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.
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.”
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 email@example.com.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Where: 1620 I St., NW
When: 8 PM
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Christmas With the King’s Singers
National Cathedral, December 21 ($25 to $85)
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.
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.
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.
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.
National Zoo, through January 1 (free)
Always free, always fancy. This year, the zoo has also added a light show set to music.
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.
It’s time to pull the snow gear out of storage! Washington has seen its first snow of the season, and what better way to celebrate than to put together a sledding bucket list? Here, we scout out some of the more popular toboggan spots.
With a not-too-steep hill and beautiful views, this spot is great for all members of the family. Plus what’s more American than sledding on the lawn of the Capitol Building?
Book Hill Park
Located right behind the Georgetown Library, this spot offers some good sledding hills. Just make sure you have enough control to stop yourself at the bottom, as the hills lead into the street.
Rock Creek Park
Specifically between 23rd and P streets, Northwest, this spot is secluded and has a steep hill for those looking for more of a thrill.
Fort Reno Park
As the highest natural point in DC, this area has multiple hills for winter fun.
Battery Kemble Park
This is one of the most popular sledding areas in the District. Its hill offers an enjoyable experience for all sledders—the more daring can begin at the top, while others can start in the flatter middle section. Come early, as sledders flock to this spot at the earliest snowfall.
George Washington Masonic Memorial
Located in Alexandria, it offers thrilling multi-layered hills and great views of busy Kings Street.
Jefferson Manor Park
Sledders heading to this location should ride from the park’s shelter toward Telegraph Road for the best experience.
Lake Fairfax Park
Known for its western themed water park, this location isn’t only enjoyable in the summer months. The hills here are great for sledding, specifically behind the picnic area’s restrooms.
Mason District Park
Located in Annandale, this is another popular spot for sledders. The hill at the end of Meadow Trail is the place to be. Rangers will enforce the park’s closing after dark, so it’s best to visit earlier in the day.
Pine Crest Elementary School
A popular spot for those in the Woodmore area, this offers a nice sledding area in the field next to the tennis courts. Make sure to watch out for snowballs—snowball fights often break out at the bottom.
Hearst Recreation Center
Here the sledding hill is short but steep and conveniently flows into the soccer field.
Takoma Park Middle School
At the Lee Jordan athletic field is a large hill that is perfect for sledding—part of which is double-tiered. The cement stairs also make the trek back up the hill a bit easier.
The balmy temperatures outside aren’t much indication, but Halloween will be upon us before you know it. Washington offers plenty of ways to celebrate, including ghost tours, costume parties, and themed scavenger hunts. Grab your favorite candy corn-flavored treat and read on for some of the spooky options.
PARTIES, COSTUME CONTESTS, AND CELEBRATIONS
The Nightmare on M Street bar crawl is back October 25 for its 15th year in the District. The area favorite is brewing up some new twists: A handful of Gallery Place bars have joined the roster of seasoned Dupont spots, amounting to more than 35 stops along the tour. Enjoy food and drink specials with no cover from 5 PM to 1 AM. The traveling party culminates in a midnight costume contest, so don’t be scared to dress in your eeriest ensemble. You’ll have to check in at one of four registration locations—the Front Page, the Exchange, McFadden’s, or the Green Turtle—before 10 PM, and purchase your ticket in advance. Prices start at $15 but could go up to $40 depending on availability, so get them early.
If you’d rather dance than crawl, shimmy over to the Hamilton on the 25th for its 2nd annual Halloween Howl. The live concert features a selection of spooky tunes, from a lineup of artists including Steve and Annie Sidley, Cal Everett, Cairo Fred, Brandon Ehrgood, the Crimestoppers, John Trupp, and Sara Curtin. Come in costume before the show starts at 8:30 PM; doors open at 7. Tickets are $20 to stand, $25 to sit.
