Lay of the Land
Geographically, the sprawling city of Washington, D.C. is divided into four quadrants: Northwest (NW), Southwest (SW), Northeast (NE) and Southeast (SE). For Indagare’s purposes, most relevant hotels, restaurants, sights and attractions are in the NW and SW quadrants–with a few exceptions in the SE section. Within these quadrants, the city has a slew of large and smaller neighborhoods (including many charming circles).
Northwest (NW): This is where you’ll find lovely, established residential neighborhoods including Dupont Circle, Cleveland Park/Woodley Park, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom. Also included in NW is the entire Downtown area (museums, the White House, the Capitol building, the Washington Monument, the National Mall, etc.), which features Penn Quarter, a small district that was somewhat bleak not long ago, but is now hopping with great new restaurants and wine bars.
Georgetown: An anchor of the NW quadrant, the picturesque neighborhood of Georgetown extends from the waterfront north to Montrose Park, west to Georgetown University and east to Dupont Circle. It’s a pleasure to stroll around here. Most shops are located on M Street, between 29th and 35th streets, and up Wisconsin Avenue to about R Street. But take some time to walk along the side streets, like N or Q, on the east side and admire the beautiful old houses. If you want to be based there, the top hotels there are the Four Seasons and Capella.
A favorite Georgetown secret is Dumbarton Oaks. The gardens, which were designed by Beatrix Farrand, are sublime, and the grand old house hosts concerts; nothing is lovelier than hearing chamber music performed there. Tudor Place is another historic house that offers tours. Some of Georgetown’s famous former residents include John and Jackie Kennedy, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Katharine Graham and Pamela Harriman. A fun way to peek behind the scenes is to take the Georgetown Garden Tour, which takes place annually in May.
Southwest (SW): This burgeoning quadrant is home to Arena Stage, the waterfront marina and the Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Southeast (SE): Further afield, the now-cool SE quadrant is best known as the location of the lively Eastern Market, the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and Nationals Park baseball stadium.
Off the Beaten Path: A favorite of diners is to take the trip across the Potomac River to Old Town Alexandria, where many acclaimed restaurants, including Restaurant Eve, The Majestic and PX are located.
D.C.’s exceptionally clean, fast and reliable Metro system is expansive, convenient and easily navigable. I recommend using it whenever possible, although taxis are always plentiful. Alternatively, Uber is a great way get around.
When to Go
The best times to visit DC are the spring and fall when temperatures are mild. Summers can be extremely hot and humid, and winter weather is unpredictable. Be aware when planning a trip that DC frequently hosts festivals and political events, which bring heavy crowds and traffic to the city (especially around the National Mall).