Got Plans?: New Year's Eve plans, watching bowl games and ideas for entertaining visiting parents

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed New Year's Eve options, watching bowl games, how to entertain visiting parents and how to find Fat Tire beer on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 1 p.m. ET.

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washingtonpost.com: Hey, glad you're all with us here for our special early edition of Got Plans? If you're still weighing your options and looking for ideas for New Year's Eve, you've come to the right place. But we're game to talk about what's happening beyond the end of the year, too. We're a smaller group today because David, Jen, Julia and Rhome are on vacation, so we're glad that Alex Baldinger is joining us, too. So what are your plans for ringing in 2010?

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Washington, D.C.: Please help--Tom didn't get to my question. Any recommendation(s) for a vegetarian-friendly, pre-theater restaurant near the Crystal City Metro for tomorrow night? My friend cannot walk far, so the closer to that metro station, the better. I am not familiar with the area at all. Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: The first spots that come to mind are Jaleo and Cafe Pizzaiolo, which are both veggie-friendly. There's also a Legal Sea Food in the same area. I should mention though that these aren't right on top of the metro, but they are within a half mile or so.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the heads up on the Open Bar at Science Club. Is there a way pre-pay this, as I'm sure it could get crowded?

Fritz: Before they announced the open bar, they were saying that they were taking optional table reservations -- like $50 for groups of 4 or more. Not required, but if you didn't reserve, any free seats were first-come, first-served. I'm guessing that if you called and made a table reservation you could reserve your open bar passes at the same time. It's worth a shot -- give the bar a call after 3 or 4 today and ask for owner/manager Steve Maguire.

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Northwest D.C.: I am thinking about going to Commonwealth since it's a regular happy hour spot that I enjoy. However, I'm wondering a) what's the menu going to be like (and why can't they ever provide any details on their website about special menus) and b) will I feel weird hanging out there if I choose not to go with the vicars or tarts fancy dress party attire?

Fritz: I was in over the weekend to enjoy some delicious Oliver's Dark Mild Ale on cask -- delicious and worth the trip -- and while I didn't get details of the special dinner menu, they said that the regular bar menu would be available until late.

As for tarts and vicars -- the reports from last year was that a good number of people in the crowd weren't dressed up, which seems fine to me. It's a free party, no costumes required. If you already go there on the regular, I don't see why you wouldn't enjoy it.

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Two Triple Oh Eight: Howdy. The gf lives near H st NE and would like to make it a simple walk back tomorrow night. Anything relatively cheap happening H St-area tomorrow? Thanks!

Fritz: Lesssee. The Pug is open as usual. DJ P.Vo. is spinning disco, house and dance music upstairs at the Argonaut for free. DJ Will Eastman of Bliss and a bunch of other popular nights will be spinning at Little Miss Whiskey's, which is $15 to get in or $65 for admission and an all-night open bar. Palace of Wonders' Daredevil New Year's Eve has the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow duo of Thrill Kill Jill and Tyler Fire doing their highly recommended sword-swallowing/fire-breathing/burlesque-dancing/thrills-and-spills sideshow act for $20 per person.

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Arlington, Va.: This is actually more of a "staying in" question, but I thought you all would be able to help. I am in a bit of a blue mood these days due to recent dating experiences and just a general sense of malaise. I feel like staying in this NYE. I already have a couple of good books and some trashy gossip magazines to read, and a good bottle of champagne to consume...what I need is something to eat, and I don't feel like preparing anything. Carry-out sounds like the ideal solution for me. The problem is, I NEVER order carryout. I live in Courthouse. Can you all recommend a good Chinese carry-out? I am craving General Tso's chicken, or as my friend calls it, General Fat-Ass chicken. :) Happy New Year to you all!!!

Stephanie Merry: Sorry about the blue mood, A-ton, but there's something to be said for kicking off the new year without a massive hangover. As for your quest for deep-fried comfort food, I have fond memories of Peking Pavilion, although I haven't been there in ages. TNR in Courthouse is also decent, and they have massive portions (plus bubble tea, if you're a fan).

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Rosslyn, Va.: My parents will be visiting this weekend and they expressed interest in seeing the Terra Cotta warriors, but it's sold out all weekend. They visit often (maybe a bit too often) and have done the mall museums, portrait gallery, spy museum, etc. Anything else come to mind that could help kill a good part of the afternoon on Saturday or Sunday? Thanks in advance!

