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Posted at 11:41 PM ET, 06/ 4/2009

Dive in to Summer Pool Parties

By Fritz Hahn

When the temperature rises, the Capitol Skyline's pool is the coolest place in D.C. (Dakota Fine/dakotafine.com)

Even at summer happy hours, Washington enjoys a somewhat stuffy reputation. When the Euronet International group threw a series of after-work pool parties at the Washington Plaza Hotel last year, guests sipped drinks on the deck because they weren't allowed to get into the pool.

This summer's two new pool parties, however, actually live up to their billing.

Designed by architect Morris Lapidus and fresh off an interior makeover, the Capitol Skyline Hotel near the Navy Yard has a huge pool and deck. It's now host to day-long pool parties every weekend, with DJs, food and drink specials and plenty of young(ish) Washingtonians eager to shed their khakis and suits for swim trunks and bikinis.

Yes, everyone strips down. I went on both Saturday and Sunday last week, and of the hundreds of people in attendance each day, I'd say between 80 and 90 percent were wearing swimsuits, whether they were in the water or just tanning. (Seriously, there were all sizes and shapes of bodies on display.)

Both parties are a mix between outdoor nightclub and neighborhood block party, with lots of mixing and mingling (especially in the water) and a laidback atmosphere; the differences are in the crowds and entertainment. Here's what you should know if you're heading out to enjoy what forecasters are saying should be a rain-free weekend.

Practical Advice | Saturday's Party | Sunday's Party

Practical advice: There are changing rooms and showers outside, so you don't have to wear your bathing suit on the Metro. There are plenty of lounge chairs and tables around the competition-sized pool, but they go fast, especially the ones with umbrellas. Once you've staked out your spot, servers come around and take food and drink orders, though they're not always around when you need them. Both days, my friends and I resorted to going to the bar ourselves when we needed food and drink, rather than wait.

If I could add one thing: Lockers, so you could leave your cell phone/wallet/purse/book when you wanted to take a dip. Leaving personal property unattended doesn't seem like a good idea.

Saturday: BYT Summer Camp

Hours: Noon-8 p.m.

Hosts: Everyone's favorite music scene/hipster Web site, Brightest Young Things

The Vibe: From the retro '70s sunglasses and swimsuits to the way 20-somethings eagerly leap onto children's inflatable toys and do diving catches of footballs tossed into the pool, you can tell this is where all the cool kids are hanging out this summer. While plenty of socializing takes place while tanning, there was a steady flow of people playing with rafts, balls and other toys in the pool.

The "summer camp" theme is played up with arts and crafts (prizes were awarded for macaroni art last weekend), "physical challenges" (think hula hoop contests) and other "oh, to be a kid again"-style games. You may groan, but you'll find yourself joining in.

Cover charge: $10

Food/Drink specials: $5 sangria, $4 16-ounce Miller Lite bottles or Corona cans. There are also $4 "buckets" -- really paper cups -- of ribs, falafel, truffled fries and other snacks for sharing. The meaty ribs were a hit; the falafel was boring.

Music: You'll find guest DJs spinning electro, indie rock, dance remixes, '80s hits -- what you'd expect to hear at Rock and Roll Hotel or Jimmy Valentine's on a Saturday night, though obviously the playlists have been lightened for a summer afternoon.

On some Saturdays, you'll find local bands performing live, though hopefully far enough away from the pool that no one will be electrocuted. This week, local bands U.S. Royalty, the Laughing Man, Casper Bangs, Fffever and Last Tide will be performing a tribute to grunge, playing Sonic Youth and other early-'90s alternative covers, while DJs will spin the as-yet-unreleased Sonic Youth album "The Eternal" and similar artists.

Sunday: Spike'd Sundays

Hours: Noon-6 p.m.

Host: Spike "Top Chef" Mendelsohn, owner of Good Stuff Eatery

The Vibe: This was a diverse and family-friendly gathering, perhaps due to Mendelsohn's TV fame and his Capitol Hill burger joint, though the age range seemed primarily to be couples in their late 20s to 40s. There were more kids than on Saturday, running around, splashing and throwing things in the pool, but the chairs around the edge of the deck were the perfect place to relax, read and wind down the weekend.

Spike himself was manning the grill, serving up burgers and chatting with guests.

Cover charge: $10, which includes a juicy, freshly grilled burger with all the toppings (cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions, etc.) plus chips and a pickle.

Food/Drink specials: Besides those Spike burgers, there's grilled chicken and other sandwiches. Drink specials include $5 cocktails like Spike'd Lemonade (vodka, pomegranate juice, fresh lemonade) and $4 Miller Lites.

Music: DJ Butter spun a strong (if sometimes awkwardly mixed) set of R&B and party hip-hop -- R. Kelly, vintage Michael Jackson, P-Funk, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Snoop and the usual suspects. (Because there were tots around, there were some obvious radio edit-versions.)

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 4, 2009; 11:41 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events  
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