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Meridian Hill Park Fountain, Washington DC

8 Things to See & Do in Columbia Heights

Brimming with Latin culture and friendly bars, this historic northwest DC neighborhood pulses with energy.

One of DC’s early streetcar suburbs, Columbia Heights experienced a wave of development in the early 2000s. Brightened by years of Latin American influence and anchored by the lush, statue-filled Meridian Hill Park, the neighborhood is a mix of new ideas and rich history, blending modern architecture restaurants and bars with historic buildings both down-home and grand.


Have a picnic (or dance) at Meridian Hill Park

The best things to do in DC's Columbia Heights neighborhood - Meridian Hill Park Sunday drum circle

A dramatic tiered fountain, statues of historic figures like Dante and Joan of Arc and aggregate concrete walls make this early 20th-century park feel like a slice of Europe in the middle of the District. Benches, a large grassy area and tall, shade-producing trees make it an ideal spot for relaxing with a book, a picnic with your kids or for taking a jog. On weekends, the greenspace hops with yoga-doing millennials, frisbee-throwing families and, every Sunday afternoon, an African-style drum circle.


Dine and bar hop along 11th Street NW

Elegant dining area with a floral mural on the wall, featuring two round tables set for service and cushioned seating against the wall with warm ambient lighting.

Queen's English © Jennifer Chase

Many restaurants thrive on 11th Street NW, but most notably, it is a buzzing byway for happy hours and late-night drinks. Dance to DJs on weekend nights upstairs at the delightfully divey, memorabilia-filled Wonderland Ballroom.


Head to the Saturday farmers’ market

Tomatoes at Columbia Heights Farmer's Market Washington, DC

From April through December, produce farmers, flower sellers, taco-makers and local crafters set up shop on Saturday mornings on a paved plaza near the Metro station on 14th Street NW. Live music and kids activities like balloon-animal making add to the fun. 


Sample Laotian food at Thip Khao

One of only a few Laotian restaurants in the region, this brightly decorated, popular restaurant serves up the country’s signature spicy fare, much of it accompanied by sticky rice in little baskets. Curries, soups and stir-fries use lemongrass, tamarind and lots of chilies; there’s also a “jungle menu” for exotic choices like goat stew or minced alligator.


Attend an event at the Mexican Cultural Institute

A grand interior space with elegant furniture, framed artwork on the walls, and a view through an open doorway revealing a colorful mural and an ornate staircase.

Mexican Cultural Institute

In a grand, early 20th-century mansion that once held the Mexican Embassy, this museum and cultural center hosts art exhibits, concerts and popular cooking classes given by PBS star and local resident Pati Jinich. Even if there isn't an event happening, have no fear – the space is open to the public, so you can marvel at the historic site and its colorful collection of murals, which depict Mexican history dating back to ancient times. 


Venture into nearby Mount Pleasant

Bookstore display with various cookbooks and children's books on shelves.

Bold Fork

On the western edge of Columbia Heights, you’ll find this quaint enclave clustered around its conveniently named central avenue, Mount Pleasant Street. Here, you'll find Salvadoran markets, dive bars and family-owned restaurants, as well as independent cook book store Bold Fork


Explore the neighborhood on two wheels

A row of bright red Capital Bikeshare bicycles lined up on a sidewalk in a vibrant city area.

Since it’s located at the top of a hill (see Meridian Hill Park), Columbia Heights is easy to get around by bike. Simply head to the Capital Bikeshare station near the Metro stop and get rolling.


Catch a show at GALA Hispanic Theatre

Located in a portion of the restored Tivoli Theatre, one of the country’s oldest and most respected Spanish-language theater groups puts on plays (with simultaneous English translation) and regularly hosts visiting acts like Spanish flamenco dancers and Argentine musicians.


Hungry? Check out where to eat and drink in Columbia Heights.

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