Best Nightlife in Washington D.C. 2022

Though Washington D.C. is generally associated with the White House and other historical monuments, it’s also a city with a vibrant nightlife scene that rivals those of major cities like Los Angeles and New York City. Within a radius of not much more than three miles, dozens of modern dance clubs, picturesque rooftop bars, bright breweries, eclectic dive bars, and elegant lounges make up one of the country’s most vibrant nightlife scenes enjoyed by a wonderfully diverse crowd. 

From our capital’s 24 million annual tourists to the corporate workers, college students, young professionals, and long-time natives who live there, there are plenty of different people and places that propel the thriving party scene in Washington D.C. Read further to discover the most popular spots for dancing, A-list DJs, city views, craft beers, fun, and more to plan your nightlife outing in DC.

Echostage

Best club for A-list DJs

 

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Arguably a monument of its own, Echostage is a sprawling 30,000 square-foot venue featuring an amply-sized VIP mezzanine, two 60-foot-long bars lining the massive dance floor, and a sound system that will leave bass thumping in your ears hours after you leave. As if all that weren’t enough, this renowned dance club has even been ranked the #1 nightlife venue worldwide. As such, it’s been host to some of the most prestigious A-list DJs, including Diplo, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, and Krewella, in addition to celebrity performers like Miley Cyrus and Cardi B. Electric music lovers can enjoy dancing an arms-length barely away from the DJ stage, but no matter where you’re standing in this cavernous spot, you’ll get an unrivaled sensory experience from the venue’s top-tier sound and lighting systems. With DJs and live music events (including 21+ and 18+ events) held throughout the week, there are plenty of chances to spend an unforgettable night at this iconic venue. Parking is not available at the venue, but street parking and other parking locations are nearby Queens Chapel Road. For most events, a ticket purchase is required for entry.

 

Soundcheck

Club with the best sound system

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Located in Downtown Washington D.C., Soundcheck is the quintessential dance club. Smaller and typically less overwhelmingly crowded than local favorite Echostage, Soundcheck is a 4,400 square-foot venue whose neon-lit interior is optimally designed to enhance the booming sounds of EDM and live DJs complete with 4-inch think soundproof foam in every wall and ceiling. This rivalrous sound system has made for top-notch performances from some of the world’s most sought-after DJs, including Martin Garrix, Paul Oakenfold, Zedd, and more. Open Wednesday through Sunday, head to Soundcheck for house and hip-hop music and its beloved LGBTQ-friendly Saturday parties. Likewise, with an impressive list of spirits, larger parties can enjoy VIP bottle service with an average cost of around $600 per table. This venue offers garage, street parking, and valet parking, and no strict dress code is enforced. 

Sudhouse

Best bar for happy hour

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Washington D.C.’s U-Street Corridor is famously lined with top-notch bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. Sudhouse is a beloved U-Street bar that offers an unpretentious, anything-goes vibe accompanied by no-frills bar food, plenty of craft beers, quality cocktails, frozen drinks, and unbeatable everyday happy hours. This three-floor bar has a dive bar-meets-sports grill feel inside, with exposed brick walls, chalkboard specials, quirky wall murals, string lights, and many TVs. The first two floors at Sudhouse feature fully-stocked bars, while the upper floor is available to rent for private events of up to 90 people. Outdoor seating is also available on a small patio near the entrance. Those looking for laid-back fun with friends amongst a spirited crowd or those looking for U-Street bars good for game days will surely be satisfied at Sudhouse. Don’t forget to visit during one of the bar’s numerous happy hours — 4 to 8 pm on Tuesday through Friday, 2 to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday, and all day long on Mondays. 

9:30 Club

Best club for live music

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Another U-Street Corridor favorite, the 9:30 Club, is an award-winning concert venue-slash-dance club that fun lovers flock to for outstanding live music performances and a spacious dance floor. Having originally opened in 1980, this Washington D.C. hotspot has hosted headliner musicians amongst a diverse array of genres, from indie bands to electric music DJs. The 9:30 Club also hosts many events that appeal to different crowds, from Taylor Swift dance parties to disco nights to pop throwback music events. With four full bars, a tantalizing Mexican food menu, tons of beer and liquor options, and even a coffee bar, you’ll be all set for the night at 9:30 Club. Most events here are standing room only, so wear comfortable shoes, and most events are open to all ages. Upon entry, a bag search will be conducted, and paid parking is available a few streets north of the venue. Tickets to events typically range from $20 to $40, but they sell out fast, so it’s advised to purchase them online as soon as you can. Additionally, this venue is completely cashless, so be sure to have a card with you! 

Flash

Best club for electric dance music

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Flash is a dance club known for its killer sound system and A-list DJ performances, which is why it’s the go-to for locals who love electronic house and techno music. The first floor at Flash features the Flash Bar with appropriately flashy lighting, a DJ booth, a full-service bar, and a coat check and ATM. The middle level is where you’ll feel the dance club atmosphere, complete with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, a fully-stocked bar, and wall-length bench seating to enjoy live music performances. Flash’s upper floor is a rooftop bar surrounded by greenery with a glitzy disco ball and retractable ceiling and wall panels for optimal seasonal usage. The upper level offers more unique drink options, like frozen drinks and kombucha. Flash regulars make up an upbeat crowd with a shared love for underground house music. This spot might be a bit pricier than other clubs, but most guests agree that the experience is worth the extra bucks.

