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Flower Mart National Cathedral

9 Things to See & Do in Upper Northwest DC

From horse rides in Rock Creek Park to shopping in Friendship Heights, the Upper Northwest section of DC offers diverse diversions.

Upper Northwest is where Washingtonians live and play. Leafy, family-friendly neighborhoods including Cleveland Park, Van Ness, Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, Tenleytown, Friendship Heights and Chevy Chase stretch toward the Maryland/DC border and serve as the home of not only the Washington National Cathedral, but of a quality selection of bars, restaurants and shopping.


Hunt for gargoyles at the Washington National Cathedral

National Cathedral

There are 112 gargoyles (whimsical, sometimes eerie rainspouts carved in stone) at the Washington National Cathedral, including one that looks like a corrupt lawyer and another resembling Darth Vader. Guided and self-guided tours of the characters reveal both the artistry and the history of the grand church.


Stroll in the serenity of the Bishop's Garden

National Cathedral

Venture to the south side of the Cathedral, where you can grab a latte from Open City Café and wander through the Bishop's Gardens, which have been open to the public since 1928. Because the walled, medieval-style garden was initially meant to be accessible only from the Bishop's home, it retains the aura of a hidden sanctuary. Take a closer look to discover sculptures and flora inspired by biblical tales – with some elements dating back to the 9th, 15th and 16th centuries. Beyond the garden walls, the Cathedral's grounds extend over an expansive 57 acres, inviting explorers to continue their stroll to Olmsted Woods or the historic amphitheater. 


Hear a writer read at Politics & Prose

Politics and Prose at The Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront - Independent bookstore in Washington, DC

J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Bill Clinton are among the famous authors who have read from their works at this cozy Connecticut Avenue bookstore, which has only continued to grow since its founding in 1984. While Politics and Prose maintains its extensive catalogue, it also aims to generate community conversation by hosting dozens of classes, in-house book clubs and a downstairs coffeeshop and wine bar. 


Traverse Rock Creek Park

two bikers on a paved road in the lush, green Rock Creek Park

DC's Upper Northwest provides a perfect jumping off point into the 1,700 acres of wooded Rock Creek Park. Saddle up at the Horse Center, study winding trails at the Nature Center and marvel at celestial wonders at the Planetarium. Picnicker, hiker, biker, explorer or meanderer – all are welcome.


Gape at French and Russian riches at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens greenery

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens

The former mansion of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post holds one of the world’s greatest collections of Russian Imperial art, which she collected in the USSR shortly after the Communist revolution. It, and an impressive array of French, Native American and European antiques are displayed in her mansion and several outbuildings. In warmer months, there’s a manicured garden noted for its roses.


Nab a bargain in Friendship Heights

This shopping zone on the Maryland-DC border is known for high-end shops like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, but it’s also a haven for cheap-chic hunters thanks to a T.J. Maxx, a basement-level Nordstrom Rack and a World Market.


Dig for vintage treasures at the Georgetown Flea Market

In business since 1975, DC's longest-running flea market takes over a school parking lot in Glover Park every Sunday from morning until late afternoon. Vendors offer up antique silver, vintage jewelry, oddball art and posters. The action often spills out on to the sidewalk of adjacent Wisconsin Avenue NW.


Step back in time at the Avalon Theatre

The Avalon Theatre Exterior

Avalon Theatre ©Elliot O’Donovan

Independent, international, family and documentary films are the stars of the show at the Avalon, a cherished Chevy Chase institution that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2023. At the café, moviegoers can complement their popcorn with a milkshake or a glass of wine. For a full date night experience, make a reservation at one of the many restaurants along the block.


Enjoy unparalleled views at City Ridge

Rooftop View City Ridge

City Ridge

Anyone can get a taste of resort life at City Ridge's modern and exclusive Rooftop Kitchen. Over a burger and cocktails, soak in not only pool vistas, but a 360-degree DC panorama from one of the highest points of the city. Other buzzworthy features include gas fire pits and large outdoor screens, making it a perfect spot to follow major sporting events. 


For more things to see and do in Upper Northwest DC, check out our overview of the neighborhood.

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