Washington, D.C. is divided up among neighborhoods with their own distinct cultures and attractions that match the allure of the city's most visible monuments.
Adams Morgan (Columbia Road, NW, between 16th and 18th Streets).
Eclectic Adams Morgan is where buttoned-up D.C. lets its hair down. Long home to immigrant communities from Africa, Asia and South and Central America, the neighborhood today is a global village, lined with restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. Follow the bilingual neighborhood heritage trail to learn about its colorful history.
Chat up longstanding nightlife personalities and restaurateurs at venues like Perrys and Madam's Organ or learn from a pioneer in D.C.'s eco-friendly nightlife scene at The Reef. On Saturdays, check out arts and crafts by local artists at Western Market.
Anacostia & Southeast (Southeast of the Capitol and across the 11th Street Bridge)
D.C.'s first planned suburb is where abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass made his home. While the new Nationals Ballpark and modern developments along the waterfront are often in the headlines, the neighborhood is also known for its beautiful late 19th-century architecture.
Urban renewal is the story of the day in this neighborhood; follow high-profile projects like the Anacostia Riverfront Trail and Poplar Point. The arrival of Nationals Park also promises more development in the neighborhood. Find one of the best views of the city and learn about the life of celebrated abolitionist Frederick Douglass at Cedar Hill. Explore local African-American history at the Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Community Museum.
Brookland/Northeast (Northeast of the Capitol)
Northeast is home to Civil War-era forts and landmarks, quiet residential streets and picturesque places like the 446-acre National Arboretum. The Roman Catholic Church bought up tracts of land here in the late 19th century to build the Catholic University of America, which attracted additional Catholic sites like the Franciscan Monastery and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Find inspiration and tranquility in the peaceful gardens of the Franciscan Monastery. Explore the National Arboretum, home to the columns from the original U.S. Capitol, the two-acre National Herb Garden and the National Bonsai Museum, or sign up for a full moon hike to see it all from a different perspective.
Capitol Hill (Immediately Northeast and Southeast of the Capitol)
The Capitol Hill neighborhood packs powerful attractions like the Library of Congress and Supreme Court and beautiful treasures like the Folger Shakespeare Library, National Postal Museum and Union Station. Locals start their weekends by stocking up on fresh veggies and shopping for unique arts and crafts at Eastern Market. In the evening, the place to be is Barracks Row, located along 8th Street SE. Despite sustaining extensive damage in a fire in spring 2007, DC's beloved Eastern Market has bounced back and continues to be a popular gathering place.
Neighborhood revitalization has come to Barracks Row (8th St. SE). Political hotspots abound on the Hill; hang out with young staffers at classic DC bars like Kelly's Irish Times and The Dubliners. Check out the Capitol Visitors Center (currently under construction) and the adjoining new visitor experience at the Library of Congress.
Downtown (North of the National Mall between the White House and the Capitol)
Museums, theatres and galleries share the streets with hot new restaurants, lounges and hotels in downtown. The neighborhood is full of must-see sights like the International Spy Museum, Newseum, Madame Tussauds, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the new National Museum of Crime and Punishment, Ford's Theatre and more. DC's Chinatown is nestled in the heart of the neighborhood, marked by the brightly colored “Friendship Arch” that spans H Street. It's also home to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the Verizon Center, which hosts college and professional sports action and star-studded concerts all year round.
Downtown's revitalization is always a hot topic, with its ever-expanding collection of restaurants, attractions, retail and residences. It's the hub of DC's theatre scene, home to venues like Woolly Mammoth, the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the National and Warner Theatres.
Dupont Circle/Kalorama (Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues, at P and 19th Streets)
Bistros, bars and boutiques line the streets that come together at Dupont Circle, the meeting place for this cosmopolitan neighborhood. The largest concentration of international embassies sits just northwest of the circle, giving the neighborhood an extra dash of global flavor. Arts and entertainment collide with restaurants, shops, hotels, quaint B&Bs, galleries and museums (The Phillips Collection, The Textile Museum, Woodrow Wilson House and National Geographic Society's Explorers Hall to name a few).
The historical heart of DC's GLBT community, Dupont Circle is also a great stepping off point to Embassy Row, home to beautiful embassies and cultural centers. Many of DC's B&Bs, boutique hotels and small museums are located in this corner of the city, along with storied local restaurants, shops and bars. Stop by the neighborhood farmer's market on Sunday for fresh local produce and cooking demonstrations by local chefs.