It’s almost time for Boo at the Zoo! The National Zoo’s annual trick-or-treating extravaganza has been a DC cornerstone for years, and 2014 is no exception. October 24, 25, and 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, the whole family can enjoy treats and souvenirs, demonstrations and chats, and ornamented trails for a fun and friendly pre-Halloween with the animals. Tickets for members ($20) and nonmembers ($30) are available online, as are parking passes, discount info, and additional details.
The zoo’s celebration continues with Night of the Living Zoo on October 30 from 6:30 to 10 PM. Performance artists, glow-in-the-dark lawn games, and a costume contest are just some of the staples you’ll witness at the yearly event. More information can be found on the zoo’s website.
The Mansion on O Street’s Halloween Costume Party on October 31 kicks off with a treasure hunt, a chocolate fountain, a deejay, and a mansion tour. Bring a pumpkin to decorate, and you could win a $100 gift certificate. There’s also a costume contest, which hands out awards in categories such as craziest shoes, grossest costume, and best pet costume (yes, pets are welcome if they are clothed for the occasion). Doors open at 8, and the party goes until midnight. Reserve tickets online ($40 through October 27, $50 through October 30, and $60 on Halloween).
On the big night, head to Bethesda’s Doubletree for the Monster Bash. Between 9 PM and 1 AM, dance in the grand ballroom or take advantage of tables and lounge seating with fellow boogeymen and -women. Enjoy treats from the sweets stations and cash bars, or watch horror films in the two movie theaters (with popcorn!) while awaiting the results of the costume contest. The event is 21 and up, so make sure you bring your ID. You can find more details on the grand prize and the event online, where you can also order your tickets ($10).
Want to start celebrating right after work on the 31st? Memories and Nightmares Halloween Night at Policy starts at 6 PM with happy hour. The bartenders will conjure up complementary cocktails, until the cauldron is empty. Come in costume (encouraged but not required), and stay for the deejay as dusk turns to dark. If you can’t make it until later, don’t worry: The spirits will be out until 3 AM.
The Halloween Fiesta at La Tasca is perfect for witches and vampires who are at least 21 and want to get down in Old Town. There’s no cover charge at this Alexandria party, but you will find bar specials, scary movies, and a surprise for the best circus-themed costume. October 31 from 10 PM to 2 AM.
Does the full moon awaken your competitive streak? Check out Lucky Strike’s Bowlloween Costume Bash. It’s happening across the country October 31, and the Gallery Place location invites you to join the ghouls and goblins for costumed bowling, magical potions, and supernatural songs from 9 PM to 2 AM. Tickets ($15, $40 VIP) are available online.
To get an authentic Día de los Muertos experience, don’t miss Fuego Cocina y Tequileria’s Day of the Dead Celebration. For the second consecutive year, Arlington’s “fire kitchen and tequila bar” opens its doors for this Mexican fiesta, which begins Halloween eve and continues through the weekend until November 2. Symbolic decorations, themed cocktails, and traditional sweets such as “bread of the dead” and Mexican hot chocolate are just a few ingredients you can look forward to.
HAUNTED HOUSES, TRAILS, AND TOURS
Everyone’s looking for ghosts this time of year, and Nightmare Manor is the place to see them. Also known as Seth’s Folly, the 200-year-old estate has been haunted by victims of the 1824 fire that engulfed it but left it standing. Formerly situated on a quarry, and now abandoned, the manor is open for you to tour. Get $25 tickets for a range of dates and times: from now until November 1, Thursday and Sunday 7 to 10 PM, and Friday and Saturday 7 to 11 PM. Be sure to check the website in the event of inclement weather.
A Maryland classic, Markoff’s Haunted Forest has been operating since 1993 and continues to bring the scares. Hunt for zombies, zip-line through the woods, and choose a haunted trail to explore. This year, Calleva is donating proceeds to a new list of local charities and organizations: Girls on the Run, Maryland Off-Road Enthusiasts, Poolesville Green, Poolesville Wrestling, Stronghold at Sugarloaf Mountain, Team River runner, and WUMCO Help. See the website for full ticket information and dates of operation, and check out our video for a preview of the scares.
