Things to Do

Fun Under Age 21: A Guide to 21 Things to Do in Washington

Looking for an updated guide to under-21 activities? See the 2014 version here

Many cities have no love for those stuck in the unfortunate years between 18 and 21. Washington is no exception. Gathering a group of 20 friends to eat at an overpriced restaurant on a Friday night gets tired. The cramped frat parties with cheap beer do, too. While we know you can’t legally drink alcohol when you’re under the big two-one, there are some things you can do. As an ode to the age that will finally allow you your freedom, here are 21 things to do if you’re under 21.

1. Groove

Clubs, the under-21 go-to destination, might be a little overdone, but sometimes girls just have to put their shoes and pocket books in a circle and dance. These places let you shake and socialize with the responsible over-21 crowd. Don’t worry, guys: Some of the clubs listed below allow male under-21-year-olds, too. Call ahead for more information.


Ultra Bar (under 21 for ladies only), 911 F St., NW; 202-638-4663;
Fur, 33 Patterson St., NE; 202-842-3401;
MCCXXIII (Tuesday nights only), 1223 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-403-4343;
Love Nightclub (Thursday nights only), Okie St., NE; 202-636-9030;
Apex Nightclub, 1415 22nd St. NW; 202-296-0505;

2. Shop

When all else fails . . . spend money. Or browse and people-watch. Young and old alike can wander these indoor shopping outposts. With plenty of nourishment (food court!), entertainment (hit the CD section), and an occasional round of elevator tag, spend a few hours in a shopping mall and being young won’t seem so bad anymore.


Tysons Corner Center,
Georgetown Park,
Target (Columbia Heights), 3100 14th St., NW; 202-777-3773.
Bethesda secondhand shops; see our guide here.

3. Listen and Chill

Big-name music venues don’t discriminate by age. In DC, smaller music spots don’t discriminate either. Sure, you’ll have your hands marked with Xs and be quarantined from the bar, but you can at least coexist with the 21-plus crowd and jam to the beats that drift onto the 9:30 Club’s balcony.


Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; 202-667-7960;
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; 202-265-0930;
Alchemy, 2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE;

4. Bowling Along

In need of good spots for group activities when you’re under 21? Think slick, wooden lanes and awesome shoes. Just watch out for Strike Bethesda and Lucky Strike Lanes in Chinatown—they limit the lanes to 21-plus customers.


AMF Alexandria Lanes, 6228A N. Kings Hwy., Alexandria; 703-765-3633;; open until 2 AM Fridays and Saturdays.
GWU Hippodrome, 800 21st St., NW, Fifth Floor; 202-994-3866;; by reservation only during the summer.
White Oak Duckpin Lanes, 11207 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring; 301-593-3000;

5. Skate

Dust off the old skateboards, in-lines, and bikes and glide around a skate park. Leave with bragging rights, skinned knees, money in your pockets (the Arlington roller-skating rink costs just $2 for admission), and a couple of hours’ worth of exercise.


Rockville Skate Park at Welsh Park, 355 Martins La., behind the swim center; 240-876-5841;; closed in winter.
Catoctin Skate Park, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg; 703-777-2420;
Thomas Jefferson Community Center skating, 3501 2nd St. S., Arlington; 703-228-5920.

6. Laugh and Play

Ballston’s Blue Show tag line says it all: “Please do not bring kids, your mom, or livestock to this show.” The metropolitan area has no shortage of hangouts catch a laugh—most will let any 18-plus adult sit and laugh along with them. Whether it’s independent theaters with special student rates or improv comedy clubs with big-name funnymen, these places understand that you’re under 21—and have a sense of humor about it.


Arena Stage, temporarily at 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington; 202-488-3300; Arena will move back to 1101 Sixth St., SW, once construction of the Mead Center for American Theatre location is completed. Full-time students get a 35-percent discount. In addition, those under 30 can buy a limited number of tickets a week before performances for $10.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW; 202-289-2443; Patrons under 25 may purchase tickets for $15 to most performances. There are also pay-what-you-can tickets for the first two shows of every main-stage production (usually Mondays and Tuesdays), sold an hour and a half before the show.
DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-296-7008;; two-item minimum (any combination of food, drinks, coffee or dessert).
Capitol Steps Comedy Club, 210 N Washington St., Alexandria; 703-683-8330;
The Blue Show, Ballston Common Mall, 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 202-294-5233;; college students get a two-for-the-price-of-one discount if tickets are bought online.

7. Dance

Most free salsa nights at restaurants have an age limit. The good news: Other venues and styles of dance let everyone take the floor. While you can’t get the deals the 21-plus crowd gets on lessons, you can still try new dance moves and make a fool of yourself at these classes. Some even invite you to the after-party.


