capacity. Can you tell us a little more about age ranges, what people might be into/what they'll be wearing?

Hi Gurus. Submitting early because I have a meeting during the chat.

I have a very good friend visiting DC for work in a few weeks, and if all goes well, she's considering moving here permanently! So, while she's here, I'd like to show her what DC has to offer and convince her to stay. I'd love it if you could recommend a few things for us to do:
A good dive bar or two. (We're from the south and know our dive bars)

A good oldies band (think Blues Brothers, Motown) to go dancing to.

A bar with good drinks and good bar food. Nothing too fancy, but a place where we could have dinner, then stick around for beer or cocktails after.

A few new and not-too-fancy happy hours. We don't need $1 beers but a good Old Fashioned wouldn't hurt, as long as it's not $8.

A bar with dancing to Top 40 songs without a dress code or any of that.

Thanks so much. Wish me luck!

Wow. What a question. (Readers, feel free to chime in.) I'm assuming you want everything in D.C. proper, so:

Dive bars: The Tune Inn is my favorite by a mile. Always a great mix of people (age/profession/race). Fun jukebox, afforable beer-and-a-shot combos, no pretention, classic feel, thanks to old Natty Boh signs and deer butts on the wall. Runners up would be the Raven, Dan's Cafe and the Fox and Hounds -- D.C. landmarks all. Fox and Hounds will be slightly younger and hipper, if that's what you want.

Also, don't overlook some great low-key neighborhood bars, such as Boundary Stone, DC Reynolds, Red Derby and the Pug. Not "classic" dive bars, but similar vibes.

Oldies bands: The band at the New Vegas Lounge covers all the Otis Redding/BB King/Sam & Dave classics you remember from College Parties. Keep an eye on the listings at Bayou or Mason Inn for the Winn Brothers or Jimmy Smooth and Hit Time.

Good bar food: This category has exploded in recent years, so it really depends what you like. I've had good meals and cocktails recently at Smoke and Barrel (BBQ), Kangaroo Boxing Club (sandwiches/burgers) and Room 11 (American), Boundary Road (American).

Happy hours: You'll find great cocktails (and not college crowds) at the happy hours at Fiola ($5 cocktails) and the recenly renovated Firefly ($5 classic cocktails). The latter has a killer Moscow Mule; I think there's an Old Fashioned on there but it's not in my notes. If you're hungry at happy hour, my friends and I were just loving (again) the specials at El Chucho, including half-price tacos and $5 house margaritas.

Bars with Top 40 dancing: El Centro DF on Friday and Saturday night is awesome. Little Miss Whiskey's and Rock and Roll Hotel can be fun depending on the DJ. Mason Inn has some fun Southern/country DJs on weekends and they'll always play stuff you know.

Hi Gurus! I want to take a hike with my family to see some fall color, but because of previous commitments, we can't get out until the first week in November. I'm thinking someplace close in may still be good then (Turkey Run? Scott's Run?) but I don't really know much about hiking in this area. We will be taking our young children (1 and 3), so no super hard scrambles please! Thank you!!

According to the Va. Department of Forestry, you should be able to see some great fall colors the first week in November. The US Forest Service's page is also worth checking out.


When it comes to beginner hiking or hiking with kids, my go to is Sugarloaf. Not only can you pretty much drive to the top, but there are miles of well-marked trails so you don't have to worry about getting lost. There are also plenty of great vistas. On the other side of the river, Shenandoah National Park is an obvious choice.

The new Uptown Tap Room sent out an e-mail today that they'll be showing the debate

Thanks. I'd still go to CPB&G or Nanny's to watch the game first.

Going to go to the St. Arnold's Mussel bar near Dupont on Saturday and looking for someplace to go hang out afterwards. Have done my share of Front Page, Big Hunt back when I was 27, now I am 39. Help please?!?!?!

Within a few blocks: Tabard Inn would be my A-1 choice for date night: Great cocktails in a old-school hotel lounge, hopefully with crackling fireplace.

Other options: Science Club if you're looking for electronic music and a relatively low-key atmosphere. (The basement bar is perfect for that.) Irish Whiskey Public House for a modern take on a pub. Vidalia's bar is also an easy escape for after-dinner cocktails, though you may wish you'd dined there ....

