The best free and cheap New Year's Eve parties and other things to do in the D.C. area – The Washington Post

Editor’s note: After the publication of this story, Noon Yards Eve was canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” organizers said in an email.
New Year’s Eve
Whether you view New Year’s Eve as a cause for celebration, an “Amateur Night” full of sloppy revelers in overcrowded bars or somewhere in between, there are a few things you need to remember before heading out on Friday night:
While D.C.’s proof-of-vaccination mandate goes into effect on Jan. 15, a number of bars and nightclubs already have their own policies in place, and more have been introducing them in recent weeks. (Sadly, not every bar is good about listing these policies prominently on its website or social media.) Keep a photo of your vaccination card on your phone, just in case.
This year, New Year’s Eve might look a lot like every other night
Some bars still put time limits on tables, especially outdoors. Double-check before you make that 9 p.m. reservation, because you might not be able to keep your seats until midnight.
If you prefer to be outside, remember that most bars and restaurants try to be good neighbors, and may close their patios before last call to avoid late-night noise. At Service Bar, for example, the last reservations at their streatery end at 11:45, so you’d have to head inside if you want a cocktail at midnight.
Finally, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s SoberRide offers $15 Lyft credits for rides home over the holidays. A new code will be posted on wrap.org at 9 p.m. on Dec. 31. Use it in the “Promo” section of the app to claim the discount, but be quick — a limited number of codes can be redeemed.
This year, New Year’s Eve might look a lot like every other night at D.C. bars
Free and cheap parties
Across the Pond: One of 2020′s most popular New Year’s Eve party formats was toasting the arrival of the new year in a different time zone. Across the Pond, an Irish pub in Dupont Circle, continues the tradition by toasting at 7 p.m., when 2022 arrives in Dublin. The free party includes live music and dinner specials, and everything wraps up by 9 p.m.
All Souls: The Shaw cocktail bar is open as usual at 5 p.m. The comfortable patio is first-come, first-served.
Barca: While the $159-per-person party was canceled, Barca’s pier bar on the Potomac and indoor wine bar will be open with the usual a-la-carte menu. Reservations are “strongly suggested,” though there may be some room for walk-ups.
Boundary Stone: The “No Cover New Year’s Eve” extends happy hour until 10 p.m. with $5 local beers, $6 wines and $7 sandwiches, inside and out.
Calico: The Blagden Alley bar stocked up on board games for its “low-key game night,” so groups can gather with hot cocktails around the heaters on the patio before the free midnight toast.
Chicken and Whiskey: The “hidden” whiskey bar in the back of the 14th Street rotisserie chicken joint features music from DJ Welby, beginning at 8 p.m., and a midnight margarita toast.
Dew Drop Inn: Spread over two levels, a patio and a parking lot filled with picnic tables, the Dew Drop’s free celebration includes music by DJ Smudge from 8 until close; a midnight toast; and glowsticks, horns and other supplies to set the party atmosphere.
Free State: Throughout December, the Chinatown bar offered a “Sparkling December” menu featuring cava, prosecco, lambrusco and other bubbly wines. That wraps up on New Year’s Eve at a free party with a “Spritz Bar” with by-the-glass pours and cocktails, and DJ Nate Geezie spinning from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sister bar Lost and Found is hosting a similar party with an apres-ski theme and a DJ on Blagden Alley.
Jack Rose: D.C.’s best-known whiskey bar has jettisoned the usual prix fixe rooftop happy hours and ticketed parties to focus on special whiskey flights picked by owner Bill Thomas, a menu of Old Fashioned cocktails and optional bottomless champagne.
La Jambe: Shaw’s French-inspired wine bar hosts a pair of countdowns. At 6 p.m., there’s French TV coverage of the New Year’s festivities in Paris. Then, when midnight arrives, La Jambe serves unlimited French cremant and a house punch “until we run out.” Reservations are recommended, and can be made for the patio as well as indoors.
Lulu’s Winegarden: “A Sparkling New Year’s Eve” includes $35 bottles of sparkling wine all day; happy hours that run from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight with $9 cocktails and wines by the glass as well as discounted snacks; and discounted large bottles for groups. The Shaw bar has front and rear patios as well as a streatery.
Metrobar: There are two parties at Metrobar on New Year’s Eve. The first one, for smaller party animals and their parents, kicks off at 4 p.m. (See more information about it below.) The party for adults, which costs $10, begins at 8 p.m., featuring DJ Noble, an arrival glass of champagne and a midnight toast. The bar is all outdoors, with firepits, heaters and warm cocktails.
Pitchers and A League of Her Own: The multilevel Adams Morgan LGTBQ bar is turning its dance floor area into a Times Square viewing party amid coronavirus concerns, but plans to be open otherwise.
Players Club: The 14th Street bar, which boasts arcade games and DJs in the basement and a rooftop bar upstairs, opens at 8 p.m.