Stephanie Merry: You guys could take a field trip to Columbia Heights on Sunday for the Three Kings Day Celebration. Or, if you all are into theater, you could always catch a matinee; The Fantasticks is family-friendly, and there are 2 p.m. shows on Saturday and Sunday.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd like to get my husband some kind of beer-related gift. We've never been to ChurchKey or Birreria Paradiso...both sound like they have interesting beer selections. Do you know if either has tastings or other events coming up? Thanks.

Fritz: ChurchKey's events have been kind of last-minute so far, and announced via their Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/churchkeydc). Don't have anything on the radar right now.

Birreria, on the other hand, has a dinner with the brewers of Ommegang on January 25 at the Georgetown locattion. Ommegang was a pioneer in the brewing of Belgian-style beers in the states, so it should be awesome -- four courses of food, six beers, a Q&A with the guests. I think it's $55 or $65 all-inclusive, with seatings at 9:30 and 9.

Another one of my favorite beers bars, Leesburg's Tuscarora Mill -- aka Tuskie's -- is hosting another interesting dinner on January 13, with Michigan's New Holland Brewing Company. $75 for all food and drinks.

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Washington, D.C.: I got a ticket a while ago to New Year's at the National Building Museum because my friends told me that was the plan. I didn't pay much attention to the little information that was on the website, but I now realize what "LNS" is and I am a little hesitant. I guess what I want to know is if this whole crowd is going to be as...unique as I'm assuming?

Fritz: Will it be a predominantly Georgetown/Late Night Shots kind of crowd? Probably. But there will be thousands of people in the museum, and there aren't THAT many people who go to Smith Point/George/Gin and Tonic every weekend, you know? I also imaging having an indie rock buzz band like U.S. Royalty will diversify the crowd a bit. But you never know.

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Baltimore: Hi there. On a whim some buddies and I decided to priceline a cheap hotel in Philadelphia for Friday night. Ended up getting the Marriott across from City Hall for on $60. Never been to Philadelphia before, any idea where the main "go out" areas are? Upper 20s, straight guys, don't really want the trashy Sign of the Whale vibe but also not the pretentious Eighteenth St. Lounge type of stuff either. Love Big Hunt-esque type places! Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Northern Liberties or Fishtown are what you're looking for. Make a beeline for the Standard Tap. You'll thank me.

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Arlington, Va.: Are there any New Years parties or club that wont be populated with young drunk college students? I'm almost 30 and looking to have fun but with people around my age and a little more maturity. Help!

Fritz: Of course there are. My standard answer is this: If a place is full of young, drunk college students during a usual weekend, it probably will on New Year's Eve. But places that don't attract a college crowd for reasons of dress code/cover/prices/whatever on a normal weekend don't usually turn into McFadden's on New Year's Eve. I've been to places like Chi-Cha, Eighteenth Street Lounge, the Gibson, the Reef, and even Helix Lounge on New Year's without feeling like I was back in College Park.

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Downtown D.C.: Do you know of any places in D.C. that will have brunch on Friday? Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: We're getting lots of brunch questions, and unfortunately our resident foodie is off today. Julia did write a New Year's Day brunch piece last year, and I'm guessing a lot of these places will be doing brunch again this year, though you may want to call first to double-check.

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Birch and Barley: Thanks for the tip on the 3-course deal at Birch and Barley tomorrow night. I am excited to try it! Are there any not-to-be-missed beers on draft right now?

Thanks, and have a happy new year!

Fritz Hahn: You could say that. They're planning on breaking out the last keg of Life and Limb, the collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, and Cantillon Kriek, a Belgian ale aged with cherries for five months, and De Dolle's Stille Nacht winter seasonal, among others.

I was in on Monday night with some out-of-towners and we all loved the Brooklyn Bitter on cask, the dark, malty Hoffmann Dopplebock and the Oliver's Pagan Porter, which has a slight hint of vanilla.

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I Heart Beer: I am completely in love with New Belgium's Fat Tire beer. Only available out west, but I'm hoping maybe some obscure place might have it available around here. Bottles or on-tap I don't care. It's been a while since I've had one...

Fritz Hahn: They don't ship east of the Mississippi. That doesn't mean that some enterprising bar owners don't occasionally acquire some once or twice a year, but it's officially not available in this part of the U.S.

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Washington, D.C.: Where are fireworks in D.C. and the surrounding area for New Year's Eve?

Anne Kenderdine:
There aren't any in D.C. proper, but you can see midnight fireworks in Alexandria, Annapolis and Baltimore. Annapolis also gives you a bonus show at 7:30.

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College Park, MD: Love your chats and I finally have a very last-minute NYE-related question! What could a small group of 20-year-old college students on a budget do to ring up the new year in style? If possible, we'd love to dress up and go out, but it seems like most places have an open bar and cater to the 21+ crowd, or are just ridiculously expensive and again, are only for the 21+ crowd. should we just get comfortable in our jammies and wait another year? Thanks so much!

