The 20-Something’s Guide To The Washington, DC Bar Scene

As a 23-year old from the D.C. area and currently living in Arlington, I consider myself pretty familiar with the city’s bar scene. Below is a guide to some of the city’s bar-heavy areas, along with some disclaimers directed toward 20-something girls such as myself.



Dupont Circle

Where You’ll Go: The Mad Hatter or Sign of the Whale if you’ve been out of college for less than six months, Eighteenth Street Lounge if you’re trying to be classy, Buffalo Billiards if you want room for activities, Public if you enjoy rooftops that smell vaguely of Shake Shack.

What You’ll Wear: Girls: Forever 21, the less fabric, the better. Guys: Plaid shirts or v-necks, obviously.

Who You’ll Meet: GW ADPi’s most recent pledge class, a guy that can’t hold a conversation so he just flashes his abs, 28-year olds reliving their glory days even though you can tell by looking at them they never had glory days.

Bad Decision You’ll Make: Attending upwards of five Sign of the Whale free happy hours before realizing you’d rather pay for alcohol than revisit the establishment, walking into the sausage fest that is Midtown, forgetting the name of the guy you bring home, losing your wallet/phone/dignity.

Adam’s Morgan

Where You’ll Go: Dan’s Cafe to pregame, Jack Rose to meet the bro who almost has his life together, Town Tavern because someone makes you, Madam’s Organ if you want to cram all of your friends onto a “rooftop” that’s 8’x8′, Grand Central to get hit on by creepy men.

What You’ll Wear: Girls: Upgrade to Zara if you’re going to Jack Rose, downgrade to your freshman year frat party clothes if you’re going to Shenanigans or Grand Central (yes, we know they don’t fit anymore, that’s the point). Guys: Button downs because you’re trying too hard.

Who You’ll Meet: Your high school graduating class, your prom date from one school over who you’ll be too drunk to recognize, a nice lady at Jumbo Slice who offers you a bite of her pizza, a newly-21 year old who will likely have alcohol poisoning by the end of the night.

Bad Decision You’ll Make: Waiting until last call to try to hail a cab, eating Amsterdam Falafel and waking up full in the morning, tripping on the sidewalk (why are you wearing heels anyway?)

U Street

Where You’ll Go: Local 16 for the rooftop, The Brixton for a rooftop that’s less sloppy but more pretentious, Cafe Saint Ex to relive your basement frat party days, U Street Music Hall to meet your next hipster boyfriend and also 18 year olds.

What You’ll Wear: Plaid (sensing a theme?), a dress from Urban Outfitters, a Nellie’s t-shirt, anything that says “I’m not trying too hard… but yeah, it took me over 30 minutes to get ready.”

Who You’ll Meet: A guy that weighs less than you and “totally liked this song before it was cool,” a new gay BFF at Nellie’s who follows you to the next bar but mostly because he’s into your guy friend, a boy who flirts with you at the 9:30 club until you realize he has under-21 x’s on his hands and you walk away.

Bad Decision You’ll Make: Taking the metro, choosing jumbo slice over the better food options (&pizza, Ben’s, Taylor Gourmet).

Georgetown/Glover Park

Where You’ll Go: George if you’re on the list or “know someone,” Town Hall/Mason Inn, Rhino Bar and Pumphouse if the phrase “pumphouse” didn’t already turn you away, The Tombs if you want to meet college kids that keep stayin’ the same age.

What You’ll Wear: Guys: Salmon shorts and boat shoes. Girls: J. Crew or Lilly Pulitzer, any super-expensive outfit to juxtapose the rail vodka soda you’re drinking.

Who You’ll Meet: Good ol’ southern boys who are way too passionate about the SEC, an intern who talks up his job on The Hill but deep down knows he’s irrelevant, a bro yelling “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!” after you spilled on his Sperry’s, a lax player from Gonzaga still talking about high school, people with roman numerals in their name.

Bad Decision You’ll Make: Accepting every Fireball shot you’re offered, admitting you’re a Democrat.

 BONUS ROUND: Clarendon

Where You’ll Go: Clarendon Grill for the band, Mister Days for twice the bros and half the cover charge, Mad Rose if you want to look around and feel better about yourself, Whitlows for mug night and people-watching, Hunan One for liter-beers.

What You’ll Wear: Guys: The bro-iest thing you own. Girls: too much makeup and a statement necklace.

Who You’ll Meet: Suburban try-hards, cover band groupies, a bro passed out on a bench before 1am, a guy that buys your pizza, but then tries to follow you home, someone trying to impress his date by offering you $20 to cut the line into the bar (seriously?), JMU alumni, a 35-year-old guy who runs a hookah bar in Sterling and gives you his business card because he wants you to stop by later.

Bad Decision You’ll Make: Going out in Ballston, Clarendon Ballroom, $10 cover. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog