Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Aug 23, 2012

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

Hi everyone. Welcome to another getting-close-to-the-end-0f-summer edition of Got Plans. We're stoked today because we're giving away two pairs of tickets to the Shakespeare Theatre's performance of "All's Well That Ends Well" on Friday, Aug. 31. While everyone else is waiting in line outside the box office for a limited number of tickets or anxiously entering the online lottery for seats, you can breeze in right before the 8 p.m. show.

To win, we're asking you what you'd do in Penn Quarter or Chinatown with those hours that would otherwise be spent waiting in line. Treat yourself to dinner? Browse historic sites? Our two favorite answers will each take a pair of tickets.

Ready? Let's go.

Forgive me, but I'm new to the area. Just saw that Arena Stage will have My Fair Lady starting in November. Went to buy 4 tickets and realized that the tickets were $109 each. Wow. The DC stage scene must have a very high opinion of itself that the rest of the country does not. Can you point me to any good local theatre groups with more reasonable prices? Thanks.

Welcome to Washington! So, I'm going to address the stage scene first: Prices aside, the D.C. theater scene is one of the strongest in nation -- quite a few Broadway productions, stretching from the very first "West Side Story" to the more recent "Follies" and "Next to Normal" to the revival of  "Ragtime" (which began at Arena) were effectively birthed here. And, you should know that theater after theater in Washington have rebuilt, renovated, and created amazing spaces to see theater in the past few years. 

Okay, back to  pricing. I can completely understand the frustration with ticket prices. Here are a few tips: Almost every theater  offers several levels of pricing, including a pay-your-age ticket for those under 30 at Arena Stage. Read the fine print closely at all the theaters you're interested in visiting, and if you can't figure out which could apply to you, call the box office, and they'll walk you through it.  Second, there are ticket services including Goldstar and Ticket Place, which offer deeply discounted tickets on performances that aren't full -- I like to say that I saw "Fela!" tickets on Goldstar way before the show was getting buzz, so the folks who got in on that deal really got a steal. (Sign up for the e-mail; everything from Cirque to Arena performances to, uh, Michael Bolton at the Howard have been in the recent blasts I've received.) And finally, yes, there are lots of excellent theatre troupes in town, and they do charge less, typically. Can I recommend you check out the Kennedy Center's (free) upcoming Page to Stage festival on Labor Day weekend? The festival includes many local theater companies doing staged readings  testing out material you'll likely see on stage in the coming year. You can get a sense of which ones you like there.

Hi Gurus, My BFF and I are headed to Annapolis for the day on Saturday (8/25) for a day out by the water. Any nice places for lunch and/or dinner? Also looking for a nice outdoor setting where we can sit and catch up, preferably near the water. Since we're both pregnant with our fourths (hence the need for a getaway!), beer/wine lists aren't really important. Thanks in advance!!

The best waterfront views, in my opinion, are on the dock at Pusser's restaurant and bar in the Annapolis Marriott -- it's the kind of place where people tie their boats up at the bar. You have unobstructed views, for the most part, of people sailing into and out of Ego Alley. 

If you just want to sit in a park and catch up, my favorite "secret" spot for that is the little South Street Park a few blocks away from downtown: It's on Anne Lane between South Street and Charles Street. (You'll know you've found it when you see larger-than-life metal statues of geese.) There are benches facing the water, and a cool breeze coming in off Spa Creek.

Favorite spots for lunch and dinner are in Eastport, and include the boater hangout Boatyard Bar and Grill and the lively Rockfish seafood restaurant, though neither has much of a view.

I would grab a Mango flavored gelato at Pitango Gelato and go around to Woolly Mammoth lounge and use the free WiFi to catch up on email and old episodes of the Walking Dead on Netflix.

That Woolly Mammoth lounge is a great little secret, isn't it? Thanks for your suggestion.

