Where to Stay on Your Next Trip to DC
The ultimate guide to DC’s best neighborhoods for your next getaway or staycation.
There’s no denying that DC is a town practically built for tourists. But beyond the monument and museum mecca that is the National Mall, excellent restaurants, bars, and off-beat things to do in the nation’s capital are just waiting to be discovered. There’s no harm in visiting a typical tourist spot or two—DC is fraught with them, after all—but once you start to feel like you’re on a middle school field trip, spend some quality time in one of these DC neighborhoods, peel back the suit-and-tie stereotype, and get to know the true, vibrant character of The District.
Adams Morgan and Mount Pleasant
This duo of neighborhoods sits a few miles north of the National Mall so there is rarely a tourist in sight—making this the perfect weekend destination for visitors looking to blend in.
Where to stay: After traversing streets riddled with giant pizza boxes (we’ll get to that), The Line Hotel is an oasis. The hotel is part of a chain four strong and growing, where each space is inspired by the locale it occupies. The DC outpost was carved out of an early-20th century church leaving behind details like vaulted ceilings and a grand exterior to shine alongside indie posh decor. The luxe-yet-approachable hotel is situated smack dab in the middle of the two neighborhoods and sits atop a hill overlooking Adams Morgan (and much of the city!), so the views are incredible.
Things to do: While Adams Morgan will be your nightlife hangout, residential Mount Pleasant makes for perfect lowkey days. Each Peach Market is a dreamy store with sandwiches, a carefully curated selection of wine, and mostly local products, so it’s the perfect place to gear up for an afternoon picnic in nearby Meridian Hill Park or Rock Creek Park. You can scope out a quiet spot on Saturday or eat listening to a roaring drum circle and watching the cascading fountains on Sunday. Perusing a new store dedicated to cookbooks called Bold Fork Books or taking a class at Past Tense Studio are also great ways to spend an afternoon. To mix up your evening plans, head to Suns Cinema for an indie movie and a PBR in a tiny theater where the mix of seats look more like a yard sale than a cinema.
Best restaurants: Your hotel hosts an impressive all-day restaurant, No Goodbyes, and killer room service, but as tempting as it may be to stay in bed all day, you have to venture outside during your stay. Elle, an all-day cafe up the street in Mount Pleasant, has impossibly flakey, buttery biscuits that are the neighborhood’s worst-kept secret. La Tejana is another breakfast destination that draws lines for its morning-time tacos. Come dinnertime, you could head to Lucky Buns for a juicy burger with worldly toppings and innovative cocktails. For something a little more upscale, Tail Up Goat is a legendary neighborhood bistro with a four-course Mediterranean tasting menu and Caribbean-inspired cocktails, while Lapis offers a collection Afghan fare unlike anything else in the city.
Best bars and nightlife: Adams Morgan was once known for sticky dancefloors and drunk college kids, but don’t hold that against it. Sure, you can get liquor in a squirt bottle at Dan’s Cafe, one of DC’s best dive bars, but top-notch cocktail bars are popping up all over to revitalize this nightlife mainstay. Stop into Jack Rose Dining Saloon for a whiskey tasting experience you won’t soon forget, or head across the street to its sister spot, The Imperial, to further explore the owners’ vast collection of rare spirits. Up the street, continue drinking cocktails at Middle Eastern bar The Green Zone, or visit the hidden gem of the neighborhood, Grand Duchess before dancing ‘til the wee hours at the new French-Canadian-themed disco, Le Mont Royal. Wherever you spend your night, ease your drunchies with seriously huge pizza at one of the aptly named Jumbo Slice locations on 18th Street or a pita at Amsterdam Falafel Shop.
With a prime location bordering the Potomac River and bars and restaurants seeking to rid this neighborhood of its tourist trap reputation, there’s never been a better time to visit Georgetown.
Where to stay: You could stay at the major chains or boutique hotels positioned along the waterfront (like the country’s most infamous hotel, The Watergate), but the true gems are hidden among tree-lined streets. Georgetown is known for cobblestoned streets with gorgeous historic row houses—so your best bet is to grab an Airbnb a few blocks up from the riverside. There are plenty of options, but this gorgeous and airy townhouse or luxurious, four-bedroom home will surely catch your eye.