Foggy Bottom (Between the White House and Georgetown, south of Dupont Circle).
It's no surprise to find a collection of fine hotels and restaurants in this corner of the city, which plays host to diplomats, dignitaries and celebrities who visit neighborhood landmarks such as the IMF, the World Bank, the Kennedy Center and the Department of State. Foggy Bottom stretches down to the Potomac shoreline, welcoming runners, bikers and water sports enthusiasts to the southernmost point of Rock Creek Park.
Ground-breaking cultural festivals and innovative arts programming is the order of the day at the Kennedy Center. Get a taste of DC's outdoors scene by renting a canoe or kayak and exploring the Potomac.
Georgetown (Wisconsin Ave. and M St. NW, bordered by the Potomac River to the south)
Founded in 1751, historic Georgetown is known for its designer and mainstream boutiques, beautiful architecture and its seemingly endless list of cafes, restaurants and bars. History buffs, serious shoppers and garden lovers are instantly smitten with attractions like Georgetown University, the C&O Canal, the Kreeger Museum and Tudor Place Historic House.
Settle into a booth at Billy Martin's Tavern, where JFK proposed to Jackie, or check out DC's celebrity scene at Café Milano. Warm summer nights draw crowds to the Georgetown Waterfront. Step into the past with a mule-drawn barge ride on the C&O Canal. Visit iconic movie sites like the Exorcist stairs, near the Georgetown University campus, or Third Edition, where “St. Elmo's Fire” was filmed.
Lafayette Square (North of the White House on H Street, between 15th and 17th Streets NW)
Lafayette Square is a place of elegance and refinement, nestled in the shadow of the White House. Magnificent landmarks like the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Beaux Arts Old Executive Office Building, DAR Constitution Hall, the Decatur House and the Renwick Gallery are distinctively designed to match the grace and dignity of this historic quarter.
Stir it up with DC's movers and shakers at historic bars like the Hay-Adams' Off the Record or the Willard InterContinental's Round Robin Bar. Tour a hot new exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art or explore one of DC's most reputedly haunted sites, the Octagon House. Attend Sunday service at St. John's Church, known as “The Church of Presidents.”
Southwest/Waterfront (Southwest of the National Mall to the Washington Channel)
Southwest DC went through its first wave of urban renewal in the 1950s. It's now a hotspot for development once again, with the arrival of the Mandarin Oriental in 2004 and the opening of the Nationals Ballpark nearby. Seafood lovers won't want to miss a visit to the waterside fish market.
For fresh seafood and local flavor, don't miss the Maine Avenue Seafood Market. Get a taste of the neighborhood's revitalization with a visit to the Mandarin Oriental and its lavish spa. Seek out D.C.'s unique memorials, including one that honors the men who died on the doomed Titanic.
U Street/Shaw & Logan Circle (East of Dupont Circle and North of Downtown)
The birthplace of Duke Ellington and the center of Washington's African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century is once again thriving. On weekend nights, U Street rivals Adams Morgan for crowds, though with a slightly older vibe. The cutting edge of what this city is and can be, U Street is also equally intriguing by day, home to the African American Civil War Memorial, Lincoln Theatre and Howard University. Designer home-furnishings stores, boutiques and music clubs abound near the junction of 14th & U streets.
The riots and civil unrest of the 1960s took a toll on this neighborhood, now considered one of D.C.'s trendiest shopping and nightlife destinations. Chat up the business owners on 14th Street and get some historical perspective at landmarks like Ben's Chili Bowl and Bohemian Caverns. Learn about the DC jazz scene at HR-57 and explore hip hangouts like Busboys & Poets and Marvin.
Woodley Park & Cleveland Park (Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle, east of Rock Creek Park)
These side-by-side residential districts were once considered suburbs, linked to downtown Washington by streetcar. They're now lively residential districts whose tree-lined streets are flanked by friendly boutiques, coffee shops and sidewalk cafés featuring cuisines from around the world. To the east sits Rock Creek Park, a vast urban green space home to the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
The National Cathedral is worth a visit for its breathtaking gardens, stone gargoyles and fun annual events like the Shrove Tuesday pancake race, the spring Flower Mart and the annual blessing of the animals. The National Zoo also gets top billing, thanks to star attractions like giant panda cub Tai Shan. A visit to Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post's glorious estate, is also worth the trip, and it's a good choice for afternoon tea.
Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman The National Archives features 41 exceptional pen-and-ink drawings that highlight timeless aspects of the American campaign and election process. They also provide relevant commentary and fascinating insight into today's elections and campaigns.
Herblock's Presidents: Puncturing Pomposity The National Portrait Gallery spotlights 44 of Herbert Lawrence Block's presidential cartoons that appeared in the Washington Post for 56 years, including depictions of Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and more.
Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution The National Museum of Natural History illustrates the evolution of butterflies and plants through two displays: one that focuses on plants and animals that have evolved together in one display and a 1,400 sq.-ft. Butterfly Pavilion with live butterflies and plants as the second component.
The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image Part I: Dreams: The first in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's two-part presentation, this exhibition showcases film and media installations by a range of international artists and explores the innate experience in film viewing.
Obata's Yosemite A collection of 27 prints and watercolors will be on view, along with a series of progressive proofs, transformed from sketches of Japanese artist Chiura Obata's trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada.
Surface Beauty: American Art and Freer's Aesthetic Vision Though the Freer Gallery of Art and the neighboring Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are best known for showcasing Asian art, the Freer also houses a collection of 19th- and early 20th-century American art. The display includes 12 paintings and seven pieces of Pewabic pottery by notable U.S. artists including James McNeill Whistler and Dwight Tryon. At the same time, the Freer will also display 23 oil paintings drawn from the more than 1,300 works by James McNeill Whistler.
Color as Field: American Painting, 1950-1975 The full-scale examination of the Color Field movement showcases approximately 40 paintings by influential artists such as Gene Davis, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons and Frank Stella.
The American Evolution: A History through Art A long-awaited re-installation of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's renowned collection of American art, the exhibition goes beyond a traditional chronological survey by looking at the objects through the framework of five broad themes that are central to the American experience.
In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet The National Gallery of Art illustrates the pivotal role of the Forest of Fontainebleau in the development of 19th-century naturalistic landscape painting and early photography, featuring approximately 120 paintings, pastels and photographs.
The Honor of Your Company Is Requested: President Lincoln's Inaugural Ball The Smithsonian American Art Museum's display celebrates President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball held Mar. 6, 1865, in what is now the museum's historic home. Featured objects include the invitation, dance card, menu, a gown worn at the ball, along with engravings illustrating the night's events.
Victory Mail The National Postal Museum showcases its collection of World War II V-Mail correspondence including V-Mail letters that reveal the writer's thoughts and sentiments to visitors; a rare strip of 16mm V-Mail microfilm; and advertisements and posters from the era.
In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight Featuring 55 color photographs by National Air and Space Museum photographer Carolyn Russo, this display highlights the “simple beauty” often overlooked of aircraft and spacecraft design.
Chance Encounters: Photographs from the Collection of Norman Carr and Carolyn Kinder Carr The Corcoran Gallery of Art presents 60 images selected from an exceptional private collection of street photography including work by transcendent American and European photographers.
Edwards Steichen: Portraits Drawn exclusively from the National Portrait Gallery's collection of Steichen's photographs, this exhibition features 50 images from years of his affiliation with Vanity Fair, along with examples of his earlier portrait work.
MURAQQA: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery highlights 86 masterpieces from the renowned Chester Beatty Library collection in Dublin, Ireland. On display—many for the first time in the U.S.—are Mughal paintings and calligraphies of the imperial family in private settings, as well as natural history objects.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future The National Building Museum hosts the first major retrospective by one of the most prolific architects of our time, Eero Saarinen. The exhibition includes full-scale building models, never-before seen drawings, furniture, photographs, films and other artifacts.
Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist The Smithsonian American Art Museum presents the first nationally touring retrospective of the work of Harlem Renaissance artist, Aaron Douglas (1899–1979). More than 80 rarely seen works by the artist will be on view, including paintings, prints, drawings and illustrations, plus to works by several of his contemporaries.
Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraits This exhibition features some 60 dramatic and colorful posters from the late 19th century to the present, illustrating how they functioned as portraiture.
Washington, D.C.'s unforgettable skyline is marked by some of the world's most celebrated monuments. The fantastic temples, structures and statues that grace the green expanses of the National Mall tell fascinating stories through their history and design. Here is some background information on the city's most famous sights. More information on Washington, DC's monuments and memorials is online.
