Inside D.C. entertainment

Where to spend New Year's Eve in D.C., and stories about past celebrations

December 30, 2011 - 06:48 AM
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New Year's Eve is the most over-hyped party night of the year — there's an overabundance of glitz, and the questions of what to wear, how much to throw down on a party and who to kiss at the end of the night adds so much expectation. Sometimes the best place — or the safest — is lying on the couch in sweats, watching a romantic comedy and cradling a cup of tea. Whatever you decide, here's a list of parties that sound like a no-frills good time, plus a few personal NYE stories to remind you of the perils and triumphs of venturing out. 


It is written in Revelation that when Christ comes back to Earth, "He will lay hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bind him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled." Modern Biblical scholars take this to mean that Christ will send Satan to downtown Orlando for a New Year's Eve block party hosted by Clear Channel and an army of tired young women who came here for the sunshine from places like Boise and woke up 10 years later with underwater mortgages and live-in boyfriends who would all have Grammys if Lou Pearlman had not been framed by those boys he molested.

My kind of party, in other words, and exactly where I spent New Year's Eve 2009. A group of eight of us got drunk in a DoubleTree north of the party, and then we were there in the middle of it all. A member of the Clear Channel street team wearing a plaid skirt with black-and-blonde hair and a tattoo on her left boob sold us tickets. Our gay friend Art, who has a microchip in his arm in case he is ever kidnapped by drug lords, told her that he loved her. "I am alive," I shouted into the night before plunging into an open doorway in search of Jagermeister. English, whose real name is Steve (he is from England), was in one of the bars, and we had a round together. Later I decided to run back to the hotel, because I knew I was going to die and wanted to do it alone. Back in the room, an Indian man was moaning in his sleep. I stole several oranges from the lobby and waited for my soul to leave my body. When it did not, I went outside to smoke cigarettes and a ragged minivan pulled up and two people in orange vests hopped out, followed by Art, who they found wandering by the baseball stadium. Art almost found love on Michigan Ave., but then the cabby just drove him in circles. Pat got ripped off, too, by a rickshaw driver who charged him $40 and dropped him off by a pond. The girls were at a 7-Eleven with a man in an unmarked car who said it was impossible to get from downtown Orlando to uptown Orlando without first paying him $100, so I drove there and got them. It was a good New Year's Eve. —Mike Riggs, associate editor at Reason


I guess my best New Year's story would be the night, I think it would've been midway through sophomore year of college, where on a dare I chugged whatever was left in a handle of whiskey — I can't really say how much this was, but it sure felt like a lot, and I distinctly remember my buddy H__ saying something like, "Well, that's the end of your night." And it should have been. And this was, like, 8 p.m. So I did what any college-age guy would do, wanting to salvage the night, not wanting to miss the stroke of midnight signifying the new year — I started snorting lines of coke.

Now, I'm not a cokehead, and never was — I guess you could say I was dabbling a bit, at this point in my life — and in fact I think it's a pretty horrible fucked-up drug that makes you do things you never would normally, but I will say this: It can totally save your night, if you're young and hardy enough that your heart can handle a goodly portion of Bolivian marching powder on top of a boatload of hard liquor. So anyway, yeah, my buddy A__ and I did what he had on him, which lasted, oh, till about 10:30 p.m., then went out in search of more, which wasn't hard, because we were in a really shitty part of town to begin with, and where there's smoke, there's fire, so to speak.

So we wind up at this coke-house, basically, everyone dancing like maniacs and snorting lines off plates and mirrors and countertops — any flat surface, really — and everyone with that crazed twitchy plasticky look to them. Everyone covered in a sheen of sweat, basically. I don't know anyone apart from A__, but ... I'm coked up, right? So I don't care. My tongue feels like an icicle. It's great.

Anyway, here's the point of my little story, the big climax: You know how, if you're at a friend's house for a dinner party, or something, and you go to take a piss, and the shower-curtain's drawn, you'll always pull it back, just on the off-off-off chance there's a serial killer wielding a sickle hiding in the tub? I know, I do it too — but on this night, in the wild new year's coke-house, there actually WAS someone in the tub: a girl, topless, lying in the tub, holding a mirror covered in lines. I freak out a little, zip back up, apologize profusely — and this girl just kind of goes, "Huh? Dude you're fine, take a piss." So naturally I close the curtain and proceed to do my thing. Very strange indeed. —M.L., Washington


I've had a lot of New Year's Eve fun in my life, but I will always remember the midnight calls with my grandmother.

