Got Plans? The Going Out Gurus discussed Washington restaurants, nightlife, weekend outings and more.

May 31, 2012

Got Plans? The Going Out Gurus discussed fashion, nightlife, weekend outings and more.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a kid-centric version of Got Plans. Don't worry -- we'll still answer your questions about happy hours and rooftop bars and Ocean City (if you have them), but we've got two family-focused guests with us today. Jessica McFadden is the author of A Parent in Silver Spring, who writes about fun outings with her three children. Weekend Section editor Amy Joyce, who contributes to our site's On Parenting blog, is here to talk about her adventures with her two boys.

Oh, and Restaurants editor Justin Rude is also here to talk food and dining. Ready to begin? We are.

Are any bars in DC doing parties to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?

Two that I know of: Public House No. 7 in Falls Church -- a classic British pub -- is hosting an all-day party on Saturday with live music and food and drink specials. In D.C., the Queen Vic will be celebrating from Saturday to Wednesday with Pimms Cups, royal toasts and special menu items. They'll also be showing the Jubilee coverage on all the TVs.

I have a toddler who LOVES large vehicles. Is there anywhere he can actually get IN a school bus, construction vehicle or firetruck?

Mom of two boys here, I totally get that truck and bus thing. (Not that it's just a boy thing at ALL.) I took my older one when he was a tot to the truck touch event at RFK. And it looks like you're in luck, one is coming up in June.

Jessica has a lot of other thoughts, too. (Of course!)

The Montgomery County Fair, every August, and other summer fairs in the area, usually have an emergency vehicle exhibit where kids can climb in and explore!

While I'm not lucky enough to be going to Savor, as a lover of craft beer, I was hoping to take advantage of Savor related events coming up next week. Anything look particularly good? Affordable? Thanks!

I'm in the middle of putting together our annual Savor best-of list, and putting a few dozen events online. (My preliminary list has nine events on Thursday alone.) Should be up today or early tomorrow.

If you're looking for a Savor-style seminar experience, check out Scion's party on Wednesday. Called Savor Our Suds, it offers hour-long sessions with tastings led by the brewers from 21st Amendment, Boulevard, Elysian, Nebraska, Two Brothers and Uinta. Should be a great way to get up close and personal; tickets are on sale here.

As a fellow mommy blogger myself,  I am always keeping an eye out on preschool and toddler activities in the Metro DC area. I find its hard to find activities that reach both interests and that there is less avaliable for these age groups. Any suggestions for the summer months?

It's a fine time to create your own mom-camp, I say. Playgrounds, spraygrounds, cool museums, the IMax (Air and Space has a Sesame Street movie). SO many things to do -- even if they aren't organized activities. Though I know there are those, too. Jessica?

Check with your local mall or town center for kids/parent programs during the day and in the early evenings. These free events have kids' performers, crafts, activities, even kids-eat-free deals for meals. We love the weekly events at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike, the Rio, Reston Town Center, etc.

I believe that is the correct term for what looks like surf board, except you paddle, instead of surf. Is thre any place around here where we could try it?

Stand-Up Paddleboarding is taught a few places in D.C., including the Columbia Island Marina ( and Jack's Boathouse ( I haven't tried it here, but if you're going to the beach this summer, Coastal Kayak in Fenwick Island also offers beginner lessons.

We have a 6 month old baby and would like to do something as a family every weekend. Do you have any suggestions?

Congrats on your baby! The great thing about a 6 month old is YOU are still in charge, and baby can come along for the ride :). Of course, loud concerts and such are out. But if you would like baby to be boss (you're so good!) for a variety of different outings and day trips, you could peruse my list of 100 Things to Do With Kids in DC,  as well as GOG's kids section.

I was just saying to someone here that one of my favorite things to do with my older son when he was about that age (now almost 5, sniff), was to go to the National Gallery and let him take in all the big sculptures, paintings, waterfall at the cafe, etc. He loved the Calder mobiles in particular. Our own Anne Kenderdine said she and her little one had a great visit to the Annie Leibovitz exhibit (now gone) at the Corcoran because the faces were huge and compelling. Essentially, find things you like to do. Your baby will love them for his/her own reasons. You'll have a flood of kid-like activities as your baby gets older.

Hi! One of my best friends is coming back to DC for a week after moving to the West Coast. About a dozen of us are going out Saturday night-- any suggestions for a good bar, maybe on U Street? Fun music and an outdoor seating area/terrace would be great, but we'd still like to be able to hear one another talking. Thanks!

