Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Nov 15, 2012

Every Thursday, the Going Out Gurus discuss concerts, happy hours, weekend getaways and other ideas for fall fun.

Welcome chatters, to this week's fully functioning  (hopefully) Got Plans? chat. This week Fritz is out, so please refrain from stumping me with your super-complicated beer questions. Everything else, including Twilight, DGS, GBD and quite possibly CIA is on the table. Let's begin, shall we? 

My friend and I are running the Run with Santa 5K in Reston on Sunday, December 9th. It's her first 5K and our families are coming with us. Afterwards, we'll need a place for breakfast or brunch that's family and sweaty runner friendly with tables for 9 (4 adults, and 5 children) I know Reston Town Center has a lot of great places, but it's not my normal neighborhood, so I just don't know what's there and what's good. Can you help?

Oh, that sounds so awesome. (For folks who are interested, there's still time to register; I may do this myself...).  You should be done with the race in time for the 10 a.m. opening of Clyde's; if you're not expected to be done till closer to 11 a.m., you could try Jackson's Mighty Fine Food, which opens at 11 for brunch. You should also consider some of the diners around; Amphora Diner in Herndon is good, and Silver Diner is really stepping up its game with local food and healthier options. There's one in Reston

My boyfriend is a big golfer, and I'd like to purchase him some tee time as a Christmas gift. Any idea of whether there is a nice open to the public course within 30-45 minute drive of DC that has tee time for purchase? I'm striking out with the private clubs, and he already visits the ones that are within the district pretty regularly...

Back in the summer, I co-wrote a guide to the area's best courses under $50 a round. Montgomery County's courses are public and generally very playable. Falls Road is the most popular, but Little Bennett is probably the nicest. Enterprise Golf Course in Prince George's is also well-kept public course that's a step up or two up from any of the D.C. public courses. 

best place to eat before the Dylan show next Tuesday? Chinatown? Best restaurant for mid-price? Anywhere else good? prefer non-chain and non-bar emphasis. wheelchair accessibility a plus.

You might make reservations for Zaytinya, Oyamel or Jaleo - none of which is a chain, all of which are cooking well right now; another option is Hill Country; or if you've got a big group, Carmine's. For mid-price, I think Hill Country would be a great bet.  If any of the others grab you, I'd make reservations pronto. 

Hi GOGs! I hope you can offer some suggestions to me and my friends, as we could really use your help! A group of us are planning to go out in DC on Sat. night for our friend's low-key bachelorette party. We're not talking tiaras and phallic necklaces and big clubs -- that's not our style and we're a little too old for that. The guest of honor merely requested a fun night out of dancing ... but we're lacking in current knowledge and could use some ideas of unpretentious places with a fun mix of music where we won't feel 10 years older than everyone else. Music style is flexible, although the less techno/electronic music the better. The last fun night out of dancing that I had was at the 2nd floor bar of Rock & Roll Hotel on a Saturday night at the end of summer, when the DJ played a fun, danceable mix of new and old-school hip-hop, pop, rock, etc. I've heard some people mention that Fatback is fun but don't know much about it. We're starting with dinner in Dupont but are willing to travel within a reasonable distance downtown. Any ideas?? Please help! Thank you in advance!

Fatback is a great option; they play plenty of soul and hits that you'll know,  and the next one is this Saturday at Liv. Rock & Roll Hotel is actually a great option, too, (though a little young) since they do tend to get a little wild, and you guys can let loose in bachelorette-party style. There's a lot of pop, mixed with techno, at Josephine, too, so I'll throw that out there as a very loud, very dance-centric night. But I think Fatback might be right up your alley (and it's free!). Try to get there early because the lines get very long.

Hi: I'm single & am not going to visit family this Thanksgiving (don't feel bad for me - am looking forward to the peace & quiet!). I'm also on a diet, so don't want to cook a lot, as it'll be too tempting to have around the house. But, I would like to still partake in the traditional turkey, whipped potatoes, etc., so am wondering if you have any info on restaurants that plan on being open for Thanksgiving? Thanks!

