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Planning an epic adventure to the nation’s capital city and looking for some after-dark excitement? From rooftop bars and cozy pubs to night tours and cultural attractions, our guide to things to do in Washington DC at night will take you through the activities and experiences you can enjoy after the sun sets.
You can’t do it all in one night, but you can certainly try to check off several of our DC evening suggestions each night of the week!
If you’d like to explore the city during the day, check out our guide to the iconic things to do in Washington DC.
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC at Night
The National Gallery of Art After Hours
The Smithsonian Museums are some of the absolute must-see museums when you are in DC, and you won’t want to skip the National Gallery of Art (Constitution Ave. NW).
Home to Museum Nights, the National Gallery of Art opens its doors about once a month to after-hours guests, and it’s one big party in the museum.
Visitors can enjoy art and live performances such as dances, music, and more throughout the evening.
Tickets are free, but you will need to get them in advance, as these events are quite popular.
Check their website for updates and schedules.
The Waldorf Astoria DC
The Waldorf Astoria (1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) in DC is located in the historic Old Post Office and features some of the most fascinating architecture in the city.
Check out the beautiful building, then head to the hotel bar, Bazaar, by DC legend José Andrés.
Enjoy their sophisticated cuisine and theatrical cocktails in a colorful, elegant setting.
Haunted DC Ghost Tour
Getting into the city’s spooky side is one of the more thrilling things to do in DC in the evening!
Explore the local haunted history, where tales of ghostly encounters, haunted mansions, and spine-chilling sights await.
Check out this DC ghost tour to visit sites like the Blair House, which is said to be haunted by President Harry Truman’s would-be assassin, and the Hay-Adams Hotel, rumored to be the haunting grounds of Henry Adams’ wife.
And no ghost tour would be complete without getting a glimpse of one of the most haunted buildings in DC: The White House!
Here is our round-up of the best spooky DC tours in the city.
National Christmas Tree Lighting
If you happen to visit during the holiday season and are on the lookout for more Washington DC night attractions, you have a chance to witness the National Christmas Tree Lighting.
This cherished holiday tradition has brought the festive spirit to the nation’s capital since 1923.
Each year, thousands of visitors gather in anticipation to witness the illumination of the grand National Christmas Tree.
The event takes place on the Ellipse, just beyond the fences of the White House (91600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW), and features a dazzling array of performances by renowned artists and choirs, adding a delightful musical backdrop to the festivities.
To plan ahead, be sure to check out the updated event schedule.
Nighttime Trolley Tour
Hop aboard a guided trolley tour to witness the iconic monuments of the U.S. capital come to life under the night sky.
Discover hidden stories, rich history, and fascinating facts behind each monument, with a local guide to help you out.
It’s a fun thing to do in downtown DC at night where you can get off at carefully selected stops to explore at your own pace, taking the time to soak in the sights of iconic landmarks around the area.
Hotel Washington’s Vue Rooftop Bar
The monuments lit up at night are a magical sight, so after you stroll along the National Mall, head up to a rooftop bar for an evening view of the entire city.
Plenty of downtown hotels have beautiful rooftops where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and take in parts of the DC skyline.
One local favorite is Vue Rooftop in the Hotel Washington (515 15th St NW).
Vue Rooftop Bar offers a delightful rooftop experience with stunning views of the city skyline.
The menu features a variety of mouthwatering options, including small plates, shared bites, and refreshing cocktails.
Guests can indulge in delectable dishes such as pasta, steaks, lobster, calamari, and more.
Visit this spot if you’re looking for late-night things to do in DC on a Friday night as it stays open until 2 am.
The infamous Ford’s Theater (511 10th St NW) where President Lincoln was assassinated is still a working theater.
You can visit the theater as a museum during the day, but why not see an actual play along with the museum?
Ford’s Theater supports local shows as well as touring productions, and there is always something new to see.
DC is known for its foodie scene, so take the opportunity to try out a Michelin-starred restaurant while you’re here!
Consider consistent favorite Tail Up Goat (1827 Adams Mill Rd NW) or go to hip Blagden Alley to check out The Dabney (922 N St. NW, Blagden Alley NW).
For multiple options, Penn Quarter has you covered; check out minibar by José Andrés (855 E St NW), Cranes (724 9th St NW), or Fiola (601 Pennsylvania Ave NW).
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, José Andrés has multiple restaurants in the city that all offer exceptional dining experiences.
Two of my favorites are Jaleo (480 7th St NW) and Zaytinya (701 9th St NW).
Jaleo specializes in authentic Spanish cuisine, with a tapas-style menu and specialty sangria you won’t want to skip.
Zaytinya boasts beautiful Mediterranean meals paired with a diverse wine menu that I love!
Capital One Arena
The Capital One Arena (601 F St NW) is home to many of Washington’s professional sports teams.
