New Year’s Eve in the District can be pretty pricey, and sometimes the cover charge doesn’t even include a single sip or snack. This year, don’t shell out tons of cash just to stand in line all night and go home disappointed. Instead, opt for a free or wallet-friendly event or get creative and throw a shindig of your own.
Plan your night in advance from start to finish with our guide to a budget-friendly New Year’s Eve in DC.
Celebrate gratis at a free event
We know it’s hard to believe, but you can, in fact, have a great New Year’s Eve without spending a single penny. Interactive art lovers can head to Artechouse for their interactive New Nature exhibit of digital, nature-inspired creatures and plant life. Feeling creative? Georgetown GLOW, the region’s only curated exhibition of outdoor public light art, is an Instagrammer’s dream with the perfect backdrop to light up your feed. There are also free fireworks displays in and around DC to see 2018 out with a bang (literally).
Drink up at an open bar
New Year’s Eve typically means an abundance of drinking, but that can come with a mile-long bar tab. Opt for a party with an open bar included in the ticket price, like the New Year’s Eve all access pass from Ultrabar with four different floors and six bars. New Year’s Eve at Slate also has an open beer and wine bar, plus a complimentary glass of bubbly and party favors for every guest, so be sure to load up on the freebies. Bar Elena is throwing down for the holiday with one of the best deals in town: an open bar, a Champagne toast, and two all-you-can-eat buffets for only $60.
Pregame at home
There’s no better time than New Year’s Eve to buy a few bottles in advance and pop those suckers open before you head out for the night. Everyone knows that drink prices in DC can be downright ridiculous; add holiday pricing on top of that, and you need to tap into your 401(k) just to pay your bar tab. Invite your friends over, nosh on some snacks, and hit the town after you’re already a little warm and toasty.
Don’t pay a cover charge
Why pay to get into a bar when there are plenty of venues that’ll let you in with nothing more than an ID check? Take Jack Rose — not only is it free to get in, they’re also offering NYE drink specials until 1am. At Buffalo Billiards in Dupont, you can play pool and shuffleboard for free all night, and Red Derby is always a good time on New Year’s Eve with cheap drinks and a fun theme.
Plan your ride
Don’t rely on your ride-sharing app to get you home safe and sound without a lengthy wait and some brutal surge pricing. Not only do cabs and car services charge more on NYE, they are also much harder to come by. Save yourself the trouble and plan your ride home before you even go out. Check the metro schedule, ask a sober friend for a lift, or carpool with friends who are going to the same area.
Make your own fun
When you add up the cost of a new outfit, drinks, food, and cab fare, you’re looking at a hefty price tag for just one night. Instead of fighting the crowds for a weak $20 cocktail, throw a DIY party with some decorations from your local craft store and a perfectly curated Spotify playlist, then send a “BYOB” text to the group chat for your very own open bar. Feeling extra? Splurge on some chips and salsa for a real crowd-pleaser.