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Quarters of Washington DC

Updated: Jan 29


Virtually all of D.C.'s tourists flock to the National Mall—a two-mile long, beautiful stretch of parkland that holds many of the city's monuments and Smithsonian museums—but the city itself is a vibrant metropolis that often has little to do with monuments, politics, or white, neoclassical buildings. The Smithsonian is a "can't miss," but don't trick yourself—you haven't really been to D.C. until you've been out and about the city.


Districts

Virtually all of D.C.'s tourists flock to the National Mall—a two-mile long, beautiful stretch of parkland that holds many of the city's monuments and Smithsonian museums—but the city itself is a vibrant metropolis that often has little to do with monuments, politics, or white, neoclassical buildings. The Smithsonian is a "can't miss," but don't trick yourself—you haven't really been to D.C. until you've been out and about the city.

Downtown (The National Mall, East End, West End, Waterfront) The most-visited areas: The National Mall, D.C.'s main theater district, Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian museums galore, fine dining, Chinatown, the Capital One Arena, the Convention Center, the central business district, the White House, West Potomac Park, the Kennedy Center, George Washington University, the beautiful Tidal Basin, and Nationals Park.

North Central (Dupont Circle, Shaw, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Petworth) D.C.'s trendiest and most diverse neighborhoods and the places to go for live music, nightlife, and loads of restaurants, Howard University, boutique shopping, beautiful embassies, Little Ethiopia, U Street, and lots of nice hotels.

West (Georgetown, Upper Northwest) The prestigious, wealthy side of town, home to the historic village of Georgetown with its energetic nightlife, colonial architecture, and fine dining; the National Zoo; the massive National Cathedral; bucolic Dumbarton Oaks; the bulk of D.C.'s high-end shopping; more Embassy Row; American University; and several nice dining strips.

East (Capitol Hill, Near Northeast, Washington, D.C./Brookland, Anacostia) Starting at the Capitol Building and Library of Congress, and fanning out past grandiose Union Station and the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, to the less often visited neighborhoods by Gallaudet and Catholic University, historic Anacostia, D.C.'s "Little Vatican" around the National Shrine, the huge National Arboretum, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, offbeat nightlife in the Atlas District, and a handful of other eccentric neighborhoods to explore.

Downtown

The center of it all:

The National Mall — the national park at the center of the city, surrounded by the white monumental buildings of the U.S. government, and containing an extraordinary collection of monuments, memorials, free museums, cherry blossoms, squirrels, and pigeons.

East End — D.C.'s downtown cultural center, with the main theater district, more great museums, many tourist traps, the Capital One Arena, the Convention Center, Chinatown, and fine dining a la successful restaurateur José Andrés.

West End — D.C.'s central business district, the White House, George Washington University, and the Kennedy Center.

Capitol Hill — starting at the Capitol Building and Library of Congress, and fanning out past grandiose Union Station into a quiet, historic neighborhood home to most of the Hill's congressional staffers and some nice restaurants on Barracks Row, and then extending out to RFK Stadium.

Waterfront — a booming neighborhood just south of the Mall, with an open-air waterfront seafood market within easy walking distance from the Mall, and the home of the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

West

The prestigious, wealthy side of town:

Georgetown — D.C.'s most historic neighborhood, and one of its most trendy, is home to the fabled "Washington Elite," the city's première upmarket dining scene, colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, sports bars, upscale and boutique shopping, bucolic Dumbarton Oaks, and Georgetown University.

Upper Northwest — the wealthy side of town, with a couple of very big attractions including the excellent National Zoo, the gargantuan National Cathedral, and a luxury shopping strip in Chevy Chase.

North Central

D.C.'s trendiest and most diverse neighborhoods, where the locals go for nightlife:

Dupont Circle — Dupont Circle has dozens of trendy restaurants, nightclubs, popular watering holes, shopping, and most of Embassy Row along Massachusetts Ave.

Shaw — the more laid back of the three North Central neighborhoods, which historically has been the center of African-American cultural life in the city, has nightlife along U St catering to a slightly older and more sophisticated crowd, incredible food in Little Ethiopia, off-beat shopping, the city's main live music venues, and its most exciting art gallery scene at Logan Circle.

Adams Morgan — Adams Morgan has many bars with live music concentrated on 18th street, several good restaurants and is just a nice neighborhood for a walk.

Columbia Heights — Columbia Heights includes the city's largest shopping mall as well as plenty of budget dining and drinking options. Along with the adjacent neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, it is home to most of the city's Salvadoran population and its signature comfort food, the pupusa.

Petworth — Petworth includes Abraham Lincoln's summer cottage and Carter Barron Amphitheatre as well as an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.

East

Even the least visited side of the city still has a lot to see:

Near Northeast — offbeat nightlife in the Atlas District, Gallaudet University, and the huge National Arboretum.

Brookland — D.C.'s "Little Vatican" around the National Shrine and Catholic University.

Anacostia — the many neighborhoods East of the River falls off even the radar of the locals, but can make a great "day trip" to visit the Frederick Douglass and Smithsonian Anacostia museums and the beautiful Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, or simply to better understand how such a poor and neglected neighborhood with such rich history could exist in the capital of the world's richest nation.

Suburbs

D.C. is actually at the center of one of the country's largest metropolitan areas, and a lot of the big area attractions, such as the Arlington Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the airports, the Pentagon, the National Mormon Temple, the area's best ethnic dining, and hotels with a slightly lower sales tax rate are actually just beyond the rather arbitrary city borders—don't miss the Best of the 'Burbs.


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