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Emma Semanyuk plays jenga – and loses – at the H Street Country Club. (Dennis Drenner)
Emma Semanyuk plays jenga – and loses – at the H Street Country Club. (Dennis Drenner)

the city

Inauguration fever: The best places to party in Washington Add to ...

The black population in Washington, although still the majority, has declined over the past decade, and areas such as H Street NE are increasingly attracting more young, white, middle-class home buyers. For now, the neighbourhood maintains a delicate balance between hipsterization and its historic African-American culture.

It helps that much of the change is community driven. “We want the area to grow,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, tells me, “but we want the diversity and affordability to remain intact.”

Fundrise, a groundbreaking program, may be part of the answer. It crowd-sources real-estate investment, giving the community a say in what’s built. The first project is Maketto, a market/coffee shop opening this spring.

For now, H Street seems far enough away from the policy wonks to set itself apart. “It feels like you are at the outer boundary of D.C. here,” Gartshore says. “That’s what’s fun.”


This year Obama is belt-tightening, so there are only two “official balls,” but plenty of unofficial ones to attend – if there are still tickets left.

Chef’s Ball is co-hosted by Art Smith, Oprah’s favourite chef, with five other TV celebrity chefs. $125, and the proceeds go to charity. artandsouldc.com

Seventeen states will hold Inaugural balls – even Texas, which talks about seceding from the union. “Big” is a Texas thing, so 15,000 are expected to “boot-scoot” the night away at the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball (cowboy hats optional). $250. texasstatesociety.org

Chickasaw to Choctaw hosts welcome guests to the Native Nations Inaugural Ball at the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s a fundraiser for the museum’s educational programs. Black tie or traditional Native garb. $1,000. nmai.si.edu/inauguralball

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has room for 500 of its closest friends at the Washingtonian Starry Night Inaugural Ball. Danceto a live bandat the open bar eat Chesapeake Bay crab and wander among aircraft and rockets. $350. washingtonian.com/inauguralball

The Woman’s National Democratic Club Ball is old school and elegant, and takes place in the 19th-century mansion where Eleanor Roosevelt gave her storied radio addresses. Sit-down dinner and dancing. Tickets from $175. democraticwoman.org/events

M Central is an art collective with four days of events in honour of the President. All this in a two-level warehouse on H Street NE, including an Inaugural Millennial Ball with “cutting edge performances.” Dress is “creative black tie.” $75. mcentral.co/rsvp 

The Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance pays “tribute to the continuing struggle for peace and justice in the United States and throughout the world.” Amy Goodman and Ralph Nader will be there. Instructions: “Dance the furious dance of defiance!” $135. busyboysandpoets.com

Vaudeball is definitely unofficial. Fernie, B.C.’s Miss Joule – with back up from her burlesque buddies – will spin hula hoops, eat fire, walk on glass and perform burlesque in honour of Obama’s second term. $15. hugefan.com; 202-222-5675

Cyndi Lauper performs at The Human Rights Campaign Equality Ball celebrating the the first President to openly support equality for the LGBT community. “Festive or formal” dress. $375. hrc.org/inauguration

The Green Inaugural Ball is a black-tie event in The Newseum, one of Washington’s greenest venues (and with the best views of the Pennsylvania Avenue Parade route). Tickets start at $400. nwf.org/2013-Green-Inaugural-Ball.aspx


Deliberately cluttered, French bistro/bar Le Grenier, whose owners are from Normandy, offers up escargot and coq au vin. 502 H St. NE; legrenierdc.com

At Toki Underground, diners wait up to three hours for chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s flavourful dishes. Dumplings are his grandmother’s recipe and noodles are homemade. 1234 H St. NE, tokiunderground.com

Star and Shamrock’s homage to H Street’s Jewish and Irish immigrants results in the unlikely marriage of matzo ball soup washed down with Kilkenny’s. 1341 H St. NE, starandshamrock.com

Horace & Dickies’ catfish and wings combo is the real deal. This legacy joint is open until 2 a.m. and it’s still possible to dine for $10. 809 12th St. NE, horaceanddickies.com

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