The Ultimate Guide to Fun in DC Without Booze
The best sober activities to do in Washington DC instead of drinking.
Whether you’re resetting for 2024, taking a “dry” month, or just flirting with the idea of a “damp January,” we’ve got great news: Just because you’re not drinking, doesn’t mean you have to have a quiet (or boring) month.
With the booze-free movement continuing to flourish and become a norm for many, now, a change in drinking habits no longer means a dull social life. And along with a bevy of options for non-alcoholic wine and non-alcoholic drinks, the city is also teeming with things to do that are great alternatives to waking up with a hangover. From vision boards and sweating out toxins to exploring a new brunch spots or zero-proof cocktails, here’s everything we’re doing in DC.
Non Alcoholic Wine and Non Alcoholic Drinks in DC
Non-Alcoholic Wine Pairings
Once known to many as being overly sweet, mocktails have really upped their sophistication and profiles in recent years. So too have NA wines, and there are some memorable spots around the city calling to you to pair a fabulous meal with some alcohol-free varietals. Irregardless, the H Street wine-focused restaurant pours non-alcoholic Riesling (Leitz’s Eins Zwei Zero) by the glass, but you would be forgiven for ordering an entire bottle. The elegant and unpretentious French dishes at Lutèce in Georgetown pair beautifully with a glass of NA sparkling rosé from Germany. And to really splash out, the opulent tasting menu at José Andrés’ Minibar can be complemented by a “virtue tasting” of NA wines.
Binge Bar, H Street’s hip, subterranean bar exclusively serves NA beverages, so if you haven’t been, make this your month (or season, or year) to stop in. The spot has planned a diverse and exciting line-up of sober events this January, like a happy hour networking event for women (January 11), a NA bottomless brunch (January 20), and a guided meditation workshop (January 28).
NA cocktails have come a long way in recent years, so whether you’re looking to recreate the taste of a perfect martini sans vodka, or perhaps something that just whets your whistle, there’s plenty to choose from. Restaurants around the DMV tend to add more NA options in January when more people are cutting back from booze. We love the grape and date Jallab at Yasmine in Union Market, the tropical-themed Storm Brewing at Michele’s, the matcha coladas at Nama Ko, and the NA gin-based cocktail, Frostbite at Wilson’s Hardware.
U Street Corridor, $50
Looking to manifest a fabulous year and intrigued by picking up a new creative outlet? Consider making a vision board this winter. Essentially a collage of hopes, goals, dreams, and aspirations, vision boards have gained somewhat of a devoted following. It’s not just about pretty pictures, there’s some solid psychology behind this craft, like the self-efficacy theory, which posits that those who believe in and envision their goals, are more likely to achieve them. In honor of National Vision Board Day (January 13) head to El Secreto de Rosita. The Peruvian and Pan-Latin restaurant will be hosting a brunch focused on manifesting your big and small dreams for 2024. Reserve a spot for unlimited brunch dishes and guided vision board creation in a welcoming and positive atmosphere surrounded by other goal-seekers.
Winter is definitely the best time to bring a book or a friend to a coffee shop and tuck in for some caffeine and coziness. The city is teeming with options and some of our favorites include the Blue Bottle in Georgetown, Sidamo on H Street, Big Bear Café in Bloomingdale, and Ellē in Mount Pleasant.
Waking up for an early (or earlyish) brunch is decidedly easier when you haven’t been sipping cocktails the night before (iykyk). Take advantage of your new take on mornings by treating yourself to brunch. Bistro Du Jour in the new Hotel Sonesta is a fresh take on a classic French brasserie; Unconventional Diner serves creative spins on morning favorites; Yard Bird satisfies with mouth-watering comfort food; Stable transports you to the après-life of the Swiss Alps; and Yellow will have you dreaming of pastries until the foreseeable future.
Three of the city’s top-tier restaurants: Little Pearl, Rose’s Luxury, and Pineapple & Pearls, have teamed up to help you up your dinner party game this winter. The in-home dinners are designed to serve between 8 and 12 guests and come with all the things you could possibly need: the dishes and glassware, linens, food (duh), a dinner playlist, and even the chef who prepares everything to perfection onsite. These dinner parties will set you back a pretty penny (dinners start at $300 per person), but you can save on drinks by curating your own home NA beverage menu.