Things to do: Shopping is one of the main reasons people venture into the public transportation void that is Georgetown. But the neighborhood is so much more than M Street. Check out the small businesses that give the neighborhood its charm, like The Phoenix, The Lantern, and Pillar & Post. DC certainly doesn’t have the concrete jungle qualities of other major cities, but you’ll enjoy the respite from city life along the Potomac River and The C&O Canal Towpath. For the less adventurous, you can have tea in the gardens at the Dumbarton Oaks estate or climb the steps that led to Father Damien Karras’ death in The Exorcist.
Best restaurants: This neighborhood is flush with top-notch eateries. If you want to lean into Georgetown’s reputation as one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, you can dine at neighborhood staples 1789 or Café Milano, both of which are see-and-be-seen spots for the political set or the new fine dining establishment L'Avant-Garde. But it’s not all three-figure prices and fine wine. Check out Falafel Inc., a charitable fast-casual spot where pitas and bowls are stuffed with Mediterranean toppings at $4 each. Off the main drag, you’ll find Stachowski’s Market where you can take home meat from the butcher for dinner or order a mile-high sandwich with fresh cut meat and still get change for a $20. The mania surrounding Georgetown Cupcakes still means ‘round the block lines so you may want to shift your sights to Baked & Wired, Ladurée, or Levain Bakery.
Best bars and nightlife: Georgetown’s party scene has moved up the ranks in the past few years adding two sprawling beer bars—The Sovereign, which boasts nearly 400 brews, and Church Hall, a subterranean game bar perfect for watching sports on its 17 TVs. Newer bars add some liveliness to the neighborhood but if you want to stay true to the area’s more refined reputation, you can visit The Fountain Inn, a stellar whiskey bar and tasting room, or Apero, a champagne and caviar bar perfect for a special occasion.
Old Town Alexandria
Want a small-town weekend far away from the eye-sore federal buildings of DC? Alexandria, Virginia is your Metro-accessible ticket to cobblestoned streets and tiny shops.
Where to stay: For a weekend in Alexandria, your best bet is Lorien Hotel & Spa. The much-loved boutique hotel has a gorgeous spa and two restaurants you’ll actually want to visit. Situated just a few blocks from the waterfront in charming Old Town, you’ll be in the perfect location for your weekend outside of DC proper.
Things to do: Whether holiday lights are strung overhead or the sun is glistening off the Potomac River, King Street is a gorgeous destination for your small-town getaway. You could easily spend all day exploring locally owned boutiques, home decor stores, and antique shops that fill worn-brick buildings. Check out indie clothes and accessories at Threadleaf, mid-century-modern cocktail glassware at The Hour, your next great read at Old Town Books, or obscure records at Crooked Beat. For a quick history lesson, visit the Mount Vernon Estate just eight miles south of Old Town to tour George Washington’s old home (and distillery!) or explore an art center at a former World War II torpedo factory right in Alexandria.
Best restaurants: Alexandria’s dining scene is downright impressive. You may be out of political territory, but you can still dine in the seats of former presidents in Alexandria. Check out Vermillion, a cozy, farm-to-table restaurant visited by Barack and Michelle Obama for a Valentine’s Day dinner in the midst of his reelection campaign. Take a trip around the world without leaving the ‘hood with Ethiopian cuisine at Makeda, high-end sashimi at Nasime, or Indian and Nepalese fare at the tiny Royal Nepal. For more casual options, slurp a dozen at Hank’s Oyster Bar or ice cream at the longstanding local favorite, Pop’s Old Fashion Ice Cream Co.
Best bars and nightlife: We’ve said Virginia is for (beer) lovers and Alexandria is no exception—so spend the weekend at Port City Brewing, one of the most well-known hops spots in the area. If beer isn’t your thing Lost Boy Cider’s dog-friendly brewery will do the trick. Or, if you really want to go under the radar for the weekend, pull a lever on the wall inside of RailBird Kitchen to reveal Captain Gregory’s, a speakeasy where you can hold court all night while enjoying the cocktails.
H Street Corridor
Once a far-out and largely inaccessible region, the H Street Corridor in Northeast DC is now seen as a foodie destination, music lover’s paradise, and even a historical site well worth exploring.
Where to stay: H Street Corridor is among the smallest neighborhoods in The District, so your options are somewhat limited. You won’t find any major hotels in these indie digs, but a host of Airbnb options include historic row houses or stylish, exposed-brick apartments.
Things to do: DC’s storied punk scene from the early ’80s has ebbed and flowed ever since and, while many of the major venues from that period are gone, some of the spots keeping the underground scene alive are on H Street Corridor. Atlas Theater, a historic and legendary venue directly on H Street, showcases local and international talent, while a venue tucked inside Pie Shop hosts local bands. Sort of like a mini-Smithsonian museum, Gallery O on H is a community space that hosts art shows and even features outdoor jazz concerts in its courtyard.
Best restaurants: For years, the food scene in this neighborhood was tragically underrated. But thanks to attention from national publications (including this one), people are flocking to the NE quadrant for the best food and drink in the city. Toki Underground, a hip ramen joint that many say kicked off the dish’s boom in DC, has made H Street a food destination since Erik Bruner-Yang first opened its doors. Fast-forward nearly 10 years and the neighborhood boasts multiple innovative restaurants that are some of the best in DC. There’s another Bruner-Yang spot, Maketto, that has an amazing dim-sum brunch; Daru, an innovative Indian restaurant on the far eastern end of H Street has been drawing crowds since it opened in 2021; Cane, a brother-sister act dishing stand out Caribbean cuisine; and Fancy Radish, a vegan restaurant that keeps collecting accolades.
Best bars and nightlife: From dive bars to cocktails, H Street Corridor has it all. Copycat Company has perfected all of the classics for when you just want an expertly made gimlet. If you want a more active night out, head to H Street Country Club, but don’t be fooled by the name. The only golf you’ll be doing at this bar is of the mini variety. Plus you’ll play shuffleboard, Skee-Ball, and other games, while most likely drinking a cheap beer or frozen margarita. Mainstays in the neighborhood are mostly divey so be sure to pay rough-around-the-edges spots like The Pug and Little Miss Whiskey's their due—and bring some cash.
Navy Yard/Southwest Waterfront
It’s hard to deny that the city’s newest neighborhood and undeniable tourist haven has become a hot spot for those seeking waterfront views and splashy names in food, drink, and entertainment.
Where to stay: The rapidly growing development at The Wharf means there’s a new tasting menu restaurant, top-notch cocktail bar, or luxury hotel seemingly every time you turn around. So lean into that and check out one of the new hotels overlooking the Potomac River like the Intercontinental, which is gold-plated from its trendy ground-floor restaurant Moon Rabbit and rooftop pool, or The Pendry, an intimate, European-inspired hotel that recently debuted with a spa, restaurant, rooftop bar, and Orient Express-inspired cocktail lounge.
Things to do: Between The Wharf and Navy Yard, there are plenty of lowkey outdoor activities to fill up your entire weekend. Yards Park has an Instagram-famous bridge you can explore and a water basin that pays homage to the historic canal that once ran from the Anacostia River to the Capitol Building. The brand new Rubell Museum houses an impressive collection of contemporary art in a sweeping former school building (and it’s free for DC residents). You won’t find greener pastures than Yards Park or the small but interesting waterfront Titanic Memorial, but if you leave in search of them, get a scoop at Ice Cream Jubilee—arguably the best cone in The District. If you’re looking to set your activities in stone, The Anthem has quickly become a destination for national musical acts and Nationals Park is sure to be abuzz with fans rooting for the home team.
Best restaurants: You’ll find that DC chainlets like TaKorean and District Doughnut abound near The Wharf, so use this opportunity to grab lunch at one of them. But when it comes time for your main meal, the restaurants here are designed for the expense account set but some are worth the extra dollar signs. Albi, a decadent Middle Eastern restaurant by chef Michael Rafidi is delicious enough to blunt the price tag. Another local culinary star, Fabio Trabocchi, plays with Spanish seafood in a dreamy spot called Del Mar that will make you feel like you took a quick flight to Mallorca. Speaking of seasides, La Vie is a coastal haven that is worth a trip just to take in the sprawling chandeliers.
Bars and nightlife: Rooftop bars are hardly few and far between, and lucky for us, many are concentrated along the rivers that wrap around Southwest DC. Officina, a three-level Italian market, restaurant, and bar megaplex is one of the few year-round spots where you can take in the riverfront views. When the weather warms up, hotel bars redeem themselves with rooftops boasting incredible views. 12 Stories, the gleaming cocktail bar atop the InterContinental, is always a great choice, while Whiskey Charlie features sleek fireplaces and classic cocktails. If you’d rather run the gamut of tastings, hit up Bluejacket’s massive taproom and District Winery, which was the first commercial winery in DC, before heading to Tiki TNT to sample Thrasher’s Rum and tour the distillery on select days.