Most nightlife venues in D.C. have cover charges for bands and DJs, especially those performing on Friday and Saturday. Expect to pay from $10 to $20 for most dance clubs. Jazz and comedy clubs often have higher cover charges along with drink minimums.
Despite how formally they might have to dress during the week, on the weekend Washingtonians really let their hair down. Although many of the high-end clubs require you to "dress to impress," including dress shoes for men, most bars and pubs are slightly more casual. This is especially true during the summer, when shorts can be considered acceptable on an oppressively humid night.
Last call in D.C. is 2 am, and most bars and clubs close by 3 am on the weekend and between midnight and 2 am during the week. The exceptions are after-hours dance clubs and bars with kitchens that stay open late.
To survey the local scene, consult Friday's "Weekend" section in the Washington Post and the free weekly Washington CityPaper. A terrific website (with an accompanying cell-phone app) for local happenings is the Post's Going Out Guide (www.washingtonpost.com/gog). The free publications Metro Weekly and Washington Blade offer insights on LGBT nightlife. Local blog DCist (www.dcist.com) posts daily on D.C. events. It's a good idea to call clubs ahead of time, as last week's punk-rock party might be this week's merengue marathon.
D.C. Blues Society. This clearinghouse for information on upcoming shows, festivals, and jam sessions in the metropolitan area also publishes a regular newsletter and welcomes volunteers. Washington, District of Columbia. www.dcblues.org.
Folklore Society of Greater Washington. At more than 200 events a year, the all-volunteer society presents folk and traditional musicians and dancers from all over the country. Venues around the D.C. area host events ranging from contra dancing to storytelling to open group singing. Washington, District of Columbia. 202/546–2228; www.fsgw.org.