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By the look of it, not much has changed since White Oak Duckpin Lanes (11207 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring; 301-593-3000; whiteoaklanes.com) opened in 1959. The space—decorated in reds, yellows, and lots of linoleum—still uses wooden ball returns, and scoring is done the old-fashioned way: with paper and pencil. Duckpin bowling is similar to the regular game except the pins and balls are half the size. The rules are a bit different, but the staff can help you master the nuances. The format helps level the playing field so novices can compete with regular bowlers. On Saturday nights, the alley turns on disco music, flashing lights, and a fog machine for “cosmic bowling,” which includes unlimited games, shoe rental, and door prizes for $13 a person.
Mini-golf gets a hip makeover at H Street Country Club (1335 H St., NE; 202-399-4722; hstreetcountryclub.com), where patrons can test their skills on an indoor course studded with DC landmarks in miniature. One hole features a replica of Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Lincoln Theatre. Another requires golfers to putt through a row of K Street lobbyists. There can be a wait to get on the green, but you can play a round of skeeball or enjoy one of seven varieties of margaritas to pass the time.
Wannabe singers and those who like to dress up can indulge themselves with Kostume Karaoke at Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (1104 H St., NE; no phone; littlemisswhiskeys.com) and Solly’s U Street Tavern (1942 11th St., NW; 202-232-6590; sollystavern.com). Twice a month at each bar, closet Taylor Swift fans and ’80s rockers emerge from the costume area (with wigs, hats, and dresses galore) to belt popular songs onstage.
At 1409 Playbill Café (1409 14th St., NW; 202-265-3055), the only accessory you’ll need is talent. The low-profile Logan Circle bar is a haunt for theatrical types and show-tune aficionados.
It might not be a low-key date, but the glitz at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St. S., Arlington; 703-685-0555) makes it a good place to showcase your inner diva while pretending you’re on vacation. The popular beach-inspired gay bar has disco balls, a smoke machine, and a stage with a white baby grand.
At Alexandria’s TopGolf (6625 S. Van Dorn St., Alexandria; 703-924-2600; topgolfusa.com), computerized microchips in every golf ball track your shots’ accuracy and distance and award points for hitting targets 20 to 250 yards away. Monitors at each of the 76 heated bays relay your score. Earn enough points and you can win a free round. Music plays over loudspeakers, and servers—called “caddies”—bring food and drinks to your tee. You can also play a round of miniature golf or head to the bar for domestic beer, microbrews, wine, and Champagne.
The subterranean Bedrock Billiards (1841 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-667-7665; bedrockbilliards.com) is like the fun basement of your really cool friend—that is, if his basement had several pool tables and a great selection of draft beer. Though the bar is on the edge of DC’s Adams Morgan, which gets crazy on weekends, it never loses its laid-back vibe.
For another fun billiards night, try Bedrock’s sister bar Atomic Billiards (3427 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-363-7665; atomicbilliards.com), a Cleveland Park hideaway dressed up with funky ’50s and ’60s furniture and fixtures. With pool tables, dartboards, a great jukebox, and games including backgammon, chess, and Trivial Pursuit, it’s hard to get bored here.
To shoot pool in a snazzier setting, head to Continental (1911 N. Fort Myer Dr., Arlington; 703-465-7675; modernpoollounge.com) in Rosslyn. The pool hall—managed by the same company that runs Bedrock and Atomic plus several others—has a space-age vibe, with lots of bright colors and midcentury furniture.
Big kids can tap their inner child at Dave and Buster’s (White Flint Mall, North Bethesda; 301-230-5151; daveandbusters.com), a sort of Chuck E. Cheese for adults. Virtual golf, skeeball, air hockey, shuffleboard, pool tables, and tons of arcade games are available at the swipe of a preloaded card. Players can take advantage of the Eat and Play Combo, which includes an entrée and a $10 game card for $15.99, and Wednesdays offer half off all games. The arcade is dotted with game-side tables for drinks from the bar.
At Rocket Bar (714 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-7665; rocketbardc.com), the twentysomething set plays pool, shuffleboard, foosball, darts, and arcade games including Golden Tee and Big Buck Safari. The colorful space buzzes with pop music and loud conversation. Pool and shuffleboard rates are $6 to $16 an hour Sunday through Wednesday, $10 to $20 Thursday through Saturday. The cost-conscious can rent classic board games such as Candy Land, Battleship, and Connect Four from the DJ booth for $1.
Breadsoda (2233 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-7445; breadsoda.com), a loungy bar, offers pool, shuffleboard, darts, a Wii, and a jukebox. Once a week, the pool tables are converted for Tacos and Ping-Pong Tuesdays. The rotating lineup of 14 beers on tap has included Peroni, Hofbräu, Troeg’s, and Delirium. The bar also serves tasty overstuffed sandwiches—think egg salad on olive bread or grilled cheese with bacon on sourdough.
The International Spy Museum (800 F St., NW; 202-393-7798; spymuseum.org) stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays for Spy at Night. A $22 ticket gets you a drink at the museum’s cafe and entry to the hourlong live-action espionage game Operation Spy, which takes place in the fictional country of Khandar. You and your team—anywhere from six to 15 people—navigate a plot that takes twists as you crack codes, conduct surveillance, direct interrogations, and more. The outcome is determined by each decision you make.