Washington DC

How to Have a Safe and Fun New Year's Eve in Washington DC

Goodbye, 2020. We won't miss you.

@boqueria
@boqueria
@boqueria

As the highly anticipated end to 2020 draws near, it’s natural to have mixed feelings. Typically, New Year’s Eve is a time to dress to the nines, let your figurative hair down, and clink champagne glasses. It’s a time to now look toward what is considered to be a clean slate, making resolutions about going to the gym every day or finally becoming a vegetarian. 

This year it comes as no surprise to anyone that New Year’s Eve will look and feel very different. Most important now is to keep yourselves and your loved ones as safe as possible by limiting exposure to COVID-19. In fact, Washingtonians might have no choice this year, as the entire DMV has issued orders that end alcohol consumption at 10 pm in restaurants and bars. Virginia has taken it a step even further and issued a curfew that bans nonessential travel between midnight and 5 am. Also off limits will be enjoying your New Year’s Eve dinner inside a restaurant, as the District moved to shut down indoor dining for three weeks starting on December 23 to hopefully contend with the rising number of COVID cases in the area. 

While that may sound depressing, it’s important to think about the positives of a chilled out NYE at home. For (hopefully) one year only, you’re getting to dodge the responsibility of dropping money on a new outfit, instead spending the celebratory evening in cozy loungewear with your closest pod members, partner, or roommate. There’s still plenty to look forward to, as 2021 starts us off with a White House switch up and our new best friends Moderna and Pfizer. So, top up that champagne flute and get ready for a New Year’s Eve like no other with our list of safe recommendations for how to spend your night.
 

Start your day with nature

Arboretum
Way before its time to pop the bubbly, get your New Year’s Eve started with a forest bathing session at the National Arboretum. The relaxing practice has been shown to raise your mood and aid your immune system, and is a nice way to reboot before the start of a new year. Meet at the arboretum for a two-hour program that ends with a soothing tea ceremony that also includes some sweet treats. 
Cost: $35
 

Ring in the new year at 6 pm

Columbia, Maryland
While most fireworks displays have been called off this year, Merriweather Pavilion is still putting one on at the top of every hour from 6-9pm. Upon entering, guests can check out the pavilion’s mega light display that consists of over 300,000 bulbs, and indulge in a glass of champagne. COVID precautions are being taken at this family-friendly event, where guests must pick a 10-minute time window to enter in order to maintain social distancing. 
Cost: $15 per person or $50 for a family of four

The Hamilton
The Hamilton
The Hamilton

Let the Hamilton take care of food and entertainment

Downtown
While dining indoors on New Year’s Eve is a no-go, DC mainstay The Hamilton is offering a special package that includes takeout food and beverages for two-to-four or six-to-eight people as well as an exclusive live-streamed show. The 90-minute concert by 19th Street Band is taking place online and only available to those ordering food that night from The Hamilton. 
Cost: Packages start at $150 
 

Get tipsy with your favorite local bars, from home

Various locations
Most of your go-to bars are most likely doing something a little extra special for NYE this year, like cocktail haven Columbia Room, which has put together a make-at-home French 75 cocktail kit complete with hats and streamers, or Lulu’s Winegarden where you can order a “bubbly box” stocked with three bottles of sparkling wine. 
Cost: Prices vary
 

Indulge in a four-course meal on your sofa

Various locations
Tons of DC restaurants are offering specials to help keep you out of the kitchen and jazz up your New Year’s Eve. Dupont Circle’s Boqueria has a party starter set made for two, complete with a bottle of sparkling Spanish wine, a selection of tapas, chocolate cake, and even an option to add seafood paella. The kit also includes hats, streamers, and access to a festive Spotify playlist. For a distinctly American celebration, try Shaw’s Nina May, offering a four-course surf and turf meal featuring oysters and pan-seared scallops, or Navy Yard’s Shilling Canning Company, which has curated a selection of reds, whites, and bubbles to pair with a multi-course dinner that features decadent dishes like lamb loin and gnudi with lobster. 
Cost: Prices vary

Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Rosewood Washington, D.C.

Treat yourself to an epic staycation 

Various locations
Tired of being at home? We hear you. Instead of heading out of town on New Year’s Eve, get a change of scenery without even leaving the city by treating yourself to a well-deserved staycation. Newly opened townhouses by The Rosewood Hotel in Georgetown offer guests a multi-level, uber private experience that comes complete with a full kitchen, outdoor space and the kind of tub you want to soak in all night long. The Line Hotel in Adams Morgan is also offering special rates this winter, and tiered packages by Brothers and Sisters chef Erik Bruner-Yang are available to order to your room for the special night, stocked with charcuterie, champagne, and other treats. 
Cost: Prices varySign up here for our daily DC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Austa is a freelance food and travel writer, as well as a staff writer for The Hill where she covers the topics of diversity and equality. She now lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies, but called DC home for many years — attending American University and then working for National Geographic. Follow her on Instagram.

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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