Fritz Hahn: I feel for you, College Park, but you're right -- most New Year's Eve events are 21-and-over. There's the Hot 99.5 party at Fur, with DJs spinning hip-hop, house and Top 40 in multiple rooms. There's the Black Cat's annual bash with Peaches O'Dell's orchestra playing swing music upstairs (which people do dress up for) and DJ Mark Zimin of Mousetrap spinning Britpop and indie rock on the backstage. Retro-soul dynamo Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are performing at the 9:30 club. And there's a live swing band (with dance lessons) at Glen Echo. But that's pretty much it, sadly....

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To Rosslyn and Terra Cotta: I believe the Terra Cotta Warriors show is here until March and you should check with parent about their schedule and pre-order tickets for some future date. It's a really interesting show and nice way to share an event/memory with the family. Just giving a "shout out" to National Geographic and the ancient Chinese (and to the guy I just started dating who took me there a few weekends ago).

Stephanie Merry: Awww, young love. And you're right, the Warriors will be around for a while.

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Alexandria, Va.: I just moved here and new to the area so I'm wondering where is a good place to go for New Years? My Best Friend is also coming out to ring in the new year with me and I want to make sure she has a good time. We are both mid-20s and looking for a bar/club with minimum cover charge, good drinks & music, and a more mature crowd. Any suggestions?

Fritz: Check out my list of Best inexpensive New Year's Eve events and see if any of them sound like something you'd like to do. It seems like it's actually possible to go bar-hopping on H Street or in Adams Morgan if you're trying to avoid high covers.

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Burke, Va.: For the person looking to entertain the 'rents, try the Library of Congress. The interior is beautiful, and they have exhibits on Bob Hope, George Gershwin, and all sorts of drafts of historic documents. I took Mom there last weekend, and she loved it!

Stephanie Merry: Thanks for the suggestion, Burke. And just as a disclaimer, the Library won't be open on New Year's Day or Sunday, but this could be a great destination for Saturday.

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Regarding Fat Tire...: They actually have been shipping east of the Mississippi lately, even as close to here as North Carolina. They are trying to make it to VA in '10.

I've been wanting to try it myself for years and my friend picked up a bottle of it for me while home for the holidays in Wisconsin... it is quite delicious.

Fritz Hahn: Not to draw the wrath of Fat Tire Heads out there, but I really think it's one of the more overrated beers in America. I drank a bit of it when I was roadtripping through Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota this summer, and it's a fine beer, but the New Belgium Brewery has much better options that I'd like to see in this area, like their Trippel and Abbey ales. It's amazing what not being able to get your hands on a beer can do for its reputation.

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Washington, D.C.: Fritz - you recently recommended checking out the Chop House as part of a brewery tour discussion. Maybe you're just depressed over Obama's tanking poll numbers, but a recent sampling of CH offerings left everyone in my group of ten unimpressed, if not slightly nauseated. The Amber Ale, in particular, was fantastically undrinkable.

Fritz: Come on -- I've always thought of beer as being relatively apolitical, unless, you know, you're the president and think drinking Bud Light at the White House makes you look like Joe Sixpack.

Anyway.

Sorry to hear about your experience at Chop House. I was in early last month and my experience didn't mirror yours. The beers were solid, especially the fall/Oktoberfest offerings.

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U Street: We're looking for a place to get brunch and bloodies while watching the New Year's Day bowl games. Any idea who will be serving brunch (not just lunch) this Friday and also have the games on? D.C. area strongly preferred...

Alex Baldinger: This is by no means exhaustive, but Gin & Tonic in Glover Park is doing just what you're looking for: bloody marys, brunch and all bowl games.

Tonic @ Quigley's Pharmacy is also serving a brunch menu on Friday (bottomless mimosas!) beginning at 11. And yes, they'll have your college football taken care of.

Alex Baldinger: Another option for you: Gin & Tonic in Glover Park is doing a brunch/bloody mary/bowl games thing. There's a lot of tonic going around here, eh?

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Terra Cotta warriors, but it's sold out: What about the Ice! palace at the Gaylord Hotel?

Stephanie Merry: And another idea for the person looking to entertain his/her parents.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi... I am looking for a NYE place for a group of 7 girls in Arlington that either has a no or low cover, fun bar atmosphere and dancing. Thanks!

Fritz: Depends what kind of dancing you want to do, though there's almost nothing I've seen in Arlington with that's free on New Year's with dancing.

