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12 Must-Visit Nightlife Hot Spots on U Street
Experience the hottest and coolest places on U
With an unparalleled music and nightlife scene, U Street draws locals and visitors looking to stay up late and have a good time. From underground danceclubs (there's more than one in this 'hood) to industrial-chic spaces where you can sip artfully crafted cocktails and everything in between, this popular area in the District has every option to suit your vibe.
A gay sports bar is not an oxymoron. This pioneering gay bar, one of the first to open outside of Dupont Circle, hosts all sorts of events, like trivia and drag bingo. Named for the owner’s great-grandmother, the bar boasts dozens of TVs in the relaxed downstairs, and an upstairs patio dance floor that goes strong until close.
This legendary venue just off U Street is where both famous and rising stars come to perform to sold-out, raucous crowds. Even with a big audience, it’s still spacious; armed with a balcony, there’s good views no matter where you’re standing. You can fill up on great veggie fare there, too. Get a taste of the venue by watching the TV show Live at 9:30 on PBS.
Be sure to dress up, whether sitting down for gospel brunch or grooving to slick beats at a dance party. Howard Theatre has been refurbished to honor its original glory, anchoring the easternmost end of the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods, and hosting big-name acts from across R&B, pop and other genres.
More than just a historic venue, its two stories, alfresco patio and maze of rooms get crowded late with patrons who flock to this see-and-be-seen space. Named for DC-born soul singer Marvin Gaye, this hot spot serves authentic soul food with a Belgian twist amid fantastically ornate decor. Crowds get down upstairs on the dance floor.
A subterranean hideaway music venue for underground and big-name acts. Prices are low, crowds are friendly and acoustics are great in a space with no attitude. It’s simply a fantastic place to catch a show and dance.
The corner of U and 14th Streets may be one of the most well-known and crowded intersections in the city, but The Gibson remains inconspicuous, and for good reason. This intimate speakeasy, accessible only through an unmarked door, attracts couples and cocktail lovers alike. Dimly lit tables require reservations, while bar seats and the patio remain walk-in-ready when bespoke drinks are calling your name.
This bar and music venue is as unapologetically divey as it gets in an ever-changing neighborhood. Happy hour goes late, but drinks are still quite affordable on any of the three floors. Hang out downstairs in a cozy booth; visit the middle floor for stand-up comedy, live music or ‘90s dance parties; and take a breather on the top-floor patio (covered in winter).
In this downstairs space, parties go late – very late, in fact. Themed party nights attract those who aren’t done dancing at closing time at other bars. Be warned, it gets warm. The name really does say it all.
This hipster hangout, and its next-door neighbor Dodge City, are narrow, popular and friendly bars, both with back patios. Velvet is a bit more divey, and hosts live music and DJ sets of artists you probably haven’t heard of, but that you won’t be able to stop dancing to.
At the western edge of U Street, this relaxed spot boasts roomy quarters to post up with friends to smoke hookah, lounge on sofas and take a deserved break from the break-neck speed of the U Street neighborhood.
Town’s new warm-weather (and dog-friendly) patio combines with its two huge floors, each with a stage, bar and dimly lit nooks, to make one of the biggest gay venues. Top-name drag shows every Friday and Saturday night, line dancing lessons, shirtless dancers and a diverse clientele serve as Town’s hallmarks.
The music blasts, the disco ball spins, the crowd overflows and all that’s missing is a bar. It’s all to order a slice of famous jumbo slice pizza, a DC rite of passage for all night owls after the beats stop at the bar. The pies taste as good as the people-watching is. There’s no shortage of late-night places to get yours, like Duccini’s, Italian Kitchen on U and Jumbo Pizza.
Looking for more nightlife and entertainment options in Washington, DC? Find them here.