Monday, July 20, 2009

DC Neighborhoods

As with any large city, DC (and the surrounding area) is made up of many different neighborhoods that each have their own unique charm. Granted, we've not had a chance to explore all of them, but here are some of our favorites, in no particular order. For a more detailed review of the city's neighborhoods and really - everything and anything of interest related to moving to DC - I would highly recommend the book, "Newcomer's Handbook for Moving to and Living in Washington, DC."

Downtown. Clearly we're biased since this is where we've chosen to live, but the sites, museums, restaurants, culture, and access via Metro is second to none. However, residential green space is at a premium/minimum, traffic can be a nightmare at certain times especially without anything more than a 2-lane road in or out, and tourists can be overwhelming (depending on the season).

Georgetown. The ritziest part of DC is not surprisingly the least accessible. There are few places in the city, purely residential areas not included, that are not accessible by Metro. Georgetown is one of them. Consequently, you'll have to tolerate the traffic and parking challenges (or buses) if you want to shop or dine among the preppy and the rich. So pop your pastel collar, throw on your navy blazer and loafers, and don't forget to make a point to see the historic homes that are some of the most charming, and most expensive, in the city.

Arlington. Just over the river, Arlington offers a little bit of everything. Shopping, quiet neighborhoods, restaurants and bars, commerce mixed with a college town, etc. However, when you offer a little bit of everything, you tend to do so by sacrificing character and charm.

Alexandria. Old Town to be specific. With apologies to Baltimore, Old Town Alexandria is charm city. Quaint homes and boutiques, brick and cobblestone streets, and 300 years of history make Old Town a popular destination for lazy afternoons and visiting parents.

Capitol Hill. I read somewhere recently that Capitol Hill was one of the top U.S. neighborhoods to live in. As another highly-walkable area with mom and pop shops and restaurants, we always leave this area wondering why we don't come here more often.

Dupont Circle. This is where the action is. Often packed with young singles flocking to the bars and clubs, there are few places in the city with more of a nightlife. It is no wonder that MTV put the next Real World cast here (at 20th and S St. in NW).

Adams Morgan. This is where you'll find the quirky and worldly shops/restaurants that you might associate with Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley or any other bohemian area. Cheap eats abound in an area that is absolutely unique in a city that is dominated by the buttoned-up or urban chic.

U Street. A historic district once known as the most significant African-American cultural hub prior to the emergence of Harlem, U Street is now experiencing a renaissance. Call it renaissance or gentrification, the combination of high-end condos and fine dining with run-down shacks is becoming a familiar calling card of the many "up and coming neighborhoods" that are so prevalent throughout DC.

Columbia Heights. Speaking of up and coming, Columbia Heights features new development sprinkled throughout a neighborhood still in transition. In most cases, the transformation of a neighborhood is subtle, with a new store here or a freshly polished shop there. Columbia Heights on the other hand, was as subtle as a sledgehammer. This new complex, named DC USA, is home to the District's first Target and also features a half dozen other major national chains including a Bed, Bath, and Beyond and a Best Buy.

Bethesda. While technically in Maryland, Bethesda (and other nearby neighborhoods like Chevy Chase) is where DC's rich goes to live and/or shop when they want to avoid the scene that is Georgetown. But beyond the glitzy stores and high-end boutiques lies a clean and friendly pocket of town filled with hybrid cars, discussions of art and literature, and PTA meetings. Suburbia at its best... if you can afford it.