It may not be New York, but D.C. offers its share of nightlife, from clubs to dive bars. So get off campus and celebrate being 21 in the District.
All the bars and clubs below are organized by the closest Metro stop.
The Brickskeller Dining House & Down Home Saloon
1523 22nd St., N.W. – Miss your favorite beer from study abroad? The Brickskeller has more than 1,000 choices of brews imported from around the world, ranging from a $4 Peroni to $50 for the exotic. The selection also includes a plethora of American beer for those wanting stick to domestics. Right off campus, in the basement of an inn, Brickskeller offers a quiet, personal atmosphere with friendly service. You can always bet on a properly poured beer and delicious food from this popular spot, which opened more than 50 years ago.
1343 Connecticut Ave., N.W. – In the mood for sweet mojitos and $25 margarita pitchers? Check out Café Citron. Happy hour lasts until 8 p.m. and leads into music and dancing. Groove to the Latin beats of live drums and cha-cha with Flamenco dancers on Mondays. If castanets are not your thing, there’s also salsa night every Tuesday.
1802 Jefferson Place, N.W. – Take off in Dupont! Party like a jetsetter at one of the most exclusive new spots in the city, which features an airplane theme that includes simulated clouds floating by. Tucked away on Jefferson Place, patrons willing to upgrade to first class can enjoy bottle service and window seats. And everyone can relish in the company of attractive bartenders dressed as flight attendants.
Eighteenth Street Lounge
1212 18th St., N.W. – Walk too fast down 18th Street and you might just miss this hidden hot spot. There is no sign to greet you, but the smooth live music from upstairs will draw you in. ESL’s popularity is based almost solely on word of mouth, and there’s always an eclectic crowd. Boasting three bars, a roof deck and working fireplaces, the intimate atmosphere at ESL is good for any night of the week. We heartily recommend stopping by on Wednesdays for reggae night. Dress to impress and dance your heart out.
1008 Vermont Ave., N.W. – To get into Josephine’s you got to look sexy and be prepared to have sex rubbed in your face. The bouncers are picky with who gets in and who doesn’t, but the atmosphere inside makes up for all the pushiness outside. Chandeliers, French-inspired wallpaper, and mismatched chairs and coffee tables might be the first things you see. Then you’ll certainly notice the go-go dancers to the beat of house and hip-hop. There are always long lines to get in and only about 80 people without a table reserved actually do. The best way for students to crack this posh spot is to come on Thursdays with free admission before midnight via jetsetmafia.com.
1420 K St., N.W. – By day this is a Japanese haunt, but at night the tables are blocked off by a velvet rope for VIPs and the Buddhas on the bar make new friends: big bottles of the liquor being promoted that week. Lots of colorful lights stream through the room as hip-hop bounces off the walls. To cool clubbers off, mist bursts from the ceiling. This place is a good Friday night stop. The bouncers aren’t too pretentious about whether you are on the guest list, a VIP or just a drop-in. Also, people typically dress up: A tall man in a white suit and feather-tipped hat has been spotted there before.
2406 18th St., N.W. – If you are looking for a place that has all the perks of a high-energy club minus the drama and snobbish air of the downtown scene, you must head over to Felix on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. A live DJ every night plays “everything,” which is great if you are looking for a legitimate place to dance. Two floors are painted blue and white and are decorated with soft candles and white couches to create an airy feel. Plus, the bartenders are very nice and attentive and the drinks are reasonably priced.
2435 18th St., N.W. – When you walk into this dive bar, you may think you accidentally wandered into an Army-Navy store. The walls are decorated with retro posters, business cards, photos and even a boar’s head. A giant model airplane hangs from the ceiling, as do mobiles made from serving platters. Toledo’s boasts a wide selection of reasonably priced drinks and $2 drafts every day from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. If you are looking for a genuine neighborhood bar and an atmosphere conducive to conversation, Toledo’s Lounge is the place to go.
2447 18th St., N.W. – For a truly unique experience, try this three-floor train-inspired bar. The walls are painted to look like the interior of a train station and a photo of Marilyn Monroe standing at Grand Central Station in New York City hangs on one of the walls. There is a live DJ Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and great drink specials, including $3 drafts, mixed drinks and shots after 9 p.m. on Thursday nights. The crowd is typically young and filled with college kids. Also featured is an outdoor patio, a second bar on the third floor, a photo booth and five plasma televisions for NFL Sunday.
2001 11th St., N.W. – This place is two-faced. The cavernous basement is all about the jazz, but upstairs is Liv, a hip-hop club. Liv has its own entrance and is best on Saturday nights. There are two levels, with a bar, a dance floor and a mezzanine for people-watching.
1847 14th St., N.W. – Get this place on your Thursday night radar. The bar turns into caipirinhas heaven every third Thursday of the month starting at 10 p.m. DJ Neville Chamberlain, a frequent visitor of Brazil, knocks out the samba and bossa nova music as dancers sweat all night long. Caipirinhas, a traditional Brazilian drink, are just $5 and there’s no cover.
New York Avenue
1222 First St., N.E. – At 30,000 square feet, this club is a party monster. Like its namesake off the coast of Spain, this club is about getting dressed up and drunk and then dancing your butt off. When it first opened, the club owners wanted to bring LA and NYC nightlife to D.C. and booked big names such as DJ AM to spin. But since most D.C. clubbers could care less about who’s the DJ, the celeb bookings have been more local and low-key. The club used to have one of the best roofs in the D.C. club scene, but locals have barred the selling of liquor on the deck. On the bright side, Ibiza is 18-plus on Thursday nights. On Saturday it’s 18-plus for women and 18-plus for guys if they buy their tickets beforehand. The cover is $20, but you can often find free entry passes online.
800 Water St., S.W. – Those yearning for reggaeton should hit up this Waterfront club. It’s a restaurant during the day, but on the weekend nights it often hosts top reggaeton artists like Ivy Queen. Although the club closed briefly last year after a shooting took place outside, it now hires security guards. Be prepared to go through a metal detector before entering.
Both these bars are more than 15 blocks away from the closest Metro station, which is Union Station. Although Northeast D.C. is up-and-coming, we still caution against walking there alone at night. But H Street is not to be missed, so go find a cab and get out there!
Rock and Roll Hotel
1353 H St., N.E. – This is arguably the coolest indie rock bar in the city. The entrance leads into a large venue with a bar and a stage hosting some of the best local talent. Upstairs is another bar, a pool table and a number of themed rooms for hosting private events. The vintage décor, which includes a jukebox and winged guitars hanging from the ceiling, contribute to the overall vibe. It’s not hard to get service and the menu, which includes a Fluffernutter panini, caters to the appetite after a night of drinking.
The Red and the Black
1212 H St., N.E. – Authentic southern cooking and a New Orleans-inspired décor make this tavern and live music venue a real treat. Upstairs is a stage where local entertainers play regularly, and the bar downstairs boasts a wide selection of reasonably prices drinks. Happy hour on weeknights offers mixed drinks and beers for $3. The red beans and rice dish, which comes free with a two-drink minimum on Mondays, is delicious and might make you believe you’re on Bourbon Street. Just make sure you remember you’re in D.C. before you walk out onto the street with your drink!