Wellness Activities to Do in DC Instead of Drinking
Cold plunging, long revered in Scandinavia for its health and wellness benefits, is making waves on this side of the Atlantic and businesses in DC are taking notice. This winter you can try the chilly, invigorating experience at the Pendry Hotel in the Wharf. Spa Pendry will be offering a three-hour guided breathwork and cold plunge session with Wim Hof certified instructors (January 21 + January 28).
Infrared Saunas and Float Therapy
Keep your eyes peeled for the late winter opening of Pure Sweat + Float Studio (expected opening: late January/early February). The Georgetown studio will offer infrared saunas, and float therapies (basically a giant, healing Epsom salt bath).
New year, new glow. Make sure you prioritize some quality self-care this year. One of the most relaxing ways to do so is to book yourself some time at a spa. DC has a wealth of options at all price points, from a student facial at the Salon Professional Academy (NoMa; $30 for a 60-minute facial), to Silver Mirror Facial Bar‘s 30-minute signature facials (multiple locations, $99), to the deluxe IonixLight facial at the Spa at the Four Seasons ($655).
There’s no better time to adopt a new fitness routine than in the new year. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but signing up for a group class can help sustain your motivation and make working-out more fun. Fhitting Room, an NYC-based boutique HIIT and strength training studio, just opened their doors on their first outpost in DC and is enticing new participants with two classes for the price of one ($30).
Studies show that even just a short walk in nature can reduce stress and anxiety. If you resolve to take more strolls this year, the city is full of forest bathing opportunities—the Japanese concept of shinrin yoku, or engaging all the senses in a therapeutic connection to nature. Try meandering through the sprawling United States National Arboretum, hitting one of the many trails in Rock Creek Park, exploring the winter gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, or strolling to Great Falls along the C&O Canal.
Biking the Mount Vernon Trail
DC and Virginia
Biking the Mount Vernon Trail is a lot more pleasant without summer humidity, making winter the ideal time to pedal. You can start biking in the capital and make your way to Old Town Alexandria, or head all the way to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Use your own bike, hop on aCapital Bikeshare, or splurge byrenting a bikefor the day. The ten-mile route is a scenic, paved path that skirts the Potomac River. If you do bike all the way to Mount Vernon, note that the historic home is offering free admission on February 19 and 22 in honor of Presidents’ Day.
Arts and Culture Activities to Do in DC Instead of Drinking
Can we agree that DC has the best museums? There’s nothing like the cold to make wandering a museum more appealing and the city’s galleries are really putting on a show this winter. Check out the sculptures by Simone Leigh at the Hirshhorn (through March 3) and the work of Black antebellum-era artists J. P. Ball and Robert S. Duncanson at the SAAM (through March 24).
To hold you over until warm-weather golf games, the London-based luxe mini golf experience, Swingers, has a Dupont Circle locale complete with a nine-hole course and classic English pub (try ordering some warming English tea!). There are also gourmet bites from vendors including Mexican street food from Tu Taco, a southern take on burgers from Lil’ Succotash, oven-fired pizza from KNEADZA Pizza,and sweet treats from Mah-Ze-Dahr.
Is there anything more nostalgic than ice skating? Whether you make a point to hit a rink every winter, or haven’t been on skates in years, there’s something about skating that just makes you happy. The DMV is home to several rinks like the Wharf Ice Rink (open through February 25) which seems to float over the Potomac; the Washington Harbour Ice Rink in Georgetown (open through February 25); the Pentagon Row Ice Rink in Arlington (open through mid-March); and everyone’s favorite, the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink at the National Gallery of Art (open through March 3).
Madeline writes about all things Washington DC for Thrillist. Originally from New York City, she’s called DC home since the start of the pandemic. When she’s not at home in the district, you can find her chasing stories all over the world. Her bylines include The Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure. Follow her on IG.