Here are some sit-down examples for Thanksgiving Day dining; they're a bit on the higher-end side of things. Not sure whether you're looking to spoil yourself a bit or have something more modest but any of these would be memorable. 

Hi GOGs! Thanks so much for your advice. My office gets together for a happy hour every month or so, and usually it's no biggie if 10 of us or so roll into a bar unannounced and hang for 90 minutes. But I am thinking our December get-together will bring out most of the 30 officemates and might go a little longer than the normal HH, since we're not having a separate holiday party this year. Any advice on a good (metro-accessible) place to do this? Since it'll be a weeknight, do you think that I can get away with giving a place a heads-up / asking if they're cool with accommodating us, rather than spending $ on a private room? Bonus points if you recommend a place that has drink or food specials. Thank you!

I would try one of three places: Barcode in Dupont Circle, which is very good with office parties, and does offer food (you can try to set it up so the bar meets a minimum, rather than paying up front for a rental); Science Club, which doesn't charge for parties; and the new Penn Social, which has a good happy hour, games such as skeeball, and lots of space, is another option.

Hi gurus! My friends and I want to try the new boardgame bar in Dupont. Their beer selection looks good, but do they have a kitchen? Do they allow you to bring your own games or do you have to rent from the bar?

Board Room: has cotton candy, does not have kitchen.  They do allow you to carry in your own food from outside, however, and with places like Five Guys, ShopHouse and BGR nearby, you should have plenty of options. BYO board game? If you have a really unusual game, then I can't imagine them having a problem with you bringing your own. But if it's one they have on their 20-page menu -- one most people would have heard of -- then be a good patron and pay the $2 to $5 to rent the game from the restaurant. How badly do you want to lug Settlers of Catan around with you for the night? 

I have the soon to be in-laws coming into town for the holiday week and have been put in charge of planning something with my soon to be father in-law the Friday after Thanksgiving while my fiance and her mother go dress shopping. I need help. Thanks, New Groom

Need a bit more to go on here. What does father-in-law like?

If you had an afternoon to entertain two young boys, ages 5 and 3, around the Mall, what would you do? Do any of the museums offer anything fun for kids that age? There's always the carousel and ice cream, of course, but please let me know if you have any ideas!

Natural History is a favorite of mine (um hello, an exhibition about the "monster snake"?), plus it has a butterfly pavilion (indoors!) and a discovery center for kids; find details on "immersive experiences" here.   Air & Space is always a great way to go. This weekend, Rocknoceros plays Air & Space, in fact, and that would be a great stop for very young ones.  It also might be fun to run them past the National Gallery ice skating rink (which opens this weekend), or the Hirshhorn sculpture garden, which is packed with things that they can look at and touch.  And finally, the Building Museum is an option; it's always very kid-friendly.

Hey GOGs! I'm trying to find a place to go for early dinner/happy hour that's fun enough to be my last hurrah with a buddy of mine before I move to Colorado but won't break the bank - and I'm currently completely uninspired by the interwebs. We're having a red versus orange line showdown, so somewhere in the Dupont-to-Farargutish area or Metro Centerish area. I know I'm not helping to narrow it down, but we like beer and whiskey and any food that can accompany it! Gracias in advance for taking this "is there anywhere to eat in DC" type of question! I'll miss you guys when I'm gone. Hey, why don't we all move to Denver?!

Seriously, we like -- and have heard such good things from readers -- about Irish Whiskey, which sounds right up your alley (the happy hour is great). We don't love the Big Hunt enough here, but the beer is excellent, the food isn't bad. Better food and happy hour prices can also be found at Scion in Dupont Circle. 

Every few weeks the "Young Adults" group from my church goes out to lunch on Sunday, following service. Would love some recommendations for a place that's good for a group of ~8, easy to accommodate split checks, fun and interesting, but not too pricey. General vicinity of East FC Metro would be good. (We're not too conservative, so no need to avoid alehouses, etc.)

Pizzeria Orso is a good bet. They're good about splitting checks, too. Pizzas are good, but new chef Will Artley's pasta dishes are really popular these days. And in the vein of a good old fashioned alehouse, Mad Fox has some great dishes too. 

