Adams Morgan -- This bohemian-trendy, multiethnic neighborhood is crammed with shops, bars, clubs, and restaurants. Most everything is located on either 18th Street NW or Columbia Road NW. Parking is manageable during the day but difficult at night, especially on weekends (a parking garage on Champlain St., just off 18th St., helps a little). Luckily, you can easily walk to Adams Morgan from the Dupont Circle or Woodley Park Metro stops, or take the bus or a taxi there. (Be alert in Adams Morgan at night and try to stick to the main streets: 18th St. and Columbia Rd.)
Anacostia -- When people talk about the Washington, D.C. that tourists never see, they’re talking about neighborhoods like this; in fact, they’re usually talking about Anacostia, specifically. Named for the river that separates it from “mainland” D.C., it’s an old part of town, with little commercial development and mostly modest, often low-income housing. Anacostia does have three attractions: the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (see the African-American History Tour and “Museums in Anacostia,” and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a popular walking and bicycling path that connects southwest and southeast neighborhoods fronting the Anacostia River.
Atlas District -- The Atlas District, also known as the H Street Corridor, stretches along H St. NE between 4th and 14th streets, but centers on the 12th to 14th streets segment. Primarily known as a nightlife and restaurant destination, the neighborhood has lately sprouted a cafe and coffeehouse culture that attracts young entrepreneurs and locals during the day. A much-talked-about streetcar line debuted in the summer of 2014, finally providing the neighborhood with easier access to and from other parts of town and the nearest Metro stop (Union Station).
Barracks Row -- Barracks Row refers mainly to a single stretch of 8th Street SE, south of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, but also to side streets occupied by Marine Corps barracks since 1801. This southeastern subsection of Capitol Hill is known for its lineup of shops, casual bistros, and pubs. Its attractions continue to grow as a result of the 2008 opening of the Nationals baseball team’s stadium, Nationals Park, half a mile away. In fact, the ballpark has spawned its own neighborhood, dubbed Capitol Riverfront
Capitol Hill -- Everyone’s heard of “the Hill,” the area crowned by the Capitol building. The term, in fact, refers to a large section of town, extending from the western side of the Capitol to the D.C. Armory going east, bounded by H Street to the north and the Southwest Freeway to the south. It contains not only this chief symbol of the nation’s capital, but also the Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Union Station, and Eastern Market. Much of it is a quiet residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets, rows of Federal and Victorian town houses, and old churches. Restaurants keep increasing their numbers, with most located along Pennsylvania Avenue SE on the south side of the Capitol and near North Capitol Street NW on the north side of the Capitol—the north side, near Union Station, is where most of the hotels are, too. Keep to the well-lit, well-traveled streets at night, and don’t walk alone—crime occurs more frequently in this neighborhood than in some other areas.
Capitol Riverfront -- The opening of Nationals Park in 2008 spurred the development of this once-overlooked part of town. Known also as “Navy Yard” (that’s the name of the subway stop here), the revitalized 500-acre neighborhood abuts 1 1/2 miles of the Anacostia River. Besides the ballpark, the area has five hotels, tons of restaurants and bars, a brewery or two, the city’s first winery, numerous shops, and public parks, trails, and docks. Much, much more to come.
Cleveland Park -- Cleveland Park, just north of Woodley Park, is a picturesque enclave of winding, tree-shaded streets dotted with charming old houses with wraparound porches. The streets extend off the main artery, Connecticut Avenue. With its own stop on the Red Line Metro system and a respectable number of good restaurants, Cleveland Park is worth visiting when you’re near the zoo (just up the street) or are seeking a good meal after a bike ride or stroll through nearby Rock Creek Park. Most hotels lie a short walk away in Woodley Park, and farther south in the city.
Columbia Heights -- Hispanic immigrants have long settled here but now are joined by millennials and others seeking more affordable housing. Here you’ll find historic mansions, colorful townhouses, Hispanic cultural attractions, the gorgeous Meridian Hill Park and loads of good ethnic restaurants. The neighborhood lies north of U Street to Quincy Street NW, and east of 16th Street to Georgia Avenue NW.
