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Thursday's event at Rock & Roll Hotel raised more than $1,000 for the Washington Humane Society. By Michael Gaynor
Image via Shutterstock.

I saw the future, and it was: cat cafes.

You knew they had to be coming eventually, didn't you? The first US version of the overseas phenomenon opened in Oakland this October. New York's launched on Monday. And last month, news of a Kickstarter-funded DC cat cafe made Washingtonians act as if they just snorted a line of catnip.

That cafe, called Crumbs & Whiskers, won't be open until at least the summer. But Thursday night, cat fanciers got a taste of the action when Rock & Roll Hotel hosted the city's first ever pop-up cat cafe in its upstairs bar area. And it was packed.

“I knew there was a lot of buzz, but I didn't expect it to get that big,” says Zenit Chughtai of the Washington Humane Society, which supplied the cats and got a 15-percent cut of the night's sales. Slots to get in filled up within an hour, necessitating the creation of a wait list for determined feline aficionados.

Last week, one of the Rock & Roll Hotel's owners told Washington City Paper he expected about 60 people to show up. The Humane Society is still waiting on exact attendance figures, but if you do a little math based on how many slots there were plus the length of the wait list, you get a number closer to 200. Among them, there was a higher than average percentage of cat ears being worn.

Ten cats were the stars of the show, lounging on the plush couches in the bar's two VIP rooms. All were adoptable, and Chughtai says about two dozen adoption applications were handed out to smitten bargoers. This reporter is mildly allergic to cats, so when I entered the room I mostly stuck to myself—though I did strike up a notable connection with a shorthair mix named Pop, who sat under a table and glowered at me. The rooms were filled with toys, but as a dog person, I had to be reminded that cats do not play fetch.

When attendees like myself weren't unsuccessfully trying to seduce the animals with squishy balls, they could peruse the tables of literature the Humane Society had set up around the bar, featuring books such as How to Tell If Your Cat Is Planning to Kill You. The organization raised more than $1,000, and Chughtai says the event's success means they'll be looking to hold more in the future. Dog people, you've been warned.

Posted at 03:58 PM/ET, 12/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
These games are livening up dinner parties and family get-togethers. Here are ten favorites—including some by local inventors. By Michael Gaynor
David Gardner (seated at left) owns 676 games and likes to play some with coworkers at the Motley Fool, the financial-advice firm he cofounded. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Forget Park Place and Baltic Avenue. A new generation of board games has energized the tired pastime, with smart concepts and strategies far more entertaining than just passing “Go” and collecting $200.

Called designer or Euro games, they had their cultural breakthrough with the ubiquitous Settlers of Catan, which has stayed atop the charts of bestselling board games in the US for nine years, according to the industry publication ICv2. The hobby game market—which includes dice and card games, among others—has nearly doubled since 2008.

The new audience includes adults who break out a game at the end of a dinner party as well as regulars at such places as the Board Room, a board-game bar in Dupont Circle, and Board and Brew, a game-centric cafe in College Park. David Gardner, a cofounder of the Alexandria investment firm the Motley Fool, says the mechanics of designer games reinforce strategy and decision-making instead of pure luck dependent on a dice roll. He’s built a collection of 676 games and organizes game nights with coworkers at the office.

At Labyrinth, a four-year-old game shop on Capitol Hill, owner Kathleen Donahue saw the phenomenon take off. She thinks gateway games like Settlers of Catan showed iPhone obsessives the value in the type of face-to-face interaction inherent in board games. There was also an economic component: “I went to the movies the other day, and it cost me $50 with tickets and popcorn and everything else. But you can get a board game you can play the rest of your life for $50.”

Donahue says one thing that makes new games different from the traditional variety is that they’re often crafted by a singular designer with a personal flair. That person’s name usually appears prominently on the box, much like an author’s on a book. Enthusiasts follow their favorite designers, eager to play their next creation.

Dominic Crapuchettes is one of those designers. The founder of North Star Games in Kensington, he has created several award-winning party and strategy games. “One of the big problems with Monopoly or Risk is that you don’t know how long the game is going to last,” Crapuchettes says. “Is the game gonna be an hour-and-a-half or a six-hour game?” Designer games usually have a built-in time limit that makes a game night among friends easier to manage. They also rarely eliminate players: “You could get knocked out of Monopoly in 40 minutes and then just have to sit there.”

With thousands of designer games out there—many with sequels or multiple versions—where should you start? Here are Gardner’s, Crapuchettes’s, and Donahue’s favorites.

Best for Beginners

The new games aren’t as simple as what you’re probably used to, so it helps to start with a more straightforward one. By unanimous vote, Donahue, Gardner, and Crapuchettes all pick Ticket to Ride, in which two to five players compete to build railroads across a map of North America. It’s easy to learn and fast to play—one round shouldn’t last longer than an hour. “It’s really simple, but there’s still a depth of strategy there, and that’s what makes it a designer game,” says Donahue.

Best for a Dinner Party

For a big social gathering, you’ll want an uncomplicated game that can accommodate a lot of players. Donahue recommends Concept, a new game nominated for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres (German for Game of the Year), what she calls the “Oscars of board games.” It’s a charades-like pastime in which players try to guess a word or phrase based on icons and pictures. An unlimited number of players can join—Donahue has hosted standing-room-only rounds at her store.

