Things to Do in DC at Night

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.

Top Ten
Free Things To Do
Family-Friendly
Entertainment & Nightlife
What’s Happening Tonight
Other Things to Do in DC


Top 10 Things to Do in DC at Night

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.  

Additionally, there are numerous dinner cruises as well as bus, bike and segway tours that offer evening and night time tours, and we review and compare them all on our DC night tours page.  


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.

 
Read more about the Sunset Parade here.


6. The Phillips Collection’s Phillips After 5

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 at Night

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!

  • Nationals: the Washington Nationals baseball team is one of the best in the National League and the relatively new Nats Park stadium is rather luxurious. You can easily spend $100s for the good seats, but the $10 standing room tickets are a big hit and you can watch the game from the bar in outfield.

Nats Park is an easy walk from Navy Yard station on the Green line – just follow all the fans in red ballcaps!

  • Capitals and Wizards: DC residents are big Capitals fans and rightfully so, as our hockey team is a good one to cheer for! Both the Capitals and the Wizards basketball team play at Verizon Center.

The games are played downtown at the famed Verizon Center in Chinatown, easily accessible on foot, bus or on the Red, Yellow, Green lines.

  • DC United: DC United soccer team will eventually get a new stadium, but for now they’re kicking around at RFK Stadium, accessible on the Blue, Orange, Silver lines at Stadium-Armory stop. RFK Stadium shows its age (which is why the team is moving) but its a nostalgic experience for anyone who prefers old-school seats and hotdog stands.
  • Redskins: Technically, the football team plays in Maryland, at FedEx Field. Even though its not in the city, it’s still accessible by public transportation.

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.

For a complete schedule of films and directions, visit their website.

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.

For a complete schedule and more information, check out their site.


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Free Things to Do in DC at Night

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.

  • 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.

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Family Friendly DC at Night

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.


Twilight Tattoo

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. 

For more about the Twilight Tattoo, visit our post.


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.


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Entertainment & Nightlife in DC

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.

  • 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.

For more about the Kennedy Center, read our post on parking and a self guided tour.


Ford’s Theatre

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.

Ford's Theater Seat MapTip: 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:

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, DC at Nightbut 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.

  •  U Street corridor, historically known as ‘Black Broadway’, is well know 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.

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.

  • Then take a walk to the waterfront park for desert and enjoy the lovely views of the city along the river.

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.

  • We like Toki Underground for its hearty bowls of ramen noodles
  • Le Grenier for its French food and sophisticated interiors.DC at Night
  • 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.

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What’s Happening Tonight in DC?

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:

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