Hi - I want to give my mom tickets to a performance for Christmas. She loves musicals, ballet, and classical music and has seen most of the heavy hitters in each of those categories before. So that's a great fallback, but do you think there's something coming through town in early 2013 or a new venue we should check out? Thank you!

Since she's into so many things, have you thought about maybe a theater subscription? The Kennedy Center offers a "create your own series" that allows her to put together a few shows in all of the art forms you've listed. And if she wants to explore something that's different than the big heavy hitters, I might point you to smaller theaters which are doing the edgier fare from Broadway that your mom might have read about, but isn't likely to see at the Kennedy Center.  Studio has the "[Oedipal expletive] with the Hat"   Woolly Mammoth has  "The Convert" by Danai Guirira on the books. And I believe both will let you snag a subscription  for a pretty good deal.  Call the theaters to figure out which one works for you.

Other than Tabard Inn, are there any other places in DC/VA where one (or two) can sit in front of a fire with a hot adult beverage?

I usually come up with a big list of these every year once the cold settles in. My list last year included warming up with a hot toddy next to the outdoor fire pits at Bourbon Steak and Room 11; This year, I'm curious about the firepits at A Bar, once the Foggy Bottom hotel's patio is seasonally adjusted.

I've got Saturday afternoon/evening with my 11 and 8 year old sons. Anything new and different going on for that age (beyond museums, movies)? Thanks.

I am thinking that Corn Maze in the Plains might fit your requirements. If you want something on the other side of the river, the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School is pretty unbeatable as a way to entertain two boys.

And yes, I know you said "beyond museums" but as far as indoor activities, the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore is a great destination.

Hi Gurus, BF and I are going to the Dispatch concert at DAR tonight. What are your suggestions for drinks and food beforehand? Any good HHs in the area? We were thinking Blackfinn, but I would love some other ideas. And does DAR have drinks for sale? The only time I've been there was for mine and my little sister's high school graduations, about 7 years ago! Thanks!

Besides BlackFinn, best happy hours near DAR are Cafe Soliel, which has $5 wine, $3 bottled beers and $6 cocktails until 8 p.m.; and the discounted cocktails and Indian bites at Bombay Club (only til 6:30).

Hi, guys! A wife of a client is in town, staying in the West End, and she's asked for a recommendation about a place to watch the debate tonight. Specifically, she's asked for "some type of bar where we can soak up the D.C. election year experience." Got any ideas?

She should head for Capitol Hill. Bullfeathers and Lounge 201 are among my top picks for debate watching. Depending on her political outlook, she may want to go to Busboys and Poets, where the crowd really gets into viewing the debates.

Thanks! Our late-night guests will range in age from mid-20s to early 40s and will probably be wearing cute dresses and suits, or at least slacks and ties. Some might just want to grab a drink and talk; others will want some booty-shaking jams. Is there any place that can accommodate both?

Okay, we think with a crowd this big, you have to call ahead and ask if it's doable that you all show up and will be let in and not slam the place.  Marvin recently expanded, taking over the second floor of Blackbyrd, and that could accommodate your group. Lost Society is another option, but the people who want to talk are going to be out of luck. I think you might get a group that size into Tropicalia, if you're interested in world-music bootyshaking (no really, it's fun!).  The other option is to head a plain old megaclub like Midtown in Dupont. And maybe I'm crazy, but you could attempt this at Wonderland, right?  Some people on the patio having beers and hanging out, others upstairs dancing? (Call ahead, of course.) Then head to the Coupe for late-night food/wedding reminiscing?

Hi! My boyfriend really likes to play throwing games (e.g., cornhole, ladder golf, lacrosse, bocce ball, frisbee), but I am terrible at them. Do you have have any recommendations of how to get better at throwing or hand/eye coordination? Are there any classes for beginners in the area? (I would hate to join a team/league and be a terrible teammate.) Thank you.

This is a curious question. There are baseball/lacrosse clinics, of course, but they're almost exclusively targeted at high school age and under.

