Just because the leaves are turning and patios are closing up doesn’t mean you have an excuse to stay at home. There are still plenty of DC area bars that offer a lot of entertainment to help you ride out the winter. So order up a hot toddy or three, send out the group text, and get down with everything from Skee-Ball to Street Fighter to ping-pong to giant Jenga.
Serving over 60 beers (with eight on tap), plus five pool tables, two shuffleboard tables, and a couple of dart boards, this Cleveland Park staple is no frills and all fun. Dark, unassuming, and regularly packed with regulars, it’s a place you can easily lose track of time -- which can rack up your billiards bill. If shooting pool isn’t your speed, try your hand at Connect 4, Uno, or Big Buck Safari; Atomic Billiards has something for everyone.
Comet Ping Pong’s vibe can be summed up neatly as ping-pong, pizza, and punk shows -- this restaurant has been upending expectations for a decade now. Serving some of the DMV area’s best thin-crust pizzas, this restaurant doubles as a ping-pong parlor, and triples as a concert venue. All ping-pong tables are free, which makes them an excellent way to kill time while you wait for a table or for a show to start. But don’t be fooled by the chill settings -- Comet Ping Pong can get pretty rowdy, as they regularly book some of the more compelling indie music acts touring the country; past performers include Speedy Ortiz, Prince Rama, and Ty Segall. Totally worth a trip up to Chevy Chase.
Tucked away in the north end of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, Board Room offers the closest thing to a family game night with total strangers... and plenty of booze. With over 30 games available for rent, for a flat fee of $2, as well as a full cocktail menu, wine, and 21 draft lines, the options abound. Choose from family-friendly options like Yahtzee and Operation to decidedly more risqué choices such as Cards Against Humanity -- though we all know one can make a drinking game out of anything, given enough time and motivation. Refreshingly, the only real directive at Board Room is to “put down your smartphone and interact.”
While each of these bars is distinct in its own right, H Street Country Club takes it up a notch. This multi-story bar is the only one on our list to feature both a roof deck and an indoor, nine-hole mini golf course inspired by the District -- a winning combination in our book. It’s not the fanciest putt-putt course, nor is it in the best condition, but it’s functional, fun, and fully indoors. They’ve also got giant Jenga, shuffleboard, and a Skee-Ball league you can join. If you’d rather just get your drink on, make the most of HSCC’s full bars on each floor -- meaning you can easily move around and escape crowds and long waits for drinks or food.
Another low-key bar that serves as a neighborhood oasis, Breadsoda might be half a block down the street from the frat-tastic Mason Inn and Town Hall, but it is a world away, vibe-wise. This '70s-style billiards bar has a couple of pool tables, shuffleboard, and about 12 different free board/card games to choose from. As an added bonus, they bring out the ping-pong tables on Tuesday nights, serving up fierce competition from 5pm until close. The food is actually pretty good, with upscale versions of typical bar fare -- try their Moroccan Chicken Salad sandwich on a croissant.
Red Derby is a great neighborhood bar that happens to have some board games. If you’re looking for a night of serious activities, then maybe head to one of the other spots on this list, but if you want to have a wonderful time at a cheap, relaxed bar, then this is your place. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and the food is pretty delicious -- we love their veggie burger and sweet potato fries. It’s an unpretentious, low-key spot on 14th St that shares a block with a few other hole-in-the-wall gems, such as Lyman’s Tavern, and Taqueria Habanero (featured on our Best Authentic Latin Restaurants guide). Red Derby is cheap, but make sure to bring cash -- they don’t accept credit cards, and the ATM downstairs charges a fee. With a well-heated, covered, and warmly lit rooftop bar, you’ll be able to take in some fresh air throughout the winter without ever being unduly uncomfortable. Can you tell we’re fans of this place?
Atlas Arcade is unique on this list in that it might be the only bar that actually features video games in the classic sense, as opposed to board/parlor games. Ideal for children of the '80s, this H Street corridor oasis has plenty by way of classic arcade machines, including Street Fighter II, Big Buck World, Cruis’n Exotica, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It doesn’t hurt that the games are pretty affordable ($0.50/game), as are the primarily canned selection of beers -- it is H Street, after all. As an added bonus, you can play console games spanning the NES, SNES, SEGA Genesis, and N64. Pro tip: Test your skills in a four-player game of GoldenEye 007 using only throwing knives. It won’t be pretty... but it will be a hell of a good time.
If you’re a beer lover, this is probably the bar you want to check out on this list. The Iron Horse Tap Room prides itself on its varied selection of draft beers, constantly working to source and feature local brews as well as rarities from around the country. While it can get crowded due to its proximity to the Verizon Center, if you’re lucky enough to be here on off-nights, it’s a real treat, offering up shuffleboard and Skee-Ball -- not to mention some of the best late-night happy hour specials in town ($4 Fat Tire drafts!).
This Arlington mainstay is a popular happy hour and college football destination that has enough going on during regular hours to always attract a solid clientele -- including a hidden beer garden out back, as well as plenty by way of bar games. With pool tables, Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, Pop-A-Shot, and the Power Punch game that always breaks our hands, Spider Kelly’s is a laid-back place to get a drink and blow off some steam.
Penn Social is basically an adult Chuck E. Cheese’s -- this cavernous, two-story sports bar bombards you with light, sounds, and movement from every direction and angle. You can definitely scratch your gaming itch here: they have board games, shuffleboard, Skee-Ball, foosball, Pop-A-Shot, giant Jenga, and a giant Connect 4 -- basically, there’s no shortage of ways to (not-so) quietly assert your dominance over your friends and coworkers. While the food is “meh” and there’s occasionally a cover charge on weekends, the drinks are stiff enough and competitively priced -- for Penn Quarter -- to keep you loose and the bar in booming business.
