Washington DC comes alive at night with its iconic monuments illuminated, bustling restaurants and bars, vibrant concert venues and theaters, and an electric energy. Here are 10 of the top things to do in DC at night.
01 – Visit the National Mall and Memorials
The National Mall is a large park in Washington, D.C., that is home to many important monuments and memorials. During the day, the Mall is a popular tourist destination, but it is also a great place to visit at night. The monuments and memorials are artfully lit at night, giving them a magical quality.
Some of the must-see sights on the National Mall at night include:
- The Lincoln Memorial: The Lincoln Memorial is a beautiful building that honors President Abraham Lincoln. The marble columns and statue of Lincoln are dramatically lit at night, creating a stunning effect.
- The World War II Memorial: The World War II Memorial is a tribute to the American soldiers who fought in World War II. The pillars and arches of the memorial are glowing at night, creating a peaceful atmosphere.
- The Washington Monument: The Washington Monument is an iconic landmark that stands 555 feet tall. It is a popular spot for taking photos at night, especially when the monument is lit up in different colors.
The National Mall is also a great place to go for a walk or a bike ride at night. The park is quiet and peaceful, and you can enjoy the beauty of the monuments and memorials without the crowds.
02 – Take a Moonlight Monument Tour
A moonlight tour is a guided tour of the city’s most famous monuments and memorials at night. The tours typically take place in the evening, after the sun has set, and they allow visitors to see the monuments in a different light. The monuments are illuminated with spotlights, which gives them a magical and ethereal appearance.
Moonlight tours are a great way to see the monuments without the crowds. During the day, the monuments can be very crowded, especially during peak tourist season. But at night, the crowds are much smaller, so you can have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
Some moonlight tours also include stops at the monuments so that you can get out and explore. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the history and significance of the monuments. The guides on these tours are knowledgeable and passionate about the city’s history, and they can provide you with fascinating insights into the monuments.
Overall, a moonlight tour is a unique and special way to experience Washington, D.C. It is a relaxing and enjoyable way to see the monuments, and it is a great way to learn more about the city’s history.
03 – Explore Neighborhoods Like U Street and Adams Morgan
When the sun sets over Washington, D.C., the city’s vibrant neighborhoods come alive with a pulsating energy that beckons both locals and visitors to explore its nocturnal offerings. Among the countless options available, two neighborhoods in particular stand out for their lively nighttime atmosphere: U Street and Adams Morgan.
U Street, located in the Northwest quadrant of the city, has long been hailed as the epicenter of D.C.’s nightlife. Steeped in history, this neighborhood was once known as “Black Broadway” due to its prominence as a hub for African American culture and entertainment during the early 20th century. Today, it continues to exude a distinct artsy vibe that draws crowds from all walks of life.
One cannot visit U Street without embarking on a bar-hopping adventure. The area boasts an impressive array of bars and lounges, each offering a unique ambiance and selection of libations. Whether you prefer craft cocktails, local beers, or fine wines, U Street has an establishment to suit your taste. From intimate speakeasies hidden behind unmarked doors to rooftop bars providing stunning views of the city skyline, the bar scene here is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Adams Morgan, situated just north of U Street, presents another compelling option for those seeking an unforgettable nightlife experience. This diverse and energetic neighborhood thrives on its multicultural influences, making it a melting pot of culinary delights, lively bars, and bustling clubs.
As you wander through Adams Morgan’s bustling streets, your senses will be tantalized by the fragrant aromas wafting from its diverse array of restaurants. From Ethiopian and Korean to Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine, this neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of flavors that cater to all palates. Take a culinary journey by indulging in exotic dishes, savoring traditional favorites, or exploring fusion menus that blend different culinary traditions.
04 – Take in Live Music
Washington, D.C. has a thriving music scene, with something to offer everyone. Whether you’re looking for a big concert with major national acts or a more intimate experience at a jazz club, you’ll find it in D.C.
Some of the best places to catch live music in D.C. include:
- The Anthem: This large venue in Southeast D.C. hosts a variety of acts, from rock and pop to hip hop and electronic music.
- 9:30 Club: This iconic venue in Adams Morgan has been hosting concerts for over 40 years. It’s a great place to see up-and-coming bands and established artists alike.
- Lincoln Theatre: This historic theater in Northwest D.C. is known for its beautiful acoustics. It’s a great place to see a classical concert or a jazz performance.
- Blues Alley: This jazz club in Georgetown is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. It’s a great place to hear some of the best jazz musicians in the world.
- Twins Jazz: This jazz club in U Street is another great option for live jazz music. It’s a more casual setting than Blues Alley, but the music is just as good.
If you’re looking for a more immersive music experience, I recommend going to a jazz club. Jazz is a very soulful and expressive music, and it’s best experienced in a small, intimate setting. At a jazz club, you’ll be able to hear the musicians up close and personal, and you’ll be able to feel the energy of the music.
No matter what your taste in music, you’re sure to find something to enjoy in Washington, D.C. So come on down and experience the city’s vibrant music scene for yourself!