I have relatives arriving early for the Christmas holidays so I'd like to send them to a nice hotel downtown for a night (Thurs Dec 20 to be specific). Any suggestions or deals? Maybe some place near the White House/National Tree? Anything else festive to do in the area?

If you want to have them near the holiday action, the Willard is an excellent option; it's near the White House, and Grand Central for holiday visitors. Oh, and everyone, since we're already getting holiday questions, we have a very cool holiday guide already up, with concerts, light displays, etc.

Could have lunch and do the National Archives, or American History, maybe the Spy Museum and lunch at Hill Country? You could do some cold weather golfing? Go see Lincoln? If he likes planes, drive out to the Udvar-Hazy Center?

These are all very father-in-lawish suggestions, unless of course FIL is vegetarian. Then by all means, do not go to Hill Country. 

Laurel Hills out in Lorton, Va is a lovely course to play at (it's been rated as one of the best newer public courses in the nation by various golf magazines) and as a public facility the prices are quite reasonable. I think it would be a great gift.

I have not played there but here's another golf course option for the gift-hunter. 

A group of 8-10 women (30s-40s) want to meet for dessert in mid-December. Any suggestions of a DC-Mont Co accessible place for an evening gathering that isn't loud? Thanks.

There are a few more options than there used to be, including Co Co. Sala's lounge, or Pie Sisters in Georgetown (call ahead to see if they offer seating for 8 to 10), or Kafe Leopold in Georgetown, which has lots of options. In Bethesda, you might try Praline Bakery, which specializes in the baked good, or Spagnvola in Gaithersburg, where they make truffles in-house, plus cocoa, and will even give you a tour (call ahead).

Hi! I'm looking to make reservations for Thanksgiving evening, for a fairly traditional meal. We'll have 3 people; DC and MD are preferred. Open Table shows lots of places with space, but not which ones will do a Thanksgiving menu. Any ideas? Thanks.

Art & Soul is a good bet for traditional tastes, and it's a true spread: the meal is served buffet style for $55 a head. If you want to go truly old school Americana, try the Federalist. The downtown restaurant with an 18th century-inspired menu is doing a three-course fixed price menu for $65 per.

Irish Whiskey looks like perfection for us! Thank you!

Haha, I'm so glad you asked for whiskey and not obscure saisons or something.

I'm in Columbia Heights and am meeting a friend who lives in Friendship Heights and another who lives in Eastern Market for dinner on Saturday. If there is one place that is moderately priced ($15 for an entree) we should go, where would it be? Thanks!

Can you give me a little more detail? Food preferences? Any Metro stops or parking requirements?

This is not exactly a going-out question, more a staying-in question, but I thought you might be able to help. I'm interested in finding someone who could come to a party dressed as a historical person (thinking of George Washington) and do some combination of a brief one-man show and interacting with the guests in character. I'm drawing a blank on where to look for such a person. Any ideas? Thanks.

This is very very weird/interesting. But I got you. Why don't you try reaching out to Historical Strolls, which do walking tours of D.C. with re-enactors. I suspect they could connect you with the perfect George, or Abe, or Thomas...

Go onto the general Smithsonian website. Find the calendar area. Pick the day you will have the kids and make sure you are looking at "all events" not "one time events" You can find all sort of hands on stuff to do with the kids because at that age, just looking isn't going to cut it for a whole afternoon. It may be an art cart thing or story telling at the NMAI or whatever. Also Natural History has a hands on room and even a three year old might be interested in a 3-d film about butterflies. If your responsibility is after Thanksgiving, the Botanic Gardens train display is a winner even if it is hands off. National Aquarium isn't cheap for the size, but is just the right amount of looking for little kids.

Wonderful suggestion about the Botanic Gardens train display! Just an FYI, that will open Nov. 22 for bored post-Thanksgiving revelers, as is tradition.

Hi gurus - looking for a bday din spot for a Friday night, 12-15 people, probably in either Dupont or Chinatown so plenty of bars are easily accessible for after. Nothing too fancy, something with fun drinks, good food (pizza would be fab), and will take a reservation in advance.