One way you could do it: Go to Penn Social, where they have corn hole games out for people to play with, and just practice. I mean, I would think your boyfriend would like the chance to spend more time with you, so just go play cornhole for an hour a week, drink beer and have fun.

Or will I immediately be sent to the stalls to muck? Actually, I'm not looking for the minimum acceptable – what should the informed first-time couple wear to blend in with horse folk?

International Gold Cup is a little different than the Virginia Gold Up. I've seen women in jeans there -- slim jeans tucked into high riding boots -- and it didn't look awful. More skirts/tights/boots (your heels will get stuck in the grass, I'm told). For guys, it's collared shirt, sports jacket/sweater, slacks (khakis are okay) and comfortable dress shoes. You'll want rubber bottoms, though, not slick leather soles. Trust me on this.

Hi Gurus! I'm turning 25 in a couple weeks and am pretty stumped on what I want to do to celebrate other than just going out to the same old bars (don't like clubs). I'd like something a little more new and exciting.... I was thinking of going to POV,, but sadly there's a halloween event there that night that I'm not interested in. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

How about a trip to wine country, and to see the fall colors? Here's our most recent guide to wineries. I note which ones will be the prettiest in the fall, but there are a couple others not on this list, including Sunset Hills and Bluemont.  You could also plan a daytime event, like a brunch at a place such as El Centro DF, or a trip out to one of the ziplining courses. And of course, there's all sorts of unusual stuff you can get into with the Living Social events.  I'm also suggesting a daytime event, because it sounds like your birthday might be on the Oct. 26-27 weekend, and there will be a lot of Halloween events.  If that's not what you want to do, I'd think daylight hours.

Hey GOGs, I just moved back to the District after living in West Africa the last few years and I'm clueless about where to go out. I'm trying to plan a night out dancing with my girls before I get married on the 27th. I used to love the vibes at 1223, Chloe, Modern, etc. Medium size places with dance floors that had good DJs and that were heavy on the top hip-hop and R&B songs. Where can I get a similar fix these days? Thanks!

Park at 14th is the king of this field -- think Republic Gardens meets 1223 on a grand scale. Bar 7 is closer to Chloe, a little more crowded, but still gets good hip-hop radio DJs. You can also try Avenue, which is a little bigger, but has a larger dance floor than either the Park or Bar 7. (It also gets a closer-to-college crowd at times.)

We were stuck with the same issue for our wedding in DC a few years ago. We finally just called the hotel where a lot of the guests were staying and confirmed that the hotel bar was still going to be open and the hotel ended up being really cool and did some late night food and drink pricing for our guests. It was a nice low key way to relax with the guests (of all ages) and keep the party going.

A wedding I attended recently did the same thing: We went back to the hotel bar and wound up staying there chatting and drinking until we got kicked out. A group that wanted to keep partying went out to a nearby bar. This really only works if you have a designated wedding hotel, though ...

Hi Gurus. I've just been tasked with coordinating plans on Saturday with friends that are also hosting an out-of-town guest. The guest has been to DC before so no need for typical tourist stuff. Are there any street fairs or festivals going on where we can pass the afternoon before heading to dinner? I feel like its going to be too nice this weekend to spend it indoors.

I am really, really stoked for Snallygaster on Saturday. 150+ beers to taste, live reggae music, games, activities for kids -- all at Yards Park, which I think is an underated gem. And it's all for charity, too...

I went to the Freefest on Saturday. I was looking forward to seeing Ben Folds Five, Alabama Shakes, ZZ Top and , of course, Jack White. It took three hours from the time we got off the Merriweather exit to get into the stadium. Is Merriweather always this badly planned with traffic. I missed seeing Ben Folds Five and Alabama Shakes. Someone said the concert was free so you should expect so many people. I really looked forward to the lineup and I donated money since it was a great cause but I wish they handled the traffic significantly better.

Sorry to hear this, but having been to some big fests myself, I recognize that the traffic is generally the worst part of the whole experience. And typical when people come not just from our area, but from Baltimore and out of state to see all these bands in one place. But I haven't heard anywhere that Free Fest was worse than is typical -- anyone but me remember the disastrous Radiohead show in Bristow back in the day? --  You may have simply been a victim of the Free Fest groupthink, that weird thing that led all concertgoers to leave the house at the exact same time.  Anyone else find the traffic situation Saturday beyond the pale?

