The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Who needs other people? These group outings are just as fun for parties of one.

One is the loneliest number, but it’s not so bad. In fact, many of the things that we usually think of as group outings — concerts, dinner, the movies — can be just as fun when you’re flying solo. So whether you’re looking for some “me” time, or you’re without that special someone for Valentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered with first-hand accounts of the activities we enjoy doing alone — and how to make the best of them in Washington.

Skip to: Dining | Drinks | Movies | Concerts | Museums | Baseball | Ballet

DINING

I'm the first to admit I have issues with sharing - only child alert! - which makes dining out alone an absolute joy. I can drop the "I'd give you a bite, but I'm sick!" shtick and concentrate on the glorious, mine-all-mine meal before me.

Some cuisines lend themselves to dining solo, such as tapas, which allows you to try a number of dishes without feeling overly indulgent. Others make more sense with friends, but that's why to-go containers were invented. Plus, I'd never judge anyone for eating an entire pizza alone.

Dining by yourself can be a good strategy: Scoring a table for one is relatively painless at Rose's Luxury, and it means you can bypass the three-hour-plus wait times. What's more, when I eat at the Barracks Row hotspot I'm usually seated at the chef's counter alongside other solo diners. Recently I had a question-filled conversation with someone in town for an apple-growers convention. During another meal, I met a woman who runs a battle reenactment company and was en route to Gettysburg on a research mission.

Moral of the story: Let your guard down, pick your fork up and be prepared to leave enlightened. -- Holley Simmons

Rose's Luxury, 717 Eighth St. SE.

Also try:

Bad Saint, 3226 11th St. NW.

This 24-seat Filipino joint fills up quickly. Not only does dining alone increase your chances of nabbing a spot, but there's also a seat in front of the open kitchen for solo diners.

Beefsteak, multiple locations.

For a healthy bite in a hurry, I love hitting José Andrés' fast-casual concept. One downside: You can't ask your dining companion if you have broccoli in your teeth.

Bourbon Steak, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 

Sometimes if I'm in a playful mood, I'll go to a hotel restaurant (where I'm less likely to run into people I know) and assume a completely different identity - like the owner of a battle reenactment company, to choose an example completely at random.

DRINKS

Tell friends you occasionally and willingly drink alone, and they'll give you a look filled with worry, pity or both. But the truth is, having a drink by yourself can be therapeutic. After a busy, deadline-heavy day at work, sometimes I just want to sit down with a flavorful beer or well-made cocktail and be alone with my thoughts, scribble ideas in my notebook or finally get around to those #longreads that have repeatedly popped up in my Facebook feed. It feels wonderful.

The key is finding the right place: Your convivial neighborhood bar, where everyone is allowed to join the conversation of the day, is a good place to go when you're on your own, but not when you want to be alone. (These are two very different concepts.)

When I'm in the latter mood, I prefer quieter places, such as Quill, the bar in the Jefferson Hotel, where bartenders can read their guests and know who's in the mood to talk and who isn't. Having a piano tinkling in the background while I sip a perfect martini only makes it more relaxing. -- Fritz Hahn

Quill, 1200 16th St. NW.

Also try:

Bedrock Billiards, 1841 Columbia Rd. NW.

The subterranean pool hall's layout includes tables, couches and nooks perfect for hiding out, and darts is a great game to play solo.

Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 

Grab a two-top table on the patio, or a video game table across from the bar.

Pizzeria Paradiso, 3282 M St. NW.

Head for the basement bar and settle into one of the corner stools.

MOVIES

Here's some unsolicited love advice: Going to the movies is a terrible date idea. Why do you need to find a plus-one to see a movie, anyway? So you can say things like "Sure, I guess that Zac Efron movie looks interesting" instead of seeing what you really want? So you can fight over armrest space - or worse, extricate yourself from a date who insists on holding hands?

When it comes down to it, movies aren't even about the moviegoing experience: They're about getting lost in the movie itself. Cinema should make us fall in love with storytelling, gasp at technical feats and forget that there's anything else beyond the screen in front of us. And nothing ruins that quite like hearing "What TV show is that guy from again?" hissed in your ear.

So choose your own seat (I'll be halfway between the screen and the back wall and on the end of the row, lest I get blocked in by THAT guy who waits through the credits to see the name of the key grip whose work he's appreciating), grab some popcorn the way you want it (my standing order is "all the butter and salt you have") and get lost. -- Lori McCue

Try:

Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. 

It's hard to top the extensive snack and beer menu and the Oscar-bait film selection, but the best part about this swanky movie house is that it's underground and out of the reach of cell service, which means for at least 1
1/2 hours, you can really escape.

Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market, 550 Penn St. NE. 

Come to this pocket-size theater before noon and get a free cup of coffee with your indie release or foreign flick. Then mosey across the street for lunch at Union Market.

AMC Courthouse Plaza 8, 2150 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington.

There are only two reasons I would schlep this far from home for a movie: luxury seating and to avoid running into anyone I know when I'm going to see something I'm ashamed of. So that's why I'll be headed there to snuggle up and watch "Jane Got a Gun."

