Washington, D.C. is best known as the capital of the United States.
And while it’s true that the city is often inundated with tourists flocking to the city’s many attractions–including the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, and 17 Smithsonian museums and galleries–it has much more to offer, still.
What makes D.C. so special is the diverse, multicultural neighborhoods that surround the center of the city. These areas have rich histories in their own right and provide a lot of options for newcomers to consider when moving to the area. Here’s what you need to know before making your move.
Washington, D.C. has to offer
Close to the heart of D.C. are the Logan Circle and Shaw neighborhoods,
which are bordered by the iconic Dupont Circle to the west and the hip U Street Corridor to the north. This area has more of a city feel to it than other parts of the district, and has seen a lot of new restaurants, stores, and venues spring up over the last 15 years. With two Metrorail stops nearby (U Street and Shaw-Howard), the area is well-served by public transportation. Due to it being home to the historic Howard University and its bustling nightlife, the area is popular among both young professionals and students.
Georgetown, with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings, is not only home to the eponymously named Georgetown University, but it is also full of great restaurants, retail stores, and some of the best art galleries in the city. Many young professionals and students take advantage of the breadth of things to do here–partaking in the late-night bar scene, attending yoga classes, and running along the Waterfront, to name a few. Those in this area with children have the benefit of living close to several highly-rated schools. One potential downside of the neighborhood, however, is that the city’s Metrorail does not have a stop here, and so public transport to and from the area is more difficult than between other places in D.C.
Woodley Park is nestled in Northwest D.C. and has its own stop on the Metrorail, making it a popular neighborhood for those looking for easy access to downtown. The neighborhood is also bordered by Rock Creek Park and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, giving it a “greener” feel than locales closer to the center of the city. But even though the area boasts many parks, the neighborhood still has that city feel, as its residents are mostly young professionals and families. On the other side of the zoo is Mount Pleasant, a culturally rich and international community that also borders Piney Branch Park, giving the neighborhood a vibrant urban life in addition to its abundant green space. Both neighborhoods have high-ranking schools within their borders as well, making them attractive to families with young children.
If you take the Metrorail Red Line north of Woodley Park, you’ll find a slew of neighborhoods like Cleveland Park, Tenleytown, McClean Gardens, and Friendship Heights that are great neighborhoods for families and young professionals. These areas, along with the adjacent neighborhoods of Cathedral Heights, Glover Park, and American University Park (the last of which is close to American University) are all great options for families looking for good primary schools and a mix of urban and suburban life.Collapse
Food & CultureExpand
Almost all of D.C.’s neighborhoods have their own mini-ecosystems of restaurants, stores, and venues to explore.
In addition to the options found in the neighborhoods listed above, incoming residents to the city will enjoy going to these hotspots for a meal, drink, or night out.
The U Street Corridor, an area with its own Metrorail stop on 14th street near the Logan Circle and Shaw area, is a historically Black neighborhood best known for its vibrant nightlife. For food, the world-famous Ben’s Chili Bowl is here, as well as a cluster of restaurants in Little Ethiopia. More recently, a slew of high-end restaurants have also moved in, broadening the neighborhood’s offerings. This part of the district is also well-known for its music scene, and houses the famous 9:30 Club as well as several jazz establishments.
Another nightlife hotspot just west of U Street is Adams Morgan, which caters to a younger crowd looking for a fun night out, whether at the blues bar, Madam’s Organ, or at one of the many high-end restaurants in the area.
Just east of Union Station, near the center of D.C., is the H Street NE corridor, a 1.5-mile stretch that is home to the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The area also hosts the annual H Street Festival, which brings thousands to the area each year to enjoy good food, shopping, and performances. You can get there via the D.C. Streetcar from Union Station or by bus, bike-share, or car.
D.C.’s Chinatown is smaller than those in other U.S. cities, but the area has excellent Chinese fare. Located near the center of the district, this neighborhood is also home to several museums, including the National Portrait Gallery. It also hosts D.C.’s largest concert venue, along with several theaters, including the infamous Ford’s Theatre where former President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
D.C. is a major tourism city, in no small part because it is the capital of the U.S. government. The National Mall, a rectangular park in the heart of D.C., holds many of the district’s most frequented attractions. 11 of the Smithsonian’s 22 museums are here, as well as the U.S. Capitol (where the U.S. Congress meets), the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.Collapse
Washington, D.C. has several higher-education institutions within its borders,
including Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, Howard University, and Gallaudet University, the latter of which is a school for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. These and other colleges serve thousands of students, making D.C. very much a college town, especially in certain neighborhoods like Georgetown, Tenleytown, and Cathedral Heights.
For residents with children, the district’s primary school system includes traditional public schools (run by the D.C. government), public charter schools (tuition-free schools that often take enrollment by lottery), and privately-run schools. The district has set up a lottery system that gives all residents the chance to gain admission to their preferred schools; those living within the boundaries of a certain school district have the right to attend there. D.C.’s surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia have very strong school districts as well, particularly in Virginia’s Arlington, Falls Church, Loudoun County, and Fairfax County and Maryland’s Montgomery County.Collapse
The D.C. region’s healthcare system boasts some of the best hospitals in the United States, though the district is often ranked as the country’s most expensive place to receive care. Several medical research institutions like the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and the George Washington University Hospital are located in the area, making it one of the most cutting-edge places to receive treatment nationally.Collapse
Much of D.C. is made accessible by the city’s metro system.
Fares vary from $2 to $6 depending on the time of day, and the system is a popular option for commuting downtown. Many suburban residents commuting into D.C. choose to drive, which has contributed to the city having some of the nation’s worst congestion. Parking gets significantly easier as you get farther away from downtown, though it can still be a challenge in many neighborhoods. Cycling is gaining popularity in the district, with 143 kilometers of bike lanes threaded throughout the city, including a growing number of protected lanes.
The district has two airports: Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National. Dulles is the larger of the two and is a hub for many major international carriers. Baltimore’s Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) airport is also in the D.C. area, and serves as an additional option for domestic and international flights.Collapse
Weather & ClimateExpand
Like much of the mid-Atlantic, D.C. can have frigid winters and sweltering summers,
though the colder months here are milder than in New York and Chicago. Springtime is singularly stunning in D.C., with hundreds of cherry blossoms blooming in unison to mark the end of winter. D.C.’s numerous parks give residents a place to unwind and relax during the warmer months, as do the region’s hiking trails. Some of the country’s best nature preserves are within driving distance of D.C., including the Shenandoah National Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.Collapse
Jobs & IndustriesExpand
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. government is the major employer in D.C. Thousands of residents either work directly for a government agency or for an organization that directly serves the government such as lobbying and professional consulting firms. Education is the second major employer in the area (both high-end institutions and the public school districts), while tourism is the third major industry in the region. Several healthcare and telecommunications companies are also based in the greater D.C. area.Collapse
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