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9 Unmissable Things To Do In Washington DC At Night

22 February, 2022by Bounce

After spending all day going from one free museum to another, you'll probably be more than ready for some light entertainment. You'll be pleased to find out that there are some great fun things to do in Washington DC at night that don't just involve standing in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial waiting for the lights to come on.

There are several districts in Washington DC that are more popular than others for nightlife. They're the spots to head for when you've done an evening sightseeing tour down the National Mall and really don't want to spend the night in a sports bar watching a Redskins game on the TV. There are plenty of things to do in Washington DC at night that are a whole lot more fun than that.

If you're going for a night out the last thing you'll want to be carrying is your suitcase. The best solution for getting bagless is to leave anything you don't need in one of the Bounce luggage storage facilities in Washington DC. You'll find Bounce luggage lockers are conveniently located for ease of access, are security tagged and insured, and economical too so you'll have more to spend on your evening entertainment than you anticipated.

Things To Do In Washington DC At Night

Once you've done the statutory sightseeing run of taking in the light shows on the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, and at the White House and have strolled down the National Mall, what's left to do in Washington DC at night? You'll be surprised to discover you can have some monumental fun without visiting cultural landmarks so read on to find out where.

Bus It

If you somehow managed to get totally caught up going from one museum to another and realize you haven't seen the rest of the city sights like the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, taking a guided night tour on the BigBus will soon put that to rights.

The BigBus night tour starts at seven in the evening when it picks up from L'Enfant Plaza SW in front of the International Spy Museum. The tour lasts for an hour and a half, and unlike the daytime service which is hop-on-hop-off, it's a straight drive around without stops. 

Penn Quarter

Many people head to the Penn Quarter in Downtown DC during the day to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Little do they know, it's also one of the liveliest districts in Washington DC at night.

Wander the streets between the more than a few museums after closing time and you'll come across dive bars and speakeasy-type pubs serving sundowner cocktails on patios where live music is blaring.

Get in the mood for a good night out by starting off in the City Tap House or by going subterranean at Jackpot where DC-themed cocktails are a real thing. If you're a sports fan you won't be deprived as there are plenty of sports bars in the Penn Quarter where you can catch up with the latest game results.

Union Market is as much a feature of Penn District as the Smithsonian American Art Museum is. Go early in the evening and you can have a pre-dinner drink on the rooftop at Hi Lawn. It's open-air and relaxed so it's a fun thing to kick off your evening, especially if it's date night.

If hunger strikes halfway through the night, you'll find Union Market is where you can get some of the best street food in Washington DC for a very reasonable price. If you lose track of time and it's getting late when you want to snack, don't worry. There's a dive bar called Last Call in the market that stays open for food until two in the morning. 

Chinatown

Chinatowns, no matter what city they're in, have an atmosphere and vibe all of their own. Chinatown in Washington DC is no different. It's like a bustling city within a bustling city. This lively district is right next to the Penn Quarter in Downtown DC and easy enough to spot as there's a huge pagoda-roofed friendship arch between H and 7th Street marking the entrance.

While it might be tempting to dive into the nearest restaurant for a steaming plate of dim sum or ramen, think about taking a night tour with Chinatown Alleyway Tour. CAT's tours are led by student guides who know the area inside out and as they take you around. Not only will you get an insight into the history of Chinatown and what life is like living there, but they'll also recommend the best places to go for food, drink, and a shot of lizard liquor. Chinatown Alleyway Tours are free so it’s up to you to tip the guide an amount that shows how much you enjoyed yourself.

Dupont Circle

The nation's capital is well-known for its amazing springtime display of cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. Cherry blossoms bloom around the Tidal Basin at the end of March and a popular hobby at that time of the year is trying to catch a nighttime shot of the cherry blossoms with either the illuminated Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument in the background.

If you're in DC at that time of the year and have the shot you wanted or are staying well out of the way as you suffer from hay fever, try exploring the Dupont Circle district. It'll make for an interesting change.

Dupont Circle is a hip district with the gay-friendly 17th Street at its heart and one of the best places to stay in Washington DC for budget accommodation.

For a cosmopolitan dining and drinking atmosphere, you have to check out the bars and eateries on Connecticut Avenue. There are also several nightclubs on the street so you can shimmy to samba or get down to the disco beat if you want to.

Do A Washington DC Ghost Tour

Do the past presidents of the US now deceased wander the streets lamenting why they haven't got a memorial or been re-elected? The only way to find out is to go on a ghost tour of Washington DC.

