I’m always wary of going out on St. Patrick’s Day, but even more so when it’s on a weekend. March 17 can be a fun (if uncomfortably crowded) day at the local pub, drinking pints and whiskey while listening to traditional music. But if folks don’t have to go to work the next day, they’re free to let out their inner Shane MacGowan, which rarely ends well.
This is not to say you should avoid your favorite Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. I wouldn’t. But remember that it might be busier than usual. And if you want to celebrate the Irish spirit without long lines and people lining up for the Jameson ice luge or discounted Irish Trash Can drinks, try one of these destinations instead.
Local cocktail expert Dan Searing, co-founder of Room 11 and author of “The Punch Bowl,” returns to Petworth Citizen to host its Whiskey Wednesday series. Searing is bringing free samples of several Irish whiskies, and all whiskeys are half-price all night long. 829 Upshur St.
The Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance is one of the area's largest academies for Irish dancing, and you'll see its students, from tots to teenagers, performing at numerous Irish pubs on St. Patrick's Day. But if you really want to see the dancers in action, without being blocked by crowds standing next to the bar, there's a free recital on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage the night before the holiday. 2700 F St. NW.
Start off the big day with some culture: Contemporary Irish arts organization Solas Nua is hosting its annual Irish Book Day, giving away free copies of an anthology produced in collaboration with the Dublin literary journal the Stinging Fly. Look for volunteers handing out books at Metro stations during rush hour.
The Dubliner on Capitol Hill is home to one of the city’s longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parties. It can be a bit of a mess in the afternoon, once the early happy hour crowds descend. Early arrivals, though, get a reward beyond elbow room: 43-cent pints of Guinness from 9 to 10 a.m., to honor the pub’s 43rd annual celebration. 4 F St. NW.
Nanny O’Brien’s is your typical busy Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, with live music from Irish troubadour Conor Malone starting at noon. (Doors open at 10 a.m., and unlike some other bars, Nanny’s doesn’t have a cover charge.) The real reason to head up to Cleveland Park at lunch, though, is that Nanny’s limited menu features special corned beef Reubens from the acclaimed Smoked and Stacked deli. 3319 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Most pub-goers are familiar with Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s, the trinity of Irish beers. If your tastes run toward craft beer, head to the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan, where the bar will pour a selection of O’Hara’s stouts and ales from the Carlow Brewing Company in County Carlow. An Irish food menu will also be available all day. 2427 18th St. NW.
Of course, American brewers make some fine Irish-style stouts and ales themselves. Some of the best in the Washington area come from Falls Church’s Mad Fox Brewing. On St. Patrick’s Day, the bar taps special beers, including St. James Irish Dry Stout and Tori’s Rockstar Red Irish Red Ale, in both the Falls Church brewpub and Mad Fox’s Glover Park taproom. The bigger party’s in Virginia, where the kitchen offers food specials, and there’s live blues and funk from Magnolia Blue, all without a cover charge. 3 to 10 p.m. 444 W. Broad St., Falls Church.
When people feel the need to drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s usually some light beer with green food coloring added. But at the Sovereign, they’re tapping a legitimately delicious green beer: Vertignasse, a funky green-tinged farmhouse saison from Belgium’s Fantome brewery. (Vertignasse’s ingredients, which include spinach juice, provide the unusual color.) If that just sounds too weird, don’t worry: There are 17 other rare drafts and bottles coming from the idiosyncratic Walloon brewery. 5 p.m. 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Fiona Doyle’s 2014 play “Coolatully” tackles a less festive topic: A young working-class man struggling with unemployment after Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” economy went into recession. The U.S. Premiere is being staged at Flashpoint’s intimate Mead Theatre Lab. 916 G St. NW. 8 p.m. $38. Through March 28.