Gardner’s dinner-party pick is Wits & Wagers, a raucous trivia game in which you bet on other players’ guesses. Crapuchettes, who designed it as a student in College Park, says it rewards good judgment instead of fact memorization. He has emceed sessions for companies that believe the game fosters team-building skills.

Best for Family Game Night

For kids obsessed with video games, Donahue says a good transition to board games is Forbidden Island.

It’s a tactile, role-oriented game in which participants work together to salvage treasures from a sinking island. That cooperative element—you compete with the game instead of one another—means parents can play alongside their kids rather than against them.

Crapuchettes thinks the mark of a great family game is that it’s something parents can lose at, so he recommends Spot It!, a pattern-recognition game in which players search for symbols on a deck of cards—which Crapuchettes says kids are often better at than parents. Yet it keeps adults engaged in a way that some classic kids’ games can’t.

“In Candy Land, there’s no such thing as trying your hardest. You just flip over a card and that’s it—it’s kind of boring,” he says. “But in Spot It!, a parent can try as hard as they can and still not win.”

Best for Washingtonians

For wonks who can’t get enough politics, Donahue suggests Founding Fathers, in which players assume the roles of those American legends to essentially redraft the Constitution, grappling between federalists and anti-federalists, big states and small. “It’s absolutely the best DC game ever created,” she says.

Gardner’s all-time favorite is also his pick for locals: Twilight Struggle. Made by Ananda Gupta and Washington designer Jason Matthews, the game has two players face off as either the United States or the Soviet Union to replay the major events of the Cold War and change history. “A lot of people in this city love feeling like the President, and that’s the role you play in this game,” says Gardner.

Twilight Struggle is complex. For a lighter Washington game, Gardner suggests Campaign Manager 2008. Created by Matthews with Christian Leonhard, this game has Obama and McCain teams compete for electoral votes—proving, says Gardner, “that you can make a board game out of anything.”

Best for Expert Gamers

Some designers pride themselves on a game’s complexity. If you’re looking for an expert-level board game, Donahue points to Dominant Species, in which players guide their species from 90,000 bc to the Ice Age, struggling for supremacy and literally building Earth in the process. The game, which can last more than four hours, comes with a 20-page rule book and 500-plus pieces. “It’s incredibly complicated, but awesome,” says Donahue.

Photograph courtesy of Gateplay.

Gardner’s expert-level pick is another hefty game: Agricola, which has players managing a farm and all the decisions that come with it. Hundreds of cards present participants with a vast number of options on each turn. “It’s a brain-burner because you’re sitting there trying to manage five different dynamics of your farm,” says Gardner. “It’s just infinite, the way this game replays from one round to the next.”

This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian. Find Michael Gaynor on Twitter at @michael_gaynor.

Posted at 10:50 AM/ET, 12/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A pop-up arcade at Blind Whino, a Roaring Twenties party, and even more holiday fun. By Jason Koebler
Blind Whino hosts a pop-up arcade on Sunday. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 18

CATS: Rock & Roll Hotel is a bar, but it’s also, for one day only, a house for cats. The Washington Humane Society is hosting a Pop-up Christmas Cat Cafe, where you can play with and adopt cats. The bar will also still be a bar, thankfully. Free. 5 to 8 PM.

IMPROV: Washington Improv Theater continues its holiday madness with performances from four local improv troupes. I don’t know too much about Until One Day, Neighbors, Madeline, and We Should Talk, but I do know that they will make up their jokes on the fly, and their performances will probably be pretty funny. Tickets ($12) are available online. 8 PM.

Friday, December 19

DANCE: Little Miss Whiskey’s formula of no-frills dance music every weekend has been happening for years and still works wonders. Tonight you’ll hear from a brand new group of deejays called Citizen Select, who will be playing their first set at the bar. They spin disco, house, indie dance music, and everything in between. Free. 10 PM.

COMEDY: Don’t Block the Box is at Wonderland for its 38th show. The headliner of the long-running standup show is Subhah Agarwal, a New York comedian who has been on PBS and TruTV, and was featured on the New York Comedy Festival. You’ll also get performances from three other local comedians. $3. 7:30 PM.

BURLESQUE: Black Cat hosts Grab My Junk: Resolutions & Regrets, an end-of-the-year burlesque/game show that sounds quite out there. It’s part year-in-review and part looking forward to 2015, and it’s also, well, a burlesque show. Tickets ($12) are available online. 9 PM.

COMEDY: If that’s too weird for you, head upstairs to Black Cat’s mainstage for Church Night, which features comedy, music, and, okay, also burlesque. Tickets ($12) are available online. 9 PM.

Saturday, December 20

FITNESS: SoulCycle has a cult following, so if you’re into it already, you probably already know about the grand opening event in Bethesda. If not, maybe now’s your chance to drink the Kool-Aid. If you’re into spinning, the grand opening features a deejay, a photo booth, and food and drink from Sweetgreen. 8 AM to 6 PM.

BAR CRAWL: I have my doubts that it’s going to snow on Saturday, but the Snow Day Bar Crawl will go down regardless. It hits all the usual Dupont Circle bars (seriously, you can bar crawl in Dupont, like, every weekend), and starts at Front Page or BlackFinn. You’re supposed to wear a onesie, like you’re stuck at home on a snow day. But you’re bar crawling instead! Be safe and stay warm out there. Tickets ($15) are available online. 2 to 10 PM.

VARIETY: The DC Arts Center is hosting Christmahanakwanzakah, an artists night that, much like the made-up holiday of that name, features a little bit of everything. You’ll see comedy, music, and musical comedy from six performers. Tickets ($10) are available online. 7:30 PM.

1920s: Too many ’20s-themed parties happen in the middle of summer (I think it’s an excuse for people to use a parasol). The Great Roar, however, knows that people also had to stay warm back in the days of the flapper (probably with the help of some bootleg liquor). Head to the Manor for a little bit of fashion, a little bit of art, some drinks, and the chance to pretend you’re living in a bygone era. Tickets ($20) are available online. 8 PM.

DANCE: The No Scrubs ’90s dance party at 9:30 Club is an institution, and is deejayed by U Street Music Hall’s Will Eastman and Brian Billion. If you like dancing and you like the ’90s, go to it. Tickets ($15) are available online. 9 PM.

Sunday, December 21

HANUKKAH: It’s Hanukkah, and Bethesda Row is going to make sure you know it, with a giant techno menorah, musical performances from Hassidic groups, latkes, chocolates, jelly doughnuts, and free gifts for the kids. Free. 5:30 PM.

VIDEO GAMES: The Blind Whino arts space is hosting a pop-up arcade, which features lots of free video games dating all the way back to the NES, video game-inspired art, live paintings, a Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournament ($10 entry, cash prize) and lots more. Free. Noon to 8 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.

Posted at 10:37 AM/ET, 12/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus Charli XCX, Iggy Azalea, shirtless Jason Derulo, and more. By John Scarpinato, Kay Wicker
Iggy Azalea at the 2014 Jingle Ball. Photograph by Brian Friedman for iHeartRadio.

One Direction wasn’t even there, yet they still managed to steal the show at Hot 99.5’s annual Jingle Ball Monday night. When the crowd, made up of primarily pubescent girls, spotted the boy band amid other music videos and teaser images flashing across the jumbo screens of the Verizon Center, they let out an earth-shattering roar. But when lights went out and the concert started, it was not 1D who took the stage but rather fellow Brit Charli XCX, who bounced onstage in a punkified cheerleader outfit for a rendition of her blockbuster summer single “Boom Clap.”

Things only got louder from there, as the concert launched into its usual lineup of tween-friendly Top 40 artists, with the ugly-Christmas-sweater-clad crew from Hot 99.5’s Kane Show providing banter and promoting contests between performances. (Headline “host” Nick Jonas, however, took the stage a mere three times to introduce a few acts and sample a bit of his new single “Jealous.”)

OneRepublic. Photograph by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for iHeartRadio.

OneRepublic’s set served as a welcome break from all the hot pink and bubble letters flashing on the screen with their foot-stomping, hand-clapping tunes like “Counting Stars,” and took the crowd back to a kinder, gentler time called 2007 with “Apologize.” Rixton, a British cover band, promoted the forthcoming release of their debut album and opened strong with a cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” Shawn Mendes, likely unknown to anyone above the age of 16, dazzled his target audience as he asked for their energy in a nervous, cracking voice while performing his single “Life of the Party.”

Kiesza. Photograph by Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
Jason Derulo. Photograph by Andrew Swartz for iHeartRadio.

Kiesza, clad in loudly printed leggings, led a spontaneous aerobics class as the crowd went crazy to “Hideaway.” After the cardio session, Grammy-nominated Meghan Trainor reminded us why she’s been dominating the airwaves the past few months by performing her inescapably catchy hits “All About That Bass” and “Lips Are Movin.” Then it was time for Lil Jon to whip the crowd into a frenzy by helpfully reminding everyone where to find the window and the walls. Jingle Ball veteran Jason Derulo, who last year gave the crowd a mere peek at his infamous abs, said “Merry Christmas,” and stripped off his shirt for his final song, “Trumpets.”

Ariana Grande. Photograph by Brian Friedman for iHeartRadio.

“Lovatics,” in their old Demi tour shirts, squealed as their idol took the stage to belt out “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Really Don’t Care,” and threw in Frozen’s “Let It Go” for good measure. Next came another dance break courtesy of Calvin Harris on the turntables, complete with a seizure-inducing light show. Jessie J, who initially thought she was in New York rather than DC (perhaps a reasonable mistake since she just did that Jingle Ball four days ago), recovered from her blunder with an energetic performance of “Burning Up,” and later returned with the princess of the night, Ariana Grande for their earwormy collaboration “Bang Bang.” Grande, in winter white—yes, with the ponytail—provided the most Christmasy material of the night with her new single “Santa Tell Me” before launching into non-yuletide-oriented songs like “Break Free” and “Problem.” Those who were still thirsty for Charli got another taste as she took the stage once more with Rita Ora and Iggy Azalea for a group performance.

5 Seconds of Summer. Photograph by Brian Friedman for iHeartRadio.

Somehow, despite screaming for three consecutive hours, the audience reached new levels when it was finally time for 5 Seconds of Summer to perform. The boys, in skinny black jeans, marched out onstage with guitars in hand and hair slicked up in crazy styles and offered hits like “Amnesia” and “She Looks Perfect” to a nonstop chorus of shrieks.