It didn't matter if she was in Florida with her friends and I was in New York in a DJ booth with some crazy Vogue models -- we'd always race to call each other when the clock struck 12 to scream "happy New Year!"

She is no longer with us, but I will never forget that. It always got my year off to a great start.

So this year, as the ball drops and I'm screaming "happy new year" in Miami, I will be thinking of her and our fun phone calls. —Kelly Ann Collins, founder, Glittarazzi


Every New Years Eve since I was old enough to legally get into clubs and bars, I’ve gone out. I plan a night to have fun with my friends, dress up, and maybe spontaneously kiss someone per NYE tradition at the end of the countdown. I’m going to write about the year I didn’t do any of that.

At the end of 2007, I was scheduled to work the night of December 31st for the first time ever. I was hostessing for a local steakhouse in upstate New York. A rustic restaurant with a toasty fire pit, dim lighting, and no windows. Most of the time, cozy. But that night, when I’d rather be out celebrating like the rest of civilization, suffocating. Not surprisingly, the place was packed. We had a two hour wait, and on top of that, were behind on seating people to begin with. The other hostesses were frazzled. I was frazzled. Rum in our coffees helped us deal with it.

Regardless, I was hoping to get out of work on time to at least ring in the new year with a proper toast and whatever would be left of my friends. Though my manager made me stay to answer phone calls until 11:30, I somehow sped my way to the pub on time to wish my close ones a happy 2008, and watch yet another year turn. But that wasn’t what I was really looking forward to.

I left the bar immediately after midnight. I drove back to a house quietly buzzing from a party that just ended. Nothing glam, nothing wild. Just a bunch of used furniture strewn about randomly. A whole room with only a pool table in the middle. D was waiting for me. He’d been waiting. It wasn’t midnight anymore, but that didn’t matter. I got my New Years kiss. Then we sat on the couch and watched MTV re-run its special. I was so spent and tired and happy. Most boring New Year I ever had. The best New Year I ever had. —A.Huynh, Washington


One year for NYE, my school was playing in a bowl game in New Orleans. Being college students, we started drinking as soon as we woke up. Needless to say, by the time the clock struck midnight I was not sharing a kiss with a special someone. Instead, I was trying to figure out why my ankles no longer seemed to function and how the hell I was going to get home in those damn high heels. My ANKLES stopped working.My friends were carrying me home and strangers were telling me to take my shoes off, and I was shouting back, "NO I DONT WANT AIDS!" – E.F., Atlanta


I'd been seeing "Satan" since August, unaware of the status of the relationship, when he asked me in November what my plans were for New Year's Eve. "I would think your boyfriend wants to spend it with you," he said rather slyly.

Was he asking if I was seeing anyone else or was he implying he was my boyfriend. Either way, I was lost.

I replied, "I don't...have a boyfriend. And, I'm sure, he already has plans. WHAT? What are you talking about?" Needless to say, we didn't plan the night together — I settled on a hotel/open bar package with eight of my closest girlfriends and their significant others at the time.

After a flurry of endless drinking that night, I decided to call Satan, to wish him a Happy New Year.

"Come over!" he insisted.

Some of his friends were visiting from out of town, and they'd just returned to his apartment for the "afterparty," he said. It was 2 a.m. An hour or so later, I was ushered inside a room full of people half-asleep.

After half-hearted attempts at fooling around on Satan's couch, I insisted it was time for sleep. It was 4 a.m., and we were sad remnants of our earlier, lively selves. I crawled into his bed, the drone of ESPN blaring in my ears, and slowly drifted to sleep.

Until about 6 a.m., when I felt a body crawl into bed with me. I opened one eye to see a full head of long, light brown hair plop down in the space next to me.