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1. Atomic Billiards3427 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
2. Comet Ping Pong5037 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
3. The Board Room1737 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
4. H Street Country Club1335 H St NE, Washington
5. Breadsoda2233 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington
6. Red Derby3718 14th St NW, Washington
7. Atlas Arcade1236 H St NE, washington, dc
8. Iron Horse Tap Room507 7th St NW, Washington
9. Spider Kelly's3181 Wilson Blvd, Arlington
10. Penn Social801 E Street NW, Washington, DC
Atomic Billiards has all the diamond-in-the-rough charm of an old, basement pool hall (minus the thick cloud of cigarette smoke) with a full bar. There is a great happy hour 7 days a week, and other than shooting pool on one of the 5 felt tables and playing darts, Atomic has 2 shuffleboard tables, boardgames, and some retro arcade games. So while you sip on one of the 60 beers (8 of which are on tap) ranging from domestic and imported to serious craft (like Rogue, Victory, and Dogfish Head) you can settle into your game of choice. Atomic serves six different flavors of potato chips (think habanero, dill, and BBQ), but there isn’t actually a kitchen so BYO take-out.
Comet is an occasional music venue and an all the time ping pong parlor that serves fresh, handmade pizza with crowd-drawing toppings. It’s known as a great first date spot, but regardless which date you're on (or even on one at all), the table tennis is definitely worth interrupting for the pizza. With handmade dough cooked in a wood fired grill, the pizza comes out fast with a slightly chewy thin crust and incredible toppings: The Smokey is topped with smoked mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, smoked bacon, and melted onions, The Rodrigo is piled with organic ground beef, black beans, crema, and lime salsa, and possibly the most out of the box is the Yalie that is made with New England clams, garlic, and melted onions.
Board Room is a spacious, high-ceilinged bar with 21 taps, rotating cocktails, and closets brimming with rentable boardgames from your childhood. With a pint of craft beer from Flying Dog, Magic Hat, Smuttynose (and more), peruse the 20 boardgames that includes Hungry Hungry Hippos, Guess Who, Sorry, Battleship, Cards Against Humanity, and Scrabble. You can also bring your own favorites from home along with some snacks or a full-blown feast (or order from neighboring take-out places) because there’s no kitchen.
Sorry Bethesda Country Club, rooftop deck + 25 tequilas + mini-golf > 18 holes in the sweltering sun + one gin fizz.
Breadsoda is a dimly lit, retro, wood-paneled billiards hall that serves a huge list of sandwiches and beer and hosts a fierce ping pong competition on Tuesday nights. Whether you favor a game of pool or skipping the rental fees in favor of darts or one of the many board games like risk, trivial pursuit, and connect 4, checkout the 50 plus beers (12 on tap) that range from domestic to craft. As far as food goes, the sandwiches are hearty and diverse: The Breadsoda comes with turkey, swiss, mustard, tomato, and coleslaw on pumpernickle, the Reuben is a familiar favorite with salty corned beef and sweet Russian dressing, and the BBQ is piled with chipotle pulled pork on a juice-soaked potato bun.
DC’s Red Derby is a local staple that combines all the necessary ingredients for an optimal night out, including a rooftop, board games, bar snacks, and reasonable prices. The dinner menu consists of American comfort food, like the crowd-favorite sweet potato fries and chicken tenders, tacos, burgers, and a gooey grilled cheese. Be sure to head to the Derby rooftop for brunch, complete with sweet and savory options, like breakfast bowls and French toasts sticks.
Atlas Arcade is a retro arcade bar that hearkens back to the ‘80s and 90’s by brandishing games like Galaga and Golden Axe, in addition to videogames like Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast. Be warned, though; many of Atlas’s games are played on public screens, meaning that your race could quickly become a bar-wide event. Atlas offers a two-tap system as well as bottled and canned brews to make the visit to your childhood that much less innocent.
You could call the Iron Horse a sports bar for the flatsceens behind the bar and the DC team pride (it’s also really close to the Verizon Center), but really it's a motorcycle-themed pour house that features rotating craft brews and occasional tap take overs. While you take various hard-to-find national and DemMarVa-local beers for a test drive, you can play shuffleboard or skee-ball. Some of the beers they’ve featured in the past are: 3 Stars Brewing’s (DC) “Nectar of the Bogs” saison, Flying Dog’s (MD) “Doggie Style Pale Ale,” Dogfish Head’s (DE) “Festina Pêche” weissbier, and Port City Brewing’s (VA) “Metro Red Ale.” Feel free to bring your favorite local take-out and chow down in the bar, and stay late for $4 Fat Tire drafts.
This Arlington mainstay is a destination for happy hour and college football, offering 25 flat-screens to watch the game, plus darts, pool, shuffleboard, skee-ball, arcade games like Big Buck Hunter, and a twinkle-lit beer garden out back. In other words, you're guaranteed to have a rowdy time at this spacious neighborhood watering hole, where greasy classics like quesadillas, tater tots, and mac & cheese bites fill the menu and soak up suds from standard draft beers and cans of DC Brau brews.
There is always something going on at Penn Social, a two-level warehouse barcade and club with 3 full bars featuring over 30 drafts collectively. Beyond the skee-ball, hoops, foosball, giant Jenga and Connect 4, and happy hour it features 7 days a week, there is trivia on Tuesday, and music on Friday and Saturday nights. On weekends expect the downstairs to feel more like a dance club and less like a hip hangout for big groups of friends. It also have some greasy bar bites like nachos, wings, quesadillas, and pretzels with queso to help soak up the alcohol.