The Haunted Trail at the Workhouse Arts Center invites you to take a family tour before dark ($5), or a more unsettling journey, recommended for teens 13 and older ($10). As part of the Workhouse’s 31 Nights of Frights, all funds will support its programming. You can preorder tickets for October 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31, as well as November 1. Some dates don’t offer family tours, so check specifics before purchasing.
Discover a new side of Old Town with Alexandria’s Ghost and Graveyard Tour, which leads you through the historic district with chilling mysteries and folklore. An Alexandria Colonial Tours guide is well-equipped for the exploration through time, armed with a lantern and dressed in 18th century garb. Don’t bring your pets, but kids nine years old and up are welcome. Groups will be sauntering through the streets all month; visit the website to see the calendar and purchase tickets.
It’s scavenger hunt season, and Watson Adventures is extra-prepared. The Haunted Scavenger Hunts over the next several weeks will combine family, Halloween, history, art, politics, and more. For those of you who like a slower pace and in-depth questions about prominent historical figures (and their ghosts!), get tickets ($22.50) for the Haunted Washington Scavenger Hunt October 25 at 6 PM. If that’s not your cup of witch’s brew, bring your kids to the Fright at the White House Family Scavenger Hunt, October 18 at 4 PM or October 25 at 3:30 PM. Tickets for kids (ages 7 to 17) are $15.50, and for adults are $19.50. There’s also the Murder at the National Gallery Scavenger Hunt, the Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, and others. For a full list of hunts, dates, and times, visit the Watson Adventures website.
Gravensteen Haunted Productions is back in NoMa with The Curse of Frau Mueller, at a site of tragedy cursed since 1932, as the story goes. The 50,000-square-foot warehouse features multiple rooms of terrifying scenes. Tickets are $30 for dates from now to November 1.
OPENING THIS MONTH
H.G. Wells’s 1896 horror novel The Island of Dr. Moreau gets the Synetic Theater treatment, with an original score and direction by Paata Tsikurishvili, who also stars. October 1 through November 2.
Every weekend in October, Washington Improv Theater offers a new, Halloween-appropriate improv show (sample title: Witch, Please!). The puns will likely be the scariest part. October 3 through November 1 at DC Arts Center.
October 7 through November 9, Signature Theatre stages Elmer Gantry, the story of a broke salesman who joins up with an evangelical group and uses his snake-oil charm to gain power and influence—until it all threatens to blow up in his face. The musical is based on a 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis.
In Fetch Clay, Make Man, Round House Bethesda explores the unlikely bond between boxer Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit—an African-American entertainer known for stereotypical Hollywood roles—in the days leading up to Ali’s most famous match. The play is a coproduction with California’s Marin Theatre Company. October 10 through November 2.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is having a resurgence in Washington: After Landless Theatre put on a prog-metal version of Stephen Sondheim’s twisted musical Sweeney Todd this summer, the Virginia Opera opens its 40th-anniversary season with this more traditional take. October 12 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.
Sex With Strangers at Signature Theatre, directed by Aaron Posner, stars Holly Twyford and Luigi Sottile as two people whose instant attraction and subsequent one-night stand are complicated by their respective online lives. October 14 through December 7.
At Studio Theatre beginning October 15 is The Wolfe Twins, Rachel Bonds’s dark drama about a man named Lewis, his estranged sister, an Italian vacation, and secrets coming to light courtesy of Lewis’s friendship with a beautiful stranger. Through November 2.
October 21 through November 9 at Arena Stage is Our War, a new series of monologues by 25 playwrights including Pulitzer Prize winners David Lindsay-Abaire and Lynn Nottage. At certain performances, notable Washingtonians—among them Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews—will read a monologue of their choosing. The production is part of the National Civil War Project.
The world-premiere musical Little Dancer is inspired by the ballerina on whom Degas modeled his sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” (which you can see at the National Gallery of Art). Tony winner Susan Stroman directs. October 25 through November 30 at the Kennedy Center.
