Washington, D.C.

From buttoned-down political appointees who've just arrived to laid-back folks who've lived here their whole lives, Washingtonians are always looking for a place to relax. And they have plenty of options when they head out for a night on the town. Most places are clustered in several key neighborhoods, making a night of barhopping relatively easy.

Georgetown's bars, nightclubs, and restaurants radiate from the intersection of Wisconsin and M Streets, attracting crowds that include older adults and college students. Many restaurants here turn into bars after the dinner crowd leaves. Georgetown is one of the safest neighborhoods in D.C., with a large police presence on weekends.

Those seeking a younger and less inhibited nightlife may prefer the 18th Street strip in Adams Morgan, between Columbia Road and Florida Avenue, which offers a wide variety of places for dancing, drinking, and eating. The best part of Adams Morgan is that there are so many bars and clubs around 18th Street that if you don't like one, there's another next door. AdMo, as it’s affectionately called, is best known for its bars, but there are some restaurants that make the strip worth the trip for those in search of a good meal.

The U Street Corridor (U Street NW between 9th and 17th Streets NW), historically D.C.'s hippest neighborhood and a regular stop for jazz greats, has undergone a revival and is now the hottest spot in town, with bars that appeal to all types. Down 14th Street NW you will also find new bars and restaurants spilling revelers out on the street on weekends. Wine bars, dive bars, hipster bars, gastropubs, and dance clubs make for a full night out. Other hot spots include Capitol Hill, Downtown, and the city's most-up-and-coming area, Shaw. The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue SE between 2nd and 4th Streets has a half-dozen bars. Thanks to massive redevelopment, Penn Quarter/Chinatown is burgeoning with new bars and music venues orbiting the Verizon Center and Gallery Place. The newest center of gravity for D.C. nightlife is the H Street Corridor, still tricky to get to, but home to some of the city’s most dynamic venues.

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  • 1. 9:30 Club

    U Street | Live Music

    The inimitable 9:30 Club is consistently ranked as one of the best concert venues in the country—as much a place in which bands aspire to play...Read More

  • 2. Black Cat

    U Street | Live Music

    Way before its stretch of 14th Street became the trendiest few blocks in town, the Black Cat was a destination for alternative music and quirky...Read More

  • 3. Blues Alley

    Georgetown | Live Music

    Head here for a classy evening in an intimate setting, complete with great blues, jazz, and R&B from well-known performers such as Mose...Read More

  • 4. Capitol Steps

    Downtown | Comedy Clubs

    Putting the "mock" in democracy, the musical political satire of this group—many of whom are current or former Hill staffers—is presented in...Read More

  • 5. Cork Wine Bar

    U Street | Wine Bars

    On weekends, the crowds can spill onto 14th Street—but one of the best wine bars in D.C. is worth the wait. An outstanding wine list (mainly...Read More

  • 6. Flash

    Dance Clubs

    The decline of megaclubs in D.C. has coincided with a rise in more intimate and inviting venues for those serious about dancing. This photography...Read More

  • 7. Morris American Bar

    Shaw | Bars/Pubs

    Founded by Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn and D.C. nightlife entrepreneur Vinoda Basnayake, this Shaw bar serves spectacular cocktails. You...Read More

  • 8. P.O.V.

    Downtown | Bars/Pubs

    For decades, the perfect way to end a night out in Washington was a trip up to the Sky Tavern on the Hotel Washington's 11th-floor rooftop....Read More

  • 9. The Brixton

    U Street | Bars/Pubs

    An English pub with an upscale D.C. twist offers three levels of fun in the heart of the U Street bustle. The menu is inspired by the Commonwealth...Read More

  • 10. All Souls

    Shaw | Bars/Pubs

    All Souls feels like the perfect dive, a great place to meet up with friends and chat away in a booth, fresh drink or craft beer in hand. The...Read More

  • 11. Anxo Cidery

    Shaw | Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

    Take a trip to Spain at Anxo (an-cho) Cidery. Here you can sample a multitude of ciders, a drink tied to the culture of the Basque country,...Read More

  • 12. Black Jack

    Logan Circle | Bars/Pubs

    A red-velvet, almost vaudeville-like interior around the bar offers a saucy experience upstairs from the highly rated Pearl Dive Oyster Palace...Read More

  • 13. Board Room

    Dupont Circle | Bars/Pubs

    Put down your smart phone and interact!" is the motto at this pub, with 20-plus beers on tap, a full bar, and many board games to rent—from...Read More

  • 14. Busboys and Poets

    U Street | Bars/Pubs

    Part eatery, part bookstore, and part event space, this popular local hangout draws a diverse crowd and hosts a wide range of entertainment...Read More

  • 15. Cafe Citron

    Dupont Circle | Bars/Pubs

    One of the longest-running Latin clubs in D.C., Cafe Citron maintains its relevance with the salsa-dancing set. After 10 pm Monday through Saturday...Read More

  • 16. Café Saint-Ex

    U Street | Bars/Pubs

    Named for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French pilot and author of The Little Prince, this bi-level bar has two distinct atmospheres. The upstairs...Read More

  • 17. Calico

    Shaw | Bars/Pubs

    Tucked away in Blagden Alley in the heart of Shaw, this hipster’s dream offers kitschy decor made modern and an ethereal garden backyard. Take...Read More

  • 18. Chi-Cha Lounge

    U Street | Bars/Pubs

    Groups of young professionals relax on sofas and armchairs in this hip hangout modeled after an Ecuadorian hacienda, while Latin jazz mingles...Read More

  • 19. ChurchKey

    Logan Circle | Bars/Pubs

    There's an astounding selection of beers at ChurchKey—555 varieties from more than 30 countries, including 50 beers on tap and exclusive draft...Read More

  • 20. Cobalt

    Dupont Circle | Dance Clubs

    Popular among the gay and lesbian crowd, this venue anchors the 17th Street strip with three distinct floors: the bottom floor is the Level...Read More

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