Downtown -- The area bounded roughly by 6th and 21st streets NW to the east and west, and M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to the north and south, is a mix of the Federal Triangle’s government office buildings; K Street, ground zero for the city’s countless law and lobbying firms; Connecticut Avenue restaurants and shopping; historic hotels; the city’s poshest small hotels; Chinatown; the huge Walter E. Washington Convention Center; and the White House. You’ll also find the historic Penn Quarter, one of D.C.’s hottest locales, which has continued to flourish since the 1997 opening of the Verizon Center, renamed the Capital One Arena (the venue for Wizards and Mystics and Georgetown University basketball games, Capitals hockey games, and rock concerts). A number of off-the-Mall museums, like the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, are here. Besides hip restaurants, boutique hotels, and nightclubs, the Penn Quarter claims ultra-trendy CityCenterDC, a mini-Manhattan of chic shops and restaurants. The total downtown area encompasses so many blocks and sites that I’ve divided discussions of attractions, restaurants, and hotels in this area into two sections: “Midtown,” referring to the area from 15th Street west to 21st Street, and from Pennsylvania Avenue north to M Street; and “Penn Quarter,” from 15th Street east to 6th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue north to New York Avenue.
Dupont Circle -- One of my favorite parts of town, Dupont Circle provides easy fun, day or night. It takes its name from the traffic circle minipark, where Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut avenues converge. Washington’s famous Embassy Row centers on Dupont Circle and refers to the parade of grand embassy mansions lining Massachusetts Avenue and its side streets. See the walking tour here: https://www.frommers.com/destinations/washington-d-c/walking-tours/walking-tour-3. The streets extending out from the circle are lively, with all-night bookstores, good restaurants, wonderful art galleries and art museums, nightspots, and Washingtonians at their loosest. Once the hub of D.C.’s LGBTQ community, the neighborhood continues to host the annual High Heel Drag Queen Race the Tuesday preceding Halloween and the Capital Pride Parade every June, despite the fact that LGBTQ residents live throughout the city now. The neighborhood has plenty of hotel choices, most of them moderately priced.
Foggy Bottom/West End -- The area west of the White House, south of Dupont Circle, and east of Georgetown encompasses both Foggy Bottom and the West End. Foggy Bottom, located below, or south, of Pennsylvania Avenue, was Washington’s early industrial center. Its name comes from the foul fumes emitted in those days by a coal depot and gasworks, but its original name, Funkstown (for owner Jacob Funk), is perhaps even worse. There’s nothing foul nor funky about the area today. The West End edges north of Pennsylvania Avenue, booming with the latest big-name restaurants and new office buildings. Together the overlapping Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods present a mix: the Kennedy Center, town-house residences, George Washington University campus buildings, offices for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, State Department headquarters, small- and medium-sized hotels, student bars, and several fine eateries lining either side of Pennsylvania Avenue and its side streets.
Georgetown -- This historic community dates from Colonial times. It was a thriving tobacco port long before the District of Columbia was formed, and one of its attractions, the Old Stone House, dates from pre-Revolutionary days. Georgetown action centers on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, where you’ll find numerous boutiques, chic restaurants, and popular pubs. Expect lots of nightlife here. Detour from the main drags to relish the quiet, tree-lined streets of restored Colonial row houses, stroll the beautiful gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, and check out the C&O Canal. Georgetown is also home to Georgetown University. Click here for a walking tour of Georgetown. Note: Not surprisingly, the neighborhood gets pretty raucous on weekends.
Glover Park -- Mostly a residential neighborhood, this section of town just above Georgetown and just south of the Washington National Cathedral is worth mentioning because of several good restaurants and bars located along its main stretch, Wisconsin Avenue NW. Glover Park sits between the campuses of Georgetown and American universities, so there’s a large student presence here.
Midtown -- This refers roughly to the part of downtown from 15th Street west to 21st Street, and from Pennsylvania Avenue north to M Street.
Mount Vernon Square -- Located due north of the Penn Quarter and central downtown, east of the U&14th Street Corridors, and west of Mount Vernon Triangle, this area defines urban renewal, thanks to the opening of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in 2003, and a convention center hotel, the Marriott Marquis, in 2014. Other development includes a complex known as CityMarket at O, which holds a Cambria Suites hotel, apartments, markets, and shops.
