When you think of Georgetown, a few things may come to mind. Georgetown University, the waterfront, a lack of Metro access and the word “expensive.” But there’s so much more to this leafy enclave than textbooks, spotty transportation and overpriced retail.
Home to the iconic stairway from The Exorcist and some of town’s best restaurants and shops, the historic tree-lined streets and stunning waterfront offers amazing eats, spectacular shopping and views you can’t get from any other vantage point in D.C. Here’s a closer look at what makes this neighborhood special to locals and tourists alike.
Georgetown sits across the Potomac River from Arlington, bordered to the east by Foggy Bottom and to the north by Glover Park and Foxhall. M Street and Wisconsin Avenue serve as the neighborhood’s main arteries, with residential side streets branching towards and away from the river. Inaccessible by the Metro (the closest stops are Dupont Circle or Foggy Bottom), Georgetown has long been viewed as almost a separate town within D.C. proper.
As the northernmost navigable town on the Potomac River, Georgetown quickly established itself as an important stop in the early tobacco trade. Ships traveling the river used Georgetown as a principal port for loading and unloading goods, before transferring their products to barges on the C&O Canal and continuing west into Appalachia.
Georgetown’s location also helped establish the neighborhood as the perfect place to conduct business in privacy, hosting presidents from George Washington to JFK. Today, the area is home to numerous high end shops, restaurants and historical homes, and offers some of D.C.’S best water sports.
THINGS TO DO
In Georgetown, it’s all about the water. Stroll along Georgetown Waterfront Park (bring your dog!) and take in spectacular views of the Potomac, Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Key Bridge and the Kennedy Center. In warmer months several restaurants offer outdoor waterfront dining, while in the winter a seasonal skating rink offers a chance to embrace your inner Olympiad.
Leaving from the Georgetown boardwalk are a variety of boat tours, each offering a unique take on our nation’s capital. Looking to enjoy a dose of history? Opt for Capitol River Cruises. Want to party and dance the night away? Purchase a ticket on the Boomerang Party Boat and experience a night like no other.
Home to some of the biggest brands in retail, M Street is a shopaholic’s dream. Many of road’s historical buildings have been beautifully preserved and are home to shops ranging from Anthropologie to Vineyard Vines.
Obey your morning sweet tooth and head for a pick-me-up at District Donuts. Handmade in an array of mouthwatering flavors, the treats here sell out fast.The menu changes by the season, so there’s always something new to try! For a hip cup of joe, stop by Grace Street Coffee in the heart of Georgetown. From lattes to espresso, the folks at Grace Street know their way around a bean. Be sure to try one of their iced coffees during warmer months.
Enjoy excellent baked goods and local coffee for a good cause at Dog Tag Bakery, which donates its profits to programs that benefit DC veterans. When you’re craving macarons and other upscale Parisian baked goods, Ladurée is the place to be.
If you’re looking for an area staple that has traditional French fare, a rustic feel with a stone fireplace and country-inn decor, look no further than La Chaumiere.
Who says New York is tops when it comes corned beef and pastrami? Hidden on a quiet residential street, Stachowski Market is a full service butcher with a lunch menu like no other. Carnivores can sink their teeth into an array of towering sandwiches, with the corned beef and pastrami as good (if not better) than the NYC greats.
Looking for a quick grab and go lunch or dinner? The selection of pre-made foods at Dean & Deluca are to die for, with each dish looking almost too good to eat. Grab a sandwich or salad and walk down to the river to enjoy a picnic lunch.
Juice and tacos may not be the most instinctive pairing, but Jaco on Wisconsin Avenue is on a mission to change that. One part juice stand and one part taqueria, the hole-in-the-wall joint does both to perfection. Indulge in one of their stuffed burritos or tacos and wash it down with a hand squeezed juice made right at the counter.
The Tombs is arguably Georgetown’s most famous restaurant, located underground and just blocks for Georgetown’s campus. From burgers to salads to sandwiches, this quintessential college restaurant is a favorite with locals for good reason.
Enjoy a taste of the old world at Filomena Ristorante, which boats a dizzying array of hand-made pastas. Don’t believe us? Just walk by the restaurant’s front window and watch the dough as it’s transformed into prized noodles.
Brush up on your French at the cozy Chez Billy Sud, which serves up their take on Southern French cuisine. Think savory fish and poultry with garden-fresh sides. The wine list offers some of the region’s best vintages and the bar is open till 2 a.m. on weekends.
Hit up Chaia for chic vegetarian & vegan tacos popularized at farmer’s markets, plus wine and beer.
Georgetown is home to some of the biggest names in retail, but there are plenty of boutiques and specialty stores sprinkled along the colonial streets as well. Find high-end retailers offering home furnishings, clothing & jewelry in an outdoor setting at Cady’s Alley. Hu’s Wear is a stylish, upscale women’s boutique selling a curated selection of designer clothing & accessories.
You don’t have to be a sneakerhead to walk into UBIQ, but chances are you’ll be one when you walk out of this premium shoe store. Getting hitched? Hit up Hitched for your wedding dress and bridal party needs. If you’d rather rent a one-of-a-kind outfit for your next special occasion, you can stop by Rent The Runway’s brick and mortar (one of only five in the world!).
Part library, part museum and part cultural institution, Dumbarton Oaks offers guests the chance to walk through one of the city’s most unique museum and gardens. Located on the former estate grounds of diplomat Robert Woods Bliss and his wife, Mildred, the research library houses a variety of pre-Columbian, Byzantine and Egyptian artifacts and offers guests the chance to marvel at both man-made and natural beauty.
Running parallel to M Street is the C&O canal, which gives the downtown area an Amsterdam-like feel. As the path heads north towards Georgetown University, the canal continues along the river and becomes a scenic nature trail. The towpath stretches 184 miles into western Maryland and is perfect for jogging, mountain biking or a leisurely stroll.
Climb up one of Hollywood’s most famous staircases at the corner of Prospect and 36th Streets. The 75-step staircase is known as the “Exorcist Stairs” due to its role in the classic 1973 horror film. Haven’t seen the movie yet? Give it a watch and you’ll see why they’re so important.
For a different kind of date night fun, head to Pinstripes Georgetown for a rolling good time. The upscale bowling alley features over a dozen lanes and indoor bocce courts for groups of any size. Work up an appetite? Pinstripes’ food ain’t your average bowling alley; it boasts a full service kitchen that stands up to the city’s best restaurants.
What are your favorite places to eat, shop and hang out in Georgetown? Let us know your go-to spots by using #FrayLife.
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