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Posted at 4:09 PM ET, 12/23/2009

Our New Year's Eve FAQ

By Fritz Hahn

There are a lot of New Year's Eve options out there. (We're not kidding -- see this long list of events.) We know it can be a little overwhelming, so we pulled together this guide to help you sort through them all.

What are the best big all-inclusive hotel packages?
You can see a list of them all here. The Brightest Young Things party at the Capitol Skyline looks like a lot of fun, even if they ditched the indoor roller skating for indoor laser tag. They have a slew of DJs, including the Fatback crew, and a polar bear plunge into the pool. 12/31 Update: BYT had announced that the party was sold out, but around 100 tickets will be available at the door, beginning at 8 p.m., for $80 each, which includes an all-night open bar. The Downtown Countdown at the Grand Hyatt offers live music from Third Eye Blind and cover band Gonzo's Nose, plus DJs, comedy and karaoke, with thousands of revelers. For something more upscale, it's hard to beat the multi-room Things to Do D.C. Gala at the Willard, with multiple live bands, food and an open bar.
Update: The Downtown Countdown is sold out.

What about if I'm looking for something smaller that still has an open bar and dancing?
This is probably the most crowded field out there, with downtown taverns (Front Page, Lucky Bar, the Bottom Line), Capitol Hill haunts (Capitol Lounge, the Pour House), Adams Morgan bars (the Reef, Bourbon), college destinations (McFadden's), posh lounges (The Park at 14th) and big-time nightclubs (Fur) all among the places offering all-you-can-drink deals. The best advice I can give is to go to a bar you've visited before -- you'll have a much better time if you know what kind of atmosphere to expect. For example, the Black Squirrel's open beer bar is going to be a lot more laidback than the upscale party scene at Public Bar.

Note that all open-bar packages aren't created equal: The W Hotel has great DJs, visual artists and the best views in town. But the free drinks only run from 8 to 10 p.m., and after that, you'll be paying $10 to $15 a pop -- after you've already paid $89 to get in.

For legal reasons, bars in Virginia aren't allowed to offer an open bar. That's why parties like the one at Clarendon Ballroom have to specify that you get "seven drink tickets" instead of unlimited booze.

If it's celeb spotting you're after, don't miss the party at George, hosted by the Nats' Ryan Zimmerman and the Redskins' Chris Cooley (and maybe his brother Tanner). It's got unlimited drinks from 9 to 1 a.m., food and dancing for less than $100.

(More advice, including where to find concerts, DJs and free and cheap parties, after the jump.)

I'd like to see a band on New Year's Eve. Who's in town?
On our big list of concerts, a couple stand out: The dynamite retro soul of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the 9:30 club, the legendary jazzman Ahmad Jamal in his annual stand at Blues Alley and neo-soul star Anthony Hamilton at Zanzibar on the Waterfront. D.C.-gone-L.A. rockers the Dance Party are back in town and performing at the Rock and Roll Hotel. (Two bands we'd usually recommend here -- next-big-thing U.S. Royalty and '80s cover act the Legwarmers -- are sold out.)
Update: The Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings show and Metropolis Robotica at the Rock and Roll Hotel are sold out.

I feel like dancing. What are my options?
So many choices, and most are under $20. Town is counting down the top songs of the decade with DJ Ed Bailey. Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation is spinning at a "block party" at Marvin and its brand-new sister bar Patty Boom Boom, which is located just around the corner. Will Eastman of the perennially-packed Bliss dance party will be spinning at Little Miss Whiskey's. Multiple DJs who've gotten crowds grooving at Saint-Ex and the Black Cat will be working over two levels at the Velvet Lounge. Soca and reggae DJs take control at Almaz. DJ Meistro and Deep Sang rock the funk, hip-hop and Afrobeat at Wonderland. For retro, don't miss the '80s DJs (and open bar) at Duffy's. And the Salsa Room offers dance lessons as well as a night of Latin beats.
Update: The Marvin Block Party and Little Miss Whiskey's are sold out.

I'm on a budget and would rather not spend $100 on the whole open bar-and-buffet package. Where should I go?
Check out our Best Bets list for the best parties for $40 or less. It ranges from no-cover parties at Social (with three toasts for midnight in Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Rico and D.C.) and a free DJ night at Cafe Saint-Ex to Brazilian DJs at Eighteenth Street Lounge a party with burlesque dancers, fire-breathers and sword swallowers at the Palace of Wonders.
Update: Eighteenth Street Lounge's party sold out on Dec. 29.

I'm over New Year's Eve. Which places are just open as usual?
If you don't want a big price tag, there's no cover to get into Buffalo Billiards, ChurchKey, Quarry House, Nellie's, R.F.D., Science Club and a number of other places. (Science Club does offer an optional $25 open bar, but you don't have to pay anything to dance the night away with Chris Burns' mix of house and disco.)

Probably the best way to celebrate is to bring a group of friends. You'll pay for your own drinks, but you'll avoid the long lines and velvet ropes.

What are the best kid-friendly options?
Kid-friendly rockers Rocknoceros and singer-songwriter Robbie Schaefer are performing two New Year's Eve shows at Jammin' Java, complete with countdowns and sparkling-cider toasts. Also look into the First Night celebrations in Alexandria, Annapolis, Leesburg and other cities, which let families roam between dozens of venues offering live music, magicians and other fun activities. Alexandria's ends with a fireworks show, which is always great. See our whole list of family options here.

Is there anything else I should know?
Don't forget to check out our post about SoberRide if your transportation plans are still in flux. Metro trains will run until 2 a.m., and the Circulator buses will run late as well -- the Georgetown-to-Union Station route will go until 2 a.m., and the Adams Morgan-to-McPherson Square route, which stops at 14th and U streets NW, has been extended until 3:30 a.m.

The H Street Shuttle, which ferries partiers between the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station and the bars and clubs on H Street NE, will run until 3 a.m.

And finally, one thing to remember if you're going out in D.C.: By city law, bars are allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. That doesn't mean they all do, but it does mean you can expect to party well into Jan. 1.

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | December 23, 2009; 4:09 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Free and Cheap, Music  
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You should move the Anthony Hamilton @ Zanzibar event to the paragraph that says "If it's celeb spotting you're after..." and delete it from the section about bands. A closer inspection of the Zanzibar event site says that Anthony Hamilton will be appearing but will NOT be performing. Someone named Lauren White will be the one performing. It's pretty deceptive if you don't read it carefully (note the small print at the bottom of their flyer).

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