Washington, D.C., activities for out-of-town guests: 20-somethings

Friday, June 4, 2010

You know the ones: your buddy from law school who's coming to town on a business trip, or your

trio of gal pals plotting a bachelorette party. For them, sightseeing is negotiable; a great night on the town, however, is not.

Trip One: The D.C. scene

What to see: Forgo a ho-hum Friday-night happy hour in favor of an evening at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, where in-the-know 20-and-30-somethings flock to enjoy free jazz performances (by local artists) and sip wine.

Eat: Hop on the Metro from Archives/Navy Memorial to Chinatown for a chic dinner at Greek-inspired Zaytinya (don't forget to casually mention to your friends that Mike Isabella from last season's "Top Chef" happens to be cooking the food). Be sure to make a reservation well in advance.

Unwind: If your pals want to stay in the neighborhood, the wine bar at Proof will keep things classy; if they're ready to loosen up, make a pilgrimage to Rocket Bar, the slightly divey sports mecca where you can play darts, pool or skeeball and keep tabs on professional sports. If the ladies are looking to break it down, your go-to spot should be Napoleon Bistro and Lounge's Metropolitain champagne bar, worth the cab ride to Adams Morgan not just because the flocked silver wallpaper and cushy couches provide a mildly Versailles vibe but also because there's no cover at the subterranean bar.

Jazz in the Garden, Fridays from 5 to 8:30 p.m. through the summer, National Gallery of Art, Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW, 202-289-3360 or http://www.nga.gov/programs/jazz. Zaytinya, 701 Ninth St. NW, 202-638-0800 or http://www.zaytinya.com. Proof, 775 G St. NW, 202-737-7663 or http://www.proofdc.com. Rocket Bar, 714 Seventh St. NW, 202-628-7665 or http://www.rocketbardc.com. Napoleon, 1847 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-299-9630 or http://www.napoleondc.com.

Trip Two: The D.C. sights

What to See: Neither you nor your friends want to make a sweaty, midday trek to the Air and Space Museum. Spend the day hours with brunch close to home (Eggspectation in Silver Spring is popular, or Shirlington's Busboys and Poets, or Cafe Saint-Ex in the District). Then hit the summer-only free admission Saturdays at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Get there mid- to late afternoon and stay til closing, then begin your sightseeing -- yup, in the evening. Families have headed back to their hotels, parking is plentiful, and you can see the majesty of the Lincoln, World War II, FDR and Vietnam Veterans memorials in the cool glow of dusk. Tours of the Washington Monument are extended in the summertime for that very reason. Reserve tickets for one of the last tours of the night, about 8 or 8:30 p.m., for the full effect. A caveat: They go fast; get them well in advance. The first we found available were in late June. At press time, there were some tickets available before and after July Fourth weekend, and plenty were available beyond.

Eat: Finding a place to nosh on the Mall, particularly in the evening, is tough. Pack a snack for your sightseeing. After you've hit the Mall, drive (or cab it) to Old Ebbitt Grill, a stone's throw from the White House. There, you'll find hearty American fare to fill you up after an evening of walking.

Unwind: Stay near the White House and dip into the charmingly old-school Off the Record bar at the Hay-Adams Hotel. It closes by 12:30 a.m. even on weekends, if you want to make it an early night. If you're still going strong, make a reservation at the Gibson on 14th Street NW; the dark speakeasy is a great place for a nightcap to wow your friends.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art (open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays), 500 17th St. NW, 202-639-1700 or http://www.corcoran.org/freesummersaturdays. For Washington Monument tours (offered 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily), visit http://www.recreation.gov, and click on "Tours and Tickets". Old Ebbitt Grill, 675 15th St. NW, 202-347-4800 or http://www.ebbitt.com. Off the Record, 16th and H streets NW, 202-638-6600 or http://www.hayadams.com. The Gibson, 2009 14th St. NW, 202-232-2156 or http://www.thegibsondc.com.

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