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Washington, D.C. nightlife

Bars in Washington tend to be concentrated in a smattering of neighborhoods, so it's easy to hop between them to find the best party. Georgetown, particularly along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, is where you'll find the popped-collar kids and diplomat-brat packs hanging out in preppy and Euro-chic bars such as Maté. The pretty people congregate at Lima and other scene-y resto-lounges along K Street. Lines here tend to be long; book ahead for bottle service to avoid the wait. In Adams Morgan, 18th Street is a something-for-everyone free-for-all, especially on weekends. To get a taste of the madness minus the frat boys, come on a weeknight or opt for classier spots like Bourbon, which has one of the city's best back gardens (not to mention largest selection of whiskeys). The exploding 14th and U Street corridors have the city's most diverse crowd, with Hill staffers throwing back alongside hipster kids and hip-hop heads at places like Café Saint-Ex and restaurant-bar combo Birch & Barley. This is also the place to check out Washington's legendary music scene, with locations like the Black Cat, which Dave Grohl helped found with cash from Nirvana, and Marvin, named for D.C. native son Marvin Gaye, with its rare soul cuts from DJ co-owners Thievery Corporation. For a more chill vibe, grab a glass of wine at Proof, downtown in the Penn Quarter, or score a coveted reservation at nouveau speakeasy Columbia Room.

Washington is a 9-to-5 city, so if you're going out during the week, get started early with the happy hour crowd—things tend to slow down later on. Exceptions include Lima and Eighteenth Street Lounge, which throw rotating parties on school nights; check the Washington City Paper or sites like Brightest Young Things to find out what's happening on a particular night. Weekends are more boisterous, with bars filling up by 11 and going till as late at 3 am. Beware: The Metro closes at 3 am, so head out before last call or risk missing the last train.

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The Black Cat, U Street Corridor

The Black Cat is hipster ground zero in D.C. The music venue has an impressive pedigree: Foo Fighter Dave Grohl is an investor, and it has played host to a...more

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Bourbon, Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan on the weekends can vacillate between a rowdy bar crawl and a frat party gone too far. But if you're willing to brave the crowds stumbling down...more

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Café Saint-Ex, U Street Corridor

Café Saint-Ex started as the ultimate neighborhood spot when it opened in 2003, serving the then gentrifying U Street neighborhood as a combination bistro,...more

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Columbia Room, Washington

If you can get a much sought-after reservation, you'll find tiny Columbia Room hidden away behind sister bar the Passenger, through multiple doorways. This...more

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Hotel Photo
Eighteenth Street Lounge, Dupont Circle

The unmarked entrance, long lines, and strict door policy (women: channel your inner Sienna Miller; men: come with those women) scream exclusivity, but inside,...more

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The Gibson, U Street Corridor

It's become acceptable these days to take 15 minutes to make a cocktail. Fortunately, the ones at The Gibson are worth the wait. Washington's latest...more

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Granville Moore's, Northeast

Washington's newest nightlife destination stretches along a formerly rundown section of H Street in northeast DC. Crowds descend each night to check out theme...more

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Hotel Photo
Lima, Downtown

K Street, the golden province of expense-account lobbying firms, was once an after-hours dead zone. But nightlife purveyors have finally gotten hip to all those...more

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Round Robin & Scotch Bar, Downtown

The term lobbyist is said to have been coined in this historic hotel bar at the Willard as a nickname for the power brokers that would pester President Ulysses...more

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The Wonderland Ballroom, Columbia Heights

For those whose tastes run more to Pabst Blue Ribbon than bottle service, the Wonderland Ballroom might just be the perfect bar. Minivan bench seats, a Ms....more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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