I don’t know. I live in Alexandria, Virginia, which is a 40 minute metro-ride away or a 6 mile/50-minute rush hour traffic trip by car. Also, I don’t plan events for a living, so I don’t keep track of spaces for rent. I don’t know the cool hipster bars with party rooms. The bottom line is that unfortunately, I have no idea who you should contact to talk about hosting your reading/party/slam/mock prom/happy hour/wake for rejected panelists/shots contest. And I don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about it, unless, ahem, you’ve invited ME to participate in your event. And, honestly, I suspect that many of your DC friends feel the same way I do. (Or maybe they are nicer than I am.)
Still I understand that you may know less than I do! And I understand that I should be a gracious host to those of you coming to our metro area nest February. So here are some resources and suggestions that will help you find the perfect location.
First and foremost:
Metro. Make sure your off-site event is near a metro stop. The Convention Center is at Mount Vernon Square, which is on the Yellow and Green lines. On one side of the convention center there are some inexpensive interesting options to consider, but on the other side there are a lot of fancy restaurants, so you might want to branch out to…
Gallery Place/Chinatown. This stop is on the Yellow, Green, and Red lines and serves Penn Quarter. There are a bajillion restaurants and bars and tourists and teenagers and sports fans around here, because this is also where the Verizon Center is. You might want to check to see if the Wizards (basketball) or the Capitals (hockey) are playing, because if they are, everything will be a little more crowded. Also, there could be a major concert at the Verizon Center…let’s hope not. But maybe make sure.
Staying on the easy path of Green/Yellow, you can also look to Shaw/Howard; U Street; Columbia Heights; or Petworth. There definitely are fun and funky and less expensive options for food/bars in these neighborhoods, along with fabulous bookstores like the original Busboys & Poets and Upshur Street Books. To my (lazy) mind, though, your offsite event is sounding like a trek if I have to go past U Street…which means it better be at an amazing spot to get me there. Logan Circle is a current hotspot for restaurants and is between U Street and Dupont Circle.
Speaking of Dupont Circle, from Gallery Place, you can go sideways along the metro on the Red Line to Dupont Circle…but to my (lazy) mind, having to transfer trains is another irritant. If I were you, I’d really try to stay on that Green/Yellow corridor, which is sooooo convenient to the Convention Center. (Unless, I don’t know, Sherman Alexie is reading at your off-site event? I’d metro all the way into Maryland to see him!)
The really fun neighborhood is called NoMa and I don’t see it as being convenient to the Metro…but it’s not too far from the Convention Center, so if your guests are Uber/Lyft folks, that’s a good option because there are LOTS of bars and restaurants.
Either way, Metro offers a very handy “Trip Planner” service on http://www.wmata.com/ where you can put in addresses and find your exact route via public transportation, including WALKING DIRECTIONS from the metro station so can see how much of a hike your site will be. [Edited to note that for the near future, Metro is undergoing "SafeTrack" which is a rolling series of station closures/service disruptions. You can find a schedule here: http://wmata.com/rail/safetrack.cfm ]
I will go out on a limb and say that in general, taxis in DC are disgusting. Uber/Lyft are good options--but do remember that traffic here is horrific. Walking could be tough in February (on the other hand, it could be 75 degrees and lovely in an alarming way). I know there are buses and a robust BikeShare program...but I bet 99% of your potential attendees will not be brave enough to hop on a bike with their AWP totebag slung on their shoulder.
As for places: Here is a list of party rooms available via Yelp. I make no endorsement beyond the fact that in general, I have heard of these places and they look like legitimate, interesting spots to me.
(Watch out because there are ads sprinkled throughout that look like the vetted listings but aren’t.)
This list looks okay to me, too—maybe a little more restaurant-oriented than bar-oriented:
A final thing to remember: ACCESSIBILITY. Please be considerate and ask the site you’ve contacted if it is accessible to everyone. What would be worse than someone getting to your event and discovering a barrier in the form of a steep flight of stairs and no working elevator? Or discovering that the bathrooms are all in the basement?
Happy event planning…see you in February!!