Mount Vernon Triangle -- Yet another old neighborhood experiencing renewal, Mount Vernon lies east of the convention center, its boundary streets of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York avenues defining a perfectly shaped triangle. Within that triangle, hotspots, such as the trendy restaurant Kushi, are starting to multiply.
The National Mall -- This lovely, tree-lined stretch of open space between Constitution and Independence avenues, extending for nearly 2 miles from the foot of the Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is the hub of tourist attractions. It includes most of the Smithsonian Institution museums and several other notable sites. Tourists as well as natives—joggers, food vendors, kite flyers, and picnickers among them—traipse the 700-acre Mall. Hotels and restaurants are located beyond the Mall to the north, and, increasingly, south of the Mall across Independence Avenue all the way to the waterfront, thanks to intense development. The proper name for the entire parkland area is actually National Mall and Memorial Parks.
NoMa -- NoMa, as in “North of Massachusetts,” is a curious mix of a neighborhood. Located east of downtown D.C. and directly north of Union Station, NoMa’s got old residential streets of real character, but also major thoroughfares slicing through, which makes it not the most walkable of areas. Wide swaths of commuter and Amtrak train tracks form the neighborhood’s eastern boundary. Except for the smattering of pleasant side streets, the place has an industrial look about it. And yet, NoMa won’t be ignored, and here’s why you shouldn’t: You’re close to Capitol Hill and Union Station; you have access to two Metro stations, bike stations, and a bike path; and the neighborhood has caught the eye of developers, who have built three hotels here in the last few years and more and more restaurants. If you’re here on Capitol Hill business, this might be a good pick.
Northern Virginia -- Across the Potomac River from the capital lies Northern Virginia and its close-in city/towns of Arlington and Old Town Alexandria. The Arlington Memorial Bridge leads directly from the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery, and beyond to Arlington and Old Town. Commuters travel back and forth between the District and Virginia all day using the Arlington Memorial Bridge and others, including the Key Bridge, which leads to and from Georgetown; the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, whose roadways connect Rte. 50 and I-66; and the 14th Street Bridge, whose I-395 roadway connects downtown D.C. and Northern Virginia’s access to I-95 and points south.
Penn Quarter -- This refers roughly to the part of downtown from 15th Street east to 6th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue north to New York Avenue.
Shaw -- Located due north of the Penn Quarter, this historic district encompasses the area between 11th and 6th streets NW going west to east, and Massachusetts Avenue to U Street NW going south to north. Shaw remains largely a neighborhood of longstanding houses and old churches, even as it undergoes a renewal that started with the opening of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in 2003. Shaw has been garnering a lot of attention lately for its hot new restaurants and bars, a city market, and interesting shops. Suddenly, Shaw is the place to go for the best dining in D.C.
Southwest/Waterfront -- With the fall 2017 opening of the Wharf, the waterfront complex of eateries, shops, live music venues, bars and outdoor recreation activities, this neighborhood has been transformed quite suddenly into an attractive, vital area of the city. As development goes on and new buildings go up, this stretch of waterfront continues as a working marina, with vendors selling fresh crabs and fish straight off their docked fishing barges. This is where locals and restaurateurs come to buy fresh seafood. The neighborhood is also home to the acclaimed Arena Stage. Traffic congestion can be a problem, especially at night and in pleasant weather when people descend on the Wharf; if you can, take advantage of the many transportation alternatives to driving.
U & 14th Street Corridors -- The diverse U Street NW and 14th Street NW neighborhood is rooted in black history and culture, but is better known these days as a dining and nightlife destination. During its “Black Broadway” heyday in the first half of the 20th century, jazz and blues legends Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway performed at the Lincoln Theatre and other venues. Jazz lovers might still be satisfied at the tiny Twins Jazz, but most folks flocking here at night are the young and the restless in search of a hot new eatery or bar hangout.
Woodley Park -- Home to two large hotels, including the Omni Shoreham, Woodley Park is mainly a pretty residential neighborhood. Its biggest attractions are the National Zoo, Rock Creek Park, good restaurants, and some antiques stores.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.