Quarry House Tavern: At Silver Spring’s divey Quarry House, which has been around since Prohibition (and maybe before), “New Year’s Eve is not a big deal, and we like it like that,” says co-owner Gordon Banks.
Red Bear Brewing: The ’21 NYE Ball stars Red Bear Drag Bingo host Desiree Dik, and includes drag performances by Chicki Parm, Jalah Nicole and others; music from DJ Twink; go-go dancers; and a midnight balloon drop with champagne toasts. The party starts at 9 p.m. and there’s a $20 cover.
Red Derby: By now, the Red Derby has its New Year’s theme down cold — disco ’70s on one floor, and ’90s grunge and glam on the other. (Platforms, jumpsuits and flannel are obviously encouraged.) Drinks are predominantly pay-as-you-go, indoors as well as on the patio and semi-enclosed rooftop, though a $100 unlimited beer/wine/cocktails package is available, as are private areas for groups of 15 to 30.
St. Vincent Wine: The buzzy Park View wine bar is open as if it’s any other night. “We close at midnight anyway,” explains co-founder Peyton Sherwood. “I think we’ll stay open until 12:30 to do a toast with everyone who’s there,” but that’s the extent of it. Reservations are recommended, especially for the spacious back garden.
Service Bar: The U Street cocktail bar is open as usual, with first-come, first-served seating indoors. Warning: The outdoor streatery closes at midnight.
Showtime and the Neptune Room: The Bloomingdale and Brightwood Park bars have canceled their DJ-fueled parties in favor of low-key hanging out. There will be free sparkling wine at midnight, says owner Paul Vivari, “but we’re not doing much beyond that.”
Silver Lyan: The glam lounge at the Riggs Hotel, named the Best New American Cocktail Bar at the 2020 Spirited Awards, called off its open bar soiree in favor of a normal night with an a la carte menu.
Songbyrd: “Disco is a State of Mind” at the Union Market concert venue, with DJ KC of the much-missed Fatback collective dropping funky hits all night. The music starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door, and include a midnight toast.
Trade: “The last couple of years have gotten a little … hairy,” and so Trade has organized the Hair Ball, a free, follicle-forward celebration hosted by Vagenesis and featuring a drag show, performances by JaxKnife and special guests, music from WesstheDJ and Keenan Orr, and a midnight toast.
Wunder Garten: The NoMa beer garden, full of fire pits and long tables, is also celebrating New Year’s Eve in other time zones, starting with Germany at 6 p.m. and working its way to D.C. at midnight. Along the way, there’s dance music and warm cocktails.
Family Events
There are fewer large-scale celebrations around the area this year, but there are still ways to help little ones welcome 2022, even if they can’t quite make it to midnight. Noon Yards Eve, held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the grassy area of Yards Park next to the Anacostia River, features a giant inflatable slide, entertainment from musicians and a magician, crafts and glitter tattoos, plus a noon countdown. Admission is free.
Metrobar has a late-night party for grown-ups, but also one that kicks off at 4 p.m. for smaller party animals. There will be a countdown to midnight in London at 7 p.m., with sparkling wine and cider, plus balloon animals, games and family activities. The bar is all outdoors, with firepits and heaters. Reservations are recommended.
Vanish Brewery in Lucketts is also ringing in the New Year with the Brits: The party kicks off at 5 p.m. with Shag performing British tunes from the Beatles to Oasis; a DJ; a 7 p.m. countdown; food specials; and 20 beers and ciders on tap.
Storytimes, games and a welcoming attitude have made City-State Brewing one of the most parent-friendly breweries in D.C. this year. Pajamas are encouraged for the no-cover, no-dress code Neighborhood New Year’s Eve, which begins at 7 p.m. and includes fresh beers on tap for adults, juice boxes for kids and barbecue for everyone.
Fireworks
The cities of Annapolis and Alexandria have canceled the in-person portions of their annual family-friendly First Night celebrations, such as bands and hands-on activities, but the traditional fireworks will go on as scheduled. Annapolis has two displays planned — one at 5:30 p.m. for younger viewers to enjoy, and another at midnight. Fireworks are launched from a barge in Spa Creek, which means they can be seen from a number of areas, including the City Dock, Eastport and West Annapolis. Alexandria’s fireworks blast off over the Potomac River at midnight. The best vantage points include the waterfront parks between Riverfront Park and Jones Point Park, as well as at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.
New Year’s Eve is the last night to walk through Merriweather Symphony of Lights, a dazzling holiday display in Columbia with more than 300,000 bulbs, and it’s going out with a bang, thanks to a 7 p.m. fireworks show. Bring your own chair: The grounds are open from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 for everyone age 4 and older, or $50 for a group of four; all visitors 12 and older must show proof of vaccination.
