This post is a look into things to do in Washington, DC at Night. Washington has evolved into a happening place to be after the sun sets. From great restaurants, bars, music, performances to art, culture and shimmering historical memorials on the night horizon, Washington DC has something for all its visitors at night. And if you are visiting during the summer, you have special nighttime events that are unique to this city.
1. Visit the Memorials
DC is known for its iconic monumental architecture, from the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to great buildings like the White House and the U.S Capitol Building. And if you wondering which ones are best to visit at night, our answer is – ALL OF THEM.
With the exception of the Washington Monument, memorials in D.C. are open 24-hours a day and can be enjoyed just as well at night as during the day. We suggest twilight, as you will have the opportunity to see the memorials come to life, though be prepared for gift shops to close around 9 pm and restrooms to be locked around midnight. You will still be able to venture into any of the memorials, no matter the hour – and don’t expect to be alone as some memorials are more popular at night.
2. Take a Night Tour
You could walk to the memorials on your own, but there is no shortage of guided tours that you could take to see the memorials and monuments lit up at night. Of course, your first choice is us, Free Tours by Foot. We offer about a dozen different pay-what-you-like night tours, including our National Mall Night Tour, our Lincoln Assassination Tour and our ghost and scandals themed tours. We even offer audio and self-guided tours.
3. Explore the Museums Open Late
Our capital region’s museums offer much to do for its guests after regular hours. More and more DC museums showcase thematic events, musical performances, tours and parties after 5 pm.
Smithsonian: Many of the more popular Smithsonian Museums stay open late on select days in the summer. While everything else closes at 530pm, you may find the Air and Space, Natural History, or American History open until 730pm. The Portrait Gallery is one of the few museums that says open later every night.
For the daily schedule of extended hours, visit the Smithsonian website.
4. Get out on the Town
The hottest neighborhoods for nightlife, as in any city, are constantly shifting as new areas emerge. Here in Washington DC, new hubs for upbeat nightlife are emerging every year. Some of the most popular neighborhoods to hang out in are H St NE, Adams Morgan, Georgetown and U Street NW. Find out more about places to go out here…
5. Watch Sunset Parade (at Iwo Jima)
With the backdrop of the US Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima), you can watch musical performances by “The Commandant’s Own,” the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, as well as precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
The Phillips Collection is housed in the Dupont Circle neighborhood and is a prominent stop on our Embassy Row Tours. It is the first modern art gallery of the United States and showcases an impressive collection. The Phillips Collection is a happening place to be seen in Washington on the first Thursday night of every month, when the museum is open late and has a live band, drinks, snacks and thematic displays. This event is extremely popular among the younger crowds and often ticket sell out in advance so plan ahead if you want to experience this truly wonderful evening of art and culture in a relaxed live concert setting.
Tickets cost $12 for Adults and $19 for Students (Senior Citizens and Under 18 can enter for free). Details and calendar of events along with ticket purchase options are available online.
7. The National Zoo hosts Brew at the Zoo
Drink beer and save wildlife! How can you go wrong. The festival features beer tastings, interaction with exotic animals, live music and entertainment. Food is provided by a variety of food trucks in this unique after hours experience. Proceeds benefit the National Zoo so every one wins at this event.
DC’s best beer festival Brew at the Zoo will be held on July 20 this year.
8. National Gallery of Art Concert Series
Sunday night free concerts at the National Gallery of Art started during WWII and have continued on a first-come-first-served basis to the general public. Many musicians who have performed at the National Gallery of Art have gone on to worldwide fame. More than 3000 such free concerts have taken place here at The Gallery since this program began.
The 76th season of concerts for 2017 – 2018 will begin in the Fall.
9. Attend a Sports Event
DC is slowly becoming a sports city with highly ranked professional teams that are often favorites, even if we haven’t made it to the ‘ship yet in many cases!
Nats Park is an easy walk from Navy Yard station on the Green line – just follow all the fans in red ballcaps!
The games are played downtown at the famed Verizon Center in Chinatown, easily accessible on foot, bus or on the Red, Yellow, Green lines.
Take the Blue line to Morgan Boulevard Metro Station. Turn left onto Garrett Morgan Boulevard and follow the sidewalk for less than a mile to FedEx Field.
10. Catch an Outdoor Movie!
Georgetown Sunset Cinema: At the Georgetown Waterfront Park, right beside the Potomac River, enjoy a relaxed movie under the night sky every Tuesday evening.
Films at the Stone: As we encourage you to check out our nation’s wonderful memorials at night, you might also want to combine your visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with its summer movie screenings.