Judging from the tweets that scrolled along the bottom of the jumbo screens flanking the stage, the night was a roaring success. As one particular fan tweeted, “I am breathing the same air as 5SOS. #blessed.” Happy holidays indeed.

Posted at 05:16 PM/ET, 12/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Charlie is about to become persona non grata at the White House. By Tanya Pai
This is Charlie's "I'm not lying" lying face. Image via NBC.

This week’s case o’ the week ties directly into the over-arching narrative of the season, beginning with a journalist in Cairo getting kidnapped by Omar Fattah who, rather than killing him, instead wants to give him an interview. One man’s shot at a Pulitzer is another man’s attempt to build a massive terrorist organization using the American media as a conduit, despite Charlie’s best efforts to kill the story. Meanwhile she’s also trying to figure out who took Nick Vera and what’s in that about-to-be-released report about her and the convoy that killed her fiancé—while also trying to keep secrets from POTUS.

THE GOOD

Okay, it was pretty hokey, but I appreciated the waterboarding fake-out that opened the episode. Shots on an empty stomach are never a good idea, friends.

David finally gets something important to do! It was interesting to see him getting all Rich White Guy with Reed Diamond’s character in service of the black female President’s needs. We also learn the Kabul trip that killed Aaron was David’s idea, because he wanted to remind America that “unlike four out of the last five presidents, [Constance] actually fought for this country.”

POTUS doesn’t hesitate to put Charlie under heavy surveillance, which sets up all kinds of great conflicts of interest and also shows off the untrusting, unforgiving side of Constance that no doubt helped get her into her current position.

Mo already has a file put together on Nick. Talk about recognizing someone’s blind spots.

THE BAD

I didn’t notice it as much last week, but it struck me when Charlie flashes back to Nick getting abducted that she screams like a helpless bystander rather than a badass CIA agent.

“Kabul is completely FUBAR right now.” Honestly, who uses that acronym in actual conversation?

Logan the journalist was such a caricatured slimeball. It remains to be seen whether we’ll witness any fallout from his Michael Hastings-ish death by poisoned cigarette + Mack truck.

Oh, Kurt. Card tricks are not the way to any woman’s heart, especially if she’s clearly not that into you.

QUESTIONS

How would Senator Green possibly know that Charlie and Nick had a “more than professional” relationship? And are we to assume Charlie was cheating on Aaron with Nick?

Why did Nick have so many of Charlie’s passports in his apartment, and who was the guy in the apartment when Charlie was looking around?

More insight into Nick and Charlie’s time on Midnight City with Fattah: Charlie was totally convinced they’d recruited Fattah—er, “Pegasus”—while Nick felt the opposite. But what to make of Fattah’s telling Charlie, “Pegasus takes wing”?

Charlie sort of remembers shooting at Aaron—was she the one who killed him with Nick’s gun? What else is she suppressing?

What did you think of last night's State of Affairs? Sound off in the comments.

Posted at 01:41 PM/ET, 12/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
All-you-can-drink bashes, no-cover bars, and more. By Sara Gilgore
Image via Shutterstock.

It’s hard to believe, but 2014 is almost over. If you’re looking to close out the year in style, you’ve come to the right place: We’ve rounded up options for every type of New Year’s Eve celebration, from debaucherous drink-fests to low-key gatherings and kid-appropriate parties. Want your event to be included? E-mail the details to sgilgore@washingtonian.com.

Live Music

Downtown Countdown at the Washington Hilton
Where: 1919 Connecticut Ave., NW
When: 9 PM
Tickets: $89 to $119 late entry, $119 to $149 general admission, $150 to $225 VIP
The fourth annual New Year’s Eve celebration features an all-inclusive night of live music, comedy, acoustic karaoke, open bars, and gourmet dinner buffets. Third Eye Blind and Delta Rae will perform before the balloon drop when the New Year hits. Organizers promise plenty of food and enough staffers that you won’t have to wait in massive lines. Purchase tickets ahead of time, and don’t forget your ID for 21-and-up entry.

New Year’s Eve at the 9:30 Club
Where: 815 V St., NW
When: 8:30 PM
Tickets: $55
Want to rock until the ball drops? See the Germantown band Clutch, playing old hits and the selection from their tenth album, Earth Rocker. Torche and Lionize will also perform at the DC music venue. The club will supply gratis bubbly for all attendees. Tickets are available online.

Kennedy Center’s 2015 New Year’s Eve Grand Foyer Party
Where: 2700 F St., NW
When: 10:30 PM
Tickets: Free with performance tickets; group tickets available online
This night of music and dancing is free if you’re seeing one of the earlier performances (see the website for options), or if you eat dinner at the Roof Terrace Restaurant that evening. Beginning at 10:30, the Craig Gildner Big Band transports you back to the swing era, with the sounds of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. Then, the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra takes center stage, performing ’70s-style salsa covers of indie-rock favorites leading up to the countdown.

Old 97’s at the Hamilton Live
Where: 600 14th St., NW
When: 7:30 PM
Tickets: $60 to $85
Rhett Miller’s country-rock band headlines the venue’s first show of the evening—doors open at 7:30, and the concert starts at 9 with opener Vandaveer. Tickets include gumbo dinner and a midnight Champagne toast. Reserve a space on the floor for general admission.

