Penn Quarter & Chinatown
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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.
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, delve into the universe of real-life James Bonds at the International Spy Museum or have the ultimate fan experience when you see the incredible wax figures at Madame Tussauds.
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.
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.