Penn Quarter & Chinatown

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Chinatown's Friendship Archway

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Satisfy your appetite for hip restaurants and culture in this diverse ’hood where museums like the National Portrait Gallery and the International Spy Museum keep company with eateries by celebrity chefs.

Penn Quarter & Chinatown plays host to the District’s Verizon Center, which plays host to everything from professional sports teams to American rock icons, plus intimate film and stage theaters, and it’s no surprise there’s action here from early til late.

Foodies, culture vultures, shoppers and sports fans all find something to dig into in this neighborhood north of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, which is as hopping at night as during the day.

Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, DC

Museum fans can wander the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum (both housed in the same neoclassical building), explore the ever-changing world of journalism at the Newseum or delve into the universe of real-life James Bonds at the International Spy Museum.

By evening, theaters (both movie and live performance) fill up with throngs of people, including the classically minded Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, the indie-flick stalwart E Street Cinema and Sixth & I, a performance venue  in a historic synagogue.

If you’re a history buff, Ford’s Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, is restored to look much as it did that night, and also holds an artifact-filled museum. Across the street is the site of Lincoln's passing, Petersen House, which is also open for tours. Expand your Civil War-era knowledge further with a trip to Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum, where the legendary caretaker tended to wounded Civil War soldiers.

Washington Wizards Playoff Game in the Verizon Center

Restaurants from celeb chefs such as José Andrés and Mike Isabella anchor a vibrant dining scene, with dozens of eateries, including high-style, high-end spots at the newish CityCenterDC and down-home options just two blocks north in Chinatown (just look for the colorful Friendship Archway, which marks the latter and features 272 dragons). 

Sports fans flock to the Verizon Center for pro-sports from Washington Capitals NHL hockey team, the Washington Wizards NBA team and the Washington Mystics WNBA team – and there’s also a buzzing pre- and post-game bar scene at spots along Sixth and Seventh streets NW. 

Haute-level shoppers find local flagships for brands like Dior, Gucci and Vince at the glassy, classy CityCenterDC; other retailers cluster along F, G and 7th streets.

Locals Love

Indie plays at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, divine chocolates at CoCo Sala, “celeb” encounters at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, gazing out at the Capitol building from the Hank Greenspun Terrace at the Newseum.

Getting There

To land in the middle of this walkable zone, take Metro’s Red Line to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop, or the Yellow or Green Line to the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter stop. The Georgetown-Union Station Circulator bus also services the area, as do multiple Metrobus lines. Capital Bikeshare stations are also plentiful.