Whitlow's has live music from party band Back to Zero and a $25 cover that includes a buffet. The loungey Guarapo has two floors of DJs spinning house and international music, a midnight toast and a Latin-inspired buffet. Caribbean Breeze has DJs spinning salsa and other dance music, a midnight toast, etc., and is $30 per person (there are group discounts available, though). Union Jack's is $20 for food, a toast, DJs and dancing. RiRa has live music from Technical V and a $20 cover.

About the cheapest dancing option I've seen is Rock Bottom Ballston's combo of alternative rockers Practically Einstein and DJ Erace (in two rooms) for $10.

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Rockville, MD: Hope I'm not too late to get my question in! My husband and I want to make a last-minute trip downtown to see the National Tree, and get a drink at the Round Robin bar. Am I going to be okay in dark jeans and a cashmere sweater, or should I wear dress pants?

Fritz Hahn: Jeans and a sweater will be fine at the Round Robin.

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Washington, D.C.: I am always hearing-reading that there are more single women then there are single men in this city....if this is true, then they must all go out in the 'burbs. Where do single women over 25 go out in this city?

Fritz Hahn: I can't be the only person who meets people in their 20s and 30s almost every time I go out. Can I? As long as you're not going to collegey bars like McFadden's, Millie and Al's and My Brother's Place every time you hit the town, they're out there. You just need to talk to them.

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Arlington, Va.: If I am going to the Georgetown Men's Basketball Game on the 31st, what is there to do in the area after the game that doesn't require advanced purchase?

Fritz: In Glover Park, you could try Bourbon, Breadsoda or Kitchen, all of which will be open with no cover. Breadsoda has a DJ, and I think Kitchen has a live band. Closer to Wisconsin and M, Martin's Tavern is a low-key option. Mie N Yu has a DJ spinning '80s and '90s music and a special cocktail menu with a not-in-advance $10 cover at the door.

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Scotch tastings: Hi Gurus,Do you know of a bar or restaurant that does Scotch tastings? My hubby is a big fan and I want to take him somewhere for his birthday next month. Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Get him to the Scotch Bar at the Willard Hotel. Jim Hewes is one of the top bartenders in town, and ha can craft a tasting (in advance or on the fly) based around what your husband likes or has previously tried. Just call ahead to make sure he's there.

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Rockville, MD: I am fairly new to the area and my boyfriend is coming in this weekend. We are staying at the Courtyard at the Convention Center Friday night. Any suggestions of a place to go for dinner relatively in that area. Nothing too expensive, maybe something unique. Also- any other suggestions of things to do/see. Thanks!!!

Alex Baldinger: Well, Rockville, without knowing exactly what your tastes are, I can at least tell you that you're in a great area with tons of options. Unique, you say? Grasshopper tacos at Oyamel should fit that bill.

Nearby, there are tons of galleries and museums to take in before dinner (though some, including the National Portrait Gallery, are closed on New Year's Day). Either way, it's a great part of town to walk around in -- you'll find something to your liking.

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Bring it on 2010, H ST Bound: Hi Gurus! First, please know your chats are awesome and immensely helpful. My question is about getting to H St NE on NYE. Will the free shuttle be in operation? Would you recommend another alternative? I know its a pain trying to get a cab out of H St NE, especially one to Virginia. Any helpful hints? Thanks !! Go hokies, beat the vols!

Fritz Hahn: I've tried to get home from H Street on the Big Night and ... let's just say it's really, really hard. There's lot of competition for cabs. Metrobus will be running until 2 a.m., though, so you might want to grab an X2 back to Gallery Place and see if you have better luck out that way, or even at Union Station.

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Washington, D.C.: What do on New Year's Eve with kids (ages 8 and under)?

Anne Kenderdine: We saw a couple questions this theme (congrats to the folks with the new baby, too). Here are all our family-friendly ideas -- depending how old your kids are, you might try something non-specific to New Year's but still festive, like checking out a light display or seeing the light show at National Harbor. If your kids are really young and you're in Virginia, Jammin Java would be right up your alley. If you're closer to Maryland, I'd be into the grand opening of a new indoor play space/New Year's party. The 7:30 fireworks in Annapolis sounds good, too.

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Cheap-ish, no-frills in Arlington, Alexandria or DC?: Hi! A few of us are attempting to have a low-key, cheap NYE. Do you have any suggestions for locations who have no/low cover? We were imagining some kind of dive bar. We have a recent college grad who is low on funds coming into town to visit us and another friend is coming back from a long trip abroad tomorrow as well, so we don't want to do anything fancy.

Thanks! Happy 2010 to you all.

Fritz Hahn: You're on the right track with dive bars.

