Visiting the Washington DC on a short holiday can be daunting. There are so many things to do during the day in the US capital, you could easily run out of time to see everything. However, there are some attractions in Washington best left for visits at night. Check out our recommendations for the best attractions and things to do in Washington at night.

1. Washington Monuments

The monuments are pretty cool during the day, but they really shine at night, and there are so many! The Lincoln and the Washington Memorials are the most famous, and definitely worth a visit. Seeing them on television or in pictures doesn’t compare to seeing them in person. Others, like Iwo Jima and the FDR memorials, seem to come to life at night. With the backdrop of the dark sky, they are breathtaking. See the flag wave against the darkness and even just for a moment, let yourself see it as the shining beacon of hope it is meant to be. Walk around and see a few by yourself, or book a tour and get the most out of your time. All tours come with private guides or commentary so you can learn more about Washington’s monuments.

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2. Bars, Pubs & Breweries

Planning and executing a trip to a busy and sometimes confusing city like Washington DC calls for a celebration and a break. Find a bar or a pub and grab a drink. Go out dancing with friends or people you meet on your adventure. Here are some great bars and pubs to grab a drink:

  • Off the Record is a nice and quiet bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams. You don’t have to be a guest to drink there, but if you are a guest, go downstairs and check it out. This bar is meant for a quiet drink to wind down or maybe a precursor to a more adventurous night.
  • The Service bar is another chill bar, but more exciting than Off the Record. The drinks are excellent and the prices are decent. People love this place as a spot to grab a drink and hang out with friends. Stop by if you want to meet some locals or have a good time out with your group!
  • Red Derby is a bit more exciting and faster-paced than the previously mentioned bars. The staff offers board games for guest, which can get a little intense when drinking is involved, so take care not to let any grudges carry over from the games into real life! There is also a rooftop deck where you and your group can enjoy your drinks and the view.
  • Fado – Every great city seems to have at least a few Irish pubs. Aside from the amazing pub food served at Fado, there are decent prices for the food (traditional pub snacks) and the drinks. Every week there is a trivia night as well as live music to keep you entertained.
  • Who doesn’t love a good old sports bar? Nellie’s is just that, with maybe a little twist. There is usually some kind of event going on at Nellie’s, these events include Drag events, Karaoke, and poker nights. This place is for people who want to party and have a grand old time, so go on in, get a drink, grab a seat, and enjoy yourself. You’re on vacation!

If these pubs and bars don’t suit you, you can join a tour.

A local guide will show you the way to more unique pubs and breweries where you can enjoy the best drinks in Washington.

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3. Entertainment

Concerts, shows, and sporting events are a great way to spend the night in Washington. Some of the main venues are the Kennedy Center, the Hamilton, and the Capital One Center.

  • See the Kennedy Center Calendar and find out what shows are coming to the Kennedy Center before you get to DC! They do hip-hop shows, ballet, opera, and more!
  • The Hamilton is designed for a unique experience between musicians and the audience. Make sure you get tickets in advance to enjoy dinner and a show.
  • Capital One Arena, home to the Washington Capitals, hosts a wide variety of events and concerts every year. This is a great way to get some modern entertainment in a city so rich in history. Not that history is a bad thing, it’s just not everyone’s thing.

4. Military Events

The military offers several exciting events in Washington DC at night. You don’t have to support war to appreciate the troops and the shows they put on for the public. Whether you want to see People in uniform marching on in a parade or listen to some unique music, the military will put on a unique performance for you. Here are a few options:

5. Museums Open at Night

Not limited to history or art, the museums in Washington DC have a lot to offer. Even though some museums close early in the evening, a lot of them stay open, hosting concerts or galleries at night.

  • The Phillips, an art museum, is almost a century old. This doesn’t mean it’s stuffy. Check out Phillips after 5 for some unforgettable entertainment.
  • The National Gallery of Art has hosted a concert series every year for the last 77 years. It’s definitely worth visiting if there are shows on your visit. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden features Jazz in the Garden every Friday night from 5-8:30pm (weather permitting).
  • Madame Tussauds normally closes at 6pm, but on Friday and Saturday, you can take photos with all the stars til the doors close at 8pm.

6. Go to a Nationals Game

Baseball is America’s pastime and DC is America’s capital, so why not enjoy a baseball game in DC at Nationals Park? The Nationals may not be the best team in the league, but baseball games are a must-experience for neutral visitors! Get involved in the cheers and songs they play at each game. Let yourself get hyped up, and feed off the energy of those sitting around you. You may just make a friend for the rest of your trip, maybe for life, or at least for the rest of the game!