There are several companies like National Nightmare and DC Ghosts that offer nighttime ghost tours of the nation's capital. They all cover locations that are steeped in history and mystery so it's a case of finding which one suits what free time you have.

One of the reputedly most haunted areas of the capital city is Georgetown. On a Georgetown ghost tour be prepared to shiver as you're guided around Georgetown Waterfront Park on the Potomac River listening to lurid tales of deceit and assassination.

If after the ghost tour you want a few more scary moments, check to see if there's a horror movie showing at the Georgetown sunset cinema.

Get Dramatic

Attending a live dramatic performance is one way to add a different note to a night out in Washington DC and it goes without saying that the capital city has some great theatres. Here are just three you may want to see if you can catch a show while you're there. 

Rorschach Theatre

For a revolutionary theatre experience, you have to go to the Rorschach Theatre which is located on H Street Northeast at the edge of the Penn Quarter. The plays at the Rorschach Theatre are interactive and depend on audience participation. It's an unforgettable experience. Even when you go home you'll still be participating in the show as they send you ongoing chapters of the developing story by mail.

Ford's Theatre

By day, Ford's Theatre on 10th Street Northwest in the Penn Quarter is infamous for being the place where Abraham Lincoln was shot to death in the presidential box. It also pays homage to the 16th president and has a museum dedicated to his life and works.

By night, Ford's Theatre returns to its original purpose and once more hosts live performances, most of which are based around historic figures.

Signature Theatre

For a taste of Broadway while you're in Washington DC you need to go to see a show at the Signature Theatre.

The award-winning Signature Theatre is in the Shirlington Village in Arlington, Virginia, and well worth catching a cab to especially if you're making the outing a date night. 

After seeing a Broadway-style show like Dreamgirls, Miss Saigon, or Les Miserables, you'll find there are plenty of bars and romantic restaurants in the vicinity to end the night at.

Go Cruising

The Potomac River flows through Washington DC just about as slowly as the Mississippi River flows from Minnesota to Louisiana, which makes it ideal for a chill-out cruise.

You don't need to go the whole hog and take a dinner cruise unless you want to. There are some great early evening cruises on the Potomac River that last for around an hour. Departures are from Washington Harbor at the end of 31st Street at seven or eight in the evening depending on the time of the year.

The short sailing floats past most of the city's main monuments including the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Kennedy Center just as the sun is setting.

If you want to make your sunset cruise down the Potomac River more of an event or turn it into a date night, set sail with City Cruises who depart from Pier 4 on Water Street Southwest. Their two-hour dinner cruise includes a three-course buffet which you can help yourself to as many times as you want.

Have A Laugh

A fun thing to do when you're visiting Washington DC, and definitely one of the best night activities for making you smile, is dropping by one of the city's many comedy clubs.

DC Improv – is a very popular comedy club on Connecticut Avenue and while they don't always have shows seven nights of the week, you can be guaranteed a giggle at least three or four of them. The club operates on a two-item minimum on top of the ticket price so you're expected to consume two items, which can be a combination of food and drink, during the two-hour show.

Underground Comedy – Located on Upshur Street Northwest in the city's Petworth district, Underground Comedy rakes in plenty of rave reviews for the stand-up comedians they present on their stage. As well as ticketed shows at their main venue, Room 808, they also host free shows in several different pubs and bars.

Make Your Escape

For some early evening entertainment, that pits your wits against those of your traveling companions, an escape room is hard to beat. They don’t take up the whole night, most experiences last about an hour, so there's time for hitting the bars or doing something else like a moonlight night tour of the city afterward.

Escape The Room – have escape rooms in two locations in the city. One is on 7th Street Northwest in the Penn Quarter and the other on 1st Street Northwest in Midtown. They offer themed rooms where you get to role play as a spy, get stuck in the dark until you find your way into the light, or save the nation's capital from being overtaken by dinosaurs plus many more. The games are not the same at both locations, so check out which excites you more before you go. 

Conclusion

If your visit to Washington DC is during the summertime there's one weekly event you won't want to miss and that's the Marines Sunset Parade. The parade happens in front of the Lincoln Memorial where the uniformed marines put on a marching show to band music. If you're not in Washington DC at the right time to catch a glimpse of the parade, after reading about all the other amazing things to do at night in Washington DC here, at least you'll know where to go for a great night out in the city.

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