Shakespeare Theatre Company opens its season with the Bard’s cross-dressing comedy As You Like It, helmed by British director Michael Attenborough. October 28 through December 7.
Folger Theatre presents Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s drama of political machinations, which feels especially relevant on the eve of midterm elections. October 28 through December 7.
Beginning October 30 at Forum Theatre is the regional premiere of How We Got On, Idris Goodwin’s play about three suburban kids coming of age and discovering themselves through the rap music of the 1980s. Through November 22.
Fiddler on the Roof, the musical about love, tradition, and acceptance, turns 50 this year, and while its plot may be a bit outdated, the songs (“If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset”) are as catchy as ever. Arena Stage’s production stars Tony nominee—and Walter Johnson High School grad—Jonathan Hadary as Tevye. October 31 through January 4.
Awake and Sing! is at Olney Theatre through October 19. Read our review.
Belleville closes at Studio Theatre October 12.
Driving Miss Daisy is at Ford’s Theatre until October 26.
Marie Antoinette closes at Woolly Mammoth October 12.
Take Me Out is at 1st Stage until October 12. Read our review.
Taffety Punk’s The Devil in His Own Words closes October 4.
The Seven Year Itch is at American Century Theater’s Gunston Theater until October 11. Read our review.
The Shoplifters is at Arena Stage until October 19.
Three Sistahs is at MetroStage through November 2. Read our review.
Yentl closes at Theater J October 5. Read our review.
For more arts and entertainment coverage, follow After Hours on Twitter at @afterhoursblog.
The nation’s capital attracts thousands of young people every year, both during the summer for internships and when colleges are in session. But in a city where the nightlife centers on young professionals boozing at a plethora of happy hours, trivia nights, networking events, and galas, the 18-to-20 set seemingly gets overlooked. If you fall into that awkward half-legal age group—or know someone who does—there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city sans alcohol. Read on for some suggestions, then tell us yours in the comments.
When you’re not old enough to drink, why not embrace youth by returning to what made you euphoric as a kid? From Go-Karting to laster tag to bowling and bocce, DC is rife with opportunities to reconnect with your inner child.
A few to try:
Autobahn Indoor Speedway
Get a New Perspective
Yes, you’ve seen the monuments and the Potomac—but those scenic views are even more beautiful with the sun rising in the background. Use those all-nighter skills you learned during exam week and end your night (or start your morning) by catching the first rays of the day from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Try a Fun Run
For the competitor out there, every run is a fun run. For non-runners, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In an attempt to make running appealing to a larger audience, a slew of themed races have cropped up in Washington. From mud runs to zombie chases, these events allow you to party and get fit at the same time.
A few to try:
Down and Dirty Obstacle Race
Dirty Girl Mud Run
Jingle All the Way 8K
Meet Your Food
Washington has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to farmers markets. Visiting one with your friends is a great way to explore the city, learn about the local offerings of the area, and meet new people. See our farmers market directory to find one near you.
Shop (or Window Shop)
Shopping is fun at any age, and Washington has a place to accommodate every taste. Thanks to the Silver Line, Tysons is now easily accessible, and Georgetown’s M street offers the same types of stores with a bit more fresh air. For those with more eclectic tastes, there’s U Street for funky boutiques and Eastern Market for food and art. Strapped for cash? Malls are a great place to people-watch.
A few to try:
Going out for a meal can be expensive and a hassle when it comes to figuring out the check with a big group. Not so at DC’s myriad Ethiopian restaurants, which serve up family-style meals that are good for larger parties. Dim sum is a fun way to try a variety of dishes for relatively cheap; Thai Xing, in Shaw, is another stellar and reasonably priced option for groups. And you can’t go wrong with a visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, known as much for its food as for its status as a city icon.