05 – Go for Cocktails and City Views
Washington D.C. is a city that never sleeps and is renowned for its lively nightlife scene. While the city has plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from, perhaps one of the best ways to experience the capital’s vibrant nightlife is by visiting its rooftop bars.
Rooftop bars have become increasingly popular in recent years, and Washington D.C. is no exception. The city boasts numerous rooftop venues that offer stunning panoramic views of the skyline, making it an ideal spot for tourists and locals alike. These sky-high venues provide visitors with a unique perspective of the city while enjoying some delicious craft cocktails.
One of the most famous rooftop bars in Washington D.C is the POV Lounge located at the W Hotel, which offers an exceptional view of the White House. This bar is situated on the 11th floor of the hotel and features floor-to-ceiling windows that provide the perfect vantage point to observe the city’s iconic landmarks. The open-air terrace offers plush seating and enough space for guests to socialize and unwind while enjoying their drinks.
Another must-visit rooftop bar is Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel. Situated atop the historic Watergate complex, this bar boasts panoramic city vistas that are second to none. Visitors can take in the breathtaking views of the Potomac River and Georgetown as they sip their drinks and enjoy the upscale atmosphere. Top of the Gate also features live music and entertainment on select nights, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists seeking a lively night out.
The rooftop bars in Washington D.C. offer something for everyone, from cozy spaces with low lighting to sleek and modern spots with chic decor. Most venues feature unique menus that include hand-crafted cocktails, as well as small bites and appetizers. The ambiance is relaxed and peaceful, making it a great place to unwind after a long day or to celebrate a special occasion with friends.
06 – Catch a Performance at the Kennedy Center
Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts stands as a cultural icon and a haven for lovers of music, theater, opera, ballet, and more. With its multiple performance spaces, this world-class venue offers an unparalleled experience that draws top talent from around the globe.
Upon entering the Kennedy Center, visitors are greeted by a grand and elegant atmosphere, exuding a sense of sophistication and artistic excellence. The center’s architectural design showcases its commitment to the arts, with sleek lines and a blend of contemporary and classical elements. Each performance space boasts its own unique aesthetic, ensuring that every event is complemented by a suitable ambiance.
Let your imagination soar as you browse through the diverse array of performances offered at the Kennedy Center. From riveting theatrical productions to mesmerizing operas, breathtaking ballet performances to soul-stirring symphonies, there is truly something for everyone. Renowned artists and ensembles grace the stages of the center, ensuring that each show is a feast for the senses.
For those seeking a glamorous night out, the Kennedy Center provides the perfect opportunity to dress up and indulge in an unforgettable evening. As you mingle with fellow culture enthusiasts, immerse yourself in the refined atmosphere and excitement that permeates the air. Whether you’re attending a Broadway tour, witnessing jazz legends redefining the genre, or savoring a sublime symphony, you’ll be transported into a world where artistry knows no bounds.
To enhance your experience even further, the Kennedy Center offers pre-show dining options for guests looking to enjoy a delectable meal before the performance. Immerse yourself in the culinary delights prepared by world-class chefs, who skillfully craft menus that match the elegance and sophistication of the occasion. Indulge in exquisite cuisine and fine wines while reveling in the anticipation of the upcoming spectacle.
After savoring a delightful meal, it’s time to take your seat and embark on a journey of artistic excellence. The lights dim, the audience hushes, and all attention turns to the stage. As the curtains rise, you’ll be transported to another realm, captivated by the talent and passion unfolding before your eyes.
The Kennedy Center is not only a destination for locals but also a magnet for tourists, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe. Its reputation as a premier performing arts center precedes it, drawing top-tier talent eager to showcase their skills in this esteemed venue. The opportunity to witness world-class performers in such an iconic setting is an experience that leaves an indelible mark on all who attend.
07 – Go on a Twilight Food Tour
A food walking tour is a guided tour of a city’s food scene. The tour typically takes place on foot, and it allows participants to sample a variety of dishes from different restaurants in a short amount of time. Food walking tours are a great way to explore a city’s culinary diversity and learn about its food culture.
In DC, food walking tours typically visit some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, such as Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan. The tours often stop at a variety of restaurants, including casual eateries, fine dining establishments, and ethnic restaurants. Participants can try a variety of dishes, such as crab cakes, Ethiopian food, and pizza.
In addition to sampling food, food walking tours also provide participants with information about the city’s food culture. Guides often share stories about the history of the restaurants they visit, as well as the different cuisines that are represented in the city. Food walking tours are a great way to learn about DC’s culinary scene and sample some of its best dishes.
08 – Take a Ghost Tour
Washington DC has a long and rich history, dating back to the early 1800s. This history has been marked by many events, both good and bad. Some of these events have led to reports of hauntings and paranormal activity.
Ghost tours are a popular way to learn about the history of Washington DC and its alleged hauntings. These tours typically take place at night and visit some of the most haunted places in the city, such as the Capitol Building, Lafayette Square, and historic homes.
The guides on these tours are well-versed in the history of the city and its hauntings. They will share stories of ghosts, spirits, and other paranormal phenomena that have been reported in these places.
