Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Sep 27, 2012

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

Hi everyone. We're looking ahead to the first full week of fall -- and temps are supposed to be in the low 80s today, then in the mid-70s on Saturday and Sunday, which sounds perfect. How will you be enjoying these cooler days and nights?

I would like to watch the presidential debate next week at a bar. Do you know of any that are doing anything special for debate watch? (I'd prefer a left-leaning audience, i.e. tuned to MSNBC not Fox). Thanks!

In tomorrow's Weekend Section, Justin and I are tackling debate-watching parties and bars and restaurants holding "elections" of their own. (i.e., you buy a blue cocktail and it's tallied as a "vote" for Democrats.) For those on the blue side of the aisle, debate viewing doesn't get more sympathetic than Busboys and Poets or (maybe) the Pug.

Seeing David Byrne and St. Vincent this Sunday. I see there are some nice restaurants nearby ( Black Market, Addies), but is there something near where you can get a quick, cheap bite that isn't fast food. maybe something ethnic like Indian, Thai, or Mexican. Thanks!

You're not far from Rockville's Amina Thai, which serves halal Thai dishes.

Dearest GOGs, I would like to organize a workplace happy hour at a bar with a great wine selection. I think the usual great wine bars like Cork or Vinoteca won't be able to accommodate a group of 15-20 people. Are there any larger bars that have an emphasis on great wine selections? As long as it's within downtown (anywhere from Foggy Bottom to Capitol Hill to U Street).

Fritz suggests the upstairs room at Vinoteca,  Bistro 'd Oc, and I'd consider Sonoma in Capitol Hill, which is spacious (call ahead, we've heard they may ask you to rent a room  for the group). Finally, Veritas has a lot of breadth in their menu, food and warm servers -- you might call over there and see if they can accommodate you.

As the topic suggests, I am a lover of pumpkin ale. Where can I go in the city to find different pumpkin ales on tap? I've tried a few already, but there are all in bottles. Thanks!

I haven't seen too many places with multiple pumpkin beers on side-by-side, but there are some events coming up that should have numerous orange-fruit beers. Starting Monday, all three Pizzeria Paradiso locations will turn every one of their taps to fall beers for Autumn Fest: This means Oktoberfest beers, harvest ales, pumpkin beers, etc.

Next Wednesday, Jack Rose is hosting its annual Return of the Living Gourd, which will feature 10 pumpkin beers on draft. 

I love walking tours (even in the rain!), so I always try to participate in as much of Walking Town DC as I can schedule. I checked the list and there are several walks in Southwest that appear to be brand new this year. Apparently there is some new development happening there that is completely off my radar. And as always, lots of wonderful sounding Lincoln walks. So many choices, so little time! So, please help me decide how to best spend my time. Are there any tours that you Going Out Gurus especially recommend? Thank you!

For those who don't know, the fall Walking Town DC (and Biking Town DC) are back this Saturday and Sunday, and offer tours through neighborhoods across D.C.  I actually think you might try two strategies: One, pick tours led by folks who are professional guides or who come back year after year (like the popular Temperance Tour); two, try a neighborhood or historical subject you know absolutely nothing about, so you can get the most out of your journey.  I've got my eye on "Beautiful, Creepy, and Fascinating: Two Hundred Years of Congressional Cemetery,"  the “River Farms to Urban Towers” Neighborhood Heritage Trail walk in Southwest, which has changed dramatically in recent years, to the point that the waterfront (leading down to Yards Park to the east) is being developed, restaurants and highrises are moving in. It's a great way to get acquainted with a neighborhood we might all be spending more time in coming years. And then there's one of my favorites over the years, "Rowdies, Madams, and Painted Women: An Adults-Only Tour of Hooker's Division," apleasant look back at D.C.'s seedy past. 

I'm headed to my first ever Navy game on Saturday. I'm not too familiar with Annapolis. We'd like to eat at a restaurant before the game somewhat close by without having to move the car too much. Any suggestions/Tips/Pointers are appreciated!

