Think the Nation's Capital is no fun? Think again. Whether you're looking to mishmash with young Obama staffers or to noodle around with foreign ambassadors, there's a nightspot for every mood and every age. Eateries, bars, clubs and more are rolling out their red (and white and blue) carpets, keeping longer hours than usual (in some cases, until breakfast) and planning all sorts of special ways to toast the swearing in. TIME.com spent several nights sampling what DC is cooking up for the inaugural weekend. Here's a taste:
1834 Columbia Road NW
In the heart of internationally-influenced Adams Morgan, savor Latino flavors here at Habana Village and salsa through the night. No clue how to dance? Take a lesson. Sample their signature mojito, made with what seems like an island's worth of crushed spearmint leaves and real sugarcane, a yummy, juicy product of the tropics. Sitting amid painted murals on stucco walls and brightly lit palm trees, it's cake to forget the winter and be whisked away to a white, sandy beach under the beaming sun. In the event of one too many mojitos, return for brunch at 10:30 a.m. to soak up the leftover rum. Here, at this family-owned place, everybody is a friend. Rest dancing feet at the hookah spots just around the corner.
2009 8th Street NW
Prior to the November election, owner Ed Bailey held a fundraiser for Barack Obama at his dance club. That's when he discovered just how much of his clientele were gay Republicans. Playing political favorites in the nightlife business is a tricky thing, according to Bailey people like frequenting such places to get away from that scene. Known as DC's premier gay boy dance party, this weekend will attract a broad spectrum of clubbers in addition to the normal crowd. With events like "Celebrate W's last day in office" and "Dance for Equality" proceeds to be donated to the Human Rights Campaign the club is sure to see a turnout. And as if partiers needed another reason to come by to celebrate Bush's end-of-term, there will be a First Lady-themed show Monday night with Town's own drag queens. Expect to ogle Betty Ford, Michelle Obama, Nancy Reagan and other dead ringers. Order your very own $3 Dick Cheney shooter and relish other "drink specials to stimulate your package" at the bar that stretches 68 feet. Word on the street? Stay on the lookout for VIPs like Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright and Melissa Etheridge.
Hawk 'n' Dove
329 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
In this holed-up dive bar, one of the favorites on the Hill, Buffalo burgers and Yuengling pints are devoured by locals of all ages. Named for terms popularized during the Vietnam War, this low-key joint is a fun maze of backrooms, each designed to fit a different energy. Hop upstairs to the recently dedicated "Obama Loft" for some dancing. Obama had a fundraiser here in 2004; banners are stretched across each of the six rooms, personally welcoming the President in case he returns. A wall hanging displays campaign stickers from recent years, with slapstick slogans like "Let's Kerry Bush out of the White House." Random hooks provide space for coats, hats and bags and a very attention-grabbing "No Smoking" sign is taped up above a fat, old cigarette-vending machine.
Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street NW
"Progressive," is how owner Andy Shallal describes his joint's vibe Busboys and Poets is where anarchy may ensue. A sweep of its clientele reveals a young crowd, Googling and iPhoning away. A strongly community-oriented spot, all are welcome, even if you only order one coffee to share between three and pilfer the WiFi. Humming, breathless chatter between foxy patrons and staff adds to the intrigue of the place, where the famished can nosh on Mahi Mahi sandwiches or wheatberry salads and the thirsty can swig anything from aromatic coffee to the DC Tap Water cocktail, a popular favorite according to manager Michael Woods. Don't let the unappetizing, murky gray-blue of the drink throw you off it's cloyingly syrupy and intensely fruity. Shallal and his team have concocted specialty drinks to match their namesakes for inauguration weekend the Obama, the Delaware Dude, the Michelle and the Jill. Use one of the 100% biodegradable straws to sip on the Obama, a cool, creamy blend of vanilla and chocolate liquors with dark cherry undertones. Make sure to eye the back room portraits of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. This space pays strong tribute to U Street's civil rights history, where some of the nation's first protests took place. Pick up some liberally-minded titles (Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun; Tales for Little Rebels) at the bookstore, run by the nonprofit Teaching for Change.
1112 F Street NW
Tucked almost invisibly into an office building at Metro Center, TOSCA is Washington's leading mecca of great Italian cuisine. One of the many lures of this quiet, well-regarded eatery which has catered to everyone from Dick Cheney to Hillary Clinton is its lovely bar. There, amid the politicos and lobbyists who fill the place each evening, you'll find Jay the barkeep who will make you a margarita so smooth and sublime that while you may forget where you are, you will never forget what you are drinking. And if you aren't ready for something that strong, just ask him to pour you a glass of his favorite wine. Never has not having to choose been so rewarding.
