The instructor yells “5, 6, 7, 8!” and couples on the dance floor start to sway to the rhythm of salsa music. One couple moves confidently, feet in sync and hips swinging in all the right places. Others are unsure, but fueled by $5 margaritas and the spirited atmosphere, they give it their best. This scene happens every Wednesday night at El Centro D.F. in Georgetown, one of many bars in D.C. rethinking happy hour by shaking up the cheap-beer-and-25-cent-wings formula. Whether it’s mini golf, bocce, science experiments or salsa lessons, these four D.C. bars bring out the fun when quitting time hits.
Salsa lessons at El Centro D.F.
1218 Wisconsin Ave. NW; free lessons on Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m., late night happy hour, 10 p.m.-midnight; 202-333-4100
Margaritas, wines and beers are $5 a pop during happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. daily at the Georgetown location of this Latin restaurant. Every Wednesday from 9 to 10 p.m., free salsa lessons dominate the dance floor. Following the fancy footwork, El Centro D.F. makes the same specials available from 10 till midnight. “We’re moving El Centro out of the restaurant realm and into a dancing destination,” says general manager Drew Darneille. The back patio means dancers can cool off from salsa under the stars.
Free miniature golf at H Street Country Club
1335 H St. NE; Mondays, 4-10 p.m.; 202-399-4722
Featuring the only indoor mini golf course in D.C., “H Street Country Club is a place to blow off steam and see some green,” owner Ricardo Vergara says. The D.C.-themed course requires you to maneuver a ball through a miniature Beltway cluttered with cars, the narrow alley between the Lincoln Theatre and Ben’s Chili Bowl and past zombie presidents. On Mondays between 4 and 10 p.m., the purchase of an entree comes with a free round of mini golf, normally $7. Mexican dishes created by chef Ann Cashion include steak tampiqueno and pan-seared mahimahi.
Bocce ball at Vinoteca
1940 11th St. NW; happy hour daily, 5-7 p.m., free bocce ball Wednesdays-Sundays; 202-332-9463
With 20 wine selections priced at $5 and up from 5 to 7 p.m., you can play sommelier during Vinoteca’s happy hour. What makes this wine bar even more special is its bocce court on the plaza, which is free to use Wednesdays through Sundays, weather permitting. “When I was younger I saw people playing bocce in town squares in Western European countries, and it was a fun community gathering site,” says owner Paul Carlson, who traveled throughout Europe after college. “I wanted to re-create that here.” For the more serious players, Vinoteca also hosts the D.C. bocce league on its court.
Science nerdery at Argonaut
1433 H St. NE; Science Night on Tuesdays, 8-10 p.m., taco deals 5-10 p.m.; 202-250-3660
Do you still love Bill Nye the Science Guy or reminisce about your erupting volcano from the science fair? This neighborhood bar and restaurant challenges guests every Tuesday night to complete experiments using only an eighth-grade science kit. Teams compete for a $50 gift certificate, figuring out which aluminum boat can hold the most weight, or which egg can survive the drop from the second-floor balcony. Although alcohol is still full-price, Science Night coincides with Taco Tuesdays, featuring $3 fish and steak tacos and $2 chicken and tempeh varieties.
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