Depends on the vibe you're looking for, especially with a group of 12. (Masa 14 is cool for drinks and small plates on the rooftop deck, but the tables are for 4-6 people, tops.) I'd try El Centro D.F. for frozen margaritas on the rooftop bar, maybe the Island's patio for tropical drinks, the sometimes-crowded back patio at Vinoteca for more adult glasses of wine -- probably the easiest place on this list to hear yourself talk -- or maybe the new rooftop at 1905, which I just blogged about before Memorial Day.

What's the age group like there? Will it be mostly people in their 20's, or can the 30's and 40's crowd fit in as well? - Approaching 30

The funny thing about hipster pool parties is that a lot of people have been going to Brightest Young Things events since the early 2000s (back in the blogspot/MySpace days) and have aged along with the site. You will see plenty of people there in their 30s and 40s, and some still rage as hard as the kids.

All knowing gurus, are there any places open during happy hour (and I guess they don't necessarily have to have happy hour specials, just be open) that serve champagne cocktails??? I'm trying to impress a champagne-loving friend!

Would your friend be impressed by a happy hour where a sommelier slashes a bottle of champagne with a saber, and then serves the bubbly inside to the assembled guests? That happens every day at the St. Regis hotel. I've been a few times. It's very cool.

Other places that have super champagne cocktails include Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Fiola and P.O.V.

My husband and I aren't on the kids track yet, but several of our friends are. Yet, as I'm sure has happened to everyone, once our friends become parents we never see them again. I've tried to invite these friends to events both inclusive of their kids (e.g. cookout) and exclusive (I do give a few weeks notice and e.g. drinks, movie), but to no avail. I know kids can change the situtation dramatically, but do you have ideas fo rme to try and get my friends back out there? Do you have some benign ideas for something we can invite our friends with their kids (generally the kids are under the age of 3) to?

You are so considerate! Summer is a great time to meet up with friends with kids -- the kiddos can stay up later and there are lots of outdoor meet-up options. We enjoy meeting up with single friends and cool couples at outdoor music venues with early evening shows. Jazz in the Garden, Strathmore's free summer concerts, Fort Reno and the like are great for all ages. (Earn big aunt/uncle points and bring bubbles and cookies for the kids.)

And coming from someone who loves to go out and enjoy things, but sometimes just gets overwhelmed at the idea of getting my kids out then being afraid they may, as you say, change the situation, maybe set up all the details. And emphasize that you WANT the kids there. Just sayin'. These things Jessica mentions are so great with kids, but you may want to tell your friends that their kids can run a little free and will enjoy it too. Also, find a place not far from where these friends live. You are a good friend!

I have a friend moving to the area; she'll be living in Takoma Park (MD), an area where I don't think I've ever been. Any suggestions for dinner and drink locations? Being local, I'm charged with selecting a meet-up location, but have no idea what to suggest in the area. Help!

Takoma is blah for food and (especially) drinks. Head a little over a mile west to Silver Spring for creative and classic cocktails and snacks at Jackie's Sidebar, or beers, fried food and dancing to honky tonk music at Quarry House Tavern.

My husband and I switch roles in the summer: he becomes the stay-at-home parent while I work full-time. Since I know keeping busy is the way to beat boredom with two small boys, I'd love to give him a list of things to do. My job would be easier if you've already done it for me. Have you? :)

GOG Kids & my blog are good places to find options and events in the summer - both have calendar search options. Your local library and nature center should really ramp up the summer events with increased and extra-fun programming for kids. My kids and I also love to take tours -- our local recycling center, the Capitol -- and hit pick-your-own farms for berries & summer fruit (groceries AND kid fun!). Hope that gets your family calendar started for summer!

Our favorite go-to, when we can, is the zoo DURING THE WEEK. There's a playground, petting zoo area and, of course, the usual lions, tigers and bears. Get a list of the playgrounds and spraygrounds near you together as the answer to any day. We love Clemyjontri and Glen Echo. Both have carousels. And don't forget the great parks with actual mini train rides: Wheaton Regional, Cabin John. Christina Barron did a nice round up of trains and carousels for us, too. Not sure where you live, but  Brookside Gardens is another great one and they have a ton of fun activities for kids.

For the parent looking to get her toddler IN a firetruck, just go to your local firehouse! I think that most of them are really kid friendly.

Yes! The volunteer houses especially. (But call first, I've learned, as they are sometimes understaffed.) Many local ones do birthday parties too and have open houses/breakfasts/events in summer. Great suggestion.