19th Street Band at the Hamilton Live
Where: 600 14th St., NW
When: 10 PM
Tickets: $10
Want to see live music without dropping a ton of cash? Check out this Americana act in the Hamilton’s loft bar. No need to buy tickets in advance; just pay the $10 cover at the door.


All-You-Can-Drink Parties

Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill’s Moonlight Circus
Where: 400 New Jersey Ave., NW
When: 10 PM
Tickets: $99 general admission, $149 VIP
Bid adieu to 2014 with five hours of live circus acts, deejay music, a buffet and complimentary appetizers, party favors, and more. Watch the ball drop in Times Square on a live feed as a balloon drops right here. Tickets are available online.

Madhatter Ball
Where: 1319 Connecticut Ave., NW
When: 9 PM
Tickets: $75 early purchase discount
Five hours of open bar, a buffet, and deejay are just some of the offerings at this party. The two-floor, three-bar location has one of the biggest dance floors in the city, and will be handing out masquerade giveaways and Champagne to every guest. Ticket prices go up the closer it is to December 31, so it’s best to buy early.

Blackfinn DC
Where: 1620 I St., NW
When: 8 PM
Tickets: $75
A ticket here gets you unlimited beverages, appetizers, party favors, and Champagne; VIP admission comes with extra perks (see details online). Bring your ID and get there by 10:30; if the bar fills up, you’re out of luck, ticket or no ticket.

Project NYE DC Red Carpet Affair
Where: 1101 Sixth St., SW
When: 8:30 PM
Tickets: $135
Arena Stage’s “Oscars-style” gala features a deejay, gourmet dinner buffets, light displays, and a tremendous midnight celebration. Dress to impress for photos on the Red Carpet, and secure your space before planning the evening’s ensemble.

International Spy Gala
Where: 10 Thomas Circle, NW
When: 9 PM
Tickets: $139 regular admission, various prices for VIP, presidential, and late admission.
Music, ice sculptures, mock casino gambling, food and drinks, and two balloon drops are among the highlights at this annual all-inclusive bash, hosted by Euronet International. Come to the Washington Plaza Hotel wearing black tie or cocktail attire, bring a date or attend solo, and reserve a room to stay the night. Information about various ticket packages is available on the event’s website.

Big Night DC’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza
Where: 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor
When: 9 PM
Tickets: $135 regular admission, various prices for VIP and late admission.
National Harbor’s Gaylord National Hotel and Resort hosts this year’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, with 15 themed party areas, five dance floors, bands, deejays, and more. Check out the different ticket levels before prices skyrocket. Plan to stay the night and book a hotel room if you don’t want to start 2015 with a trek home.

Art Soiree’s Puttin’ on the Ritz New Year’s Eve Celebration
Where: 3100 South St., NW
When: 9 PM
Tickets: $45
For the second year in a row, Art Soiree brings the celebration to the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. The party features hors d’oeuvres, live music, a deejay, confetti and balloon drops, along with surprise performances in the Living Room lounge, Degrees bar, and ballroom.


Free Family Events

Falls Church Watch Night
Where: 100 block of W. Broad St., Falls Church
When: 7 PM
The City of Falls Church hosts its 16th annual New Year’s Eve celebration for families and people of all ages. The event, which covers four downtown blocks, features live bands, amusements, a 20-piece orchestra, swing dancing, face painters, karaoke, inflatables, puppet shows, and more. A free shuttle bus will run every 30 minutes from the East Falls Church Metro station, and noisemakers will be distributed for the countdown to midnight.

Annapolis New Year’s Eve
Where: City Dock, Annapolis
When: Various activities throughout the day, beginning at 2:45 PM until midnight
The December 31 schedule kicks off with the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps downtown march. The day’s highlights include activities at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, face painting, a magic show, a Caribbean show and limbo contest, and music from a deejay. Annapolis’s Best Party Band performs from 9 through midnight, and a countdown to the New Year culminates in a firework celebration. Restaurants and shops will also be open throughout the day.


No-Cover Bars

Baby Wale
Where: 1124 Ninth St., NW
When: 5 PM
Doors open for happy hour, and the night continues with the usual beer, wine, and cocktails. No cover or up-charges means this is an excellent option for a fun night without the sticker shock.

Black Jack
Where: 1612 14th St., NW
When: 6 PM
The Mardi Gras masquerade-themed party will feature a live deejay, plus this bar’s staple craft cocktails in the lounge, bar, and indoor bocce courts.

Boundary Stone Public House
Where: 116 Rhode Island Ave., NW
When: Regular hours
Expect the usual solid food and booze selection in the balloon-decorated neighborhood pub. Toast with your friends at midnight to welcome 2015.

Breadsoda
Where: 2233 Wisconsin Ave., NW
When: 8 PM
A good choice for gathering with friends while enjoying a stress-free holiday. End the year with old school hip-hop and soul music, special punches, and a complimentary Champagne toast when the clock strikes 12.

Mockingbird Hill’s Spanish New Year’s Eve
Where: 1843 Seventh St., NW
When: 9:30 PM
The Shaw sherry bar flaunts its Spanish roots with flamenco dancing, Mahou beer and sherry specials, a free cava toast, and a midnight grape-eating contest. Don’t worry about making a reservation before going—just show up.

Room 11
Where: 3234 11th St., NW
When: 5 PM
The Columbia Heights spot is great you’re looking for a more low-key night with some reliable fun. There'll be some specials along with the regular selection, starting during happy hour.

