DC’s Going to Be Way Too Hot This Weekend. Here’s Where to Cool Off.

We’re going underground

July 28, 2023 6:17 am
Blue-tinted underground bar area
Looking for where to cool off in DC this weekend? We've got you covered.

It’s hot outside. Too hot. Dangerously hot. Temperatures are hitting 100 degrees for the first time since 2016. There’s a heat advisory, which is bad. But there are multiple places to stay cool, and that’s good. Below, our 10 best picks for how to beat the heat. Most are in basements, all are cool.

Blue-tinted underground bar
Kingsfisher/JATI LINDSAY

Basement Bar: Kingfisher

I’ve spent many evenings here between bars on 14th Street. It’s a really good neighborhood spot in a neighborhood with no shortage of theme bars and fast-casual chains. The basement bar has a well-curated beer menu, healthy happy hour options (4 to 8 p.m. weekdays, 5 to 8 p.m. on weekends) and free popcorn. If you’re tired of sweating at TRADE or got your fancy beer fill at ChurchKey, head downstairs to Kingfisher. 

Another fine basement bar option is Dram and Grain, the minibar inside The Imperial. Its new iteration is bigger than the initial concept out of next door’s Jack Rose, but it’s still relatively small (seating between 50 and 75) and gets very busy on weekends. 

Billiards Bar: Bedrock Billiards

This Adams Morgan basement bar has been doing it right for more than 30 years. Whether you’re a novice or a shark, there’s a table for you. There’s also foosball, board games for smarties and darts for people who prefer to throw sharp objects indoors. 

Also check out Atomic Billiards. It’s essentially the Cleveland Park version of Bedrock. 

Brewery: Hellbender

The majority of DC-area breweries are great because of their outdoor space. Hellbender has outdoor space, too, but you’re not sitting outside when there’s a heat advisory. This modest-size brewery is appealing for its equally modest taproom. There’s the prerequisite ESPN on TVs, but there’s also a corner for Super Nintendo and large, German beer hall-style tables. 

If you need a bigger brewery to get cool, travel a few miles east to DC Brau

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It comes with an herbal, anise-heavy, housemade Thousand Island

Coffee Shop: Baker’s Daughter

This pick is sort of a cheat. There’s nothing wrong with Baker’s Daughter — it’s a fine coffee shop — but we’re recommending it because you can hang out in the Eaton lobby to really cool off. Baker’s Daughter is connected to the hotel/co-working space, so get your caffeine and walk a few hundred feet to the well air-conditioned seating area/library just outside cocktail bar Allegory. 

If you don’t work downtown but also want a coffee shop-in-a-hotel experience, The Coffee Shop @ No Goodbyes in The Line in Adams Morgan offers the same experience. 

Comedy Club: Hotbed

Comedy is best enjoyed below ground — and happily, DC’s newest comedy club is literally underground. It’s great for a date night or anyone trying to take in a show before or after dinner on a bustling 18th Street.

Don’t skip considering the DC Improv. It’s just as basement-y, but shows typically sell out.

Dining room fully decked out in red furniture and walls.
Off The Record Dinging Room
Off The Record

Hotel Bar: Off the Record 

I spent an incredibly memorable afternoon beating the heat on the hottest day of 2019 in The Hay-Adams’s infamous bar. If you need a strong drink, strong air conditioning and strong political talk, head to this historic location

For another hotel bar with a famous address, you know The Watergate has a bar, right? But you may want to wait until dark to visit Top of the Gate because it’s outdoors. 

Ice cream cone with M&Ms
Everyday Sundae
Everyday Sundae

Ice Cream Shop: Everyday Sundae

The newish ice cream shop (it opened summer 2021) on Kennedy Street is already a family favorite — and the hotter it gets outside, the more likely you’re going to find yourself in Petworth waiting in line for cold treats. 

The finest old school ice creamery option is Thomas Sweet in Georgetown. 

Movie Theatre: Avalon Theatre

Movies are better in freezing cathedrals of celluloid. There’s nothing wrong with a chain, but there’s something special about a stand-alone, 100-year-old theater with a large main room. Go see Oppenheimer and spend three hours in a room that predates what happens in Oppenheimer

Though it’s not as old, the main room at AFI Silver is also quite large and beautiful. 

Museum: National Portrait Gallery

In a city with no shortage of world-class museums, there are more than a dozen quality options where you can cool off. The Portrait Gallery is our pick because there are multiple places to sit and work as well as, you know, peruse amazing art. Also, unlike most museums on the Mall, this one doesn’t usually attract large groups of kids on summer break. 

Is it cool to also recommend the Smithsonian American Art Museum? It’s literally the same building. There is no shortage of world class museums in DC. 

Restaurant: The Thirsty Crow

You know what’s great? A basement bar that’s also part of an excellent restaurant. That’s what you get at this Columbia Heights spot. It’s got a limited menu compared to its first-floor restaurant Makan, but if you’re looking for a more casual night, you want to head underground. 

Once it’s dark outside and outdoor drinking is somewhat reasonable, walk a block south on 11th to The Wonderland Ballroom. They just brought back their frozen Margaritas, and those are better when it’s dangerously hot outside. 

Venue: Union Stage

Most every entertainment venue is a dark room. Union Stage is the only one in DC that’s also underground. If it gets too hot, go upstairs to the first-floor bar. If you need more space, walk outside where it’s always shady (the venue is part of the massive Wharf development and doesn’t get any natural light). 

Also consider The Kennedy Center. It’s way, way, way bigger, and the Millennium Stage hosts free shows every Wednesday through Sunday at 6 p.m. If you’re a runner and utilize the Rock Creek trail, you’re probably already using the Kennedy Center as your it’s-too-hot-to-keep-exercising rest stop.


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