A few to try:
Ethiopian: Addis Ababa, Meaza, Dukem, Etete, Ethiopic
Dim sum: Ping Pong, China Garden, Oriental East
Ben’s Chili Bowl
See Live Music
Alcohol is never necessary to enjoy good music. Plenty of DC venues are all-ages, whether you’re into indie rock or EDM. In the summertime, the wildly popular Jazz in the Garden is a major hub for summer interns after a long work week.
A few to try:
U Street Music Hall
Rock & Roll Hotel
Bust a Move
Under-21 dance clubs in DC are a bit tricky to find, but not impossible. You can find 18-and-up admission at Ibiza on Saturday, at Ultrabar Thursday through Saturday, and on Friday at Town Danceboutique, which also offers a fantastic drag show.
A few to try:
Tuesday at Josephine
Saturday at Ibiza
Thursday through Saturday at Ultrabar
Friday at Town Danceboutique
Cheer On the Home Team
It’s often hard to be a sports fan in this city, but one huge upside is that you can get tickets to pro games for cheap. The Nationals, the Wizards, the Mystics, and DC United offer reasonably priced admission—and no venue cards for a hot dog.
A few to try:
Summer: Nationals and Mystics
Spring: DC United
DC was recently named America’s fittest city, and we sure didn’t get there just by running on the treadmill. The Washington area is full of fun outdoor fitness opportunities whether you’re with friends or flying solo. Try bikes and hikes, standup paddleboarding, or kayaking—then head to brunch to pound bacon guilt-free as the over-21 set nurse their hangovers.
45 great bikes and hikes
Enrich Your Mind
Whether you’re looking for a new novel to read or want to hear some spoken-work poetry, local bookstores are a great bet. Spots such as Politics & Prose and Kramerbooks offer free author talks, live music, and other events to amuse and inform.
A few to try:
Kramerbooks & Afterwords
Politics & Prose
Busboys and Poets
Soho Tea & Coffee
Harness Your Inner Michelle Kwan
Many of us haven’t been on the ice since elementary school, so revisiting the rink with a new center of gravity can be a fun challenge. A trip to the ice rink is equally good for an adorably cheesy date and a night with friends—not to mention it’s extremely Instagrammable and makes hot chocolate even more enjoyable.
A few to try:
Year-round: Fairfax Ice Arena, Silver Spring Ice Skating
Outdoor: Georgetown Waterfront, Pentagon Row, National Gallery of Art
If you don’t want to be on skates yourself, check out a DC Rollergirls match—they’re inexpensive and always entertaining.
Puff It Up
Not all vices are off-limits until you’re 21. Hookah lounges, most of which are 18 and up, are a fun place to hang out with your friends while getting a little dose of “adult” fun. Many lounges have a bar-like feeling or offer great food, too.
A few to try:
Dancing With the Stars’ Tom Bergeron hosts this year’s Capitol Fourth concert on the west lawn of the Capitol Building. The lineup includes performances by Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, Jordin Sparks, and the Muppets, among others, as well as music from the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, and the US Army Band. Gates open at 3 PM, and the show is, as always, followed by fireworks.
Mount Vernon holds its own celebration at George Washington’s former home, featuring a reading of the Declaration of Independence, daytime fireworks over the Potomac, a performance by the National Concert Band of America, and more. 8 to 5.
The annual National Independence Day Parade starts in downtown DC at 11:45 AM. Bring the whole family to see fife and drum corps performances, floats, giant balloons, and more.
The Hamilton hosts a post-fireworks show with the 19th Street Band, who’ve opened for acts such as Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts. Doors open at 8:30 so you can grab a seat and a drink before the show.
The first annual Freedom Fest “celebrates the unification of our local brewing community.” Head to Takoma Park for beer from 16 local breweries, plus barbecue and live music. Tickets are $35, all-inclusive; the event runs 11 to 7.
