The intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road is where this buttoned-up city lets its hair down. Long a multicultural hub, today its restaurant scene is a veritable global village ranging from Ethiopian and Thai to Mexican and Indian. By day, urban adventurers leisurely stroll the heritage trail and take in colorful mural art (or a cheeky Sunday drag brunch) while ducking into present-day boutiques and bookstores. Bars and clubs put on a spread of nightlife options that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood: Latin music, Brit pop and special nights for gay and lesbian customers.
Follow the 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia River to what was Washington’s first planned suburb, Uniontown. Now the Anacostia Historical District, the neighborhood retains its late-19th-century architectural and working-class feel. You can get a feel for the neighborhood’s African American history at Frederick Douglass’ Cedar Hill residence and the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.
DC’s Brookland neighborhood is nicknamed Little Rome, and for good reason. It’s home to more than 60 Catholic institutions, like the Catholic University of America and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Closer to Capitol Hill, you’ll find an emerging nightlife scene centered on 12th Street NE, along with redeveloped row houses and condos. Also in Northeast: the U.S. National Arboretum, a 446-acre natural paradise that features enchanting landscaped gardens, fascinating seasonal displays, intriguing aquatic plants, a two-acre herb garden and the National Bonsai Museum.
Metro: Brookland/CUA, New York Avenue
Though the neighborhood itself may bear the name of DC’s signature dome, Capitol Hill has long been a social and residential center for Washington, DC’s gay and lesbian community. Many same-sex couples have made their homes in its charming Victorian row houses and have worshipped at its gay-friendly churches. Long a center for alternative nightlife, Eighth Street SE, or Barracks Row, is dotted with gay-friendly shops, restaurants and bars, with the beautiful new Nationals Park just around the corner. It’s also home to the nation’s oldest lesbian bar, Phase One. By day, check out the Hill’s most popular attractions: the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Folger Shakespeare Library, National Postal Museum and Union Station. Eastern Market (the oldest operating public market in the city) thrives on Saturdays and Sundays.
Arguably the entertainment center of the city, downtown is the crossroads of DC's theater, restaurant, business and museum experiences. From edgy and classic productions to touring Broadway shows - Woolly Mammoth, Shakespeare, National, Warner and Ford’s theaters - are within easy walking distance. Museums abound, including the Newseum, International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Marian Koshland Science Museum and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Chinatown is marked most noticeably by the Friendship Arch that was built cooperatively by the Washington city government and its sister city, Beijing, and secondarily by the Chinese marks that adorn businesses from traditional Chinese restaurant mainstays and more contemporary shops like Urban Outfitters and Aveda.
Penn Quarter is a moniker for an area of downtown that has witnessed a "rags-to-riches" transformation. It’s here you’ll find many of the city’s most talked-about restaurants, along with luxury condos and art galleries.
Dupont Circle is synonymous with gay life in Washington, DC. Named for the circle where Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire avenues meet with P and 19 streets, the area emerged as a center for gay life in the 1970s. It’s where DC hosted the first official Gay Pride celebration, and where some of the GLBT community’s most enduring restaurants, bars and businesses took root. You’ll also find an impressive mix of shops, hotels, quaint B&Bs, galleries and museums (The Phillips Collection, The Textile Museum, Woodrow Wilson House and National Geographic Museum, to name a few).
Embassy Row radiates from the circle with the largest concentration of the city’s 150 international embassies.
Metro: Dupont Circle
Between the White House and Georgetown lies Foggy Bottom, named for the fog that rises off the Potomac. The neighborhood is a mixture of residences, office buildings (like IMF and World Bank), restaurants and hotels. George Washington University, the infamous Watergate complex and the John. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, one of the nation’s premier performing arts institutions and home to the acclaimed National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, are all located in this section of town.
Hop the bright red and silver Circulator bus to this prestigious neighborhood. At once historic and hip, Georgetown’s cobblestone streets are lined with some of the most famous names in fashion, boutiques featuring up-and-coming local designers, and restaurants and bars attracting well-heeled clientele. Hotels range from luxurious to all-suite family-friendly properties. The waterfront district is centered on Wisconsin and M streets NW and is home to Georgetown University, Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, Kreeger Museum, Old Stone House and the C&O Canal with 180 miles of biking and hiking trails.
DC Circulator: Yellow line
When it was named, Lafayette Square was a place of elegance, refinement and power – adjacent to the White House. Today it showcases buildings with dramatic architecture, along with statues and sculptures whose fascinating stories reflect the history of the city and the nation. Prominence is the order of the day in this area of town, which is home to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, founded nearly 150 years ago for the purpose of "encouraging American genius;" Decatur House Museum, one of the city’s oldest surviving homes; the magnificent Beaux Arts Old Executive Office Building; Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery; St. John’s Church; and DAR Constitution Hall.
South of the National Mall is a neighborhood home to the award-winning Arena Stage (the first theater company to be awarded a Tony Award outside of New York), Benjamin Banneker Circle and Fountain, the Titanic Memorial and L’Enfant Plaza. The scenic waterfront area features a shimmering array of piers, sailboats, yachts, fishing boats, seafood markets and restaurants. Sightseeing cruises depart from the marina regularly. Though once a working-class immigrant neighborhood, Southwest was revitalized through early urban renewal programs in the 1950s. Revitalization has come to the waterfront once again, with the opening of the Mandarin Oriental and the Portals, a luxury office and condominium development.
Metro: Waterfront. DC Circulator: Red line.
The birthplace of Duke Ellington and the center of Washington’s African American nightlife for much of the 20th century is once again thriving, and home to many gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses. Many neighborhood haunts are gathering spots, from Busboys & Poets (named for Langston Hughes) to the landmark, soulful Ben’s Chili Bowl (Bill Cosby and Barack Obama love the half-smokes). On weekend nights, U Street rivals Adams Morgan for crowds, though with a slightly older vibe. GLBT residents and visitors feel right at home in nearby Logan Circle, home to edgy, evocative Studio Theatre. By day, travelers can discover the African American Civil War Memorial, Lincoln Theatre and Howard University. Designer home furnishings stores, boutiques and music clubs abound near the junction of 14th and U streets.
These charming residential neighborhoods are located in upper northwest Washington, DC. This part of town is family-friendly, boasting the vast and leafy Rock Creek Park and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo - home to the world-famous panda cub Tai Shan. Its tree-lined streets are lined with friendly boutiques, coffee shops and sidewalk cafés featuring cuisines from around the world. It’s also home to the architecturally stunning National Cathedral, the world’s sixth-largest cathedral.