1208 U Street NW
True to its sensuous name with velvety smooth jazz and lush décor think plush velour wall designs reminiscent of French brocade wallpaper and buttery leather couches with pewter and chocolate finishes Indulj is a luxuriously classy lounge. A popular drink is the fruity, pink sparkling Nuvo, born in Paris. If bubbles aren't your thing, order your sexy poison of choice at the brushed stainless steel bar and hobnob on the sparkly, silver floor tiles. Munch on some elevated Southern-style soul food like crab corndogs. The second floor outdoor deck offers a splendid view of the Duke Ellington portrait painted on the brick building right next door. While Indulj typically caters to a more mature crowd, Monday night will feature an inauguration celebration for teens-only, where they can celebrate "like the adults" with virgin drinks.
Round Robin at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
At first glance, the Round Robin seems typically stuffy. Suits gather at the circular bar and the ambiance is, well, avian: mallard duck colors, dark, paneled wood and forest green walls. The place oozes elegant opulence, a throwback to the rich history of its home at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, the "residence of presidents." A steady stream of mainstay figures in American history Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bill Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Taylor and Barack Obama, to name a few have tread the halls of the Willard and frequented the Round Robin.
Visitors loitering in the hotel's marbled lobby are easily reminded of the greats that have passed through. But it's only at the signature round bar that customers can truly get a feel for history. Veteran bartender Jim Hewes is the creative force behind the presidential drink menu, appropriately pairing different drinks with past presidents. For Calvin Coolidge, it's cranberry juice and soda, a rather gentle, Puritan tonic. There's the Tanqueray martini for Roosevelt, a Beefeater martini for Kennedy, Madeira wine for founding father George Washington, and now, the Obama Shake for the President-elect. Colored the palest of pinks, this refreshing and frothy drink is served over crushed ice in a wine glass and garnished with a sprig of mint, certainly a dramatic switch from senator-approved honeyed liquors, like scotch. Made with a mix of berries black-, blue-, straw- and raspberries the crisp beverage has a kick of fruit vodka and a splash of soda water. The Round Robin is an excellent place to eavesdrop, if you're into that sort of thing. It's the downtown lobbyist hotspot. Who knows what you might hear?
1330 19th Street NW
A dimly lit, spacious underground cavern, Buffalo Billiards is your typical crowd-accommodating billiards bar, with a "lodged-in-a-mountain-cabin" feel. A brown bear, a cowboy boot lamp, ceiling canoes, an abundance of wood and a Native American statue, are all part of the rustic theme in this two-barred joint, laden with pool tables, shuffleboards and small tables. While the bar hasn't prepared anything special for inauguration weekend besides an extended hour deal they expect a huge crowd, of both regulars and passerbys. If you're seeking out a hearty burger, a stimulating game of darts, or a bustling joint with an iTunes juke box and multiple gigantic televisions tuned to a variety of sports channels, stop by with a group of friends.
1336 U Street NW
At this point after the presidential election, lipstick anything might elicit some loud groans, but that can change with a speedy sojourn to Tabaq. Repackage the idea of lipstick on a pig nestle in lipstick red chairs and slurp on their "Poma," a refreshing, burgundy-tinted pomegranate martini with a swift kick of lime. First floor is more for the older folks whose rusty joints find it difficult to handle four flights of stairs. Those with a lighter gait should speed it to the cozy top floor for a stunning city view. There are a few private parties at Tabaq this weekend, but it's still open to the public as the spot to hit for Mediterranean cuisine and intimate one-on-one.
700 Water Street SW
Pulsating music animates the gyrating bodies at this waterfront locale. Zanzibar is multicultural in every way: a cosmopolitan clientele and worldly sounds. Choose your groove: the first floor theme is Americana and the second is Diaspora. The VIP lounge, Sky Club, will be for the seriously swanky this inauguration. For a breather, leap onto the outdoor deck for a change of pace inhale the still, January air and appreciate the luminous Potomac aglow under a dimmed night sky.
2425 18th Street NW
After making a series of appearances, hopping from one fancy pants ball to the next all across the District, pop into this hole-in-the-wall for a treat from the area's top falafel masters. Miscellaneous toppings inspired by frequent visits to Amsterdam such as pickled turnips, babaganoush and yellow squash are bound to please. Make sure to try their frites, fried to extra crispy perfection, with Dutch mayo on the side. If vision is still clear even after downing numerous Obama-themed drinks as per above instructions, read and follow the note on "How to Enhance Your Falafel Experience, Love, Your Falafellers."
With reporting by Maya Curry