Do you have a parking pass? Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is about 1 to 1.5 miles from downtown Annapolis, where most of the restaurants are. (The closest option, I think, is a shopping center by the Westin hotel where there's a Fado Irish Pub. )

If you haven't paid for a Navy parking pass, I would park downtown, eat at Red Red Wine, Galway Bay, maybe Tsunami, and then get a bus to the stadium. Info about buses and transit is linked on

Hi Gurus! I'm looking to take 5-6 of my girlfriends out for mani/pedis, do a little shopping and then grab drinks and dinner someplace - thinking perhaps Bethesda or Georgetown maybe? Any suggestions on a nice day spa or upscale-ish nail place that I can take the girls that might allow us to bring a little bubbly? How about a fun restaurant rec in the same area? Thanks!

The only salon I can think of where champagne is included in your mani is at Mimosa in Dupont Circle -- shopping is pretty non-exisistant (and I wouldn't call it upscale), but I thought I'd throw it out because they're good and have the largest collection of OPI colors Ive seen in town.  In Georgetown, you might check in with the very good/cute Vicky's, popular Polished or Nectar Skin Bar to see if they can accommodate your group and let you bring Champagne (though the prices can be a little higher at the latter, the environment is gorgeous.) Readers: Any one have a favorite place?  As for restaurants, if you head to the Georgetown salons, I'd make a reservation at Paolo's (if you're not up for a longish walk to M Street), but a better bet might be the hoppin' Bandolero on M Street for cocktails and queso fundido.  

The weather is so gorgeous all I want to do is be outdoors. At a fair. Any suggestions for this weekend? Or others we GOG-fans shouldn't miss this fall?

We're in the middle of prime fall festival territory, really.  The big one in D.C. this weekend is the SW Artsfest on the Southwest Waterfront, with free theater, free dance performances, a bike parade and an outdoor art festival. (It's followed, of course, by the ever-popular Opera in the Outfield.)

Next Saturday is Columbia Heights Day, which is totally hipsterfied these days, but still a pretty great day out. (Make sure you stop by the Bloombars Open House, Wonderland's patio and, of course, the Meridian Pint Oktoberfest Block Party.)

Last weekend Fireworks had one on tap and one on cask. But I'd check in with them, they seem to go quickly.

Cool, thanks. They've been popping up here and there, but outside of the Jack Rose event I mentioned, I haven't seen any place that's like "Here are 4-5 pumpkin beers side-by-side."

Think Black Squirrel is having a whole pumpkin themed event tomorrow night, including a least a handful of drafts.

Really? Grr. I have no knowledge of this. I will do some research and got something up on the blog.

A group of 5 friends is staying at the Gaylord National Harbor this weekend because of a convention, and some of us are scrimping on cash. I've never even been to National Harbor and it's been a long time since I've been to DC at all. What do you recommend walking distance or a short drive, preferably without parking cost, from Saturday afternoon to dinner, a night out, and Sunday? Some of the ideas I'm kicking around are the Torpedo Factory, Gravelly Point, walking around the waterfront at National Harbor during the free times Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Potbelly or the Tasting Room for dinner since Rosa's can't seat us until 10pm (!) and the bar on top of the Gaylord for evening. Are these good ideas? What else would be fun? Two of us are out-of-towners and three are far-out-suburban-dwellers who don't get into DC much if at all. We'd like to enjoy the best of it without leaving broke. Thanks for any ideas!!!

I think a zip over to Alexandria is a great idea to walk around and see what's there, and not just at Torpedo Factory, but maybe to get a gelato at Boccato, or pop into some shops for window-shopping...

At National Harbor, I'd sub in the Nando's for Potbelly, since the food is diverse (and better); it's easy for each person to pay their own way;  and it's still inexpensive. Another dirt-cheap dining option: Elevation Burger, which I actually like a lot, is in National Harbor. The Tasting Room is a great option, particularly because each person, again, can just pour their own wines and there's no awkward bill-splitting. If you're checking in Friday, we think you should hit the happy hour at McCloone's Pier House, on the water, because it's $5 martinis and discounted food.  Then, Fritz says,  definitely end the night at the bar on top of the Gaylord, because only guests of the hotel can get in, and the view is stunning. (Drinks won't be cheap, as they rarely are at hotel bars, FYI.) You also  could definitely kill an hour or two during the day exploring the enormous Gaylord and its gardens, walking down to the awakening and checking out shops. (Maybe make it your midday workout?) 

