The Interns' Guide: Where to Go if You're Under 21

By Fritz Hahn Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006; 12:00 AM

Music and Dancing | Hanging Out | All 18-and-Over Club Nights

It's Friday night, and 18th Street in Adams Morgan is hopping with folks dressed up and ready to party. This is arguably the hottest stretch of bars and clubs in the area. And there's a bouncer at every door checking driver's licenses, turning away anyone who's not 21. Even Tryst, the strip's lone coffeehouse, cards everyone after 9. No matter where you go -- Arlington, Annapolis or Georgetown -- the process repeats itself.

The years between 18 and 20 are an awful limbo -- old enough to want to go out, old enough to have tasted independence at college, but not quite old enough to get into all the clubs you want to explore. Still, there are plenty of ways to enjoy an evening on the town without worrying about being turned away because of your age.

Music and Dancing

Music fans should have few problems, as Washington's major concert venues -- including the 9:30 club, the Black Cat and the Birchmere -- are all ages, all the time. But some smaller clubs offering live entertainment, including Iota, Galaxy Hut, DC9 and Madam's Organ, are 21 and over, with few exceptions.

If you're looking to go dancing, some of the area's most exclusive lounges and nightclubs, including Love and MCCXXIII, offer a token "college night" once a week, which attracts mixed crowds who sip cocktails as well as sodas.

The Platinum Club has bounced between 18-and-over and 21-and-over nights recently, but is currently open to everyone for hip-hop, house, Latin and other styles Thursday through Saturday. (Sundays remain 21-and-over for hip-hop.) On the rock side, the Mousetrap, a long-running all-ages Britpop and indie-rock dance night, happens once a month on the main stage of the Black Cat, and there are events featuring soul, indie, electro and '80s music every weekend on the club's smaller back stage.

Click here to see a longer list of 18-and-over club nights.

Most regular swing-dancing events, such as those at Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom or the Chevy Chase Ballroom, are all-ages. Sadly, many of the area's biggest and best salsa nights are off-limits to anyone who isn't of age.

In general, choices have shrunk recently, as several clubs that hosted 18-and-over events, including Lulu's and Polly Esther's, closed earlier this spring, andNation, which welcomed everyone Thursday through Saturday, shut its doors forever in July.

Hanging Out

If you'd rather sit around and talk to friends instead of hitting a crowded club or concert hall, you have a variety of options.

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