Service Bar

Best bar for unique drinks

Listed amongst the 50 best bars in America, Service Bar describes itself as “lowkey,” but there’s never a dull night at this beloved U-Street bar. Crowds regularly flock to Service Bar’s intimate, quirky interior for inventive (and cheap) drinks and quality American-fusion food — especially the famous fried chicken. Their extensive cocktail menu changes along with the seasons. Though there’s no regular happy hour, Service Bar offers a perfectly satisfying $7 drink list that isn’t too straining on customers’ wallets. If the mismatched wall decor wasn’t quirky enough, look forward to drinks served in oddly-shaped glasses, like the cocktails made inside a golden garden gnome or a mint julep served inside a cup-shaped like Abraham Lincoln’s head. With fun drinks, great food, plenty of seating, an outdoor patio, and a good mix of popular music, this spot is ideal for fun, no-frills nights with friends. 

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Best bar for craft spirits

Recognized as one of the country’s best restaurants, Jack Rose Dining Saloon is one of the Adams Morgan neighborhood’s main attractions for tourists and locals alike. With five different rooms to choose from, this spot offers a long list of desirable features that regularly attract eclectic crowds. Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s main selling point is its wall of whiskeys, and for a good reason — it’s one of the largest and most diverse collections of whisky in the Western Hemisphere. Whisky fanatics enjoy the restaurant’s regular tasting events, but even those who don’t care for whisky enjoy the spot’s innovative menu with upscale bar bites and internationally-inspired dinner options. Not looking for whisky or dinner? Jack Rose Dining Saloon also features a heated outdoor terrace with a sleek, wood-paneled rooftop bar and a tiki bar. Head to Jack Rose Dining Saloon for high-end cocktails, a Wednesday through Friday evening happy hour, fantastic city views, and, of course, some of the country’s best whisky.

Nellie's Sports Bar

Best bar for large groups

Nellie’s Sports Bar is one of the most well-known bars in Washington D.C. and is famous for being one of the only openly gay sports bars around. This bar is all about no-frills fun, with games playing on the big screen, killer beer specials, disco balls, and weekly all-you-can-eat drag brunches. Visit throughout the week for lively events like trivia nights, drag bingo, karaoke, poker nights, and more. Order from a tempting array of food options and wash down your meal with Absolut jello shots on Nellie’s huge rooftop bar as you watch the sun setting over the city. Check out Nellie’s Sports Bar website to learn about upcoming events, make a Drag Brunch reservation, or host your private party at this iconic spot.

Cuba Libre

Best nightclub for Latin music

Spice up your weekend with a lively night at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar. This vibrantly decorated spot is a tropical oasis where lovers of Cuban food, Latin music, and late-night dancing flock to escape the city streets of Washington D.C. Open throughout the week for delectable Cuban cuisine in a space that feels like old-school Havana, the weekends make this spot the place to be for festive bottomless brunch or invigorating parties and events dubbed Cuba Libre Nights. Check the bar’s website for news about upcoming events, to book VIP tables and bottle service, or to make brunch reservations. Cuba Libre Nights enforce an upscale dress code, so don’t show up in flip-flops, gym clothes, or beach attire.

Decades

Best club for throwback music

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Travel through all the best parts of the decades when you party at Decades in DC. This booming venue is four stories tall, wherein each floor features musical hits from different decades, including the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s. Eclectic, vibrant decor is found on every surface throughout this 12,000-square-foot venue. You can quickly go from listening to ABBA on one floor to enjoying hip-hop throwbacks on another. Open Wednesday through Friday, Decades offers various VIP options with VIP tables on their 2000s floor and rooftop bar. Dress to impress to enter this venue, avoid baggy clothes or sweatpants, and expect to pay a cover fee of up to $20. Likewise, drinks at Decades are on the pricier side, so be prepared for a decent bill.

Ultrabar

Best club for VIP bottle service

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One of Washington D.C.’s oldest and most notorious dance clubs, Ultrabar offers the quintessential nightclub experience. This pulse-thumping venue features five distinct levels and six full-service bars with Saturday ladies’ night bottle service specials and an impressive VIP bottle service menu — this is the place to be if you want over-the-top sparkling bottles on your birthday. With four DJ booths and a pristine sound system, you’ll find large crowds dancing at Ultrabar on most nights, plus lively events. Head to their website for a free pass to avoid paying a cover fee, and head to this club knowing your drinks will cost a pretty penny.

Cloak & Dagger

Best club for girls' night

The Victorian-era theme that makes Cloak & Dagger so visually stunning is wonderfully contrasted with the wild dancefloor crowds and neon lights that fill this space regularly. Cloak & Dagger is a U-Street nightlife staple for many locals who love its intimate space, fun, themed events, and excellent local DJs. This tight-knit bar is a go-to for girl groups looking for a fun night of dancing, especially for second-floor VIP tables that overlook the dancing crowd.