New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year. It also can be one of the worst: sky-high ticket prices, long lines at coat checks, endless waits for drinks at an “open” bar, and so on. Even neighborhood spots that regularly feature bands or DJs with no cover charge will demand $20 just because it’s Dec. 31.
If you’d rather be sensible with your money, check out these free parties. And don’t forget: The Washington Regional Alcohol Program has teamed up with Lyft to offer $15 ride credits through 4 a.m. on Jan. 1. Get a code on New Year’s Eve online.
2 Birds 1 Stone: Per tradition, the underground cocktail bar will have a one-night-only menu with champagne or sparkling wine as an ingredient in every drink. You can also buy sparkling wine by the glass. 6 p.m. 1800 14th St. NW (under Doi Moi).
Anxo: The first floor of Anxo’s Florida Avenue bar will be open as usual, with a traditional txotx — a free-flowing barrel of Anxo’s Sidra Natural cider — opened at midnight for all guests to share while it lasts. Opens at 10 a.m. 300 Florida Ave. NW.
Boundary Stone: Extended happy hour runs from 4 to 10 p.m. at the Bloomingdale bar, which means $4 DC Brau beers, $5 cocktails and $6 glasses of wine, plus sandwiches and snacks from $3 to $7. The brass-driven Experience Band and Show performs from 10 p.m. on. 116 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
Buffalo Billiards: Play pool and shuffleboard free all night at the cavernous Dupont Circle pool hall. Opens at noon. 1330 19th St. NW.
Bump ’n Grind: The Silver Spring coffee shop/record store/bar marks its third anniversary with a full day of events, including music and face-painting for kids (11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and DJs. The main event features five DJs spinning from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Opens at 8 a.m. 1200 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring.
Cafe Saint-Ex: Masks are encouraged at Saint-Ex’s “New Orleans-inspired” masquerade ball. DJ Sharkey provides the tunes, and New Orleans food and drinks are on the menu. 8 p.m. 1847 14th St. NW.
D.C. Reynolds: It’s business as usual at D.C. Reynolds, down to the trademark BOGO (buy one, get one free) happy hour on all drinks from 5 to 9 p.m. Opens at 11 a.m. 3628 Georgia Ave. NW.
Espita: Taking inspiration from the World Famous Kentucky Club in Juarez, Mexico — one of the rumored birthplaces of the margarita — Espita celebrates with mescal cocktails, including a Juarez Eggnog, and special tacos. DJ Kim (of the Black Cat’s Kicks party) provides the music, and everyone receives a free toast at midnight. 5 p.m. 1250 Ninth St. NW.
Evening Star Cafe: The Beanstalk Library was a fixture at Iota’s New Year’s Eve throw-downs, performing seven times over the years. That legendary Arlington music venue closed in September, but the power-pop group will keep the spirit alive at the Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray, where the band performs in the No. 9 Lounge. Everyone receives a champagne toast at midnight. 9 p.m. 2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Free State: Throughout December, Free State is offering a different sparkling wine or champagne almost every night. The festival of fizz wraps up on New Year’s Eve, when Free State will pour 28 different sparklers by the glass or bottle all night, in addition to their usual lineup of Mid-Atlantic-focused beers and spirits. If you want a guaranteed seat, tables require a minimum purchase of two bottles. 6 p.m. 501B G St. NW.
Hank’s Cocktail Bar: The first New Year’s Eve at the Upshur Street cocktail lounge features a menu of classic sparkling cocktails for $5, plus a free midnight toast, horns and hats. 8 p.m. 819 Upshur St. NW.
The Irish Inn at Glen Echo: The swinging Brooks Tegler Trio performs a later-than-usual set for the Inn’s weekly Sunday Night Jazz show. 9 p.m. 6119 Tulane Ave., Glen Echo.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon: The bar with the Western Hemisphere’s largest whiskey collection is offering a no-cover New Year’s Eve in its first floor bar and dining room, with “Best of 2017” whiskey tasting menus, vintage cocktail flights and a special happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. 5 p.m. 2007 18th St. NW.
Nellie’s Sports Bar: Nellie’s, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, is hosting its annual free New Year’s Eve party with DJs Lemz and Vodkatrina spinning back-to-back and a free toast at midnight. 8 p.m. 900 U St. NW.
Penn Social: The giant sports bar opens at noon to show a full slate of 16 NFL games on its projection screens. (There’s skeeball, pop-a-shot basketball, video games and shuffleboard if you’re not interested in the current matchups.) A DJ takes over at the end of the day’s final game, and everyone receives a free toast at midnight. Noon. 801 E St. NW.
Petworth Citizen: Chantal Tseng, the brains behind Petworth Citizen’s weekly Literary Cocktails program, is a huge “Star Wars” fan. For “A Very ‘Star Wars’ New Year’s Eve,” she’s hosting a “wine battle” with sommelier Geoffrey William Bailey. Each has picked a lineup of favorite wines from different producers, and guests can purchase wines by the glass or build their own flights. And that “Star Wars” connection? Champagne bottles will be sabered at midnight. 7 p.m. 829 Upshur St. NW.
Radiator: Expect a disco soundtrack, funky cocktails and small plates at the Mason and Rook Hotel’s bar, which is going with a Studio 54 theme for its party. Even more groovy than the music: Food and drink specials run all night, including a free midnight toast. 6 p.m. 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
Red Derby: “Derby Decades of Decadence” is the theme at the 16th Street Heights bar. The Red Derby’s rooftop deck will feature a circa-1978 soundtrack of the BeeGees and other disco-pop favorites, while the main floor has a “1998 at the 15 Minute Club and Crow Bar” theme, with Smash Mouth, Collective Soul and the cream of ’90s alternative rock. Drink specials include $5 sparkling wine and punch, plus a free midnight toast. (Suggested attire is black tie-optional or an outfit from one of the featured decades.) Admission is free, but seat reservations are available for $10 each at email@example.com. 8 p.m. 3718 14th St. NW.
Showtime: DJ Baby Alcatraz of the Shout Bamalama and Smashing Time dance parties spins an all-vinyl soul and R&B set at the busy, back-to-basics Bloomingdale bar. 10 p.m. 113 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
Slash Run: If some of your friends want to go the open bar route while others are feeling thrifty, consider Slash Run, which is offering pay-as-you-go and all-inclusive options. (The $50 ticket includes unlimited rail drinks and select beers, plus a burger and fries.) Entertainment comes from a one-off band called Paris Jaywalkers, performing a tribute of Lords of the New Church and playing punk covers. 8 p.m. 201 Upshur St. NW.