Hey! I asked for a good suggestion last week regarding a corporate happy hour private bar area. Irish Whiskey totally came through--great space, good prices, plenty of food, and the staff couldn't have been more helpful. I highly recommend. Hopefully we'll go back soon, but if they want something new, I know who to ask. Thanks!

Glad to hear Irish Whiskey worked out for you. I've heard from others who've done private whiskey tastings in the upstairs bar and had a great experience.

Are your hours kid-friendly? It sounds like Jessica is okay with keeping her kids up late, but mine (a 4-year-old and 10-month-old) just don't do well past 7 or 8. So if you're doing a BBQ, consider starting at 5, even if you feel like you're 80 years old eating that early. Also, avoid the early-afternoon nap time. Again, in my experience, we try to avoid activities right after lunch because the kids are just miserable if awake. Just my two cents.

Yep, a good point to consider. Thank you!

A friend told me about canal boat rides in Georgetown, but when I check the park service site it doesn't list them. Are they being down by a private company now?

As far as we know, the canal boat rides are still happening this summer.  They are historic and classic Georgetown, but I have to say, I find them pretty stinky. Those mules and their road apples on a 90 degree day are not for the squeamish.

Hi Gurus - I'm about to embark on a year of crappy medical stuff, and I want to get away one last weekend with my boyfriend before it starts. Ideas for something not crazy expensive that won't take more than about 2 hours to get to? Would love a beach, but don't want to spend my Friday night in Bay Bridge traffic. Just want, someplace to swim (pool is fine), and something moderately interesting to see or do when we feel like leaving the hotel. We don't have a car, but could rent or borrow one. Any suggestions?

I would send you down to the Charlottesville/Staunton/Afton part of Virgina, honestly. Tons to see and do, from Civil War sites to pick-your-own orchards to (obviously) brewery and winery tours. (We did a guide to the latter outings.)

What got me thinking about this was that when I was writing the story, the brewmaster from Devil's Backbone was raving about the public swimming holes in and around Charlottesville. We have a link to a few of them in that story...

My husband and I are going to see a band at Red Palace on a Saturday night in a couple weeks. We are not too familiar with the area beyond H St Country Club; is there a good place in the area to get wine or cocktails where we could sit down and talk while drinking before the show (7-8:30ish)?

My favorite quasi-quiet spot for early-evening drinks on H Street is the Atlas Room, where the cocktails are well-made classics and the wine is beyond the neighborhood's usual by-the-glass selection. Plus it's dark, intimate and just right for a date.

If it's crowded -- and it often is -- then I'd head for Church and State, the unmarked bar above Fruit Bat.

We visited my father in Falls Church and he took us to Frying Pan Park where they have animals, milking demonstrations, a tractor ride, and a carousel. Our toddler loved it.

That is such a great park! Glen Echo for a carousel + kid-friendly performance at The Puppet Co. or Adventure Theatre, Clemjontry Park for loads of playgrounds and carousel, and Clark's Elioak Farm for animals & hayrides are also super multi-activity kid destinations.

I'm looking for some authentic tiki drinks this summer. I know the Passenger makes them occasionally, but anywhere else?

Maybe it's because I live in Silver Spring (and enjoy Rennaissance Fests) but we dig the grog and pseudo-tiki drinks at Piratz Tavern. The outdoor patio is fun and the people watching often bizarro-fab. (You can also bring kids before bedtime.)

Hi Gurus - My knees are asking for more running trails that are gravel/dirt/grass rather than pavement. I run at Burke Lake often and just discovered the gravel towpath at MD Great Falls. Do you know of other non-pavement options? (Preferably in NoVA area because it's convenient after work but any suggestions welcomed!)

If you do want to venture into DC, Rock Creek Park has miles and miles of non-pavement options. (Although my personal experience with that is watching all the runners glide past me as I trudge through.)

We also had this helpful story about trail running. Hope that helps.

Hi Gurus! I had to stay in D.C. for Memorial Day, but I will definitely be putting your beach guide to use this weekend! My question concerns brewery tours. How would you rank them, especially for people who like drinking beer but don't know much about it? Do any of the breweries offer food or restaurants in addition to beer? Thanks for your help!

Lucky you. (I got back from five-and-a-half days at the beach and am already daydreaming about the next trip.) I covered the busy Delmarva brewery scene in one part of the Beach Guide. Dogfish Head is the must-do, if you can swing it: Tours almost always need to be booked in advance, and frequently are at capacity. (On the flip side, a friend and I dropped by without a reservation back in April and got what amounted to a private tour because no one else had signed up for that time slot.)