DC’s City Tap House has organized a BeerBQ Brewery Battle, in which the restaurant’s team competes with representatives from 3 Stars Brewing and Evolution Craft Brewing to see who can create the best barbecue. For $10 you get barbecue and sides, and suds from the breweries will be available for $5 each. When you’ve had your fill, you can compete in the cornhole tournament for the chance to win a City Tap House gift certificate.
There’s no place quite like the District to celebrate the Fourth of July. Patriotism, along with the temperature, runs high in the nation’s capital as residents, interns, and tourists alike don their red, white, and blue and settle in for some star-spangled celebration. While the packed city lends the day an unbeatable holiday buzz, the crowds can drive up prices and cause everything to book up fast. For those of you just looking for great seats to the best free show in town, check out these awesome venues to catch fireworks sans cost.
Kennedy Center North and South Plazas
2700 F St., NW
Metro: Foggy Bottom
Tip: While the hidden gem that is the Kennedy Center Roof Terrace will be closed for a private event on the Fourth, the North and South Plazas will remain open to the public, boasting firework views and a fantastic location. Stroll along the Potomac to the Georgetown waterfront to catch dinner before the fireworks begin.
Gravelly Point Park
Metro: Reagan Airport, Crystal City
Tip: Reflections of the fireworks on the waters of the Potomac make watching from Virginia a superb option. The crowd is always substantial at Gravelly Point, so avoid the rush to get on the Metro after the fireworks end by taking a longer walk along the trail and boarding at Pentagon. Be warned, though, that with DCA right next door, the low-flying planes can make this spot a bit noisy.
East Potomac Park/Hains Point Picnic Area
Metro: L’Entfant Plaza
Tip: The views aren’t quite as good as they can be elsewhere along the river, but there’s often more room for large groups, and grilling is legal in this park, so if you’re looking for a place to host a barbecue, it’s a good option. (Note that reservations for picnic areas are required.) Parking is available, but be sure to get there early to secure a spot.
Lady Bird Johnson Park
Metro: Arlington Cemetery
Tip: It’s a little tougher to get to, but decidedly less crowded than the National Mall and with possibly even better views. Find more information online. If you’re a hiker or biker, the park is accessible by the Mount Vernon Trail, so hop on the trail anywhere along its 18-mile route and head toward the park.
Air Force Memorial
Columbia Pike and S. Joyce St., Arlington
Metro: Pentagon/Pentagon City
Tip: Arrive by 8 PM for the Air Force Band’s pre-fireworks concert. Click here for more information.
US Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima)
N. Meade St. and N. Marshall Dr., Arlington
Tip: Probably the best choice for shutterbugs looking for the most spectacular options to frame their fireworks photographs. Do your best to stake out a clear view of the Lincoln Memorial, and try to avoid getting stuck behind any trees. Find more info online.
Cardozo High School
1300 Clifton St., NW
Metro: U Street/Cardozo
Tip: Prepare for extra crowds as people return to this popular spot post-renovation closing last summer. Try and claim a space on the top of the grassy hill on the east side of the campus. You can also see the fireworks from the western side, but the 11th Street side offers a neighborhood party atmosphere, with plenty of families setting off their own firecrackers and sparklers all around. Not recommended for those who are skittish about the potential for firecracker-related mishaps.
Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Metro: Tenleytown-AU/Cleveland Park
Tip: The bathrooms in the cathedral parking garage are usually kept open until about 8 PM. Music lovers can start their day early with the annual Independence Day Organ Recital at 11 AM.
Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter/Smithsonian
Tip: It’s the classic choice for a reason: It attracts the biggest crowds by far, which can help make your celebration that much more festive. But don’t forget about how hairy things get at the Smithsonian Metro station on July Fourth. While the station will remain open during the day, the Mall-side entrance will become “entry-only” when the fireworks end. Our advice? Avoid the overrun station by walking to downtown.
A version of this article, by Sommer Mathis, appeared online in 2011.
OPENING THIS MONTH
The classic musical West Side Story returns to the National Theatre after a pre-Broadway run in 2008. June 3 through 8.