There are a lot of free things to do in DC, even at night. Many of our top ten have no ticketed price, such as visiting the Smithsonian Museums and our name your own price walking tours. For even more free things to do year round, visit our Free in DC post.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden features Jazz in the Garden:
This event is immensely popular all summer long among DC residents as well as visitors. While there is soothing live jazz filling up the air all around, visitors relax and enjoy each other’s company in the lawns, picnic style. Many bring blankets and snacks (drinks can be purchased at the café on site). You can also walk around and engage with some awe-inspiring works by sculptors such as Claes Olderburg or Joan Miro.
Jazz in the Garden happens every Friday evening starting at 5PM (May 19 through August 25, 2017). For a complete schedule of artists…
The Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center: Every night of the year at 6PM, you’re invited for a free performance. The schedule runs the gamut from jazz and soul to opera and play productions. You’re best to check the schedule ahead of time and plan you visit around something that appeals to your taste.
Military Evening Concerts: On many nights of the week, you can find a military band performing throughout the city. From pop tunes to patriotic songs, these performances take place in some of the most beautiful venues – outside at the memorials.
Washington DC is a great place to visit with kids. And if you’re not tuckered out by night, there are lots of ways to still explore the city after sunset. Many of the free events listed above are great fun for kids.
National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party
Each Summer, the National Building Museum has a special installation built in the Great Hall with select dates open late. In addition to being able to visit this architectural gem and its unique annual exhibits, the Summer Block Parties often feature live music outside on the lawn and catered food from local restaurant.
This summer enjoy Hill Country’s renowned Backyard BBQ in the West Lawn starting July 6, every Thursday and Friday from 4PM-9PM and every Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 9PM. National Building Museum’s Hive Exhibit this summer can be experience late on Wednesdays along with musical performances and food and beverage.
An evening military show just across the river at Fort Myers in Virginia. This free and open to the public event showcases Drum & Bugle Corps, Drill Teams, and live music.
Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks
Every Friday in the Summer at 8andI (8th Street and “Eye: Street SE) you’ll see the oldest Marine installation in the US and a performance of precision and discipline. Free reservations are recommended for guaranteed attendance.
If you’re looking for some great places to get a drink or listen to some music, DC really has too many options!
Kennedy Center Shows
The Kennedy Center is the official home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. But, the center is also always presenting some of the best in theater, opera, ballet, comedy and music. If you’re thinking about attending a performance during your visit it’s best to check the calendar ahead of time and buy tickets in advance.
This historic site is a feature stop on our Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour, but Ford’s is also a working theatre. The chance to see world-class theatrical performances in a historical settings is one of the perks of visiting Washington, D.C.! Don’t miss Ford’s performance schedule and consider attending a show – and if you visit during the Christmas holidays, you must see A Christmas Carol!
During the spring and summer, Ford’s Theatre presents a special one-act play called One Destiny, which talks about the events of the assassination at the theatre from the perspective of those who witnessed it from the stage. The play is great for families with children ages 8 and up – it really brings history to life.
Tip: If you want a good view of the President’s Box, select seats in the Left Orchestra (but not too far back) or in the Left Balcony. Don’t worry, you will have a chance to get out of your seat and get a good photo of the President’s Box before and after the play and during intermission.
You can use visit the Museum while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre! The Ford’s Theatre Museum is open one hour before performance time and during intermission. Your performance ticket can also be used to visit the Petersen House before 5 p.m.
Adams Morgan: Adams Morgan attracts a younger crowd and always has live music. Popular spots are:
If you want to add a bit of history, we have a self guided tour of Adams Morgan as well.
DuPont Circle is a lovely place to explore during the day with its shopping and historic buildings. At night, it can be quiet, but the longtime landmark Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café and bookshop is open until 1am on weekdays and 3 am on weekends.
Looking to get your geek on? DuPont Circle’s Board Room bar has over 30 different type of board games to rent and plenty of table space to play. Battleship anyone?
If you’re looking for something more to your evening than cocktails, the nearby Keegan Theatre offers award winning productions of hit musicals and plays.
Check out our U Street Walking Tours – self guided and offered as a private option.
Georgetown: The classic Georgetown place for live music is called “Blues Alley“ and is located near the corner of Wisconsin and M streets. Blues Alley is a listening bar so expect incredible jazz musicians, but don’t go to chat.
We have a extensive guide to visiting Georgetown to help you get there, park, and explore – as well as take some tours.
H Street NE is the newest comer to the DC nightlife list. This one and a half mile stretch just northeast of Union Station now offers both good restaurants and nightlife options.
Gallery Place Chinatown has lots of neon lights and people strolling around gives this area an energetic vibe. The Chinese restaurants are great, though this isn’t the historic Chinatown so don’t expect anything authentic – for that, drive out to Annandale, Virginia!
As noted above, we offer several evening walking tours. If you want to know which are running tonight, check out our full calendar.
The best place to learn more about everything that is happening each night is through one of the many local media websites. They publish news and reviews about events happening in Washington DC every day/week. Below are some of our favorites: