Now that you’ve had an introduction to the Washington, D.C., neighborhoods of Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and Dupont Circle, it’s time to take a look at other areas that have had their ups and downs in the past, but are now some of the most popular neighborhoods in the District. Just as it was with the previous article, I’ll do my best to give you a feel of the neighborhood’s ambiance, outline the types of activities you can do as a visitor and as a local, and mention a few notable eateries and hangouts. Let’s dive in.
Revitalized Washington DC Neighborhoods
Adams Morgan – The Cultural Melting Pot
This neighborhood had a controversial start considering it was named after two formerly segregated elementary schools, the once all-black Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School and the one-time, all-white John Quincy Adams Elementary School. Adams Morgan has been, and continues to be the “gateway community” for immigrants, primarily those of Latino origins from countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, and more recently those from Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. These immigrants managed to successfully integrate themselves, which is why you’ll find countless small businesses in this neighborhood that sell unpretentious, one-of-a-kind items, similar to the likes of what you’ll find at big open-air markets. Whether it’s spices or antiques, Adams Morgan is a delight to browse around.
It also has a reputation for being a magnet for nightlife. There are literally hundreds of pubs, clubs, and dive bars (The Black Squirrel) in this neighborhood, which can make living in the area unpleasant on weekend nights, but if you’re ok with that temporary chaos week over week, it’s certainly a very interesting place to live in.
H Street Corridor – The Retail Mecca Turned Indie Go-To
It wasn’t too long ago when H Street Corridor was home to a large number of retail stores and shops in Washington, but like many parts of the District, it was destroyed in the riots that broke out after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK). It remained neglected for decades until about the early 2000s, when locals and the city government saw the potential for the neighborhood rebirth. The historic Atlas Theater was restored and then reopened as the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Soon enough, other entertainment spots like The Argonaut and The Rock and Roll Hotel followed. The growing number of entertainment venues attracted indie restaurants and before we knew it, the neighborhood is hosting some of the hottest openings in the city like that of Maketto.
H Street is one of those revitalized Washington DC neighborhoods, though it isn’t quite up to its potential yet, and with the lack of accessibility to the Metro, it might take even longer for Washingtonians to give it the love it most certainly deserves. It’s moving towards the right direction though; especially since the prices for real estate in the area is skyrocketing at almost 20% annualized return.
U Street Corridor – Bustling and Buzzing
If there’s truly a neighborhood that been completely transformed in Washington, D.C. after the devastating riots of the late 1960s, it’s the area surrounding U Street Corridor. 14th Street is buzzing with plenty of bars and restaurants, while the jazz clubs and performance halls like the Bohemian Caverns, that once hosted the likes of Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Charles Mingus, are hopping venues once more. The neighborhood restored many of its historic row houses and cleaned up its oak and maple tree-lined streets. Gentrification also helped expedite the transformation, which in turn, brought in the new wave of young professionals that now call the “New U” home.
Despite its conversion into one of the revitalized Washington DC neighborhoods, you’ll still find the cultural legacies of the old U Street emanating for the sidewalk. As soon as you step out of the U Street Metro stop, you’ll notice the aroma of the original Ben’s Chili Bowl competing with Caribbean and soul food staples like Oohh’s and Aahh’s while artists and performers continue to hope to find their luck on the streets.
Columbia Heights – Suburban Version of U Street
The arrival of big box retailers in Columbia Heights completed the revitalized Washington DC neighborhoods renaissance from edgy to inviting. Much of Columbia Heights was also hit hard during the riots that raged after MLK’s assassination, but like U Street, gentrification led to the construction of multi-level condominiums, apartment buildings, chain hotels in Washington DC, and the arrival of chain casual eateries. When you go to Columbia Heights now, you’ll find one of the revitalized Washington DC neighborhoods that’s doing its best to blend modern conveniences with its traditional character. Not far from a Chipotle, you’ll come across its ethnic counterpart, Taqueria Distrito Federal.
For more information on more established Washington, D.C., neighborhoods, check out the Part I of this series.