Our local experts surveyed guests, canvassed review sites, and researched hundreds of different Washington DC activities to select our list of the best things to do once the sun goes down in Washington DC.
In a city long held as a beacon of democracy, nightfall brings with it a kind of magic; and the best way to appreciate its beauty is aboard an Old Town Trolley Monuments by Moonlight Tour. Witness Abraham Lincoln at the memorial of his namesake, luminous and resolute, keeping watch over the capital city he kept unified. Drive past the Jefferson Memorial, a Neoclassical tribute to the 3rd president of the United States, cast against a luminescent moon. Highlights of the tour include visits to the Iwo Jima Marine Corp Memorial, the FDR Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
The 2 1/2 hour tour departs nightly from Union Station and is a wonderful study in contrasts from the day tour and really highlights the transformation this city undergoes when the sun goes down – and what a dramatic transformation it is! The tour is fully narrated by some of the best guides in the business which, in part, has earned the tour to be ranked among the Ten Best Hop-On/Hop-Off tours in the world and FOX News ranks it as one of the top 20 best-kept secrets in Washington DC.
As a cheerful harbinger of the holiday season, it’s hard to beat ZooLights at DC’s famed National Zoo. Barring an exceptionally cold snap and a few specific dates like Christmas, this wonderful display of over 500,000 LED lights is open nightly through January 1. This outing is ideal for just about anyone from couples to families and there’s tons to do like a ride on the National Zoo Choo-Choo. This trackless train takes you to where the big cats are kept for prime views of the light extravaganza. Snow day or not, you can take the plunge down a 150-foot track for some exhilarating tubing. Catch the light show set to music and wind down after a perfect evening on the park’s carousel.
One of the first things you notice when you see an overhead shot of Washington DC is a sizable, enclosed body of water on whose banks sits the iconic Jefferson Memorial. This is the Tidal Basin. Seen in many films and a popular spot for runners, this giant bathtub is a wonderful spot to view all the monuments that make up the National Mall. Every spring, the Tidal Basin plays host to flocks of tourists in town for the viewing of the cherry blossoms in full bloom. For a late-night stroll with a dash of history thrown in, this is a very chill option.
As far as night time diversions go, some things just never go out of style. Heading out to your local movieplex for some choice escapism for a couple of hours is definitely one of those things. When in DC, the preferred destination for such an outing is the E Street Cinema. Widely regarded as the best movie theater in the city, the genres and films screened here range from classic and first-run to documentaries and independent films. Another fine feature in this establishment is the concessions stand where a potent cup of espresso can be had just as easily as a glass of Pinot Grigio. You won’t have to worry about finding a parking space or feeding the meter while you’re inside either as the theater will validate the parking on premises so long as it does not exceed a 3-hour period. Can you smell the popcorn popping yet?
U need to head down to the U Street Corridor and experience a vibrant, historic neighborhood on a serious comeback to reclaim the prominence it once held. Many decades ago, this was the heart of the African-American community in Washington DC with great nightlife and live music on every block. In the late 60s, it experienced a bit of a demise but has since been revitalized with fantastic new restaurants like U & Pizza alongside the old standbys like the landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl. As far as shaking your money maker goes, there are a plethora of cool spots to get your groove on like the divey Velvet Lounge, Dodge City and the legendary U Street Music Hall. Since museum hopping at night can end a little early, go somewhere where great art can be viewed 24 hours a day. Check out the Phillips Collection commissioned murals on 905 U Street NW for some great content for your Instagram account.
When the first modern gallery in the United States takes the stuffiness you typically associate with art viewing and turns it into a party, you simply have to go! The first Thursday every month brings the city’s young, artsy, upwardly mobile crowd together at the famous Phillips Collection with live music, a cash bar, things to nibble on and displays that are organized around a central theme. This is a hot ticket, so if you want to experience a wonderful evening of art and culture with a twist in the Nation’s capital, make sure to book those tickets well ahead of time.
Located on the National Mall between the National Gallery’s West Building and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Is the newest addition to the famed National Gallery Of Art. The Sculpture Garden features large works by some of the most venerated artists of the last 100+ years such as those by Joan Miro, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others. Besides impressive three-dimensional artworks, the grounds of the sculpture garden transform into an outdoor music festival with live bands representing all genres of music being invited to play throughout the year. Besides jazz, you can enjoy swing, funk, hip-hop, Latin, go-go, ska, Dixieland, blues, and more. There is also gourmet food and drinks on hand at various restaurant pavilions located on the garden grounds. Grab your picnic blanket and your favorite person for a unique night on the town.