Dogfish gives you a top-to-bottom tour of the brewery, plus samples of four draft beers, all for free.

On a much smaller scale, the up-and-coming 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown (about 30 minutes from Bethany) offers free tours on Saturdays, and they have a large tap room with all their beers on draft, but no food.

Evolution hasn't started tours since it moved from Delaware to Salisbury earlier this year, but they have a stocked tasting room and a fantastic locavore restaurant.

Dear Gurus, My husband and I are celebrating a 5-year anniversary and would like to get away from DC some time in the coming few weekends. We only have one evening and night free, so it would be great to go somewhere quiet and nice that is not too far away. Cost is less of an issue than distance. Any ideas for someplace close to nature AND close to DC? Thanks!

Congrats! I love weekend getaways. (Ahem.) I also love that DC is so central to so many things. Annapolis might be good for a quick getaway, or a little further afield to the Eastern Shore. We had a great (quick) get away to the Inn at Perry Cabin once. Great views, on the water, in St. Michaels. We have also stayed at on Tilghman Island and took a skipjack ride. Both of these places are less than two hours away, depending on traffic.

See my Staunton/Charlottesville questions above, but I also second Amy's suggestion of Annapolis. You can take one of the day-long sailing trips to St. Michael's and wander around there, or stay in Annapolis and enjoy the historic homes and gardens. (You're also not far from some great parks, including Quiet Waters and London Towne, if you need more great outdoors.)

For dining and activities in Annapolis, check out our Annapolis Neighborhood Guide.

I remember reading earlier this year that the mule-drawn boat rides have been discontinued due to the poor condition of the boat. Here's an article from March discussing it:

You're right, actually! The Georgetown one closed, but the Great Falls one is still up and running. It's about 14 miles (by road!) from Gtown. Maybe it's not as stinky.

I'm starting to plan a mid-week day trip to Ocean City, and I'm looking for recommendations on places to eat lunch on or just off the boardwalk, anywhere from about 20th Street down to the Inlet.

My picks would include the wings or a pound of streamed shrimp and a pitcher of beer at Pepper's, the pit beef sandwiches at Bull on the Beach on 2nd Street, or any of the seafood dishes at Bombora, which has the advantage of a large patio looking at the Boardwalk.

I've got a "date" with a girlfriend Saturday but we have yet to plan anything... anything going on in the area that would be much more fun without husbands? Bonus points if it involves photography (we're both hacks, but learning), champagne, or both!

How about a day of people-watching and picture-taking in Dupont Circle? Take photos in the Circle and of the buildings on Embassy Row, do a little window shopping, and hit the bottomless mimosa brunch at Urbana...

Are there any airshows this summer in the DC area?

Looks like the Blue Angels are in Virginia Beach this weekend, the Thunderbirds have a show in Ocean City in June. The big Andrews Air Force show just passed, unfortunately, but the College Park Aviation Museum also has events and fly -ins.

Hi Gurus! My dept at work is going on a team bonding day in the Virginia Square area. Any suggestions for where we should go for lunch afterwards?

Ballston's Rustico is probably my first choice, even if, you know, you're working and you shouldn't be partaking of the excellent beer list. Good flatbreads and salads, and a brisket cheesesteak.  Not far away is Tutto Bene -- your classics old-school Italian joint.

The Blue Angels will be in Baltimore for the Sailabration June 16-17.

Nice, thanks so much!

I've heard about this BBQ showdown in Fort Washington, MD and have been meaning to attend for a few years now. This year I haven't heard much chatter about it which is making me second guess whether I should attend this Saturday. Any insight into or review on what I can expect at this event, being that it is in PG County?

First off, don't diss P.G. County on this chat.

It's a free party at the Tucker Road park in Fort Washington with live go-go from Sugar Bear and EU, a car show and tons of barbecue. (If you think you know how to grill, this is one of those days when you will realize that you don't actually know anything.)

I was hearing chatter about it earlier this year, as Chuck Brown was supposed to perform, but it quieted down as word got out about his illness.

If you like barbecue but don't like the high costs/fees/sponsors that surround the National Capital Barbecue Battle, I'd send you to the Showdown.

We have quite a bit of friends that have boys (ages 4 - 10). Do you have ideas for some events in the next couple of weeks that would entertain parents AND boys between the ages of 4 and 10?

Boys love zip-lines, right? The Adventure Park in Sandy Spring just opened up new courses for kids as young as 5, and parents/adults can join.

Not sure about the parents, but there's always laser tag. Bailey's Crossroads has one. Jessica says Shadowland Adventures has several locations in the area. And what about a baseball game?