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7. Watch a Movie

Washington DC has a few different theaters you can choose from, including a drive-in! After a long day of exploring, sometimes it’s best to just sit down and relax. Like most cities, Washington has plenty of venues where you can watch the latest movies and old favorites. Here are a few to keep an eye on.

  • Visit the Union Market in summer. Drive-in theaters are few and far between these days, but you can find one here if you plan your trip for sometime between August and November. If you don’t take a car, don’t worry, lawn seats are free!
  • Some more modern theaters include the Suns Cinema and the Regal Majestic Stadium, which plays IMAX movies.

8. Shows at Live Theatres

Washington DC may not have Broadway, but it is on par for talent and options. Both newer and classic plays are featured in most Washington DC theaters. Here are a few options for some great entertainment at night in Washington:

  • The Ford Theater was reopened in 1968 to celebrate the love Lincoln had for theater. This theater hosts classics, like A Christmas Carol, and newer plays, like Into the Woods.
  • The Shakespeare Theatre Company may not celebrate an American writer, but Shakespeare is beloved by all. See an excellent cast put on one of his many plays during a night in DC.
  • The Magic Duel – Watch two magicians battle it out in a hilarious show, trying to win over the audience with their unique magic tricks.

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9. Comedy Clubs

Get a laugh out of your stay in Washington and visit a comedy club or two! Often entry is free, but there will be a two-drink minimum. Be aware, that not all shows are kid-friendly! Here are a few options you can consider:

  • DC Improv offers a different kind of comedy show. Rather than a single comedian cracking jokes all night, enjoy surprising and unique, unplanned acts of pure comedic genius!
  • Underground Comedy does over 50 shows a month, including 7 free shows every week. One of these is bound to hit your funny bone.
  • Located in the heart of DC, Drafthouse Comedy is a black box styled arts theater, with a focus on the comedic arts.

10. Visit Georgetown

Once a bustling port town, Georgetown (DC’s oldest neighborhood) still has a lot to offer visitors. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to fill your nights, along with beautiful waterfront views. Some of the shops in Georgetown include Alex and Ani, Alice and Olivia, and Billy Reid. If you’re looking for something to spruce up your wardrobe, check them out! The restaurants are a mixture of casual and dressy with some in-between. One of the nicer places to eat is 1789, which is in an old Federal House, or La Chaumiere which is about as fancy as the name makes it sound. A more casual place to grab a bite is the Good Stuff Eatery or Farmers Fishers Bakers. There is fast food, but you’re on vacation, so try something new! Bring a jacket though, it might get chilly close to the water.

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11. Ice-Skating

In the winter there are several outdoor rinks perfect for skating with a date or with the family. You can go during the day, but there’s something enchanting about skating outside under the stars. Have fun and be careful out on the ice! Here are a few options for ice skating at night in Washington:

  • The National Gallery of Art has made this list twice, but for different reasons. It has a lot to offer, both during the day and at night. In the winter, you can ice skate outside in the sculpture garden, then grab a drink at the nearby cafe to warm back up!
  • A waterfront ice rink is an amazing winter night activity. The children will be dazzled, or your date impressed with a visit to the Washington Harbor Ice Rink. Let magic fill the air as you skate around a winter wonderland. Your fingertips will be cold, but your heart will be warm.
  • Rather than a standard round rink, the Canal Park Ice Rink offers guests two loops around which to skate and test their ability to follow curves. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but it could be a fun challenge for someone still learning how to skate! This rink is also outdoors and so it’s only open in late fall to early winter. Plan your trip accordingly.

12. Dinner Cruise

This is a perfect way to end the day of sightseeing in Washington. Cruise down the Potomac River while enjoying a quiet dinner with your family and friends. See the city sights at night from a different perspective and sip a glass of champagne or enjoy a cold beer. The Odyssey dinner cruise is a popular choice as they serve some of the finest cuisines on board. Or, you can book a private yacht and watch the sunset with your partner.

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13. Visit Bartholdi Park

Located next to the United States Botanic Garden, Bartholdi Park is a favorite to locals and knowledgeable tourists alike. It isn’t overcrowded like some gardens and parks in this bustling city, so it offers a sense of peace. The fountain in this park is why you should visit at night. The lights, water, and solitude create the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and peace of mind. The paths are as well-lit as the fountain and offer safety to late visitors as well as the ability to see some of the plants in a rare light.

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14. Cherry Blossoms at Sunset

No tours are needed for this activity. Simply take a walk in one of the three National Parks at night where the Cherry Blossoms grow. You’ll find them around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the Washington Monument grounds. The cherry blossoms are beautiful during the day, but take on a magical atmosphere in the light of the setting sun. The Cherry blossoms bloom for only a few days so keep an eye on Plan your trip around the time they will bloom.

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!