Posted at 08:00 AM/ET, 12/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Quinn and Carrie are both at their best this week. By Alison Kitchens
Director Lockhart is actually helpful to Carrie for once. Photograph by David Bloomer for Showtime.

This episode, we learned that Quinn is way smarter than everyone else—including Carrie. In just a matter of days he put together a plan to wipe out Haqqani, which Carrie then ruined. It looks like it doesn’t matter, though, since the secret plan in place that Carrie and Director Lockhart didn’t know about was apparently Dar Adal making his way close to Haqqani.

We didn’t get any Saul this episode, but he deserved a break after everything he’s been through.

Peter Quinn

Best moment: While he’s certainly on a death mission, Quinn is at his best when he’s standing up to Carrie. “I was stupid enough to listen to you the first time. I was stupid enough to come back here when you asked me, so I witnessed the fall of the station and the slaughter of my colleagues. So I have never, ever been so convinced of what has to happen now.”

Worst moment: Showing the pictures of dead Aayan to his friend was a pretty crappy way to get her to help him.

Number of times he shot one of the good guys: One.

Carrie Mathison

Best moment: Carrie responded to her dad’s death like a reasonable human, which is a lot for her. “I thought he’d live forever.”

Worst moment: She tried to take a stand with Quinn but let him walk all over her.

Number of times she thought about baby Frannie: The moment we’ve been waiting for all season is here—Carrie asked to see baby Frannie! Is it just me or does that baby look a crazy amount like Damian Lewis?

More plot lines to take note of:

  • Director Lockhart is actually being helpful to Carrie. Who would have thought?
  • Khan was extremely disappointing this episode, until we realized he was in on the plan at the end. I’m hoping Tasneem gets a cruel dose of reality next episode.

What did you think of last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.

Posted at 11:18 AM/ET, 12/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Black Cat’s rock-and-roll garage sale and the ArtJamz holiday party. By Jason Koebler
ArtJamz throws a Christmas party on Thursday. Image via Shutterstock.

Monday, December 15

COMEDY: There are plenty of free open-mike nights in the city, but the shows that guarantee laughs usually cost you. That’s not the case tonight—the Kennedy Center hosts Mark Normand, who recently got a special on Comedy Central and regularly plays shows in New York City. Free. 6 PM.

MARKET: DC9 is hosting its Deck the Halls holiday market, where you’ll find vintage and new clothes, arts and crafts, food, jewelry, and other Christmasy things designed and sold by your neighbors. Except a bit of a punk rock flair, plus booze, of course. Free. 7 PM.

Tuesday, December 16

FILM: In spite of—or maybe because of—their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, several soldiers have gone into the world of standup. For the documentary Comedy Warriors, John Wager paired five veterans with comedians such as Lewis Black, BJ Novak, Bob Saget, and Zach Galifianakis to teach them a bit about the craft. It’s not a competition, per se, but their improvement is quite impressive. The film will be screened at the DC Jewish Community Center, and Joe Kashnow, one of the veterans in the film, will do a quick Q&A and comedy set afterward. Tickets ($12.50) are available online. 7:30 PM.

Wednesday, December 17

FLEA MARKET: Black Cat is hosting Rock-N-Shop, which isn’t holiday-themed but is still a good place to find gifts. The “rock ’n’ roll” garage sale offers old flyers, vinyl, CDs, band shirts, and other music-related stuff, and there’s music and drinks all night. Free. 8 PM.

BURLESQUE: Rock & Roll Hotel hosts Toyland After Hours, which sounds like the Toy Story of burlesque—think, nutcracker dancers, sideshow and vaudeville performances, and that sort of thing. Tickets ($10) are available online. 9 PM.

Thursday, December 18

ART: ArtJamz is hosting its Christmas party, which will give you three hours of studio time to make some sort of masterpiece. The canvas and all paints are provided, as are two classes—Winter WonderLandscape and Ugly Sweater Patterns. You’ll also get a beer, cocktail, or glass of wine, and you’ll leave with one gift already crossed off your list. Tickets ($20 to $25) are available online. 5:30 or 8 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.

Posted at 10:44 AM/ET, 12/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Where to catch choral recitals, improv shows, and lots more. By Tanya Pai
Where to see performances of The Nutcracker and more holiday classics this year. Image via Shutterstock.

The holidays are a time to unwind, eat a little (or a lot) too much, and enjoy the company of family. Luckily, it's also a time of myriad wintry activities to take advantage of when the cabin fever inevitably sets in. Whether you want to see a classic production of The Nutcracker, check out a decidedly nontraditional comedy show, or just find something to keep the kids amused, we've rounded up some excellent options for you.

Contemporary Concerts

Baltimore Choral Arts Society: Holly Jolly Pops
Strathmore, December 11 ($31 to $94)
BCAS vocalists join the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a pack (jingle?) of tap-dancing Santas for carols, sing-alongs, and more.

NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 12 ($69)
Harold Mabern, Kris Davis, and Lynne Arriale are a few of the pianists featured in this evening of twists on classic holiday songs.

NSO Pops: Happy Holidays With Cirque de la Symphonie
Kennedy Center, December 11 through 13 ($20 to $98)
The troupe—which is like Cirque du Soleil designed for concert halls—offers aerial acrobatics, juggling, and other performances to accompany the Pops.