With the money and time I would save, I would go to Madame Tussads (I have never been), take pictures of myself with all the wax replicas and post them for the GoGs and their fans for their entertainment. I would even consider (within reason) for special pose requests :)

Oh, we like this idea. Suggestions, chatters? (I have to admit I've never been to the D.C. Madame Tussauds either, and probably won't until they have a statue of Chuck Brown.)

To counterbalance the sophistication, I would take my new guy to my favorite whole-in-the-wall Chinese place and a dive bar. Any recommendations on which one? Is there a place a step above Rocket Bar but a step below Iron Horse? I don't want to scare him away, so we'd probably just do Iron Horse.

The Irish Channel? It's far enough off the beaten path that it's never as crowded as Fado (except during Police Week), the staff pours a mean Guinness, and there's live Irish music every weekend.

With a few hours to spare, how about grabbing a couple of friends and doing a celebrity chef bar crawl? Cocktails and bar snacks a la Wolfgang Puck (the Source), Mike Isabella (Graffiato) and Jose Andres (Oyamel and Zaytinya)...

This is a great idea. Thanks.

GOGs - what is the best option for visiting a winery and heading for a great lunch nearby - am open to drive around 2 hours from DC?

I'd recommend Purcellville -- it's an adorable town that's packed with wineries and restaurants (and it's only an hour from D.C.)  You can visit the new brewery and one or two wineries in the area that I wrote about here (I'll add that Sunset Hills is a beautiful estate, not in this story, but cool).  Plus there are  a lot of options for dining nearby. If you're looking for something casual, I'd check out the adorable Market Burger or eat a sandwich at Stoneybrook Farms Market (organic produce grown on the farm is used in the salads and sandwiches). And for finer dining, make a reservation at Grandale Farms (literally down the road from Breaux Vineyards) or Magnolias at the Mill.  I have more notes about the restaurants in this piece. And, if after all of this, you are still down to hike or hang out -- you're just a short drive from Harpers Ferry.

Hi Gurus, Can you recommend a restaurant, preferably within walking distance of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn (near Gateway Park), for a group dinner for about 20-25 people? We'd love to have a private room, but will settle for being able to sit together and hear one another talk. It's an appreciation dinner for our nonprofit group's board of directors, so we're looking for something nice but not super-expensive. Our conference is at the Holiday Inn the next day, hence the locale request. Thanks!

Rosslyn is really a bit of a restaurant void, especially if you want something nice with a private room; the places in the neighborhood that we usually recommend, Village Bistro and Guajillo, don't fit the bill for private or large-group dining. (Both are about half a mile from your hotel.)

I've done a group lunch at Piola, a trendy Italian pizza place -- really, it's a chain from Italy -- and that was fine and not too expensive, but I don't know if it's what you're looking for.

Chatters, I need your help on this one...

I would head over a little early and treat myself to the amazing happy hour deal at Wolfgang Puck's Source. After hh (which ends at 6), I would digest by playing video games at the American Art Museum's video game exhibit. And since that closes at 7, I would kill the last bit of time before the show by enjoying a margarita at Rosa Mexicano. It's right next to the theater!

This is a great little crawl, especially due to the video game exhibit (which everyone should take the time to see). 

I have to admit I like Fiola's happy hour a little better than the Source's, though.

OK, really. doesn't anyone know a shop that still develops old fashioned camera film (in this case 110mm?) Any suggestions appreciated

Sorry, we were completely drawing blanks on this -- but I just called Penn Camera (the Rockville location answered first) and they said they do develop film in the shop (they may send out special orders, including slides and perhaps your 110.) Give them a call.

Hey - I saw your post about the brewery giving tours in Takoma. I'm intrigued, because I live in Takoma, but I haven't had any of their beers, and it seems dumb to invest in a growler of beer I haven't tried. What are the beers like? Any good?

You can actually try all three of the 3 Stars beers before you buy. (There's a tasting room that shares space with a homebrew supply shop.) I tried all three of them during D.C. Beer Week, and my thought was that you can tell the brewery is brand new: Some of the beers were a bit uneven, and I heard people in the bar industry talking about "carbonation problems."