The National Mall (stretches from 3rd St., NW and the Capitol grounds to 14th St., between Independence and Constitution Aves.) Officially, the National Mall is a swath of green space that begins at 3rd Street and stretches to 14th Street. Visitors and locals, however, widely use the term to refer to the entire expanse of monuments and museums, from the grounds of the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
Washington Monument (15th St. and Constitution Ave., NW.) Towering 555.16 feet above the National Mall, the Washington Monument was built as a powerful tribute to George Washington. The site—where the western axis of the Capitol intersects with the southern axis of the White House—was selected by Pierre L’Enfant. Exactly 50 flagpoles, representing each state, encircle the perimeter.
Lincoln Memorial (23rd St. and Constitution Ave., NW). One of DC's most familiar landmarks honors its 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Architect Henry Bacon designed the Greek temple and the Lincoln statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial (South end of 15th St., SW on the Tidal Basin). With a memorable form reminiscent of the Pantheon, the memorial to the third president took only nine years to complete. Architect John Russell Pope incorporated one of Jefferson's favorite design elements, the rotunda, into the memorial design.
U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima) (Adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery on the George Washington Memorial Parkway). Located across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is home to one of the most celebrated patriotic sculptures in which five soldiers and one Navy corpsman raise the flag at Iwo Jima. The statue is modeled after a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal.
Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Island (East of the Key Bridge on the Potomac River) Theodore Roosevelt's deep love of nature and strong commitment to conservation are reflected throughout the 88-acre island, where 2.5 miles of hiking trails pass through dense forests and marshy swamps. Originally called Analostan Island, it was used during the Civil War to sequester African-American soldiers.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Constitution Ave. and Henry Bacon Dr., NW). Often referred to as the “Wall,” the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the American soldiers who were killed during the war, were prisoners of war, and who remain missing in action, whose names are listed on the black granite V-shaped memorial.
U.S. Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center (701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW). Washington, DC's city designer, Pierre L’Enfant, included a Navy Memorial in his original plans for the city, but no actions were taken on L’Enfant's intent until 1977, when the Navy Memorial Foundation was established. The memorial is an amphitheater-like construction featuring a 100-foot, 108-ton granite map—the largest in the world.
Vietnam Women's Memorial (East of Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 21st St. and Constitution Ave., NW). When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened in 1982, the women who served in the conflict felt slighted by their virtual exclusion from the design. In 1984, the Vietnam Women's Memorial was founded so that a tribute to the servicewomen and field hospital nurses could complement the new memorial.
Korean War Veterans Memorial (West Potomac Park, Independence Ave., beside the Lincoln Memorial). Dedicated in 1995 on the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, the Korean War Veterans Memorial features a polished wall engraved with the faces of soldiers, nurses, chaplains, and even a dog, honoring those who served. A bronze sculpture group of platoon soldiers inching through a field forms the focal point of the memorial.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (1850 W. Basin Dr., SW). The rambling FDR Memorial consists of four “rooms” arranged chronologically to represent the 32nd president's unprecedented four terms in office. Spanning 7.5 acres, the memorial defies FDR's request for a modest tribute; he asked that the memorial not be any larger than his desk. Acknowledging FDR's own physical difficulties, his memorial was the first creation of its kind designed with easy access for people with disabilities.
African-American Civil War Memorial (13th and U Sts., NW) One of DC's most historic African-American neighborhoods is home to one of the nation's few tributes to the African-American veterans of the Civil War. The memorial includes a granite-paved plaza encircled by walls that bear the names of the 209,145 men who served in the United States Troops of Color during the war.
National World War II Memorial (East end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument) Dedicated in 2004, the National World War II Memorial pays tribute to the 16 million Americans who served in uniform, the more than 400,000 who lost their lives, and the millions more who sacrificed on the home front.
Arlington National Cemetery (Located in Arlington, VA about .4 miles over the Potomac River.) More than 4 million visitors each year come to visit our nation's most treasured burial ground, home to more than 300,000 honored soldiers and distinguished citizens.
The Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) stands atop a hill overlooking DC. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four American World War I cemeteries in France. Sgt. Edward F. Younger, a World War I combat veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, selected one of the caskets to represent the unknown soldiers who had fallen in battle. The chosen “unknown” was then transported to the U.S. aboard the USS Olympia and interred at Arlington Cemetery.