Music
!!! at Union Stage: For a complete U-turn from a peaceful night of jazz at the Kennedy Center, head to Union Stage for dance punks !!! (pronounced “chk chk chk”). Their eighth album “Wallop,” released in 2019, is expansive in production and soundscapes, and is an ode to the heyday of ’90s house, ’80s new wave and glam punk. Take “Serbia Nights,” a song that sounds straight out of the Talking Heads playbook, with angular guitar and bass lines, and an infectious chorus, to boot. Meanwhile, “Rhythm of the Gravity” boasts an industrial-inspired sound, taking cues from early house-music pioneers. 9 p.m. $35-$50.
Brand New Day at Flash: The fifth installment of Flash’s Brand New Day party features more than 30 hours of music stretching from Friday night into Sunday morning. Josh Wink, Bruno Schmidt, Danny House and Soul Clap are among the featured DJs, but with music pumping in three different areas, you might just find a new favorite. Tickets are $60 for total access, $25 for Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., or $35 for Saturday from 8 p.m. until the end.
White Ford Bronco at the 9:30 Club: Before the pandemic, White Ford Bronco headlined both the Anthem and the 9:30 Club on New Year’s Eve. This year, D.C.’s favorite ’90s band is back at the 9:30, bringing the nonstop party vibes with “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Wannabe” and all the hits you thought you’d forgotten the words to. 9 p.m. $55.
Saturday, Dec. 1
First Day Hikes: Whether you spend New Year’s Eve at a raucous party or with a glass of wine on your couch, nothing feels better than stretching your legs and getting some fresh air on the first day of a new year. “First Day Hikes” have become an annual draw at state parks across the country, including dozens in Maryland and Virginia. Sky Meadows in Delaplane opens its gates at 5:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day for those who wish to see the first sunrise of 2022. (There’s a special ranger-led tour at 10 a.m. if you had a late night.) Lorton’s Mason Neck offers hikes to see migrating Tundra Swans, as well as special bingo hikes for kids. Parks in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties offer self-guided hikes, while the draw at Patuxent River Park in Brookeville is the chance to be among the first to explore a new three-mile trail, led by rangers at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. As with last year, Maryland is stretching its programming out to a “First Weekend” of activities to encourage social distancing. See dnr.maryland.gov and dcr.virginia.gov for itineraries and maps; note that some Maryland parks charge entrance fees.
‘Roar’ at Suns Cinema: Noel Marshall and then-wife Tippi Hedren cast their own family as a clan tormented by lions and tigers for their notorious 1981 film “Roar,” which turned a nine-month shoot into one that lasted five years. For years, rumors swirled that dozens of people were injured during the production, prompting the film’s tagline: “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie. 70 members of the cast and crew were.” Though Hedren said in an interview with Variety that the number was far lower, the movie’s reputation precedes itself. With two evening showings, that’s double the opportunity to see it for yourself. 7 p.m. & 9:45 p.m. $10.
TCB vs. New Impressionz at the Fillmore: For the better part of a decade, New Year’s Day at the Fillmore belonged to Wale and a rotating cast of musicians and special guests. This year, welcome 2022 with TCB and New Impressionz, two of the area’s enduring and most esteemed go-go groups. 11 p.m. $25.
Tuesday, Dec. 4
Jane Austen book and movie club at Southeast Neighborhood Library: The Jane Austen-centered book club meets virtually the first Tuesday of every month, and this month’s apt selection is “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner. The book centers on a group of eight Austen lovers in 1940s England, proving that everything Austen endures, even 200 years later. Check the D.C. Library website for details about joining the discussion. 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free.
‘The Prom’ at Kennedy Center: Post theater critic Peter Marks describes the film adaptation of the musical as a “campy, sentimental slab of Broadway cake” accompanied by “an order of jazz hands and high kicks on the side.” If that isn’t sweet enough to entice you to see the live musical (which is unfortunately without Meryl Streep and James Corden), think of the evening as an escape from life and back into youth. Through Jan. 16. $49-$139.
Wednesday, Dec. 5
Big Chess DC Music Group at Blues Alley: Back in the summertime, when the go-go bandleader Big Chess dropped his band’s latest album, “Love Go-Go,” it featured nearly four-dozen musicians stretching 33 tracks across nearly 2½ hours — and now, after four long months of pandemic delays, it’s time for this album’s big release party. To cram it all onto one stage, he’s paring down his Big Chess DC Music Group to 14 members, but he’s confident that the improvisational possibilities remain limitless. “We always allow room for each player to have their say — to play the uncharted note, the blue note, the unscheduled thing,” Chess says. “Those moments usually make the mix.” 8 and 10 p.m. $30.
‘Ballet Music: The Soul of Movement’: Presented by the Smithsonian Associates, this four-session course helps attendees appreciate the music in iconic ballet works such as “Swan Lake” and “Le Sacre du Printemps.” Speaker and concert pianist Rachel Franklin combines live piano demonstrations with historic and contemporary film clips to look beyond the dancers and show how integral music is to the cultural impact of these productions. Noon to 1:30 p.m. $90.

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