Nightlife in Washington, DC
Fancy movie theaters may be commonplace in big cities, but how many can boast association with the esteemed American Film Institute? Set in a beautifully restored Art Deco movie house in downtown Silver Spring, the AFI offers both current movies and a variety of film classics. In addition to the usual popcorn and soda, you can purchase cafe fare and alcoholic beverages and bring them to your seat. There is garage parking nearby, or the theater is walking distance from the Silver Spring Metro stop. Ticket prices are roughly the same as your local multiplex. And watching a movie with a crowd of grown-ups who are actually there to see the film? Priceless.
This subterranean Cleveland Park hideaway has a friendly local vibe, a diverse jukebox and beloved bartenders. Throw in pool tables, shuffleboard and board games to boot, and what's not to love? They don't serve food, but it's "BYO" -- they even keep menus on hand for those who want to order delivery. In addition to the full bar, Atomic Billiards has eight beers on tap and over 50 bottled beers, including lambics and nonalcoholic options. Rates for pool and shuffleboard range from $6-20 per hour depending on number of players and time of night. Planning to visit often? Paid annual memberships offer free pool before 6 p.m. and a discount on all bar tabs.
ChurchKey is serious about beer. Very, very serious about beer. Sudsy offerings include 555 varieties, 55 of them drafts, with five hand-pumped English-style cask ales. There are even three separate coolers for keeping each beer at its optimum temperature. ChurchKey is clearly a beer nerd's dream, but beer newbies shouldn't fear -- the beer menu is organized by taste (which makes it much easier to narrow down your choices), and staff are always willing to answer questions. A large number of ChurchKey fans means frequent crowds during popular hours. The restaurant downstairs, Birch & Barley, provides the food and offers the same beer options. Food reviews are mixed, but word is you can never go wrong by ordering dessert.
This combination bookstore/restaurant/bar in Dupont Circle is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, until 1 a.m. the rest of the week. It's the rare spot that offers something for every mood: a variety of meals, appetizers or shared plates, appealing desserts, and alcohol or coffee (even alcohol in coffee, for those who can't decide). The restaurant can get crammed on weekends, but low lighting leaves the atmosphere more intimate than crowded. Weak bladders be forewarned -- the restroom is up several flights of stairs, and requires a token from your server.
Located in a landmark building across the street from the White House and named for a longstanding Washington tradition, Off the Record in the Hay-Adams Hotel is "Power DC" in bar form. The decor is classic, with red walls, dark wood, and political caricatures on the walls. But it takes more than a luxe setting to make Forbes.com's list of "World's Best Hotel Bars" -- Off the Record's multiple-award-winning bartender makes sure the liquid offerings are equally remarkable. Prices match the wealthy surroundings, but the atmosphere is more intimate-welcome than country-club-snooty. Closes at midnight on weekdays, 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.