Hmm, a reservation for 12-15 in those neighborhoods on a Friday night is going to be a challenge indeed. I was going to recommend Vapiano, where you can get decent drinks, pizza and individual checks without much hassle in either Dupont or Chinatown. 

Gurus, do you know if any of theson-to-open local outdoor rinks in the city have skates for little kids, like 4 years old? Being from Minnesota, my little nephews already know how to skate, and I'm thinking it's a good way to burn off some ay-after-Thanksgiving energy!

The National Gallery rink will rent skates for kids. They even have kids' skating classes if you want to let someone else look after them for a little while, while you grab a mug of cocoa at the snack bar. 

Some friends and I are heading to the Bourbon Classic on Saturday and I have no idea what to wear!! If it wasn't November I would say wedge sandles and a sun dress but low and behold it looks like its going to be a cold possibly wet day...any tips would be appreciated!!

Wellingtons. And nothing you would want to risk getting muddy. 

Hi GOGs, our 16-yr old niece is coming to spend a week with us around Thanksgiving time. She's seen the Monuments and main sights - any ideas where we can take her in the city and around the area? I'd love to take her to a few shows or to the theater but not sure what's appropriate and fun for someone her age. Many thanks!

You have to check out Michael O'Sullivan's story about how to entertain guests during Thanksgiving week. As for theater, check Goldstar online and see if any shows strike your fancy -- the Kennedy Center will have "Jekyll and Hyde" and Signature will have "Dreamgirls" (which should be awesome!). Tickets for "Dreamgirls" are just $22 apiece on Tuesday. Check out this rundown of family-friendly theater here.

You could also try contacting Mt. Vernon and see if any of their "in character" staff do side work.

Another good option. Thanks!

Hi GOGs! We need help. My brother, his wife, and I (big sis) have an annual family tradition (third year now) where we pick a wkd in December, get dressed up, go to a nice dinner, and a Kennedy Center Xmas show. Except, this year we have exactly one wkd in December that works for all of us. One day, actually. December 15. We have Rasika rez and we may have waited too long for the Kennedy Center. Unless we want to pay through the nose (or sit apart, all three of us), we are out of luck. OTHER THAN the Xmas tree, what else would you do, after an early dinner, in DC, that seems Xmas-y? Alternatively, are there other shows going on that evening (they don't have to be Xmas shows). We even considered Skyfall in Georgetown but the IMAX is sold out until 11 PM. Any gallery events, perhaps, or embassy events on the night of December 15? I think we'd pay up to 60 bucks a person for an event (and more if it were really something else). Many thanks!

You're in luck. There are some options, including the Kennedy Center's NSO Pops holiday concert. But there are plenty of free holiday things to do, including a stop at the annual Downtown Holiday Market, which is fun; the Willard Hotel or the Botanic Garden display. Just a note about that last one, though; the late hours are till 8 p.m. on the nights there are concerts. I just got the schedule, fresh from the Botanic Garden, so you can take a peek here: Tuesday, December 4    6 p.m.  40 Thieves, Irish rock; Thursday, December 6   6:30 p.m.  The Capital Hearings, a cappella;  Tuesday, December 11   6 p.m.  Project Natale, jazz;  Thursday, December 13  6 p.m.  Lox & Vodka, Klezmer; Tuesday, December 18   6 p.m.  Buskers, barbershop quartet;  Thursday, December 20  6 p.m.  Capital Accord Chorus, choral;  Thursday, December 27  6 p.m.  Samovar, Russian folk

We have no food requirements, just food. But I think Dupont-Cleveland Park or somewhere off beat like Eastern Market. Our only ambience requirement is that it is a laid back atmosphere. We haven't seen each other in 3 years so we want to catch up, but not be too stuffy.

How about Montmartre? Laid-back, good food, and a favorite of the staff here. Sometimes I think of Dupont as a food desert, but the newly remodeled Firefly is another option. It's always very intimate, and the decor is definitely eye-catching.

All right guys, we're beat. Thanks so much for joining us, be sure to check the Going Out Guide, and the Holiday Guide for everything you need to know about the coming week (including how to entertain those pesky in-laws Thanksgiving week). We're off next week, so have a fabulous Thanksgiving, and we'll see you on Nov. 29.

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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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