washington dc art

The murals of renowned Mexican street artist Yescka cover the walls inside Espita Mezcaleria. (Photo: Reema Desai)

Washington, D.C.

Explore Art After Dark in Washington, D.C.

It’s probably no surprise that Washington, D.C. is home to some of the very best art museums in the country. Admission is free at most of them, and some are even open late. It’s the perfect excuse for a special (and affordable) night out.

Art doesn’t end at the museums, though. Works by local artists fill Washington, D.C.’s galleries. The thriving local creative scene is wonderful to explore, especially in the evening with a cocktail in hand. Check out the museums while you’re in the capital, but be sure not to miss the coolest galleries, restaurants and bars.

Nights at the Museums

washington dc art
Wander the Smithsonian after the crowds have left. (Photo: Reema Desai)

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the adjoining National Portrait Gallery admire Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of President George Washington and works by U.S. artists like Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol. Both are open until 7 p.m. every day.

They’re also conveniently located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood near some of D.C.’s most popular restaurants. Try Daikaya for Japanese-style small plates, Rasika for upscale Indian or The Partisan if you’re just looking for drinks.

Art Parties

washington dc art
Attend a jazz event at the Sculpture Garden. (Photo: Reema Desai)

You can also seamlessly combine drinks with your museum-going experience. Phillips after 5, an event at the Phillips Collection, offers live music, food and a cash bar on the first Thursday of each month from 5 to 8:30 p.m., along with an impressive collection of European and U.S. art.

The Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art hosts “Jazz in the Garden” every Friday evening from 5 to 8:30 p.m throughout the summer. The facility’s Pavilion Café serves wine and beer along with pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

Neighborhood Art Crawls

washington dc art
Take an art crawl through Dupont Circle. (Photo: Reema Desai)

The Dupont Circle neighborhood has organized a monthly art walk for more than 30 years. Many galleries and cultural centers stay open late on the first Friday of the month. Enjoy a drink while painting the walls at Art Jamz, or check out a new exhibition while meeting artists at Dupont Underground or Q Street Fine Art.

Art While You Eat

More local restaurateurs are hiring artists to create unique works to incorporate into their decor. The murals of renowned Mexican street artist Yescka cover the walls inside Espita Mezcaleria, an Oaxacan restaurant that also has one of the best mezcal selections in D.C.

Art lovers are also flocking to new, poultry-centric restaurant The Bird. Several local artists collaborated on the restaurant’s murals that depict farm life, plants — and, of course, chickens.