If you are looking for a spooky and informative experience, then a ghost tour in Washington DC is a great option. Just don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re being watched!
Some specific places that are often visited on ghost tours in Washington DC:
- The Capitol Building: The Capitol Building is one of the most iconic buildings in Washington DC. It is also said to be one of the most haunted. Some of the ghosts that are said to haunt the Capitol Building include the ghost of President John Quincy Adams, the ghost of a Civil War soldier, and the ghost of a young girl who was killed in a fire.
- Lafayette Square: Lafayette Square is a park located just across from the White House. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater, which is located just a few blocks away from Lafayette Square.
- Old Town Alexandria: Old Town Alexandria is a historic district located just outside of Washington DC. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former slaves, Civil War soldiers, and even George Washington himself.
09 – Go on a Monuments Bike Tour
For those seeking an engaging and active way to immerse themselves in the enchanting beauty of Washington, D.C.’s iconic monuments after dark, participating in a bike tour is an absolute must. This exhilarating experience allows you to explore the city’s major landmarks and memorials while relishing breathtaking views and discovering intriguing tales of the nation’s capital from a knowledgeable guide. Not only does it provide an opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring magnificence of these historical sites, but it also offers a refreshing alternative to navigating the bustling city streets on your own.
First and foremost, joining a bike tour enables you to effortlessly traverse the city’s expansive landscape, ensuring that you don’t miss out on any of the must-see destinations. Rather than attempting to navigate the labyrinthine streets and intricate paths yourself, let the experienced guide lead the way, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the experience without the stress of planning routes or worrying about getting lost. By following the designated bike-friendly trails and routes, you can focus solely on enjoying the journey and soaking up the mesmerizing atmosphere of Washington, D.C. at night.
10 – Take in Art and Culture
Washington DC is a city with a rich history and culture, and this is reflected in its many museums. There are over 100 museums in DC, covering a wide range of topics, from art and history to science and technology. Many of these museums are open until 7 pm or later, making them a great option for a cultural outing after dark.
Some of the most popular museums that are open late include:
- The National Portrait Gallery: This museum houses a collection of portraits of American people, from presidents and politicians to artists and athletes.
- The Smithsonian American Art Museum: This museum has a collection of over 70,000 works of American art, from paintings and sculptures to decorative arts and folk art.
- The Hirshhorn Museum: This museum specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a collection that includes works by Picasso, Warhol, and Jasper Johns.
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture: This museum tells the story of African Americans in the United States, from slavery to the present day.
No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something to enjoy in Washington DC at night.
FAQs about things to do in DC at night
Q. Is it safe to visit DC at night?
Like most major cities, it’s best to take basic safety precautions when out at night in DC. Avoid poorly lit or deserted areas. Use rideshares or public transit, especially late at night. Areas like the National Mall, memorials, and monuments are safe and well-lit.
Q. What is there to do in DC for free at night?
Many of the memorials and monuments are lit up beautifully at night and free to visit. Screen on the Green offers free movie screenings on the National Mall in summer. You can go for a walk to see Georgetown’s waterfront area. Many museums are free to enter.
Q. What should you wear to go out at night in DC?
DC has everything from casual taverns to upscale cocktail lounges. For most nightlife spots, smart casual attire is appropriate. Bring layers since evenings can be cooler. If you’re going to the theater or a high-end restaurant, dressier evening wear is recommended.
Q. What is the best way to get around DC at night?
The Metro rail system runs until midnight during the week and 3am on weekends. That’s the most convenient option. Uber, Lyft, taxis, Capital Bikeshare, and the DC Circulator bus also operate at night. Just avoid driving yourself so you don’t have to worry about parking.
Q. Are all restaurants and bars open late in DC?
Many restaurants are open until at least 10pm on weeknights, sometimes later on weekends. Popular areas like U Street, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan have bars and eateries open past midnight. Exact hours can vary by season and day of the week. Check online listings or call ahead to confirm hours.
Washington DC is a city that flourishes during the nighttime with its stunning landmarks, lively communities, arts, music, and spirited atmosphere. One can stroll along the National Mall to admire the well-known landmarks that are brightly lit up after sunset or participate in a performance at the Kennedy Center or a close-by concert venue. The energetic neighborhoods of U Street and Adams Morgan are also deserving of exploration as they are brimming with liveliness. Irrespective of the way one chooses to spend their nighttime in DC, they will be encircled by a wealth of culture, scrumptious cuisine, and an abundance of activities to enjoy. It is only when the sun goes down that the city genuinely comes alive.
Hi, I’m Kemp Alexander and I’m an adventurous travel blogger. I’m a passionate explorer who loves discovering new cultures, experiencing unique customs, and capturing my journeys through stories. Whether it’s trekking through the mountains of Thailand or eating local delicacies in South America, every journey is an opportunity to uncover something new. I’m a vibrant traveler with a knack for capturing the beauty of each destination in all forms: visually, mentally, emotionally. Through my blog I take readers on unforgettable trips to far-off places around the world while providing helpful insight for their own journeys. Follow me on my incredible adventures!