Washington, D.C., is made up of more than just politicians and lobbyists. It’s actually a diverse, culturally rich city whose historic neighborhoods are experiencing a renaissance, thanks to new taste bud-tickling restaurants, eye-catching galleries, and rocking music venues popping up each day.
To help you get a taste of all that the district has to offer, here’s a look at three neighborhoods that are worth exploring, plus some more out-of-the-way treasures that help make D.C. the eclectic city it is. Plus, bonus Zipster perk! Zipcars get free on-street parking in the area, so you can focus on memories, not meters.
Comfort food goes classic chic at Ted’s Bulletin, where homemade pop tarts seal the deal.
PIZZA, PARKS, AND BLUEGRASS IN ADAMS MORGAN/U STREET CORRIDOR
The adjacent neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and the U Street Corridorhave the hippest reputations in the city; Adams Morgan’s 18th Street boasts an eclectic mix of bars, live music venues, and lounges, and U Street is home to such cultural staples as the 9:30 Club and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Strolling around this area is a feast for the senses, with new sights, sounds, and smells at every block.
Madam’s Organ (2461 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009; 202-667-5370; madamsorgan.com) No matter what day of the week, you’ll be able to find some of the best live music in the city at Madam’s Organ, especially if you’re a fan of blues or bluegrass. The dance floor may get a bit crowded, but that’s only because the venue is almost as popular as the large mural that adorns its outside wall. Make sure you explore a bit, as there are more rooms, floors, and bars in the place than you might expect!
Meridian Hill Park (2400 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20008) Meridian Hill Park is a 12-acre national park that boasts the largest cascading fountain in North America, as well as some of the best picnic grounds in the city. Based off of the design of an Italian aristocrat's private residence, Meridian Hill Park is free and open to everyone seven days a week from dusk until dawn, but if you can, make it out there on a Sunday evening. People gather from 3 to 9 PM in the upper park to dance and participate in a drum circle, a tradition that has been held in the park since the 1950s.
Catch a great glimpse of the Washington Monument from Meridian Hill Park (when you’re not joining Sunday night’s famous drum circle).
Fun fact: If you stand at the upper level of the park and face south at just the right angle, you’ll get a stellar view of the Washington Monument in the distance!
GoodWood (1428 U St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009; 202-986-3640; goodwooddc.com) GoodWood calls itself “An American Mercantile & Dry Good Store.” We call it vintage furniture heaven. Having been in business for almost 20 years, this U Street staple is the place to go to find antique mirrors, rustic wooden tables, vintage lights, and whatever treasures husband and wife proprietors Dan and Anna Kahoe have found. But be warned: It’s almost impossible to stop in here and walk out empty-handed.
Redecorating? You’ll want to once you step into GoodWood’s treasure trove of vintage fashion, furniture, and housewares.
Ben's Chili Bowl (1213 U St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009; 202-667-0909; benschilibowl.com) Ben’s Chili Bowl’s half-smokes might be the most famous in the world. The small greasy spoon has a historic legacy, as it was a neutral zone during the 1968 riots, and it’s now considered a city landmark. And though it counts both Bill Cosby and Barack Obama as loyal customers, you’ll be welcome there from 6 PM to 2 AM, no matter how rough a night you’ve had. Just make sure you get your half-smoke the way it was meant to be eaten: with tons of chili and cheese.
Ben’s Chili Bowl keeps it simple with beef, fries, turkey, tuna — and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.
POP TARTS, RARE BOOKS, AND ANTIQUES BY EASTERN MARKET
Eastern Market is D.C.’s original flea and farmers’market. Located in the heart of historic Capitol Hill, Eastern Market lures Washingtonians in with fresh food, community events, and on weekends, local farm-fresh produce and handmade arts and crafts. For more than 136 years, Eastern Market has served as a community hub, and in the warmer months, it’s one of the best-hidden secrets in the city.
The Flea Market at Eastern Market is open every Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM year round and hosts up to 100 exhibitors from five continents, making it one of the most diverse in the nation. Having just celebrated its 31st anniversary, the Flea Market features arts, crafts, antiques, collectibles, and imports from around the world, and has served as an incubator for many small businesses.
Swing by on a Sunday for the famous Flea Market at Eastern Market, which features art, crafts, antiques, and imports from 100 exhibitors across five continents.
Ted’s Bulletin (505 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003; 202-544-8337; tedsbulletincapitolhill.com) Ted’s Bulletin is a nostalgia-inducing eatery on Barracks Row that is just as famous for its homemade pop tarts as it is for its adult milkshakes. Owners Mark and Ty Neal named the restaurant after their father, a West Virginian who was the unofficial "cook of the neighborhood,” and that feel permeates the entire establishment. Tables are made from salvaged doors and the menu reads like a newspaper. Enjoy all the comfort food, but be prepared to have a hard time squeezing through the door on your way out.
Capitol Hill Books (657 C St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003; 202-544-1621; capitolhillbooks-dc.com) Capitol Hill Books is a used bookstore thatquaintly clutters its two floors with quality used books, first editions, and rare finds. One can get lost among the stacks and piles — they’re even taking over the bathrooms! — but as the store’s tagline goes, "Every bit of space in the store has a book, and there really is one here, somewhere, for you.” Make sure to specifically check out their impressive collection of books on Washington, D.C., itself!
Who says print is dead? Not Capitol Hill Books, which stocks its shelves with tons of used, bound goodies—including a room just for mystery tomes.
ROOFTOPS AND MINI-GOLF IN THE H ST. CORRIDOR
H St. Country Club (1335 H St. NE, Washington, D.C., 20002; 202-399-4722; thehstreetcountryclub.com) H St. Country Club is part urban country club and part Mexican taqueria, but all fun and games — literally. There is a mini-golf course, skeeball, and all the arcade games you have quarters for. But don’t think that means they skimp on the food; H St. Country Club is known for having some of the best Mexican food in the city, especially their signature horchata martini, made with tequila, cream, cinnamon, and horchata (a milky drink made from ground almonds)!
Play with your food at H St. Country Club, where mini golf, shuffleboard, and skee ball are served up with delicious Mexican fare.
Rock and Roll Hotel(1353 H St. NE, Washington, D.C., 20002; 202-388-7625; rockandrollhoteldc.com) is one of the hottest music venues in the city, bringing in a variety of acts from rock to pop to hip-hop and boasting amazing past performances from the likes of Ellie Goulding, Father John Misty, and Typhoon. Established in 2006, the venue has 3 floors: their famous concert hall, a raucous dance floor on the 2nd floor, and last but certainly not least, a sprawling rooftop deck that certainly qualifies as the cherry on top. Stop in for a show, but make sure to make it up to the roof for a nightcap or two.