Megan Hilty’s A Kennedy Center Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 13 ($65)
The Broadway star and Smash actress lends her pipes to tunes from the Great American Songbook.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Strathmore, December 13 ($48 to $98)
Hear Chip Davis and company perform their unmistakable renditions of Christmas carols and other holiday tunes.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC: Rockin’ the Holidays
Lincoln Theatre, through December 14 ($25 to $59)
This concert promises “glitter, glamour,” and spirited renditions of seasonal classics, plus new musical arrangements.

The Colors of Christmas
Strathmore, December 18 ($31.50 to $90)
Grammy-winning R&B artist Peabo Bryson, pop singer Taylor Dayne, Tony winner Jennifer Holliday, and American Idol alum Ruben Studdard join forces for an evening of classic and contemporary Christmas hits.

Robyn Helzner Trio Hanukkah Concert
Strathmore, December 17 ($25)
The guitar and mandolin trio offers a concert of folk songs celebrating Jewish identity.

Choral Recitals

This year offers myriad chances to hear your favorite Christmas carols, plus other holiday tunes. Here are a few great options.

Cathedral Choral Society: Joy of Christmas
Washington National Cathedral, December 13 and 14 ($25 to $75)

Thomas Circle Singers: Sing All We Nowell! Music for Christmas
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, December 14 ($20)

Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 14 through 22 ($15 to $70)

Choral Arts Society of Washington: A Capital Christmas (December 15 through 24, $15 to $75) and A Family Christmas (December 20, $15 to $45)
Kennedy Center

Christmas With the King’s Singers
National Cathedral, December 21 ($25 to $85)

More Messiah

See the National Symphony Orchestra's rendition of Handel's famous work at the Kennedy Center December 18 through 21 ($10 to $85), or head there December 23 for the annual free sing-along. The National Philharmonic offers its own version at Strathmore December 20 and 21 ($28 to $89).

The Nutcracker, 5 Ways

The Washington Ballet's annual production puts its usual Washington-centric spin on the story, setting it in 1882 Georgetown. Warner Theatre, December 4 through 28 ($32 to $110).

The Moscow Ballet this year celebrates 20 years of touring North America, and its Great Russian Nutcracker is delightful as ever. Strathmore, December 14 ($48 to $88).

Another area favorite is the production from Utah's acclaimed Ballet West, with accompaniment by the Opera House Orchestra and the Arlington Children's Chorus. Kennedy Center, December 10 through 14 ($56 to $165).

See talented dancers from Maryland's Baltimore School for the Arts take on the holiday tale with music by the BSO. Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, December 19 through 21 ($22 to $62).

Or if you prefer something less ballet-oriented, check out The Nutcracker: A New Holiday Musical, a modern theatrical update on the holiday tale, complete with puppets and an original score. Round House Theatre, through December 28 ($10 to $45).

So Much Scrooge

You'll find practically every conceivable twist on A Christmas Carol around Washington this winter. We rounded up some of the varieties.

A Christmas Carol
Ford’s Theatre, through January 1 ($32 to $91)
The annual production stars local favorite Edward Gero as the miserly Scrooge.

A Broadway Christmas Carol
MetroStage, through December 28 ($50)
The classic tale gets spiced up with holiday parodies of well-known Broadway tunes.

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
Olney Theatre, through December 28 ($18 to $36)
Actor Paul Morella channels Dickens in this one-man rendition of the story.

An Irish Carol
Theater J, December 26 through 28 ($35)
Keegan Theatre presents this twist on the original, reimagined by Irish playwright Matthew Keenan.

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol
Adventure Theatre, through January 1 ($19)
Adapted by Tony Award winner Ken Ludwig, this kid-friendly play recasts the story through the eyes of young hero Tiny Tim.

Films

Christmas movie marathon
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 14 ($8)
Not just a festive occasion but a pretty damn great deal, this all-day event gets you access to four full-length Christmas films including Scrooged and Elf—plus two showings each of animated specials How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas—for under ten bucks. The whole thing starts at noon; stay as long as you want, or come and go as you please.

It’s a Wonderful Life
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 18 through 23 ($6.50)
The venue is donating 50 percent of ticket sales to Arlington’s Patrick Henry Elementary PTA, and is also giving four free tickets to a future movie to folks dressed in holiday costumes (see website for full details).

More holiday movies
National Harbor, Saturdays in December (Free)
Catch free, family-friendly flicks on the big screen at 2 PM—The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol on the 13th, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the 20th.

Miscellaneous Fun

Second City’s Nutcracking Holiday Revue
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 12 through 27 ($30)
The Chicago comedy troupe that launched the careers of Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, among others, presents a show of hilarious holiday-themed sketches, songs, and improv.

National Chanukah Menorah Lighting Ceremony
White House Ellipse, December 16 (free)
The ceremony begins at 4 PM, with hot latkes and doughnuts to keep you warm, plus live music performances by Alex Clare and other artists. Tickets are free but must be reserved online.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Alexandria Black History Museum, December 20 ($5)
The annual celebration, happening between 11 and 12:30, offers crafts workshops, songs, dances, and more aimed at educating children (and adults) about the holiday’s traditions.

A John Waters Christmas
Birchmere, December 22 ($49.50)
The kooky director celebrates—and skewers—holiday memories and traditions in this one-man show.

