For New Year's Eve, Book Early

By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 5, 2008

If you haven't made New Year's Eve plans yet, it might be a good idea to get started today. Event tickets are getting more expensive by the minute.

On the Clarendon Ballroom's Web site, for example, prices for the semiformal New Year's Eve event are listed as "subject to change." The current cost ($85) is printed in black, while future increases ($95, $105, $115) are visible in light-gray lettering, like ghosts yet to fully materialize.

Dave Lindenauer, whose group Lindy Promotions will host a party for more than 3,000 people at Washington's Grand Hyatt hotel, says that on "New Year's Eve, more than any other holiday, people procrastinate. And people who wait until the last second pay more. It's like airline tickets or hotel rooms."

Tickets for his Downtown Countdown went up by $10 Tuesday, hitting $129 for five hours of open bar, a dinner buffet, three bands, DJs, comedians and karaoke spread over several hotel ballrooms. The price will rise five more times before New Year's Eve, eventually reaching $179.

"It's supply and demand. We want to sell enough at a low price so people commit early," Lindenauer explains.

Patrick Barton is president of the Party DC group, which is organizing Big Night D.C. at the new Gaylord National hotel at National Harbor. He says the tickets are sold in blocks. A certain number sell for $109, and once those are sold, the next group goes for $139, then $159 and beyond. "We know from the past that we sell the most tickets at one price, so we have more at that price," Barton says.

It's not just the big-time hotel parties that warn you to buy now or pay more later. At the Reef, a three-story Adams Morgan bar offering unlimited drinks, hors d'oeuvres and DJs, tickets sell for $125 before Dec. 15 and $150 after, an arbitrary divide owner Brian Harrison says is "just to encourage early ticket sales."

Not that it really matters: The Reef's party sells out every year, generally before Christmas.

Here's a round-up of major parties with advance ticket sales:

Big Night D.C.

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill. $119 and up, 703-251-4800 or

A move to the new Gaylord National has tripled Big Night D.C.'s space, allowing 16 themed party areas for about 6,000 guests. Six bands, including Carbon Leaf, Mr. Greengenes and Dr. Fu are performing. DJs, topped by Clarendon Ballroom favorite Pat Premier, spin in the "Retro Ballroom," "Hip Hop Room," etc. Mock casino gambling and karaoke are also available. Tickets include full open bar and food. $179 VIP tickets allow access to additional areas and top-shelf liquor. Dress is creative black tie optional.

Clarendon Ballroom New Year's Eve Gala

Clarendon Ballroom, 3185 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $85 and up, 703-469-2244 ($3.50 charge for phone orders), or at the Ballroom.

The Clarendon Ballroom's annual black-tie-optional party includes seven drink tickets (beer or rail drinks), a dinner buffet and midnight champagne toast and balloon drop. Entertainment comes from local cover bands Lost in Paris and Liquid A, and DJ Lil Fos.

Downtown Countdown

Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1000 H St. NW, $129 and up, 202-397-7328 or

One of Washington's largest New Year's Eve parties, the Downtown Countdown occupies three of the hotel's ballrooms, its large atrium, the Grand Slam Sports Bar and the Grand Cafe. Entertainment includes New Orleans rockers Cowboy Mouth, Virginia college favorites Pat McGee Band and cover band extraordinaire Gonzo's Nose, various DJs, a stand-up comedy room and karaoke. Admission includes an open bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres. VIP tickets, which include access to additional areas with more seating, an extra half-hour of open bar and acoustic concerts by the evening's featured performers, cost $200.

License to Thrill Around the World Gala

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 5000 Seminary Rd., Alexandria. $149 and up, 703-861-8075 or

Euronet International, a social networking group for European professionals, is hosting a James Bond-themed party. Different areas of the hotel stand in for exotic locales, with themed entertainment and performers: A DJ spins Russian pop music while vodka flows freely in "Russia"; Bollywood dancers perform while you snack from a buffet in "India"; "the Caribbean" has reggae and meringue music, rum drinks and a limbo contest. Tickets include food and drink. VIP tickets ($199) include access to additional areas, premium drinks and a four-course dinn er before the party.

Mark Rae and Thomas Blondet

Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th St. NW. $50 until Dec. 22, $60 after, 202-466-3922 or

English DJ Mark Rae has been around the electronic music scene for years, heading the Grand Central label and working as half of the influential duo Rae & Christian. Now running the Yes King label and releasing his own mix CDs, Rae brings breakbeats, hip-hop and funk to ESL on New Year's Eve, where he'll be joined by resident DJ Thomas Blondet. The Donvonté McCoy Quintet performs upstairs in the jazz bar with guest vocalist Mavis Waters. Admission includes an open bar from 9:30 to 10:30 and a midnight champagne toast. Group discounts are available.

New Year's Eve Gala 2009: A Salute to America

Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Rd. NW. $176 and up, 301-519-8030 or (Prices are scheduled to rise tonight at 10 p.m.)

The young professionals group Things to Do D.C. and the International Club of D.C. are throwing this black-tie optional gala, which includes food, drinks, music and dancing in nine themed party areas modeled after various locales. Try your hand at gambling in "Las Vegas," dance to the Oasis Band's reggae hits in "the Caribbean" or dance to a swing orchestra in "Chicago," among others. Ticket includes food, a top-shelf open bar and midnight champagne toast. A $199 Gold VIP option adds a private reception and an extra hour of food and drink. A $215 VIP ticket adds early admission, a three-course dinner, a performance by a chamber ensemble and reserved seating at the party.

New Year's Eve Passport To the World Gala

Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW. $119 and up, 202-686-5990 or (Prices are scheduled to rise to $129 and $179 today at 5 p.m.)

Last year's Professionals in the City party, at the Hotel Washington, drew more than 4,000 people. This year, the party moves to the Washington Hilton with live swing, salsa and mariachi bands, Bollywood and Top 40 DJs, karaoke, speed dating and stand-up comedy in multiple themed ballrooms, as well as an open bar and food. A VIP option adds a private dinner before the party, a private bar and additional seating.

New Year's Eve at the Reef

The Reef, 2446 18th St. NW. $100 before Dec. 15, $125 after, 202-518-3800 or at the bar. Residents of the 20008, 20009 or 20010 Zip codes can show their drivers license to get a 10 percent discount.

The Reef's all-inclusive semiformal New Year's Eve party includes a full open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres and DJs spinning dance music on the main level and in the first-floor Lush bar. The heated roofdeck will be open.

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