The Carlyle Club, 411 Carlyle St., Alexandria; 703-548-5953;; big-band entertainment and supper club (an older crowd).
K2 Dance Studio’s Wednesday Night Swing Mix Dance, 10800 E. Rhode Island Ave., Beltsville; 301-937-7076; Swing lessons are sign-up or drop-in followed by a swing dance party from 9 to midnight. Come to the 7 PM beginning East Coast swing/Lindy class or 8 PM beginner West Coast or intermediate swing class and get into the after-party for free. K2 has a similar program for salsa on Tuesday nights, ending in a Ballroom Tea Dance. Soda and snacks are included; otherwise it’s BYOB.
Ballroom Dance Company, Holds dance events and classes throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia in a variety of styles including swing, jazz, flamenco, hip-hop, ballroom, salsa, and other Latin dances. Locations include Chevy Chase Ballroom in DC’s Friendship Heights and Elan DanceSport Center in Fairfax.

8. View

It’s an under-21 standby, but catching a flick is always a good alternative to sitting at home and lamenting being underage. Luckily, Washington has some out-of-the-ordinary movie theaters that won’t have you falling asleep in your popcorn. Screen on the Green offers a free outdoor show in the summer, and Landmark E Street Cinema gives you stadium seating and gourmet snacks. Or you could head to a DC landmark, the Uptown Theatre, which is well, well over 21 years of age.


Screen on the Green (July 14 through August 11), National Mall between Fourth and Seventh sts.; free movies Monday nights beginning at dusk.
James Bond Summer Film Festival, Rosslyn and the “NoMa” neighborhood (north of Massachusetts Avenue) in Northwest DC. Directions and times are here.
Uptown Theatre, 3426 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-966-8805.
Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St., NW; 202-452-7672;

9. Cook

If you can’t beat ’em, chop ’em. Play with knives and fire, then sit down and eat at these area cooking classes. They range from basic knife skills to a Lebanese evening or pastry instruction. Unfortunately, some of the classes have a hefty price tag, but look for listings at Whole Foods Market—it sometimes has free cooking classes for those who are quick to sign up.


L’Academie de Cuisine, 5021 Wilson La., Bethesda; 301-986-9490;
Lebanese Taverna, 4400 Old Dominion Dr., Arlington; 703-841-1562;
Stratford University, 13576 Minnieville Rd., Falls Church; 800-444-0804;

10. Spectate

The art of people-watching, like any other skill, requires practice. But it’s a little suspicious to station yourself in the middle of Chinatown and stare. Instead, stake out a spot with regular things to watch; gaze at park-going regulars as they duke it out over a chess board, swing by the new Nats stadium, or plunk yourself down at Gravelly Point Park, open dawn to dusk, and watch planes take off 400 feet from the runway.


Chess in Dupont Circle, intersection of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire aves. and 19th St., NW.
Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St., SE;
Gravelly Point Park, off the northbound Washington Pkwy., Arlington; 703-289-2500.

11. Peruse: Coffee and Books

Be seen looking both intelligent and hung over as you browse the bookshelves or lounge with a cup of java in late-night bookstore and coffeeshops. Some of these spots have live entertainment and are open late into the night. Where else can you satisfy a late-night craving for a muffin and Hemingway in one go?


Ebenezers Coffee House, 201 F St., NE; 202-558-6900;
Mocha Hut, 4706 14th St., NW, 202-829-6200, 1301 U St., NW, 202-667-0616;
Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-364-1919;
Kramer Books & Afterwords Care, 1517 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-387-1400;; open 24 hours Friday and Saturday.
Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St., NW, 202-387-7638; 4251 S. Campbell Ave., Arlington, 703-379-9737;

12. Get High (Off Adrenaline)

In need of a verb? To do: surf, float, free-fall, karate-chop. Get your natural high from these not-so-everyday activities, located a short drive away from DC. If you have no fear—and the cash for the high ticket prices—these adrenaline-junky activities will knock you out of your boredom.


Skydiving: 138 Hickory Hill Dr., Fisherville; 540-953-6587;; tandem skydives start at $255.
Hanggliding: Highland Aerosports, 24038 Race Track Rd., Ridgely; 410-634-2700;; flights start at $130.
Wakeboarding:; often makes trips out to Lake Anna and Columbia Island Marina.
Kickboxing: Capital Jiu-Jitsu locations in Dulles and Alexandria;

13. Climb

While you can’t be a social climber by networking at a bar or cocktail reception, you can test your muscles at these climbing spots, both indoors and out. Rappel down a cave or bring a crowd to scale a manmade boulder in a controlled environment—either way, you’ll be on top.