3 Stars does big beers -- a strong imperial porter, a Southern-style brown ale flavored with pecans -- but the saison, with flavors of citrus and peppercorns, was my favorite.

I was at Goldfish Thinking last night and overheard a young woman tell some other patrons that DC is the best place to work in theater in the US. The ratio of jobs to actors living in the area is the best so they have a better chance of actually working. Fewer opportunities than NYC, but less competition too. Agree with Goldstar and Ticket Place recommendations. Last night's show was a little odd but interesting (acting/directing/sound/lights/etc. all excellent), but it was "pay what you can" night and even on Saturday night the tickets are $18.

Thanks, yes -- I considered mentioning the actor thing. I cover theater quite a bit, and I have seen an explosion in the number of talented NYC actors who are finding great roles here (I can't help but think word-of-mouth will mean we'll see a lot more of that in the coming years). Studio's "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" for example, starred an actor who had understudied for the role on Broadway. Not a bad score at all. Not that D.C. doesn't have incredible performers -- just noting that out of town actors totally recognize the appeal of our audiences and our stages.  And to the reader who was looking for small troupes, consider this a recommendation for Longacre Lea.

I would buy a chocolate salty oat cookie from Teaism and visit the Farmers Market. After I would stare back at the Portraits.

The plain ones get all the glory, but the chocolate salty oat cookies are a revelation. Love the farmers market idea (but for all the readers wanting to steal the idea, the market is on Thursdays!)

CVS will still develop film

Thanks! I knew the brilliant GoG readers would come through - again, I'd call first about that 110 film format.

taking an afternoon adventure to National Harbor on Sat - is there enough stuff to entertain two 20-somethings for a few hours? any recommendations for lunch there (preferably something we won't be able to find in DC/MD suburbs)? thanks!

I think a few hours is just enough time for National Harbor. (You can see our guide to the neighborhood here.) Grab lunch right on the water at McLoone's, wander through the waterfront gardens at the Gaylord, browse the boutiques and shops. If you're feeling outdoorsy, you can rent kayaks and paddle boards right at the dock. (You can also take a quick ferry jaunt over to Old Town Alexandria, too.)

Check out La Chaumiere in Georgetown. 1 mile walk but they do have a private room and have been great when I've done luncheons there.

Thanks for the suggestion -- that would be a great spot for the private dinner.

There's Amuse at the Meridien Hotel (formerly Paloar Kimpton). It has a semi-private dining room and killer view of Georgetown from the patio. Of course, hotel restaurants are known to be pricey but mayb they would be willing to work within a certain budget. China Garden could be an interesting, and not too pricey, dinner option as well. Good luck!

I thought about Amuse, but I haven't eaten there since it was the Palomar. You're right about the killer view of Georgetown, though. Has anyone else been?

How about doing a walking tour of important Lincoln-related sites? You could hit the Building Museum (site of his inaugural ball), Ford's Theater (for obvious reasons), and even the Surratt House (now Wok N Roll, where the conspirators hatched their plan). While touring these sites, you could keep an especially keen eye out for clues that Honest Abe did fact spend his free time slaying the undead. Or at least that he trained extensively for fourth-inning dashes at Nationals Park.

The nerd in me really likes this answer.

Hi gurus. I have a friend passing through DC for 1 night in September (a Friday). This is her first time to DC, so my friends and I would like to make it a fun "DC" night (we'll be a group of 6-8). I'm thinking dinner, then drinks somewhere else, and then on to more drinks/dancing. The only thing we've thought of so far, is making the drinks portion at POV...I'm sure the view will be a hit. Suggestions for dinner before? Somewhere with a fun atmosphere. Also, wIll we need reservations to hit the bar @ POV?

If you have a party of five or more, reservations are required to enjoy the roof. (Call 202-661-2452 to talk to someone about this.) I'd say reservations at the Source (a splurge) or the Hamilton would be good for dinner.

