Things to Do in DC at Night
This post is a look at things to do in Washington, DC at Night, including a top 10 list as well as free activities and things to do with kids, updated for 2021.
We also list nightlife and entertainment options.
- Top Ten
- Free Things To Do
- 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
And if you wondering which ones are best to visit at night, our answer is – ALL OF THEM. (though we personally like the Vietnam Wall better during the day!)
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 and ticketed night tours, including
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. (there are no scheduled late nights for Summer 2021)
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 National Portrait Gallery is one of the few museums that says open late every night until 7pm.
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 a 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 in 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 a calendar of events along with ticket purchase options are available online. Note: as of summer 2021, no dates have been scheduled yet.
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.
DC’s best beer festival Brew at the Zoo has not been scheduled yet for 2021.
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 season of concerts begins every 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!
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 the outfield.
Nats Park is an easy walk from Navy Yard station on the Green line – just follow all the fans in red ballcaps!
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, by bus, or on the Red, Yellow, Green lines.
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 the Stadium-Armory stop.
RFK Stadium shows its age (which is why the team is moving) but it’s a nostalgic experience for anyone who prefers old-school seats and hotdog stands.
Technically, the football team plays in Maryland, at FedEx Field. Even though it’s 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.
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.
You can also watch movies at Union Market Drive In (or walk up), Library of Congress, and it various neighborhoods around DC. See the full schedule here: https://www.washingtonian.com/2021/06/17/drive-ins-and-other-outdoor-movies-around-the-dmv/
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 5 PM (May through August). For a complete schedule of artists…
NOTE: The 2021 Schedule is still to be determined.
The Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center: Every weekend this summer, you’re invited for a free performance.
The schedule runs the gamut from jazz and soul to opera and plays productions. There is also yoga, film screenings, art markets & more, all at their outdoor community campus – The Reach.
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) in August. Open to the public and no tickets needed. See their schedule here.
- US Air Force Band performs in various places around the nation’s capital. Open to the public and no tickets needed. See their schedule here.
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 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.
For 2021, go INSIDE OUT with indoor and exhibits on the lawn – a maze made of books, cathedral trusses, interactive art and free movies!
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 8 and I (8th Street and “Eye: Street SE) you’ll see the oldest Marine installation in the US and performance of precision and discipline.
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.
This historic site is a featured 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 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:
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 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 Theatre offers 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.
- 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 dessert and enjoy the lovely views of the city along the river.
We have an 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.
- The Atlas Theater is a local arts collaborative featuring music, dance, theatre and more
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.
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: