Most nightlife venues in D.C. have cover charges for bands and DJs, especially those performing on Friday and Saturday. Expect to pay from $10 to $20 for most dance clubs. Jazz and comedy clubs often have higher cover charges along with drink minimums.
Despite how formally they might have to dress during the week, on the weekend Washingtonians really let their hair down. Although many of the high-end clubs require you to "dress to impress," including dress shoes for men, most bars and pubs are slightly more casual. This is especially true during the summer, when shorts can be considered acceptable on an oppressively humid night.
Last call in D.C. is 2 am, and most bars and clubs close by 3 am on the weekend and between midnight and 2 am during the week. The exceptions are after-hours dance clubs and bars with kitchens that stay open late.
To survey the local scene, consult Friday's "Weekend" section in the Washington Post and the free weekly Washington CityPaper. A terrific website (with an accompanying cell-phone app) for local happenings is the Post's Going Out Guide (www.washingtonpost.com/gog). The free publications Metro Weekly and Washington Blade offer insights on LGBT nightlife. Local blog DCist (www.dcist.com) posts daily on D.C. events. It's a good idea to call clubs ahead of time, as last week's punk-rock party might be this week's merengue marathon.
Signs of Life in the Burbs
The city's suburbs have a nightlife of their own, in part thanks to Washington's Metro system, which runs until 3 am on weekends. Near the Bethesda stop in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, there's a relaxed nightlife scene. In northern Virginia, to which droves of young people in search of cheaper rent have decamped, bars and clubs heat up the areas surrounding the Clarendon and Courthouse Metro stations and farther afield in downtown Alexandria.