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Originally inhabited by the Nacotchtank people during the 17th century, Washington D.C. was handpicked by George Washington in 1791 to be the site for the nation’s new capital. While D.C. is ideal for political junkies, the city also offers a wide variety of activities and vivacious culture rooted in its historic past. Check out these eight streets to discover the diverse sides and neighborhoods of D.C. — from a scenic national park to bustling nightlife.
Catch the local college crowd along the 18th Street strip in the Adams Morgan corridor. After a night on the town, hit one of the street’s infamous 24/7 jumbo slice locations and devour a single torso-sized slice of pizza. If getting rowdy with young twenty-something’s isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of thrift shopping and good eats near that don’t involve much shenanigans. Visit the underground Smash Records and peruse through the oldies, or, get waffles and a cappuccino at trendy coffeehouse called Tryst. Be sure to stick around until nighttime when the coffeehouse transforms into a 21+ bar with artisan cocktails. Also, be sure to not miss the famed presidential mural on Mama Ayesha’s Restaurant!
Hop on one of the 30 metro buses to reach the historic Georgetown neighborhood on M Street. If you notice a steep stone staircase tucked behind an alley, you’ve in luck — they are the famed steps from The Exorcist. Go bowling at the hippest bar/bowling alley around, Pinstripes, or try fusion zucchini tacos at Chaia. There’s also quite a shopping selection, ranging from Urban Outfitters and Steve Madden to Buffalo Exchange. Walk down the quaint brick sidewalks of M Street to reach the scenic waterfront on the Potomac River. Here you can even rent a kayak or try your luck at paddle boarding during the summer months — you might even catch elusive water Pokémon!
14th Street spans from the northwest to southwest corridor, cutting through versatile and eclectic neighborhoods. Downtown, catch hoards of skateboarders practicing impressive tricks at Freedom Plaza. Follow along north into the U Street neighborhood to watch an indie show at Black Cat; afterwards, head to Ted’s Bulletin for a spiked milkshake. Keep time available in your schedule to gawk in Miss Pixies – an enticing, colorful antique store where you’ll be challenged to not buy everything. And don’t miss D.C. residents’ favorite restaurant Busboys & Poets — a beloved neighborhood staple that promotes community activism and has great food. They often host open mic nights and slam poetry.
Make sure to cross the river and stroll around Minnesota Avenue. While most tourists focus on the west side of the Anacostia River, southeast D.C. has under appreciated beauty. The river itself isn’t much of a looker due to decades of industrial pollution, but there are many successful efforts starting to keep it clean. Come here to experience D.C. in its less developed state, and make a stop at the charming Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
D.C. is ranked as one of the greenest cities in the country, and you can take a drive through Beach Avenue to see why. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy the lovely wooded forests in Rock Creek Park, which spans over 2,000 acres. While you drive through the park, be sure to admire the sounds of migratory birds on rest during fall. Don’t be reluctant to get out the car and enjoy one of several bike paths or hiking trails throughout the park.
Known for its iconic bar strip, U Street is always bustling regardless of if it’s day or night. During the day, make a stop at the world famous Ben’s Chili Bowl and then peruse through the street’s many thrift shops. Admire the vibrant African American murals in the alleys and appreciate the corridor’s rich, historic black culture. At nighttime, be sure to get your bar shoes on and start crawling! Try dancing all night at beloved gay sports bar Nellie’s or head for a more local feel at one of the city’s best dive bars, Velvet Lounge. Go for a 90’s themed boogie at Handsome Cock and compete in a game of beer pong or Mario Kart while sipping on a wide range of draft beers.
Adventure off the tourist’s beaten path and head to D.C.’s historic H Street. H Street is struggling to develop while holding onto its roots and original residents, making the merits of gentrification a hot topic. If you feel like letting loose, though, play unlimited free games of bocce at Vendetta. There’s also a vibrant music scene with two neighboring world famous venues: Rock & Roll Hotel and Atlas Theater. H Street offers a multitude of fun food items – check out the all vegetarian restaurant Farewell and try the vegan burrata. Afterwards, take a free ride along H Street on D.C.’s recently rebooted streetcar.
Nicknamed as “America’s Main Street,” the iconic road connects the White House to the U.S. Capitol Building. The street passes through the National Mall, where you have a choice from free Smithsonian museums or a picnic in the park with the Washington Monument as a backdrop. You’ll likely witness a protest or parade – join in to get a real D.C. experience. This street is a dream for political junkies — you might even recognize some locations from House of Cards.