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Modern love for DC’s oldest neighborhood
Quaint row houses line the streets, but occasional modern elements, industrial relics and back-alley diversions remind you that the long-standing, historic Georgetown neighborhood is as popular as ever.
Micro neighborhoods fill the nearly 1.2-square-mile Georgetown area, such as Book Hill, high atop Wisconsin Avenue and rich in boutique shopping, posh dining and arts and antiques. The intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street is the heart of the neighborhood and the shopping district, with both local, independent merchants, and national and international fashion brands. South of M Street you’ll find the C&O Canal and Potomac River that define the Canal District, full of nooks and crannies to explore.
Start your day with a hand-crafted cup of coffee from the baristas at local DC favorite, Baked & Wired. Whatever you do, don’t miss the baked side of this split-personality shop. NOTE: When you’re in Georgetown, yes, cupcakes are perfectly acceptable breakfast food.
Walk off that caffeine/sugar buzz with a stroll down the C&O Canal Towpath, a remnant from Georgetown’s early industrial period, now popular among joggers, bicyclists and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of M Street.
History more your thing? Head up the hill to one of Georgetown’s three houses-turned-museums: Dumbarton Oaks, Tudor Place and Dumbarton House. Those inclined to outdoor activities can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard at Key Bridge Boathouse in spring and summer, or rent a bike from Big Wheel Bikes. If strolling is more your speed, take a walk through the Georgetown Waterfront Park along the Potomac River, with sweeping views of the Kennedy Center, Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island.
Kafe Leopold is the definition of a hidden gem. Tucked away in the design district known as Cady’s Alley and just off of busy M Street, this modern European-style oasis serves up authentic Austrian cuisine and is always buzzing with a fashionable crowd.
Keep things almost exclusively local at ENO Wine Bar for a flight of expertly curated international reds, whites or bubblies, and pair them with locally sourced charcuterie, cheese and chocolate.
If you’re craving pizza, Georgetown really has you covered. Pizzeria Paradiso is the spot for gourmet pies with beer pairings. Just around the corner on Wisconsin Avenue is il Canale, serving up official Vera Pizza Napoletana, in other words, the real-deal, certified Neapolitan-style ‘za.
Georgetown is DC’s design capital, so skip the snow globe and save some space in your suitcase for souvenirs that will beautify your home. Home to galleries, local boutiques and national chains, Cady’s Alley started off as a service alley but is now the primo path for trendy home furnishings.
Visit the Jonathan Adler store for a taste of his signature colorful “happy chic” look. A bit further north on Wisconsin Avenue, american/holiday features a carefully curated collection of gifts and decorative accessories.
At the same time, with more than 150 specialty stores devoted to fashion, you can find something for every style, from preppy to edgy. National designers and retailers share the same streets as small, local boutiques that aren’t available anywhere else in DC.
The District’s only Tory Burch store features the designer’s accessory collection – all the polished details to pull a look together. Other fashion exclusives to Georgetown include Billy Reid, Frye, Steven Alan, rag & bone and Barneys Co-op. If you think high fashion is out of your budget pay a visit to Second Time Around and Ella Rue for consignment couture, or the designer department at T.J. Maxx. And for the little ones, don’t miss egg by Susan Lazar or Dawn Price Baby, carrying the cutest toddler fashions.
Georgetown was once a mecca for live music, hosting performers like U2 and Neil Young in tiny venues before they became household names. While most of those places have since closed, there are still some stellar options for live music in the neighborhood.
Get your jazz and eat it too at Blues Alley, a nearly 50-year-old dinner club located in a service alley off Wisconsin Avenue. Greats like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie once played at this historic spot. DJs regularly turn Malmaison into a nighttime haven for lively dance parties – many fueled by creative craft cocktails. Another recent addition to the music scene, Gypsy Sally’s, offers up Americana by way of live acts, helping to bring the return of a musical legacy back to the Georgetown waterfront.
Keep things lively and active at Pinstripes, an Italian-style bistro with a bowling and bocce component. For a nightcap, avoid the college crowds and class things up at a hotel bar. In the warm months The Graham Georgetown hotel’s Observatory bar offers unparalleled rooftop views of the city. Whiskey aficionados shouldn’t miss Capella’s Rye Bar, serving up aged cocktails.