All year round, you can catch a sporting event here, whether it’s the Washington Wizards playing basketball or the Washington Capitals on the hockey rink.
The Capital One Arena is one metro stop away from Metro Center at Gallery Place/Chinatown.
The Wizards and the Capitals (known fondly to locals as the Caps) play often, so even if you don’t make it to a game, you will almost always see sports fans in jerseys and team colors making their way in and out of Penn Quarter every night.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum
There are two Smithsonian Museums that stay open into the evening hours.
The American Art Museum (G Street NW & 8th St NW) is home to one of the largest collections of American art in the country.
There are many styles on display, from photography and modern folk art to African-American and Latino art — and even video games!
Among its exhibits are the world’s largest collection of New Deal art, American impressionist paintings, and pieces from the Gilded Age.
Admission is free and the museum is open until evening.
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery (8th St NW & G St NW) is the other Smithsonian museum that’s free to visit and is open into the evening hours.
The museum is dedicated to portraying the history and culture of the United States through portraiture.
Its vast collection spans over 23,000 works of art, featuring portraits of influential figures from various fields, including politics, arts, and sports.
A complete collection of US presidential portraits, other than those in the White House, can also be found at the museum.
The gorgeous atrium in the center of the building is a beloved local escape — few tourists spend time here while locals who work in the area love to enjoy lunch or a coffee in this pretty year-round space.
It’s one of my favorite spots in the city!
Ciel Social Club
Ciel Social Club (601 K St NW) in the AC Hotel by Marriott features an elegant and comfortable setting for guests to relax and socialize.
With its stylish decor, modern lighting, and chic furnishings, this place creates a welcoming space for those seeking a refined dining and social experience.
The club offers a well-curated selection of wines, craft cocktails, beers, and other specialty drinks.
Interestingly, though their menu mostly features Western cuisine, they also have a selection of Asian food like udon noodles, teriyaki beef, Korean meatballs, and more.
On weekdays, the rooftop is open until midnight and until 2 am on Fridays.
Their weekend schedule may vary, so be sure to check their website for updates or reservations.
Oyster Oyster (1440 8th St NW) is another Michelin-starred restaurant in DC, whose Chef Rob Rubba also won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2023.
Known for its focus on sustainable and vegetarian cuisine, this innovative eatery takes pride in offering a unique dining experience that celebrates the natural world and showcases the versatility of plant-based ingredients.
At Oyster Oyster, the menu is carefully crafted to highlight seasonal produce and emphasize the flavors and textures of vegetables, grains, mushrooms, and more.
The 9:30 Club
One of the coolest things to do at night in DC, the 9:30 Club (15 V St NW) is host to an excellent mix of music legends, local favorites, and up-and-comers ready to hit it big.
The 500-person venue regularly sells out acts as varied as the Beastie Boys, Bob Dylan, Maisie Peters, and countless others.
The 9:30 Club is a DC favorite, so you’ll always find something on at night.
St. Vincent Wine Bar
The bar also features outdoor seating in a garden setting for a little escape from the typical city fray.
There’s also a cozy upstairs bar with live jazz music if you’d rather relax while sipping wine.
A friend of mine owns the place; tell Fred that Amanda sent you!
Ben’s Chili Bowl
You can find plenty of places to go in DC at night, and U Street is always a bustling hotspot.
While you’re enjoying the overall vibe, grab some delicious late-night eats at the perennial favorite, Ben’s Chili Bowl (1001 H St NE).
This place has been serving up delicious chili since 1958.
You can indulge in their signature dish, the mouthwatering half-smoke chili dog, featuring a grilled sausage smothered in their famous homemade chili.
The menu also offers a variety of other chili-based options, including chili cheese fries and chili bowls.
There are days when they are open until 4 am, but it’s best to check their schedule so you can easily include this in your must-do night activities in DC.
To impress a date, friend, spouse, or just to feel like you’re totally in-the-know, head to The Gibson (2009 14th St NW).
The Gibson is a popular speakeasy-style bar known for its craft cocktails and intimate ambiance.
With a concealed entrance and a cozy, dimly lit interior, it offers a unique and immersive experience for its customers.
Adams Morgan is another great spot for DC nightlife.
With its easily walkable pedestrian streets and plenty of outdoor seating, this is the city’s best place for bar hopping or pub crawling.
Featuring affordable bars and lounges of all different themes — including Middle Eastern, Brazilian and Salvadoran — there is something for everyone in Adams Morgan.
AdMo used to be a little rough around the edges when I lived in Dupont Circle, but it’s now one of my favorite areas to take newcomers to the city!
Phillips After 5
The Phillips Collection is the first modern art gallery in the U.S. and is open for Phillips After 5 on a monthly basis.
