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D.C.-area nightlife, events and dining

Rooftop happy hours in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia

Area clubs and hotels offer music, food and beautiful views at summery rooftop happy hours.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 3:12 PM

In the midst of summer's sweltering heat, there are two kinds of bar-goers.

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Those who seek the darkest, coldest dive bars they can find and camp out with an ice-cold beer (hopefully in a chilled mug) until September rolls around.

Then there are those, with memories of winter snowstorms, who want to be outside and in the sunshine as much as possible.

Count me in the latter camp. There are great bar and restaurant patios to enjoy a beer after work with friends, but give me a rooftop anytime. There's something relaxing about hanging out stories above everyone else. No distractions from sidewalk traffic, honking cabs or idling buses. Instead, there's just the sun, the views and plenty of people-watching.

Perhaps that's why so many bars and restaurants have rooftop spaces in the works, including music venues (DC9 and the Rock and Roll Hotel), beer halls (ChurchKey) and dive bars (the Red Derby).

And while any excuse to be outdoors is nice, sunny afternoons on roof decks are always better when there's something to do, whether that's taking a dip in a pool, dancing to a DJ or engaging in a water-gun fight. Here are five of my favorite rooftop destinations, all of which have something new to offer this summer.

Doubletree Hotel Bethesda

The rooftop of this hotel, located at the northern end of downtown Bethesda, has a lot going for it: a pool surrounded by a huge deck and 16th-story views of the city, the neighboring NIH campus and a carpet of green stretching from Virginia to Silver Spring. There was just nothing being done with it.

That changed in June, when the Tree Top Tropical Thursdays made the hotel a happy-hour destination, with waits of 20 minutes or more to get in. Besides the views, the draws include free food, DJs spinning radio hits and club tunes, and plenty of furniture for groups to hang out on and catch up.

Those people in the pool? They're not hotel guests. The young Bethesdians at the party make use of the hotel's changing rooms, trading work clothes for swimsuits.

"It's a great view and a lot of fun," says Tevis Hannington, 21, an American University student. "If you're looking for the cheapest drink in Bethesda, this isn't the place, but there's no cover and everybody's in a good mood. I think the view's worth it."

The bar serves bottled beer and frozen cocktails, and by the end of the night, an impromptu dance party is underway.

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