Sportrock Rock Climbing Centers, Alexandria and Sterling; 703-212-7625;

Go-AdventureSports Teambuilding and Adventure Instruction, DC, Maryland, and Virginia; 703-348-7133;

14. Sing

When restaurant bars turn into hilariously awkward karaoke clubs on certain evenings, the under-21 crowd is continually left out. The solution: find a private karaoke room or a karaoke joint that’s more of a restaurant than a bar. These musical endeavors don’t discriminate by age—just don’t expect the people in the room to be as kind to your vocal rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”


Cafe Japone, 2032 P St.; 202-223-1573; $10 minimum food order per person.
Cafe Muse, 7356-B Little River Tpk.; Annandale; 703-658-9351.
Ijing Music Studios, 2403 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-962-3560.

See our full karaoke guide here, but call each place before going, as not all accept under-21s.

15. Eat Late

You’re not piling on the extra alcohol calories, so who says you can’t participate in the wonderful meal—second dinner. These late-night eating joints will get you out and seen. Some are open 24 hours. Bistro Français’s early-bird menu gets a second go-around 10:30 PM to 1 AM. You won’t be able to order a glass of wine with your food, but chances are you’ll be looking better than the postbar crowd trickling in throughout the night.


Bistro Français, 3124-28 M St., NW; 202-338-3830;
Ben’s Chili Bowl, 1213 U St., NW; 202-667-0909;
Tastee Diner, Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Laurel; 301-652-3970;

See our full guide to late-night eats here.

16. Smoke

So you can’t destroy your liver, but no one said you can’t destroy your lungs—as long as you’re over 18. Relax and taste flavors of cherry and vanilla smoke at a hookah bar.


Prince Cafe, locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia; 202-468-2211;
Queen’s Cafe, 2405 18th St., NW; 202-332-0444.
Merrifield Kabob, 8428 Lee Hwy.; 703-204-4400;

17. Putt

Some think minigolf and immediately remember 12-year-olds’ birthday parties, but sinking a glorious hole in one has no age requirement. There’s no shortage of short-range putting facilities and driving ranges in the Washington area. And if you’re bored with the straight golf game, try ricocheting the ball off the windmill to sink it in the hole at the castle.


Putt Putt Golf & Games, 130 Rollins Ave., Rockville; 301-881-1663.
East Potomac Golf Course & Driving Range, 972 Ohio St., NW; 202-554-7660;
Upton Hill Regional Park, 6060 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-534-3437;

18. Battle: Pool and Pong

Bars often leave the under-21 crowd out of their games. Some restaurants restrict the pool and pong to those frequenting the bar at night but open their doors to everyone during the day. Others, like Comet Ping Pong, include their Ping-Pong tables to satisfy customers waiting for a table and hot, blistered pizza. Either way, if you plan it right, you can bring a crew of friends to these pool and pong halls and show them what you’re made of.


Buffalo Billiards (Saturdays and Sundays before 6 PM), 1330 19th St., NW; 202-331-7665;
Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-364-0404.
YMCA, locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia;

19. Shoot

You can’t drink alcohol when you’re under 21, but you can join the Army and—outside DC at least—shoot a gun. The National Rifle Association invites guests of all ages to enjoy its shooting range. If bullets aren’t your thing, try one of the paintball fields in the area. Go ahead, shoot off some steam.


Outdoor Adventures Paintball Sports, Bowie; 410-4377492;
Hogback Mountain Paintball, 20217 Hogback Mountain Rd., Leesburg; 703-777-0057;
The National Rifle Association Headquarters, 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax; 800-672-3888;

20. Create: Artfully Fun

Picasso probably didn’t have a problem getting a glass of wine when he was underage, but he had something with the whole art thing. Pick a medium, pick a class, and get creative. You could end up with a Christmas gift or find a new passion for photography.


The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St., SE; 202-547-6839;
All Fired Up!, 3413 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-363-9590; 4923 Elm St., Bethesda, 301-654-3206;
The Art League School at the Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria; 703-683-1780;

21. Exercise: Pickup Games and Clubs

You’re young and able. Outdo the 21-plus crowd with a cardio-boosting activity by joining a pickup game or club sport. Or pick up a football or Frisbee and head down to the Mall to show off your youthful vigor and grace.


Pickup basketball at Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center, 501 Riggs Rd., NE; 202-576-8659.
Badminton Club of DC, 3551 Garfield St., NW, 202-776-7707;
DC Fencers’ Club, 9330 Fraser Ave., Silver Spring; 301-562-1990;

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