Good for the Jews
Jammin Java, December 24 ($20)
Rob Tannenbaum (the author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution) teams up with indie rocker David Fagin of the Rosenbergs for this musical comedy show.

ZooLights
National Zoo, through January 1 (free)
Always free, always fancy. This year, the zoo has also added a light show set to music.

ICE!
Gaylord National Resort, through January 4 ($28 to $34)
Check out ice sculptures, costumed characters, and more in this annual event, this year themed around Frosty the Snowman.

Posted at 01:18 PM/ET, 12/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A Santa-themed bar crawl, Love Actually-themed improv, and holiday markets galore. By Jason Koebler
Break out your Santa suit for a Saturday bar crawl through Dupont. Image via Shutterstock.

Thursday, December 11

SCIENCE: The National Academy of Sciences is throwing its monthly Art Science Evening Rendezvous—this time, five scientists will be invited to speak about their work, all of which explores ecology and the environment. There’s a reception afterward. Free. 5:30 PM.

COMEDY: Chief Ike’s hosts Open M’Ike, a comedy night that, let’s face it, is probably kind of a dice roll. You’ll hear some lovely comedy, and you’ll hear some people bomb. It goes for four hours, so there’s plenty of time for both. Free. 8 PM.

Friday, December 12

HOLIDAY MARKET: Georgetown kicks off Georgetown Glow, a weekend-long Christmas festival featuring “modern light-art installations,” plus street performances, sidewalk sales, public art, and carolers. All weekend; lights on 6 to 10 PM.

MORE MARKETS: Yards Park is also featuring a Christmas market—all weekend, fashion trucks (which are like food trucks but for clothes and jewelry) take over the park. Meanwhile, the nearby Canal Park will feature a “parcel market,” which is more of your standard arts-and-crafts fair, with local retailers and artists, a dining lounge with food from Toki Underground and booze from Bluejacket, and live music. That also runs all weekend.

Fashion Trucks: 11 AM to 6 PM all weekend

Parcel Market: Friday 5 to 9 PM, Saturday noon to 9 PM, Sunday noon to 5 PM

SWEATERS: Ugly sweater parties have apparently gotten so popular that there’s now a National Ugly Sweater Day—or at least a hashtag for it. Head to 14K Lounge for happy hour with your fellow unfortunately dressed pals. Ugliest sweater wins its wearer a brunch for two. Free. 4 PM.

IMPROV: True story: I just saw Love Actually for the first time—what a good movie! Anyway, Washington Improv Theater hosts Improv Actually, which is just like the movie except there’s no Keira Knightley or Colin Firth or a script. The theater is also hosting a canned-food drive for Martha’s Table, so bring something to contribute. Tickets ($12) are available online. 8 and 10 PM.

DANCE: DJ lil’e puts on a Lady Gaga vs. Madonna vs. boy bands dance night at 9:30 Club. Expect the usual big pop hits and sweaty crowd. Tickets ($15) are available online. 8 PM.

Saturday, December 13

MARKET: At this point, you are totally out of excuses to procrastinate on your holiday gift-shopping. Yelp hosts its Totally Bazaar at the Monroe Street Market, featuring local artisans, pop-up shops, massages, photo booths, a DIY s’mores bar, ice sculptures, Christmas trees, and lots more. Free. 10 AM to 2 PM.

BAR CRAWL: Another Christmas tradition is the Santa (or otherwise Christmas-themed) bar crawl. The first one is the DC Santa Crawl, featuring several thousand debaucherous Santas. It’s not quite as off-the-rails as New York’s SantaCon, but it’ll probably still get wild. It starts at BlackFinn or Front Page (you choose) and heads to Rumors, Mad Hatter, Public, Irish Whiskey, and other bars in Dupont. Tickets ($15) are available online. 1 to 10 PM.

OTHER BAR CRAWL: For a decidedly lower-key bar crawl, head to Adams Morgan for the Ugly Sweater Charity Bar Crawl, which hits Southern Hospitality, Carriage House, and one other bar that’s TBA. Proceeds benefit So Others May Eat and the Washington Animal Rescue League. Free. 2:30 to 9:30 PM.

DANCE: La Maison Française hosts its black-tie-optional holiday party, A Parisian Discotheque. Expect lots of music and dancing, an open bar for the first hour, and a ton of ridiculously good-sounding desserts. Tickets ($50) are available online. 9 PM.

Sunday, December 14

ARTS & CRAFTS: Last market of the weekend, I promise. Grump at Artisphere which might be the best market of the lot for: More than 75 artists show off their wares, and there’s a make-your-own crafts area and kids’ activities. Free. 11 AM to 5 PM.

IMPROV: A Hot & Sweaty Holiday 5 is an improv night featuring some of DC’s best troupes. As you might expect, the comedy will be holiday-themed. Tickets ($10) are available online. 6 and 8 PM.

STORYTELLING: SpeakeasyDC continues its experiment with longform storytelling. This week, freelance photographer Keith Mellnick presents “I’m Not Crazy,” a story about the two years he spent taking pictures in Kazakhstan. Then, Ina Brege talks about growing up in a family of artists and entertainers in “Off Script.” Tickets ($22) are available online. 5 PM at Woolly Mammoth.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.

Posted at 10:37 AM/ET, 12/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()