From Chinatown to Georgetown, Northwest Offers the Best of D.C.


Where the wild things are: Some 2,000 animals make their home at the National Zoo, including a pair of giant pandas on loan from China.

When people think of Washington, D.C. (other than the part of the National Mall that’s democratically shared with the Southwest quadrant), they think of Northwest, the largest quadrant in the city.

As of July 1, 2009, Washington, D.C., had 599,657 residents (the metro region had just under 5.5 million), and I’m guessing Northwest has the most denizens – by quite a lot. And while you may already know a few things about the Northwest quadrant, it’s my job to put some of its highlights in clearer focus.

Northwest houses the most exclusive neighborhoods in D.C. There’s Georgetown, an expensive home to movers, shakers, high-end shopping and dining, and Georgetown University and its associated hospital. There are plenty of college kids and trendy sorts here, too.

Another place that can be a bit trendy and snooty is Dupont Circle. Long a gay Mecca, Dupont caters to quite a diverse gaggle along with the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” or Rachel-Maddow-for-Congress crowd. One of the best bars in the city is located here: The Big Hunt. As kitsch and fun as it sounds, The Big Hunt offers a really diverse crowd of hipsters, young office workers and normal people. The 31 beers on draft (heavy on American microbrews) and dual Internet jukeboxes are pretty darn special, too.

And no one can talk about hipsters or wannabes without bringing up Adams Morgan, hipster central and a bit dangerous after dark; maybe any place can be dangerous at 1 a.m. after a few drinks. Anyway, there are tons of bars and ethnic restaurants here, including several Ethiopian establishments, which is great food if you’ve never had it.

Chinatown has undergone a metamorphosis in recent times, and they say the catalyst was the mammoth Verizon Center. Verizon Center is a 20,000-seat arena that hosts a variety of sporting and entertainment events, and this includes serving as home court for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team. The venue has played host to such acts as U2, Kiss and AC/DC. Coming to entertain us all in February 2011 is some person named Lady Dada, er, Goo-goo, I think? Oh … ohhhhh, that’s right, Lady Gaga. OK, I think I’ve heard of her.

And we can’t mention Chinatown without also bringing up Chinese and pan-Asian food. But really, what culinary confection can compete with the wondrous Lady Dada-pants or whatever her stupid name is?

Moving on … Northwest is home to Rock Creek Park, which is more than nine miles long and up to a mile wide in sections, and serves as a home for critters such as deer, coyotes (no sightings of the Road Runner, so far) and raccoons.

A great thing about Northwest is that there are 20 WMATA Metrorail stations within its borders (nine on the Red Line, seven on the Green/Yellow Line and five on the Blue/Orange Line), by far the most of any quadrant. Another thing this place has more of is embassies. Embassy Row is located along Massachusetts Avenue, the main section of which is generally thought to begin at Dupont Circle and end at the Naval Observatory Circle. It’s certainly a walkable stretch for those inclined.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, about half of the attractions on the National Mall are located in N.W. Which ones exactly?

But the national treasures of the quadrant don’t stop there.

In the quadrant’s Upper Northwest region sits Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopalian edifice that welcomes people of all faiths and perspectives. Regardless of your spiritual inclinations or lack thereof, the learned aesthete will revel in the music and cultural programming here.

Even better, Darth Vader himself is forever festooned on one of the cathedral’s outer walls, the result of a decorative contest for children in the halcyon 1980s. (Gosh, time has really flown by us, hasn’t it?) The sculptured head sits high on the cathedral’s northwest tower, serving as a sentinel of sorts, or is he in judgment? Such existential, eternal angst with this entry!

Back to more terrestrial climes … There are a slew of four-star restaurants here that are too numerous to name, but we have our friends at the Washingtonian Magazine to do it for us. In fact, most entrants on their list of the best 100 restaurants in D.C. are in the Northwest quadrant.

Some of the most well-known colleges in the region, if not nation, are here as well: Besides the aforementioned Georgetown, American University and the Catholic University of America call the Northwest quadrant home.

In addition, the quadrant sports a very arty place of higher learning, too: the Corcoran College of Art + Design. While you’re at it, you should check out its flip side: the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

I could go on forever, but I think you get the drift. Renting an apartment in Northwest puts you in one of the world’s true seats of power … even if you’re struggling to pay that $1,400 rent on a broom-closet studio in Dupont Circle, and the landlord is a cranky you know what. But, guess what?

You. Are. Still. Here.

Check out Apartment Showcase for more information.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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