Summer is halfway over. As much as we love a buzzy outdoor-patio happy hour at D.C.’s fantastic bars, we yearn for a different class of evening entertainment, maybe even flirting with the more cerebral days of fall. Many Washington galleries’ and museums’ after-5 programs offer respite from the tourists — and a heck of a cocktail. Here are our top cultural choices coupled with an upscale hotel where you can reflect on it all:
The Phillips Collection’s just-opened Georges Braque Cubist exhibit attracts crowds of art lovers during the day. Avoid the masses by visiting from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month for live music, food and a cash bar. Next up: A Moveable Feast, featuring a few of D.C.’s finest food trucks (try TaKorean’s barbecue tacos), a Gallery Talk dialogue on Braque’s sense of space in his still lifes and a panel discussion on local cocktails with Derek Brown, one of D.C.’s top mixologists.
Where To Stay: Keeping with the culinary theme, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Jefferson, Washington D.C. has cooked up The Gourmet Experience, an overnight stay that includes dinner for two at Four-Star Plume and drinks at Quill.
The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden hosts the best outdoor jazz concerts on the Mall. Each Friday from 5 until 8:30 p.m. through August 30, a different band performs a wide variety of jazz styles, from Afrofunk to zydeco. Bring a picnic to dine under large-scale 20th-century sculptures by Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein, or purchase dinner from the terrific Pavilion Café (featuring fare, including salads, pizza and barbecue). Bringing alcohol into the park is prohibited, but not to worry, since the Café’s fruity sangria is sold by the pitcher, along with bottles of wine and beer. There’s a huge fountain in the middle of the garden to entertain little ones. It’s free admission, but arrive early for the best choice of blanket spaces.
Where To Stay: In the event you groove yourself into the night and feel like staying in the next morning, Four-Star Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C.’s Bed & Breakfast package, which includes a full meal in your room or at Sou’Wester restaurant, will hit the spot.
Back by popular demand for a second season at the National Building Museum, this wildly beloved architect-designed miniature golf course is new for 2013 — so, expect the two-hour waits experienced last year to continue. But the lines prove worth it, seeing as how the Holograph hole uses 3-D technology and an Urban Pinball hole challenges your patience with several twists. This year, the engineering and design museum hosts Late Nights, when the two nine-hole indoor courses are open until 9 p.m. Directly outside of the attraction, Hill Country Barbecue serves up Texas-style pulled pork, ribs and cocktails with live music.
Where To Stay: If there’s one thing that brings everyone in the house together more than a round of miniature golf, it’s Four-Star Willard InterContinental’s Family Package, a deal that includes a food and beverage credit, complimentary valet and guidebook for properly coursing out the rest of your D.C. visit.
First Fridays in Dupont
Thirteen galleries in Dupont Circle hold informal open houses and happy hours on the First Fridays of each month from 6 until 8 p.m. Stay on the cutting edge of the art scene with new installations monthly (the surrealist works of Martin Swift and intricate oil pieces from Kristin Enck at Foundry Gallery will be especially worth seeing in August) and, perhaps, buy a midsummer gift for yourself. Start off at Hillyer Art Space for a map of participating galleries.
Where To Stay: In the event the hanging gallery pieces aren’t enough beauty for one trip, The St. Regis Washington D.C.’s 186 rooms of masterfully restored elegance sit just six minutes away from Dupont Circle.
Located in Canal Square along the C&O Canal, this collection of four galleries (Alla Rogers Gallery, Parish Gallery, Moca DC and Winter Palace Studio) represents Georgetown’s oldest art enclave. Every third Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the galleries have an opening reception featuring diverse styles of art from Eastern Europe to Africa. Sea Catch Restaurant and Raw Bar feeds hungry art buyers $1 oysters and half-price drinks, so you’ll have plenty left over for that stunning Natasha Mokina oil painting you’ve been eyeing.
Where To Stay: To make the romantic weekend of art-appreciating even more special, try Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown’s Dinner and a Movie package, an amorous deal that includes an overnight stay, a three-course meal at Degrees and two tickets to an AMC theater.
Photos Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collection and Emily Clack Photography