Students come to GW for many reasons: a desire to intern on the Hill, aspirations of medical school, visions of a powerful post-graduate job on K Street or just the awesome maid service in freshman dorms. What they all have in common, though, is an appreciation for Washington, D.C., and the longing for the next four years to be the most fun they’ve ever had.
Every freshman, as he or she prepares to make a new home in D.C., ought to know the nightlife layout of the city – where the best clubs, coolest concerts and most delicious restaurants are to be found in the places frequented by students. (For addresses, use Google or visit http://www.washingtonpost.com.)
Foggy Bottom and Georgetown
Just steps away from your residence hall, you’ll encounter the first of D.C.’s arts communities, and one of the most influential. Foggy Bottom features the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – a perennial powerhouse of D.C. arts, and a place to see and be seen. In addition to free nightly Millennium Stage performances, the Kennedy Center makes tickets to symphonies, ballets and operas available to students at reduced prices through the Attend program. The Kennedy Center is also a great place for celebrity sightings.
On GW’s own campus, Lisner Auditorium is known for bringing a variety of entertainment. Many of Lisner’s offerings include dance and singing groups from around the world, but in the past year, it has hosted notable comedians such as Dave Attell and David Sedaris. Be sure to check its Web site (http://www.lisner.org) for upcoming performers, as they are rarely advertised heavily. For more mainstream music, the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall will bring performers such as John Legend or the Barenaked Ladies to its large concert venue. Down the street from the D.A.R., the Corcoran Museum is one of D.C.’s oldest museums featuring controversial exhibits that are always changing.
In Georgetown, nightlife can be found along M Street, the main stretch of shopping, which includes a variety of ethnic restaurants. Check out Zed’s for Ethiopian cuisine that is only eaten with your hands, Mie and Yiu for Asian fusion or Bistro Med for Mediterranean with the added convenience of being a Colonial Cash partner. Live jazz can be found at Blues Alley, a well-established Georgetown dive. The closest movie theater to campus is the Georgetown Loews Cineplex.
For the Foggy Bottom/Georgetown club scene, students frequently visit Singapore Bistro or Lulu’s Mardi Gras for top-40 dancing with the 18-and-up crowd. Another popular destination for dancing is The Exchange, located only a few blocks from Thurston Hall.
Dupont is an upscale neighborhood that features a more demure type of social life. Ideal for romantic dates and strolls through quiet, townhouse-lined blocks, Dupont has a plethora of restaurants from which to choose. A classic destination for Washingtonians is Kramerbooks and Afterwards, a combination restaurant and bookstore. Kramerbooks features American food with a twist and has some of the best desserts in the District. Nearby is Theater J at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, which often features experimental plays for all audiences. At night, Apex is a rowdy club that caters to the gay scene but is fun for all.
During the day, the Phillips Collection is an ideal locale for gazing at Impressionist paintings, including works such as Renoir’s “The Boating Party.”
One of the most eclectic neighborhoods of D.C., Adams Morgan is the place for anything from clubs to jazz, with restaurants of every type and plenty of opportunities for people-watching.
The Diner is an Adams Morgan hotspot for cheap food served in a classic 1950’s-styled diner. Open throughout the early morning hours, The Diner often hosts crowds of folks from nearby bars who get the late-night munchies.
Another classic Adam’s Morgan establishment is Madam’s Organ, a place to eat, drink, hear live music and be merry. The Staccato Lounge is another club for live music, and a place where local bands take the stage, including GW’s own The Sunday Mail. Adams Morgan has a lot of bars, and the area caters mostly to the 21-and-older crowd.
Of all the neighborhoods in the District, U Street clearly reigns as the premiere spot for music. The most famous of all the music venues is the 9:30 Club, which hosts many of the best concerts in D.C. No college experience is complete without attending a show here. Another popular club is the Black Cat, which has themed dance nights when live bands are not on the schedule. To hear lesser-known acts in a more intimate setting, check out DC9 or the Velvet Lounge.
The area also boasts the newly remodeled Studio Theatre, a place to see a variety of plays both well-known and obscure. After a concert or show, Ben’s Chili Bowl, a neighborhood fixture, is the place to go for chili dogs and burgers that are famous throughout the District.
In the shadow of the Capitol building, partygoers can dance all night at Nation, a large club with multiple floors of trance and techno dance music.
On days with nice weather, the bustling Eastern Market is a great place to go for fresh produce and unusual shopping. Vendors set up tables displaying their handicrafts for sale, which range from antiques to jewelry to soap. The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Folger Theater is a place to see Shakespeare classics such as “Romeo and Juliet.”
Downtown D.C., the location for numerous clubs and theaters, bustles with activity at night.
The National Theater and the Warner Theatre are the best places to catch touring Broadway productions such as “Mamma Mia” and “Rent.” Ford’s Theater is a place for smaller, all-American plays such as Huck Finn. The Shakespeare Theater, recently renovated, provides spectacular performances of Shakespeare and other writers’ plays. The newest theater in downtown D.C. is the Woolly Mammoth Theater, which hosts a company that performs highly experimental contemporary plays.
The MCI Center is the setting for many of the largest concerts that come through the city, such as Jay-Z and R. Kelly’s recent tour. The best place to catch independent and foreign films is the beautiful E Street Cinema, which also plays cult classics like “Donnie Darko” at midnight on weekends.
Finally, for the club scene, downtown is not to be beat. Some of the many club offerings in this neighborhood are Karma, Polly Esther’s (which has an 80’s theme night), Tequila Beach and Platinum, all within walking distance of each other.
Other places of note
Some of D.C.’s hotspots won’t fit into a neighborhood category, but are still worth a mention. Near the Southeast waterfront, Arena Stage, which has two theaters, is an ideal place to see popular plays of any genre. The cheap tickets Arena offers on college nights are a bargain. In northern Virginia, Iota is a place to go for alt-rock or jam band concerts.
Though it is only accessible by car, Wolftrap is a premiere place for outdoor concerts in nice weather, with acts such as Joss Stone and Ben Folds on the lineup for this summer.
Just outside the reaches of the Pentagon City Mall in Virginia, an entire row of restaurants, including La Creperie, Champ’s sports bar and Saigon Saigon, is always a bustling and fun place to grab dinner. The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland is another outdoor concert venue that brings big names through the area.
Finally, towards the end of Metro’s red line is the Strathmore, the newest performing arts venue in the city. Built to rival the Kennedy Center, the Strathmore is the home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
This article appeared in the June 15, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.