Here's what I said in our NYE FAQ:

"If you don't want a big price tag, there's no cover to get into Buffalo Billiards, ChurchKey, Quarry House, Nellie's, R.F.D., Science Club and a number of other places. (Science Club does offer an optional $25 open bar, but you don't have to pay anything to dance the night away with Chris Burns' mix of house and disco.) "

Here's a longer list of free NYE events

In Arlington, I'd make a move for Jay's Saloon. Great dive, fun crowd, totally cheap.

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Washington, D.C.: My boss just moved to DC from NY and is missing some of the conveniences of Manhattan living. I thought I would turn to the Gurus for help in tracking some of these down, either in the Penn Quarter/downtown area (east of WH) or near the intersection of NY and Mass Aves:

1. A place to get fresh-squeezed juice. Not sugary smoothies, but like carrot and beet juice etc. 2. A dry cleaner that delivers. 3. A really good shoe repair place.

Thanks for your help!

Stephanie Merry: I was all set with answers, then realized these are a little off the beaten path for you, but maybe they'll be worth the trip: Juice Joint is THE place to go for great juices. For #3, I recently went to a great cobbler at Connecticut and L, downstairs near the Farragut North station. Chatters, any ideas for dry cleaners that deliver?

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Montgomery Village, Md.: I have the impossible question, and there probably isn't an answer...is there an indoor family event for NYE anywhere in the DC metro area? Seems most "first nights" are outside and I'm not up to a night out in the cold. Thanks!

Fritz: Well, most of the First Nights -- at least the ones I've been to in Alexandria and Annapolis -- aren't strictly outside. You do wander around between venues, but the vast majority of things happening, like storytelling and concerts, take place indoors.

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Akeem Joffer: Merry New Year to the GOGS

Stephanie Merry: I didn't know you guys had Internet in Zamunda!

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Washington, D.C.: We've always wanted to try out the Carlyle Club, and thought NYE might be the time to do it. What do you think the scene will be/age-range of the crowd? Thanks!

Fritz: With Rob Zappulla, a Sinata-style singer from New York, and a $75 price tag that includes a midnight toast but not an open bar or food, I'm expecting an older (40s-60s) crowd to show up. Won't be crazy, but could be a low-key option for an older crowd.

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Rockville, Md.: On the Fat Tire, hard0-to-get discussion. When I was in college, you couldn't get Coors East of the Mississippi. I remember the Brickskeller used to truck it in occasionally. First time I had it, I wondered what the fuss wass about.

Fritz: This is true.

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Winchester, Va.: Hi Gurus! I'm thinking of venturing over to D.C. tonight to see the National Christmas tree. (Never been before!) Even though it's now past Christmas, is it still set up and decorated? Any other recommendations of things to do in the White House area tonight for a mother and 20-something daughter's night out?

Anne Kenderdine: No worries -- the National Christmas Tree is fully lit through New Year's Day. Other major decorations you might want to stop by if you're in town: the Botanic Garden and Capitol Christmas Tree. I always love how the National Gallery does up its West Building, too. Check out this chat from a few weeks' back when we talked more about favorite ways to celebrate the holidays.

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Arlington, Va.: For the (presumably) guy looking for women over 25 in D.C., go to wine bars. Every time I go it's women or couples. You could have a field day in there as a single male!

Fritz: There is an element of truth to this.

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Washington, D.C.: Dearest Gurus,

I went home to Reno, Nev. over Christmas and realized how badly I miss playing air hockey. Tables are all over the city (in casino arcades) and a game is usually less than $1. (I also realized just how good I still am...which is probably why I need to play even more.)

But I've lived here for more than three years and never seen a table in the city. Any ideas where I can indulge myself without flying to Nevada? Or driving to Dave and Buster's in Maryland?

Fritz Hahn: ESPN Zone has a table, but I think it's more than $1 a game.

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Arlington, Va.: Tough one - single 30 year old guy without a group to hang out with on NYE. Anywhere to go where I won't feel completely out of place?

Fritz: Just throwing this out there, and you may have no interest in it, but what about going to one of the parties offering free dance lessons to kick off the night? You have to rotate partners as you go through the basic steps, so you'll meet a lot of people, and it's definitely a conversation starter. Try the swing dancing at Glen Echo or salsa at the Salsa Room (in Arlington).

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Brentwood, D.C.: Dry cleaning delivery: I used Parkway for a little while. Free pickup and delivery - but still expensive!

Stephanie Merry: Thanks, Brentwood!

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washingtonpost.com: With that, we wish you HAP-py New Year! See ya next year, when we'll be back to our regular Thursday at 1 time.

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