At Warner Theatre June 3 through 8 is We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical about a dystopian future.
The Tony Award-winning puppet musical Avenue Q comes to Olney Theatre Center, offering hits such as “What Do You Do With a BA in English?” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” June 11 through July 6.
Beauty and the Beast, the musical version of the Disney film with a Grammy- and Academy Award-winning score, comes to Wolf Trap June 6 through 8.
No Rules Theatre Company presents Boeing Boeing, about a man juggling several women whose complicated love life is thrown into a tailspin in part thanks to flight delays. June 4 through 29 at Signature Theatre’s Ark Theatre.
Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie stars in Buyer & Cellar, about a struggling LA actor who takes a job in the basement “mall” of a Hollywood star. June 20 through 29 at Shakespeare Theatre.
Ordinary Days, at Round House Bethesda through June 22, is Adam Gwon’s off-Broadway hit about four New Yorkers trying to nativate their romantic lives.
Cloak and Dagger , from Helen Hayes Award winner Ed Dixon, is a musical-comedy whodunit that sends up classic 1950s film noir. June 12 through July 6 at Signature Theatre.
The smash musical adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King, with direction and costumes by Julie Taymor, returns to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 2008, June 17 through August 17.
Arcturus Theatre Company presents Distracted, about two parents trying to deal with their nine-year-old son’s recent diagnosis of ADD. At Atlas Arts Center June 12 through 22.
At the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is Enter Ophelia, Distracted, Taffety Punk’s depiction of Hamlet’s Ophelia as she descends into madness. June 20 through 28.
London’s Gate Theatre brings Grounded—about a female fighter pilot who, because of an unexpected pregnancy, is relegated to flying drones—to Studio Theatre June 10 through 29.
Nancy Robinette stars as a woman trapped up to her waist in earth in Samuel Beckett’s dark comedy Happy Days. June 7 through July 5 at Atlas Arts Center.
At Arena Stage is the world premiere of Healing Wars, a theatrical dance piece narrated by Bill Pullman that explores the experiences of doctors who treat patients during wartime. June 6 through 29.
American Century Theater presents Judgment at Nuremberg, playwright Abby Mann’s work based on the true story of post-World War II war trials. Through June 28.
Cock, Mike Bartlett’s story of a gay man fixated on his encounter with a woman while on a break with his boyfriend, is at Studio Theatre through June 22.
The first play of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts (August Osage County), Killer Joe is a black comedy about a Southern family who hires a hit man to kill the matriarch in order to collect on insurance money. June 5 through 29 at DC Arts Center.
Academy Award winner Bill Condon directs a reimagined Side Show, the 1997 Broadway musical about conjoined twins and vaudeville entertainers Violet and Daisy Hilton. June 14 through July 13 at the Kennedy Center.
At Round House Silver Spring is The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, about the trial of the biblical traitor taking place in purgatory. Through June 14.
Imagination Stage presents the beloved Roald Dahl classic The BFG, about a friendly giant who brings good dreams to children and the little orphan girl who befriends him. June 26 through August 10.
The Prostate Dialogues , a one-man show by Jon Spelman that explores the effects of cancer on an individual’s life and relationships, runs through June 29 at Theater J.
Private Lives, Noël Coward’s 1930 comedy about a divorced couple who discover they’re honeymooning in adjacent suites, is at Shakespeare Theatre through July 29.
The Totalitarians, Peter Sinn Nachtreib’s farce about a speechwriter’s attempts to get a wealthy housewife into political office, is at Woolly Mammoth through June 29.
Theater Alliance’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia, which premiered at the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, tells the story of a woman with dissociative identity disorder who’s lost the memory of one hour of her life. June 4 through 28 at Anacostia Playhouse.
A Midsummer Night’s Riot closes June 6 at Keegan Theatre.
Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight closes June 7 at Keegan Theatre.
The Piano Lesson closes June 8 at Olney Theatre.
Freud’s Last Session is at Theater J until June 29. Read our review.