New Year’s Eve can be a trying holiday. There is so much pressure put on this one night – one moment really – that builds up for weeks prior. You can start to feel so much like you must go out and you absolutely must have fun that you panic and fork over $200 for a ticket to an awful party just to have something to do – and then end up sipping from flimsy plastic cups of regret all night long.
It is our goal here to help you avoid this fate. To that end, I will begin this going-out guide by saying you have my permission and support to not go out. Or, better yet, just go to a small house party at your friend’s place. Maybe go out for brunch the next day or, you know, do something else. Whatever. The point is: no pressure.
If you do decide to go out, here are some suggestions – but before we get started I just want to suggest you consider wearing sensible shoes? Bars are open until 4am by special DC Council authorization and I do not want you breaking an ankle (this actually happened to a friend of mine after a holiday party this month.) Speaking of which, I know you probably do not want to hear this, but think about how you are getting home before you go out. Drunk walking home in cities leads to no-joke fatalities and can make you more vulnerable to crime.
Now, watch this cuteness and we will move along.
Parties, Dancing, & Revelry
For those who want to have a high-fun, high-energy New Years Eve, I have to suggest U Street Music Hall’s Moombahton Massive X. Expect lots of local love, all the dancing you can stand, and a half-dozen pho dogs on the new food menu.
Down the block from U Hall, DC9 is throwing NYE-aid 2012 – a party which will finally end your search for a charity benefit that includes confetti canons. Music by their Liberation Dance Party team, open bar until 1am (bar stays open to 4am), and a portion of the proceeds going to the Coalition for the Homeless.
If you have the fortitude to brave Adams Morgan, the Fatback Time Travelers Ball seems like your best reward. The Fatback team throw a good party and the promoters of this party, One Love Massive, make a special point of saying they will not oversell the venue, so that bodes pretty well for a good time. The reasonable $30 tickets seem good, too. Historic costumes are encouraged.
Over on H Street, Rock & Roll Hotel is having a party with at least nine different (totally solid) DJs plus a band. The $50 tickets include access to the entire club including the heated rooftop which sounds like a pretty sweet spot for midnight kisses – or upgrade to the $80 tickets which include an open bar for the night.
The mainstage at the 9:30 has The Alabama Shakes (who I would like to thank for writing a song called “Come On, Brittany” which I have, yes, now been told about one hundred times) but they are sold out. The Backbar, however, has Blisspop featuring Volta Bureau for $10.
Fancy Events, Special Dining, & Excuses to Dress Up
New Year’s seems like a good excuse to go out to a nice meal, whether it is with a group before going out, or just with one other person, and special options abound. Richard Sandoval properties La Sandia and ZENGO both look to have great options for the night. For something even fancier, Zola is looking good, particularly winning my favor for offering a vegetarian main on their set menu – and one that looks amazing at that.
One of my favorite spots, Estadio, will be open and giving diners a rare choice of either a special tasting menu – four courses and a glass of high-end cava for $75 – or their regular a la carte menu. The same option is also offered at their sister restaurant Proof where the $95 set menu will include all the luxuries one wants on NYE – caviar, lobster, very fancy Champagne – but all of their usual fare will be available as well. If you can snag a reservation at either, it might be your best option for something fancy without breaking the bank. Or, at least, affordable unless you pick that 2002 bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal off of Proof’s list – ringing in at $900. (Note, if you do, that is an oversized 1500mL bottle – and I want you to call me to share it.)
Bourbon Steak has two slightly different menus for the early versus late seatings ($90 and $175, respectively), but both are as luxurious as you would expect and seem like a way to slip very poshly into the new year, totally insulated from the craziness outside.
Combining fine dining with a fancy party, The Headliner’s Ball at the Newseum offers food and cocktails by Wolfgang Puck’s The Source – and certainly the largest screen on which you could ever want to watch a ball drop. Tickets are $150, though a $225 ticket also includes an elegant five-course dinner at The Source.
“Black tie welcome, costumes encouraged” is the dress code for Heaven & Hell 2012 at The Gibson. For $150 the party includes “anything goes open bar” – with anything off The Gibson’s well-stocked shelves on offer, which might make this your best value of the night. The whole space will be, as you might guess, heaven-versus-hell themed, with the first floor decked out in satanic style and the upstairs more saintly, including a Vatican-themed space and some private confessional booths. Cheeky!
Sharing a caterer with The Gibson – that being the super-hip new “post-modern Filipino” operation Tarsier – The Dunes is putting on A Carnaval de Trahison. Tarsier will have an “indoor food truck” for their fantastic snacks, sophisticated cocktails will be crafted at the bar, and very popular local DJs like Sam Burns will soundtrack this intimate party. Oh, and you can play huge video games projected on a vacant building next door, of course. This would be the pick to most closely simulate the chic, cool New Year’s loft party you wish your friend invited you to, along with 148 other close friends.
Remember New Year’s is your most formal-dress holiday. Take full, glittery advantage of the situation.
Low-Key Bars & Other Options
Drinks Team fave The Passenger is hosting a “Lo-Fi Party” – keeping it simple with a DJ in the back, Champagne at midnight, and a $10 cover after 9pm.
If you are going to pregame for NYE, what better than tacos? Thus, Mama Chuy’s NYT Taco Pregame Party. Come by between 3 and 10pm for all-you-can eat tacos and a glass of sparkling sangria for $15 (reservations required, see Facebook for details.) There are also cheap prices on tequila and Mexican beers, but remember to pace yourself. Well-known local DJ Jackie O will provide the background music to your taco supper.
For an interesting spin on cover charges, starting at 11pm, Cork Wine Bar requests guests show up with a bottle of good sparkling wine, and they will supply the rest of the party. Not entirely clear what they consider “good” enough – but if you stop by their wine shop they can probably make some suggestions.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon in AdMo is actually throwing three different events in different spaces, but I would suggest buying the $35 “Punch, Pints, & Pork” option. There will be a pig roast on the heated rooftop and lots of casual party action.
The always-delightful Room 11 will have a sparkling, St-Germain-heavy cocktail menu for NYE, but otherwise will be business as usual. Sunday, they will be doing a modified version of their new brunch serving hangover-helper themed plates from noon to 9pm.
Out in Arlington, Galaxy Hut will be open with “no cover, nothing stupid” – and I do love them for that.