With the extra time, I would head with my GF to The Passenger for some well-crafted cocktails before partaking in some relaxing mini-golf at the National Building Museum, catching the last week it's available.

"Relaxing" is NOT the word I would use for mini-golf at the Building Museum.

I have a big birthday coming up and I'd really like to get away for a few days. I'd like something pretty nice, but more luxury cabin as opposed to a resort. We'll be driving, so within 3-4 hours of DC is ideal. Any suggestions for a super-nice, celebratory get-away? Bonus if it is pet-friendly!

I'm headed down to Deep Creek for Labor Day, and all the houses we looked at were gorg -- hot tubs, wood floors, on the lake. Did i mention hot tubs? On the lake?  I love the idea of spending a birthday that way.  Another option: Berkeley Springs. Check VRBO for homes at Deep Creek (there are plenty of cool options, and I'm sure the prices go down a little after Labor Day, too), and in Berkley Springs, check VRBO and Berkeley Springs Cottage Rentals.

Great list of rooftop bars, love it thanks. But what would suggest for a great happy hour - but not have to wait in line on a weekday?

Rooftop happy hours with cheap drinks and no big lines: the $4 margaritas on the roof at El Centro DF, $3 beers at DC9, cheap cocktails and Washington Monument views at 1905.

Ray's to the Third is walkable. There's a Chinese place in the WJLA building, too.

We talked about Ray's to the Third/Ray's3 in the office, and we weren't sure how you'd get 25 people in there in a private/semi-private area, but it could work with some creativity, and the food is great.

Do you know if any party buses will be going to the Reston wine festival on September 8th? I'd like to go but driving won't be an option....thank you!

Unfortunately, I haven't seen a single party bus going to the Great Grapes festival. You may have to arrange your own travel for this own.

Last day of Jazz in the Garden, duh!

I would grab a unique cocktail at PS7's, the restaurant my husband took me to the night he proposed. Then i'd go to the Crime & Punishment museum because I don't care if you think it's for tourists, I like reading the creepy details and then pointing out all the typos in the displays (seriously, watch for that next time you go). Then I would bookend the time with another drink--a classic margarita at Oyamel. Extra time or less money? Skip Crime & Punishment in favor of hitting the Archives and finding Fidel Castro's boyhood letter written to President Roosevelt; find the portrait of Stephen Colbert at the Portrait Gallery; grab a cupcake at Red Velvet (in any flavor but red velvet).

Hello, Can you please tell us a couple of your favorite places to rent kayaks outside of the city? Willing to drive an hour or so from Arlington. Thanks!

Oh, has to be Pohick Bay. They do great tours, and they just have so much wildlife to see. Amy Orndorff wrote a story about one of the tours couple of years ago. But you can also upright paddleboard!

I would celebrate my birthday with my 3 year old and her dad and grandparents prior to the show. Pizza and great beers at District of Pi, then Art of Video Games and other exhibits at the Portrait Gallery and Museum of Art followed by ice cream and splashing in the fountains till the musuem closes. After sending the grandparents and daughter home, we'd see the show and then hit my two favorite after-hours places -- Irish Channel and Eat First for late night amazing chinese. (And it really is my birthday on the 31st)

Ooh, grandparents, a daughter AND a birthday? This one is tugging on the heartstrings.

Okay, this is a wrap. Thanks for all the help with Rosslyn restaurant suggestions and the fantastic Penn Quarter/Chinatown itineraries. After a quick Guru powwow, we're going to give the tickets to:

1. The reader who wants to revisit her proposal before going to check out creepy things at the Museum of Crime and Punishment.

2. The reader who wants to spend her birthday with her family eating pizza, splashing in fountains and going for late-night Eat First.

Send your contact info to and I will make sure you're on the list for the show.

Thanks, everyone. We'll be back here next Thursday to solve all those pressing pre-Labor Day plans.


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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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