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Posted at 9:31 AM ET, 12/23/2008

Nine Days and Counting

By Anne Kenderdine

The latest casualty of the faltering economy? New Year's Eve.

As I write this, less than 10 days before the holiday, most of the area's big parties still have tickets remaining, from black-tie hotel events to concerts to open-bar affairs at nightclubs. In previous years, the Clarendon Ballroom's gala and Last Train Home's annual visit to Iota have been hot tickets. This time around, advance tickets are still available. (Two that have sold out: The Legwarmers at the State Theatre and the open-bar DJ parties at Gin & Tonic.)

It really is a buyer's market. The Reef, which announced that tickets would be $125 for tickets before Dec. 15 and $150 after, cut prices by $25 each. The young professionals group Things to Do D.C., whose all-inclusive gala at the Marriott Wardman Park includes multiple bands, food and drink for $176, introduced a $99 "after-dinner" ticket with admission at 10:30 instead of 9. And a number of parties with "prices subject to change" on various dates this month never got around to raising them.

If you're still making plans, here's a list of some of my favorite events, from those pricey hotel parties to no-cover dives where you can stop in for a cold beer or game of pool. (Need more options? See places where where you won't need reservations, family-friendly celebrations or a full list of all our New Year's Eve-related events.)

All-Inclusive Hotel Parties | Live Music | Lounges and Nightclubs | Free Events

All-Inclusive Hotel Parties
Euronet International's '007 License to Thrill' Gala
A James Bond inspired party with an international flavor throughout multiple rooms -- Bollywood music and food in "India," Russian DJs and vodka in "Russia," mock casino gambling in "Montenegro," steel pan players and reggae DJs in "The Caribbean," etc. Tickets are currently $159.

Things to Do D.C.'s 'A Salute to America'
Go around the U.S. in one night, as different party areas take on various themes, including a swing orchestra in "1920s Chicago," live salsa music in "Miami," casino gambling in "Las Vegas" and an Irish band in "Boston." Tickets start $176 for 9 p.m. admission, or $99 for "after-dinner" 10:30 admission.

Big Night D.C.
Moved this year to the huge Gaylord National hotel, Big Night has 12 "party zones" and themed areas with bands seen from Dewey Beach to Clarendon Ballroom, including Mr. Greengenes and Carbon Leaf, dance music from Clarendon Ballroom resident DJ Pat Premier, mock gambling, ballrooms with retro, hip-hop and electronic music, a balloon drop and so on. Tickets are currently $149.

Live Music
'A New Year of Change' at Mirrors
Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown is joined at this party by Familiar Faces, featuring former members of Rare Essence, Backyard Band and other D.C. favorites. Tickets ($20 in advance from Downtown Locker Room) include a soul food buffet and champagne fountain.

Ahmad Jamal at Blues Alley
Tickets are pricey -- $160 for the 10 p.m. show-- but they include a three-course dinner, champagne by the glass, and the annual visit by Jamal, the great jazz pianist whom Miles Davis cited as one of his biggest influences. The Keter Betts Memorial Band opens the show.

Last Train Home at Iota
The alt-country band -- late of D.C., currently of East Nashville -- sold out Iota last weekend, and New Year's Eve always feels like a homecoming. Expect a freewheeling live show with great tunes and passionate fans.

The Reflex at Ned Devine's and Ned Kelly's
It's an all-'80s New Year's Eve with one of the area's better cover bands. Expect everything from Madonna to the B-52s to Poison.

Tom Cunningham Orchestra at Glen Echo
D.C.'s finest big band swings in the new year with songs by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman in the historic Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom. A free swing dance lesson from 8 to 9 helps guests get into the groove. This is a kid-friendly, alcohol-free event with a sparkling cider toast at midnight and free dessert.

Lounges and Nightclubs

DJ Meistro at Wonderland
DJ Meistro will be droppin' his Dirty Bombs at Wonderland on New Year's Eve, laying waste to the dance floor with a mix of reggae, hip-hop and funk. It's a crazy, sweaty mess during his monthly weekend appearance, so New Year's Eve should be a nonstop party.

'Feast of Flesh' at the The Palace of Wonders
A night of burlesque, sword-swallowing and fire-breathing starring Thrill Kill Jill and Tyler Fire of the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, plus dancers Lizzie Furr and Prissy Pistol. The evening also includes DJs, door prizes and a champagne toast.

Mark Rae at Eighteenth Street Lounge
English DJ Mark Rae has been around the electronic music scene for years, heading the Grand Central label and working as half the influential duo Rae & Christian, whose hip-hop-flavored albums featured everyone from Jeru the Damaja to Bobby Womack. Now running the Yes King label and releasing his own mix CDs, Rae brings a mix of breakbeats, hip-hop and funk to ESL on New Year's Eve, where he'll be joined by resident DJ Thomas Blondet. The Donvonte McCoy Quintet performs upstairs in the jazz bar with guest vocalist Mavis Waters. Admission includes an open bar from 9:30 to 10:30 and a midnight champagne toast.

'Monte Carlo New Year's Eve' at Love
Four levels of mock casino gambling and dancing, hosted by Donnie Simpson. There's an open bar from 8 to 11 and free food from 8 to 10.

New Year's Eve at Town
Washington's largest gay club offers a three-stage event. The evening starts with a drag show at 10. Then DJs spin the biggest hits of 2008 while dancers perform. Finally, DJs Ed Bailey and Wess provide a preview of 2009's hottest tracks.

Free Events
Sometimes, it's far more cost effective to just hang out with your friends and buy your own drinks. (Are you really going to have enough cocktails to justify that $100 tab for unlimited beverages?) That's when you look for bars that are just opening their doors and pretending that New Year's Eve is just another night. You may get a champagne toast at midnight, but you don't have to dress up or buy tickets in advance -- just make sure you arrive in time to get in.

Free admission, free pool, free bowling on the Wii, free darts, free shuffleboard, a free midnight champagne toast and music by DJ Fatty.

Buffalo Billiards
The Dupont pool hall will be open until 4 a.m. with the usual rates in effect for pool and shuffleboard.

The two-for-one drink special has been extended until 4 a.m., and at midnight, everyone receives a free shot instead of a glass of champagne. DJ Daniel Kristophre spins house music all night.

After the usual Wednesday happy hour -- $3.50 beers and $2.50 rail drinks until 8 -- get 25-cent wings all night. Both levels of the bar will be open and will fill quickly.

Sticky Rice
The All Good Funk Alliance keeps up its tradition of free booty-shaking New Year's Eve parties, throwing a bash with DJs Ray Casil, J Sonel and KC spinning house, funk and music that will make you move.

Want more ideas? Check out places that don't need reservations or our list of all free parties

-- Fritz

By Anne Kenderdine  | December 23, 2008; 9:31 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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I read that Rocket Bar's going to be open as of 4pm and charging a $5 cover tonight - can anyone confirm or deny? They don't seem to be answering their phone.

Posted by: dukearm2 | December 31, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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