Justin, I'm wondering what your reaction was to Tyler Cowen's article in the weekend Outlook section on the D.C. food scene. I found the article to be condescending, a bit racist, and not terribly well informed. The central thesis of the author, that D.C.'s dining scene is not very good overall, and is best enjoyed by sampling newish restraunts before they have a chance to start declining, would seem to go against a large amount of evidence to the contrary (as well as common sense). The author also stated that the city doesn't have much good ethnic food, and that the local scene is harmed by a disproportionate amount of young people who don't place a premium on quality. These statements just seem outrageous and wildly off-base. We may be a city with a large number of young people, but most are highly educated, high earners who are well travelled. Not a population that one would associate with low food standards or a lack of interest in diverse food experiences.

Well said. I don’t need a lot of space because you have already eloquently stated many of my own thoughts on the piece. Not that he doesn’t make any good points, but most of those were fairly predictable. Yes, you can get better Asian food in Suburban Virginia and Maryland than you can in the District. But how many reasonably informed local diners were surprised by that nugget? The author doesn’t seem concerned with the difference between eating and dining. And again, I have some sympathy for that perspective. Some of my favorite food experiences involve Styrofoam containers and roadside shacks. But his economic dining methods don’t account for those fine dining restaurant intangibles that can turn an impromptu night on the town into a truly memorable date.

I know you get tons of questions about Bachelorette parties but here's one I'm stumped on. I'm coming up with the gift bags for a bachelorette party that we're having here in DC in a few weeks - we've got the "normal" stuff covered with granola bars, bottles of water, etc. I was hoping to come up with something unique to throw in that is very "DC." I don't want to spend more than $3-5 a piece but any ideas on something that would work?

Metro maps? Mumbo sauce? (There are places that sell it online.) Those great little touristy DC pins to make them look so very cool.

Do you have any suggestions for a place near Metro Center or Gallery Place where 6-8 people can get together for a short meeting? We probably won't order food, but each person will get a drink (happy hour specials would be nice, but not necessary). Most importantly, we need somewhere quiet enough where we can hear each other talk. In the past we've met at Capital City Brewery and Hamiltons, but both were too loud. This would be a Monday night probably around 6:30pm. Thanks!

Upstairs at Clyde's would be my first pick. Usually quiet enough for a meeting, and there's a large bar area. I'd think the outdoor courtyard space at Poste would also work if the weather is nice -- there's plenty of garden furniture you could use for a group that size.

For someone looking to lunch on the OC Boardwalk, its 4 blocks down talbot for MR Ducks which can be great when its not crowded, as you are sitting right on top of the water. When it is crouded, it is a different kind of great.

All true. And then you can go to the Harbor Inn, "the oldest bar in Ocean City" -- a dive with $1.50 drafts and a 50-cent pool table.

Hi Gurus. I know this is more of a Tom question, but I have foodie friends from Chicago coming in tomorrow night and we will be going out to dinner. (Hopefully, their flight won't be canceled like mine was on Tuesday night!) I was thinking of taking them to Little Serow, but I don't think standing outside with umbrellas is a good idea since the weather forecast is calling for rain and thunderstorms. What are some places out by IAD that are worth the drive from Arlington in the rain? Thanks!

If you still want to do Little Serow, they do have the wonderful practice of texting you when your table is ready, so you could just go to the non-rainy Hank's Oyster Bar for a drink and an appetizer (or some other place nearby).

As for restaurants near IAD... ? Anyone? Anyone?


So, first of all, you won't get anything like the experience that Little Serow offers. It really is a unique (to this area) thing that Johnny Monis has going on there. That having been said, you can dine very well closer to the airport at Nostos in Tysons (contemporary Greek) and Maple Avenue Restaurant (Globally-inspired American) in Vienna. If you are looking for something on the new side, you can head into Arlington where the Green Pig Bistro is cooking up soul-soothing, nose-to-tail Southern fare.

Thanks for another lively Thursday, everyone, and extra special thanks to our guests Jessica McFadden and Amy Joyce. We'll see you back here next Thursday.

In This Chat
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.
Jessica McFadden
Jessica McFadden is the author of the popular blog "A Parent in Silver Spring," which suggests fun activities and outings for families.
Amy Joyce
Amy Joyce has been at The Post, well, for a long time. Her first foray in to online chats were related to work. Now she's happy to chat about fun (but would like to believe the two can be one). An editor for Weekend and the Going Out Guide, she is particularly interested in movies, things to do with kids and things she can do on that rare date night. When not at work, she can be seen dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
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