Things to Do

Fun Things to Do in Washington When You’re Under 21

Themed runs, dance nights, and more booze-free ways to enjoy the city.

The Color Run and other themed races are a great way to enjoy DC booze-free. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

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. 

Go Retro

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:
Go-Kart Track
Autobahn Indoor Speedway
Go-Kart Raceway

Laser Tag
Ultrazone Laser Tag


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
Zombie Run
Color Run
Glow Run
Electric 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:
Tysons Corner
M Street
U Street
Eastern Market 

Try Family-Style

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
Thai Xing
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:
9:30 Club
The Hamilton
U Street Music Hall
Black Cat
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
Winter: Wizards
Spring: DC United 

Get Outside

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.
Standup paddleboarding
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:
Fairfax Ice Arena, Silver Spring Ice Skating
Outdoor: Georgetown WaterfrontPentagon 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:
Zenobia Lounge
Soussi Lounge
Prince Cafe
Farouz Cafe