How about the C & O towpath, either further out in Maryland or, if they find they can't get out until later in the month, nearer to town. (With the water so near by, they might want a leash for the 3 year-old, though. My parents used a leash. I turned out fine.) Rock Creek even gets some nice color in later in November.

This is a great idea, especially in the stretch between Glen Echo and Great Falls, or slightly north from there. (You could even stay the night in a C&O Canal lockhouse and make a weekend of it, which I highly recommend.)

thanks for the gold cup guidance, WRT to fieplaces DC/VA - Tabard I think remains the favorite, but in Tysons, Harth at the Hilton has a modern outdoor fireplace that looks real cool - but I have not personally tested yet

You know, I'd forgotten about the fireplaces at Harth. (Duh.) Thanks for the reminder -- will check them out soon.

Hi- My family is coming into town this weekend and I have one gluten-free and one vegetarian, everyone else eats everything! I was hoping to find a good restaurant that would satisfy everyone but isn't too fancy. Maybe something with a fun scene or good area to walk around after? A bit vague but I am open to anything.... Thanks!

A few ideas could include Scion (American food) or its sister restaurant Crios (modern take on Mexican food)  in Dupont Circle, both of which have lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options. Masa 14 also has a mix of fare and a whole GF menu, though the vibe might be too clubby for a family. And if you're looking for a space that's attractive and warm and food that's different, you might try Agora, which marks its menu for GF offerings. All but Masa are pretty casual.

i'm going solo to the french underground. ok being alone. do 930 solo all the time. do you have an idea of how they are doing set times for the live music sets so i can time it right? don't want to be standing around looking more loser-er than usual! thanks!

Brightest Young Things doesn't always publish set times for its shows, but I have to say, with everything that will be going on that night: Live music, champagne, snacks, DJs, French short films screening on a loop in the embassy auditorium, an art exhibit -- I think there will always be something for you to see. 

FreeFest is definitely an atypical parking event for Merriweather -- and you can see why due to one of the stages taking up a big chunk of the normal parking. So they have roughly twice the people with half the parking.

I didn't find it bad. I'm really not sure what they could have done better considering 30,000 people were there. There are quite a few routes to Merriweather other than the main highway up Route 29. Leave early, stay late, just like any other big event. Or crossing the Bay Bridge.

That is awesome, thank you!!

No problem. By the way, Snallygaster is featured in both this week's Nightlife Agenda and the Weekend Best Bets -- check out those columns for more great ideas.

Hey Gurus! My parents are flying in on Saturday, we're doing wineries on Sunday, and they're around until Tuesday, which leaves quite the gap to fill on Monday. They've been here several times before (both my brother and I live here), and I'm just not sure what to do with that empty, full-of-potential day. I know they'd be fine with whatever we can come up with (we're all very easy to entertain, heh), but I'd prefer to keep it lighter on the walking around for hours, as my dad has a knee issue that flares up occasionally. Any ideas for activities, preferably near the metro or easily accessible?? Thanks!!

Great idea to do wineries Sunday, when they're a little less hectic, and you can enjoy the experience (and this time of year, the colors should just be on the verge of poppin').   For Monday, a few options: A foodie progressive lunch through Penn Quarter might be fun (and not a lot of walking since you're really only doing it in a few blocks) -- you could maybe sit at the bar at Rasika and grab a quick palak chaat, then head to Jaleo for some patatas bravas and snacks at the bar, then Co Co. sala for a hot chocolate in the lounge/bar area?  And if they wanted to squeeze in culture, a stop at the Portrait Gallery would be perfect. Second thought is to take a boat ride to Alexandria, maybe the Mount Vernon cruise? (Again, colors!) And if that's still too much, how about catching Flight of the Butterflies in Imax, and taking a spin around the Museum of American History, which was only reopened a few years ago, so its possible they haven't seen much of it?

Thanks for joining us today. Enjoy what should be a beautiful fall weekend, and we'll see you next Thursday.

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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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