Some random chick had just climbed into his bed. In the minute after, I shook him from his space on the couch, demanding to know who the strange female was who so comfortably took a place in what should only be mine. I barely heard the words, "I don't wanna hurt you."

"Get the f off my coat," I half yelped, half-whispered, not wanting to wake the entire room full of people.

As I stumbled to the door, I realized I only had my winter coat, sweatpants and my open-toed shoes to brave the NYE walk-of-shame. The door to my escape route was blocked by an air mattress that someone had abandoned — probably the random girl. Blinded with anger, I kicked the mattress with my stilettos, on to the face of an unsuspecting stranger in a sleeping bag.

"Fuck this place!!" I screamed, as I slammed the door as hard as I could and ran out into the blustery, snow-covered New Year's Day. — Coryn Connelly-Cabreros, Chicago

Now go out and create your own memories!

The Gibson: Heaven vs. Hell New Year's 2012. An open bar all night affair with DJ Booty Boots, a champagne toast, six signature cocktails and catering by Blackbyrd Warehouse (Tarsier will not be catering). At $150 a ticket, that open bar better be no bullshit. 8 p.m. - 3 a.m. $150.

Lincoln: Speakeasy New Year's Eve. A roaring twenties celebration with David Akers, the Epitome and DJ Cassidy. A general admission ticket includes hors d'oeuvres from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., party favors and a midnight champagne toast. If you're feeling really fancy, other packages include a premium open bar + dinner. $65, $150, $250.

The Dunes: Carneval de Trahison. Ring in the new year with the best deal yet. A night of craft cocktails and an indoor food truck by Tarsier featuring homemade complimentary pork rinds, vegetarian lumpia, chicken skewers with a sauce trio and adobo chicken sliders. Giant projections of arcade games, DJ sets by Sam "The Man" Burns, Soul Call Paul and DJ Stylus, and live music by Jonny Grave & The Tombstones and Alex Vans Band. $20. Cash/credit bar and food. Only 150 tickets available.

Hudson: A Mad Men New Year's Eve. What better way to ring in another year than a throwback to when times were brighter, a four hour open bar, appetizers and a champagne toast to ring in 1963. $120.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre: From Woolly With Love. End 2011 in laughter with a performance of Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies, desserts from Jose Andres Catering, an open bar and a midnight champagne toast with the cast. $150, $175.

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse: New Year's Eve at the Drafthouse. A low key way to ring in the new year. Watch the ball drop on the big screen. $15.

Rock 'n Roll Hotel: New Year's Eve 2011. A no dress code affair. Rock in 2012 with every hot DJ in town featuring Reed Rothchild, James Nasty, Phetish P, Painted Face and Smudge on the first floor, and Xiao Yang, Skim and Dirty Steve upstairs. $50 admission and cash bar. $80 admission and open bar.

BYT NYE 2012: DJs & Beers & Books at 1800 L Street NW. Ring in the new year at the former Border's Books/FotoWeek space with Animal Collective, Le Tigre, Shark Week, The Dance Party and many, many more! Plus, an open bar, giant hamster balls, lasers, a best of FotoWeek DC exhibit. $80 presale. $100 door.

U Street Music Hall: Moombahton Massive X. A night of moombahton and pho dogs with Nadastrom, Sabo, Jen Lasher, Billy the Gent, and Cam Jus. $25.


Moombahton Massive X Promo Video - U Street Music Hall from Seannie Cameras on Vimeo.

Dirty Martini & Dirty Bar: Dirty Gala. Fancy attire, short short dresses and poppin' bottles is what this night's about. Three floors, four bars, four DJ's and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. $40 general admission ($30 on Gilt). $100 open bar.

Newseum: New Year's Eve Headliner's Ball. Catering and cocktails by Wolfgang Puck, an open bar, music by Round Midnight, DJ Scientific Beats, exhibits and a midnight countdown on a 40-foot by 22-foot video screen. $195.

Eighteenth Street Lounge: ESL NYE. With DJ sets from All Good Funk Alliance, Thomas Blondet, and all that jazz... with The Donvonte McCoy Quintet featuring Mavis Water. $45.

9:30 Club: Blisspop pres. Lost & Sound NYE. With Volta Bureau and Lxsx Frxnk. $10.

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