Phillips After 5 features live bands, drinks, snacks, and of course, art exhibitions.
The Phillips is not one of DC’s free museums, but the price is worth it for the museum experience and the After-5 parties!
I loved walking over here for the Philips After 5 events when I lived in Dupont, it was such a lovely way to end the workday!
DC loves golf, so there are plenty of nighttime golf venues to practice your swing, grab a beer, and make some new friends.
Puttery (800 F St NW) is ideally situated in Gallery Place for easy Metro options if you’re gathering a group of friends.
The Mansion on O
Looking for more museums open at night in DC?
The Mansion on O (2020 O St NW) offers a unique experience and it’s open until 9 pm most nights.
This place has a long history of being inhabited by spies, and now features more than 100 rooms and 70 secret doors within its quirky space.
The eclectic museum is home to fine art, antiques, and 19th-century details like stained glass windows.
Fun fact: I lived right across the street for a few years!
Strolling through Georgetown at night is a charming way to experience this historic DC neighborhood.
Explore Georgetown’s cobblestone streets, classic architecture, and trendy boutiques.
Grab a drink at one of the historic taverns, like Martin’s Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave NW) or Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St NW), and then head to the waterfront to take in the beautiful views of the Potomac River as the lights twinkle across the water.
There are tons of stores and shops in Georgetown, too, many of which stay open into the evening hours.
M Street is the main road lined with places to eat, drink, and shop, but the pretty homes and historic charm can more readily be found off the main street.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Go for a walk along the Potomac at Georgetown Waterfront Park; this is the perfect DC nighttime family activity so the kids can run around while parents get to enjoy the views.
The park is also perfectly positioned to watch boats and planes making their respective journeys.
There are also nighttime events hosted here, including outdoor movies (free during the summer) and ice skating in the winter.
Graham Rooftop Bar
Also located in Georgetown, The Rooftop at the Graham Georgetown (1075 Thomas Jefferson Street NW) is an awesome spot for evening drinks in DC.
Grab a table with a view or cozy up on one of the couches and look for local landmarks.
Come early enough to bask in beautiful sunset views and stay until the lights twinkle across Georgetown and over to Rosslyn beyond.
Moonlight Boat Tour
Looking for more things to do in Georgetown at night?
A boat tour is one of the best ways to see DC, and a dinner cruise is the perfect romantic end to your evening along the Potomac.
Boat tours will take you from Georgetown, out along the monuments, past the Tidal Basin, and back.
You will see the iconic Kennedy Center, along with the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial all lit up.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2700 F St NW) is the premier theater in DC.
Home to the Washington Ballet, the Washington National Opera, the National Symphony Orchestra, and host to plenty of touring and regional plays, musicals, dance productions, and more, there is always something going on at the Kennedy Center.
If you love live performances and are looking for free things to do in DC at night, there are concerts from Wednesday through Saturday at the Millenium Stage in the Kennedy Center you can watch at no charge.
For updated schedules, be sure to check out their website.
Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial
Each branch of the military has its own band, and they each consistently feature free concerts, but the Marine Corps Sunset Parade is held the most often and is the easiest to catch as there are no tickets required (even free ones).
The Marine Corps Band, “The Commandant’s Own,” as well as the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, gives performances every week, along with a drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
The military demonstration honors the Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States.
Visit DC’s newest immersive experience, Artechouse (1238 Maryland Ave SW).
Open until 9 pm, stop by at night for an evening of amazing art and science.
This experience is made for Instagram, so bring your phone and be ready for an epic photoshoot!
Nationals Park in Navy Yard is one of the best places to go at night in DC during the summer!
Home to DC’s MLB team, the Nationals, Navy Yard is also an up-and-coming neighborhood with plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment options for the whole family.
When the Nationals are in their off-season, Nationals Park hosts concerts and events for big names like Elton John as well as the annual Summer Carnival.
I used to take advantage of the absurdly cheap $2 tickets at Nats Park and went to countless summer evening games after work; prices have since risen, but the experience is still as classically Americana as always!
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress (101 Independence Ave SE) is a must-see for book lovers, and it is open until 8 pm as part of normal operating hours, as well as hosting regular after-hours events.
It features ornate ceilings and stunning architecture.
During normal operating hours, you can browse their collection of rare books and documents, including Thomas Jefferson’s original library, all for free; just be sure to book a free ticket in advance.
If you’re with friends or family, you can go on a guided tour to discover more information about the place- plus an opportunity to enter the US Capitol Building.
Keep an eye out for their after-hours special events like live music, dance performances, lectures, and more.
These evening events are free to attend and simply require advance registration.
We hope you enjoyed our list of all the fun things to do in DC at night!
Share your favorite things to do or let us know if we missed any hidden gems in the comments below.