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 530 pm, you may find the Air and Space, Natural History, or American History open until 7:30 pm. The Portrait Gallery is one of the few museums that says open later every night.
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 a precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
*NOTE: For Summer 2019, the Sunset Parade will be held at the Lincoln Memorial*
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 everyone wins at this event.
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.
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.
The Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center: Every night of the year at 6 pm, you’re invited for a free performance. The schedule runs the gamut from jazz and soul to opera and plays productions.
You’re best to check the schedule ahead of time and plan your 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.
US Navy Band has one at the Capitol west steps (the side facing the Mall) on Mondays and one at Navy Memorial on Tuesdays. Open to the public and no tickets needed. See their schedule here.
US Air Force Band performs on Fridays at the Air Force Memorial and on Tuesdays on the west steps of the US Capitol. Open to the public and no tickets needed. See their schedule here.
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 also 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 a local restaurant.
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.
The Kennedy Center Rooftop: You can walk out on the sprawling rooftop and balcony arena of the Kennedy Center and soak in one of the best views of our country. The rooftop of the Center is free and open to all and hands-down the best Washington experience one can have.
The chance to see world-class theatrical performances in a historical setting 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.
DC Nightlife by Neighborhood
Adams Morgan: Adams Morgan attracts a younger crowd and always has live music. Popular spots are:
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 1 am 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 Theatreoffers award-winning productions of hit musicals and plays.
U Street corridor, historically known as ‘Black Broadway’, is well known for its history, soul food, and live jazz venues.
The iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl is where you will end your night for a not so healthy meal and a milkshake.
Check out Twins Jazz which has hosted high profile jazz musicians since 1987 and continues to be a local landmark in the jazz community.
Walk over to the nearby Lincoln Theater to get a flavor for the neighborhood which has seen an economic resurgence in the past ten years.
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.
Then take a walk to the waterfront park for dessert and enjoy the lovely views of the city along the river.
Le Grenier for its French food and sophisticated interiors.
The Atlas Theater is a local arts collaborative featuring music, dance, theatre and more
Bars like the Rock & Roll Hotel all are good reasons to travel to H Street for a night out.
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!
Want to see the coolest club in town? Go to Ultabar for its upbeat music with table service and dance floors.
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:
Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 3 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the host of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All
With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 25 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.