CONCERTS

I used to dread going to concerts alone. Who would I talk to during the break between acts? Who would I high-five when the band plays my favorite song? Who would save my spot when I go to grab a beer?

Now I realize that, when you're alone at a concert, you have the freedom to do as you please. Arrive as late or as early as you want. Dance like nobody's watching (and if they are, at least they're strangers). Roam freely in search of the best view, the best sound or the spot closest to the bathrooms.

Plus, just because you arrive alone doesn't mean you'll be alone during the concert. You're with hundreds or even thousands of people who like the same music as you: Strike up a conversation, make a new friend. Most musicians end up going solo at some point, so why not give it a try? -- Rudi Greenberg

Try:

9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW.

It's hard to move around during a sold-out show at the 9:30 Club, but if you're alone, you can more easily maneuver through the crowd. Once you've gotten a good look at the band, head up to the balcony, where the sound is just as good and there's more room to dance.

Gypsy Sally's, 3401 Water St. NW.

An intimate space that rarely gets too packed, the Georgetown venue specializes in jam bands and Americana acts, and happy-go-lucky, dancing fans. Don't want to stand? Grab a seat at one of the club's two bars or the raised section of tables behind the dance floor.

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW.

During the Foo Fighters' sold-out, three-hour show in 2014, I slowly worked my way from the soundboard at the back to 10 feet from the stage by the encore. Good luck doing that with two or three friends. Pro tip: If you arrive early, grab a beer in the Red Room bar and play pinball while you wait.

MUSEUMS

Visiting a museum is like reading a book: You don't read with someone else. You move at your own pace, perhaps go back over a portion that you enjoyed or didn't fully grasp the first time. And you can skip a section whenever you please.

So going to the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum -- two museums in one, sharing the old Patent Office building -- is like reading an encyclopedia, or falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. In the Portrait Gallery, every painting, photograph and bust comes with biographical information on the subject; maybe you don't want to read about President Millard Fillmore, but maybe you do want to watch some greatest hits from presidential speeches. And you certainly don't want to wait for someone to catch up.

In the American Art Museum, stare at Nam June Paik's "Megatron/Matrix" and "Electronic Superhighway" for as long as you like, or skip up to the third and fourth floors and work your way through the Luce Center, the museum's storage and exploration space. Then there's the Kogod Courtyard at the heart of the old building, a serene place to relax with a snack, a cold beer or a glass of wine . . . or, yes, even a book.

And like so many museums, the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum have great gift shops, so you can pick up something thoughtful for the person you didn't invite to join you. -- John Taylor

National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW.

Also try:

National Gallery of Art, Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 

This behemoth offers audio tours -- and if you've ever plugged in at the same time as your partner or tried sharing a museum listening device, you already know solo is the way to go.

National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 

"America's attic" is another Internet-style grab-bag of a museum where you can compare dresses and White House china, scope out Julia Child's kitchen or see what's new (Greetings, C-3PO!) in "American Stories."

BASEBALL

I'm not a Nationals fan, but I love baseball, and attending games by myself is the best way for me to concentrate on the action and fully appreciate the many unique plays and players within it.

When I go to a game with a group, the focus is rarely on the field. When I'm there alone, there is nothing to distract me from dissecting every pitch and considering every angle of the strategy within it: Why did the pitcher throw a curveball in that count? Why did the infielder position himself there against that hitter? Why did the manager leave the closer in the game after he just choked the MVP in the dugout?

I'm more likely to keep score when I'm by myself, and I'll often move to a different part of the ballpark every few innings to get a different perspective. The standing room areas behind most 100-level sections at Nationals Park - Section 116, behind the third-base dugout, is one of my go-to spots - provide great vantage points without having to pay for a top-price ticket, and give you the flexibility to move quickly to a new perch between innings.

Weekday and weeknight games generally offer the best bargains on online ticket sites such as StubHub and SeatGeek, and single tickets are almost always among the cheapest options available. -- Greg Schimmel

Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE.

Also try:

Pfitzner Stadium, 7 County Complex Ct., Woodbridge.

The home of the Class A Potomac Nationals is an affordable alternative to the big leagues.

BALLET

I'm not going to lie -- for a brief moment in time, I thought I might have a future as a prima ballerina. I'd been chosen as the star of my preschool dance recital, a job that mostly involved plucking a rose from a vase.

I've since grown up and given up on performance. But I still love watching dance. And the best way to do it is alone.

As an amateur, I don't have the vocabulary to chat about what I've seen. Alone, I can enjoy the primal, visceral sensation of watching humans do something they shouldn't be able to, given the rules of gravity and anatomy. I move my feet, I bounce up and down. Sometimes, I feel my arms rising in time with the dancers.

I savor the crazy-making turns of the black swan or the way Alvin Ailey's dancers melt into each other during a pas de deux at the Kennedy Center (where, by the way, there are usually great seats available for single theatergoers). Afterward, I can skip and twirl out of the theater, moved by the power of movement without feeling like an idiot in front of my friends. -- Amanda Erickson

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

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