My fiance and I are very much city folk -- we live and work downtown and are well versed in the DC dining/night life scene. The suburbs? Notsomuch. In return for being dragged along to a work event (Sat 10/13) out near Dulles, my fiance asked me to pick a nicer and new-to-us restaurant where we can have dinner that evening afterwards. We'll be driving out so really that means anywhere in the Reston/Tysons/Falls Church/Vienna/Arlington/Alexandria range is game. I know that this is casting a wide net, but any chance you or chatters have a great suggestion or two? We're adventurous eaters who prefer to hit up spots like or Granville Moore's or Tabard Inn in DC for a nicer dinner for what it's worth. Thanks!

Yeah, that's a pretty big swath of burbs there. Let's throw out some places that aren't exactly like what you'll find in the city: Jacques Brasserie (the less-pricy addition to L'Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls),  Nostos (Greek in Tysons) and Seoul House (Korean in Fairfax).

Chatters? Please help expand our knowledge of NoVa dining in Justin's absence.

Do you know how much they cost? my parents are visiting from out of town and they may like this.

WalkingTown Tours are almost universally free and most require no reservations. (It's worth reading the schedule in advance in case they do want to see something that requires signing up in advance.)

Any suggestions for restaurants in Baltimore's Little Italy? I want to have dinner there Saturday night. Nothing too dressy please. Thanks!

Brandon Wiegel, Guru and resident Baltimorean, usually prefers the white-napkin service at Taco Bell, but he suggested Amicci's, which assures us, is delicious. And they're casual.

Gurus! Where can some thirsty teachers get a few cheap drinks and tasty snacks on a Friday at 3-3:30? We're looking at the Arlington/Cap Hill area. Lyon Hall is great for us but we need variety! And with the nice weather, somewhere outside if possible. Thanks- it's payday tomorrow!

Arlington and Capitol Hill, Arlington or Capitol Hill or anywhere between Arlington and Capitol Hill? That's really going to change my answer.

Just wanted to say thanks for all the advice from the chat a few weeks ago on nearby hiking trails. We ended up spending a few hours in Riverbend Park and down into Great Falls. Will be trying out many of your other suggestions in the coming weeks!

Great news, and glad you enjoyed them. Some more advice coming up right after this ...

Recently, you recommended nearby places to hike to someone who needed to break in new hiking boots. I want to add to your recommendations a couple of treasures in Loudoun County that are inexplicably virtually unknown even by county residents (and therefore never crowded.) Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve outside Leesburg has 20 miles of mostly flat hiking trails on over 700 acres. It's open every Saturday and Sunday from 8 AM to 4 PM. On October 20, it will host a 'Growing Native' project, to collect native hardwood seeds, nuts, and acorns from 9 AM to 12 NOON. The seeds will be used to restore streamside forests along Potomac waterways. Volunteers who want to help out are welcome to join in. Morven Park in Leesburg has trails on over 1,200 acres, as well as an historic mansion you can tour. The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in Neersville (on the way to Harpers Ferry) has over 10 miles of trails on over 900 acres. Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy frequently has (mostly FREE) nature walks and other programs and events at these 3 locations, including some in October. Check out the website at for more info. I've seen some maple trees already starting to dress in autumn colors. So come to Loudoun and enjoy uncongested nature! Loudoun Tree Hugger

Thanks, Lavanya, for recommending the brow powder by Anastasia a few weeks back. I ordered some and have been very happy with it--so much easier to use than the pencils and the ash blonde color is perfect for me. I have three chemo treatments left, so hopefully my eyebrows will be growing back in after that. Thanks again. :)

Yay! Thanks for writing back. I was at Sephora the other day and wondering about you - glad to hear it worked out.

We are big proponents of the Wegmeyer Pumpkin patch in Loudoun – it is the most sincere pumpkin patch ever. But circumstances will have us tasting wine in the Paris/Middleburg area – any recommendations for pumpkin farms out that’a way?

Corn Maze in the Plains is more than a maze -- it has tons of pumpkins, a country market, etc. You'll go for the pumpkins and get sucked in by the maze. Trust.

Arlington or Cap Hill.

Ah. That's a wide breadth of options there. If you're looking to talk, catch up and save a bit of money, I'm going to suggest the Whole Foods in Clarendon. I know. It's a supermarket. There's not much of scene. (Well, beyond the usual singles-at-Whole-Foods scene.) It's relatively calm, and the beer is like $2 or $3 a pint, which is great for your wallet. If the supermarket scene isn't for you, try Continental for skee-ball and discounted beer, and while you don't mention sex, the World of Beer in Ballston has half-price beer and cider for women on Thursday nights after 7 p.m. (Regular $1 off pricing before then.)

