During the day Washington appears to be a city of gray suits and serious politics, but after dark, it has plenty to offer in the way of nightlife and culture. Locals and visitors flock to the finest of theatres and concerts or to dance the night away in the clubs and ballrooms. In the summer, a constant schedule of outdoor events, many of which are free, brings people out to watch a Shakespeare play or to listen to the U.S. Navy Band. Politics aside, Washingtonians enjoy their evenings in a truly nonpartisan manner.
Stage and Screen
Washington is home to several fine theatres presenting everything from big Broadway hits to smaller productions featuring local playwrights and covering topical issues. The Kennedy centre
is a showcase for theatre, both old and new, incorporated among seven venues which include the Eisenhower theatre, the Concert Hall, KC Jazz Club, the Opera House, Family theatre, theatre Lab and Terrace theatre. The National Theatre is Washington's answer to Broadway, presenting many touring companies and occasionally premiering musicals before they move on to the Great White Way in New York City.
The Warner theatre has a multifaceted past: opened in the 1920s as a vaudeville house, it became a classic movie palace and then a venue for rock bands before closing its doors. Reopened in 1992, it now features big name plays and other entertainment acts. Another theatre with a past is Ford's Theatre
, which has carefully preserved the 1865 scene where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Plays are produced on the same stage onto which John Wilkes Booth jumped after delivering the fatal shot. A visit to the theatre is both a historic and cultural experience.
The Arena Stage
, Source Theatre Company and the Gunston Arts centre are a few of the more eclectic and innovative theatres in the Washington area dedicated to the celebration of the dramatic arts. Many offer programmes to educate and inform as well as entertain.
Movie theatres throughout the metropolitan area show the latest offerings from Hollywood and international studios. The Uptown 1, with its giant screen, is the place to see newly released epic films. Located at the Kennedy centre
, the American Film Institute features documentaries, classic movies and other film events such as studies of film history—showcasing the work of a particular director.
The premier venue for classic opera in Washington is the Kennedy centre's
Opera House. This grand stage is the home of the Washington Opera, which performs seven operas in the November-March season, all in their original languages with English supertitles.
The National Symphony Orchestra calls the Kennedy centre
home as well, performing in the Concert Hall from September–June. In the summer, the acclaimed orchestra can be heard at Wolf Trap Farm Park
and playing from the steps of the U.S. Capitol
on special holidays.
Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University is another venue for classical music, often offering lesser-known works.
Outdoor concerts are popular in the warmer months when Washingtonians and visitors enjoy picnics and listen to free music on the National Mall, in Rock Creek Park or at the National Zoo
. The official bands of the U.S. Armed Forces often have concerts featuring patriotic and popular tunes.
The Capitol City draws popular, contemporary music as well. The Nissan Pavilion, Merriweather Post Pavilion and Wolf Trap Farm Park
all bring in big name artists for summer outdoor concerts. Constitution Hall and the Nightclub 9:30
have year-round shows with a variety of rock and roll, jazz, blues and pop.
Washington's international makeup provides a variety of music from around the world. Irish folk music can be heard nightly at several pubs including Murphy's and Kelly's Irish Times
. Cuban, African and Zydeco can often be heard at the Birchmere
, as well as country and bluegrass.
Whether it's salsa, swing, ballroom or the latest hip-hop, Washington has many great clubs to dance the night away. Habana Village
gives Latin dance lessons before the evening gets under way and the club has three floors of dancers doing the salsa and tango. LuLu's is also a popular Latin dance venue. Swing has experienced a revival and Washingtonians are kicking up their heels to music from the Big Band era. Classes are held at many places throughout the city including the Chevy Chase Ballroom. The Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers lessons and dances throughout the week in a variety of styles including Cajun, swing and contra dance. There is also an elegant Sunday afternoon tea dance, often featuring the waltz.
Contemporary dance clubs are numerous in the Metro area, many staying open until the wee hours of the morning. They range from the posh MCCXXIII and Republic Gardens
, both of which have a dress code, to hip-hop and reggae at State of the Union. Club Heaven and Hell offers an angelic atmosphere in the upstairs dance room and a darker pool hall downstairs.