On the Hill, I like the new 201 Bar, which has half-price beer, cocktails and wine from 5 to 8. It's a little more grown up than Capitol Lounge or Tortilla Coast. 

Hello GOGs, Hoping for your wisdom on a fun afternoon activity for a six-year old girl, 15 year-old boy, sixteen year-old girl (kids barely know each other), and three adults. Any ideas for an easy crowd-pleaser this Sunday? Thanks!!

There are a lot of cool events this weekend, but many of the more family-friendly ones, including Opera in the Outfield, are on Saturday (not sure if you're flexible about which day you're all meeting). I think a visit to one of the more interactive museums can be a lot of fun: American History is one of my favorites. Also on tap on Sunday is Walkingtown DC -- may I recommend the "Lincoln Assassination" talk? That's a subject that's endlessly fascinating, and kids already know a little bit about. Finally, you might consider the Spy Museum, is another fascinating place to take the kids. Afterward, you can regroup at the Rosa Mexicano down the street.

I've got a 1 yo and 3 1/2 yo and want to head to a pumpkin festival one weekend in October. I live in NoVA, so would prefer to stay in NoVA, but we're open to closer in Maryland places. Looking for one that isn't TOO crazy/overwhelming, but has plenty of excitement, animals, food, pumpkins, etc. for our little bits. Tall order I know! Thanks!

Rest assured, we're going to bury all of you in an avalanche of pumpkin content in the weeks ahead, but in the meantime, I'd send you to a few of the usual suspects: Cox Farms in Centreville, which opens its fall festival on Saturday; Temple Hall Farm's Fall Festival and Corn Maize (har) gets underway in Leesburg this weekend too and is a bit less crazy than Cox; and then you've got the Pumpkin Patch at Hill High Farm in Winchester. 

My brother, sister-in-law are bringing the niece (5) and nephew (3) to visit the weekend of October 6th. They are arriving on Saturday and I think we will just try to hit the activities in downtown Bethesda (car show, Taste of, Recue Squad Open House) that day. Sunday we will probably go to the Mall but is there anything else in the downtown area on Sunday the 7th? If it was this weekend, I'd take them to the Turkish Festival...

It's not quite on the Mall, but that weekend is Artisphere's second anniversary, and Sunday is Free Family Day, with theater performances, puppets, painting and all kinds of events the kids would love.

Going to see Fly! at Ford's Theater tomorrow night. Cant wait - I've never been there. Any reco for a quick healthy bite to eat beforehand?

My usual pre-theater dining is across the street from Ford's at Bistro d'Oc, which offers lots of southern French seafood, but you're not far from Teaism and the new (and very healthy) Protein Bar.

I'm a Virginian who hates DC parking. Is there a free/cheap & easily reached parking lot relatively close to the Nat'l Gallery where I could then take a taxi to and from the museum? Can you recommend a taxi service?

There are really no free parking lots near the gallery, and absolutely no free parking on a Saturday in particular.

You could technically park at a Metro station closer to home -- how about Huntington station, then Metro to Archives, which will drop you with about two blocks of the West Wing of the gallery? Another option is to plan your visit for a Sunday morning, get there just before they open at 11 a.m. and the street parking will be plentiful and free (I swear). (Also, folks, this is the last time I will mention this publicly, or pretty soon D.C. will figure it out and start charging on Sundays. And I'll have to move to Peoria.) I have the most luck on Fourth Street and Seventh Street, or Madison, rather than on Constitution itself.

Maybe I was not as refined as kids in this area are, but a suggestion of opera to a group with a six year old and teenagers?

Yeah, I've heard this complaint -- but the evening is really about hanging out at the ballpark, getting to be out on the field, eating pretzels and seeing something cool. Even if they don't make it past the 90-minute first act, haha.

Thanks for joining us today. Enjoy your weekend, whether you're at the SW Artsfest, on a Walkingtown tour, or cheering on the Nats. We'll see you back here next week, when hopefully all the talk won't be about Teddy winning the Presidents Race.

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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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