Have you been on the edge of your seats for which streets I’d pick as my ten favorite? Here they are. (Here are #11-20.)
10) K Street NW/NE
DC’s iconic thoroughfare, home to lobbyists, lawyers, and think tanks is so renowned it inspired its own show on HBO.
Starting as Water Street under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown, it crosses Washington Circle to become a multi-modal corridor. It skirts by Farragut Square, Franklin Park, and Mount Vernon Square before quieting down in the H Street area.
9) 8th Street SE/NE
Perhaps best known for the Marine Corps Barracks at 8th & I, the Barracks Row section of Southeast is perhaps the quadrant’s nicest. 8th Street serves as the main corridor between Navy Yard and the H Street area. Eventually, 8th Street will be multimodal, getting a streetcar. The corner of 8th and H will likely be a big hub for the system.
8) Columbia Road NW
Running from the McMillian Reservoir down to Kalorama, Columbia Road connects some of Northwest’s hippest neighborhoods. In Park View and Columbia Heights, it is mostly one-way residential, boasting attractive Federal and Victorian row houses, respectively.
West of 14th Street, it transitions into more of a main street. Most notably, it is the axis between the hearts of Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan, connecting two of the hottest night life districts in the city.
7) Pennsylvania Avenue NW/SE
When it comes to monumental, it doesn’t get bigger than Pennsylvania Avenue, perhaps anywhere in the world. It is the axis between the White House and the Capitol, but so much more. It begins in Georgetown and runs through Foggy Bottom and Washington Circle.
East of the Capitol, it runs through some of the more prominent neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, including Eastern Market and Barney Circle before heading over the John Phillip Sousa Bridge to Randle Highlands and Fort Davis Park. Of course, it is most famous for 1600, the address we all associate with the home of the President of our great nation.
6) H Street NE
For 35 years, H Street reeled from the 1968 riots that hit the corridor quite hard. But for the last eight years, a community-based program to revitalize the stretch has been transforming it into the face of Northeast DC. It will host the first streetcar in the city since they were dismantled in 1962.
The arts and entertainment district by the Atlas Theatre has seen the opening of eclectic night spots like H Street Country Club, Rock and Roll Hotel, Star and Shamrock, Bier Garten Haus, Palace of Wonders, Little Miss Whiskey’s, and Sova, giving the stretch a night life that is beginning to rival Adams Morgan’s.
Currently, the ubiquitous construction on the route makes it not much to look at at the moment, but the promise of street cars and vibrant night life has already started to be realized, assuring H Street will be a great street for generations.
5) 14th Street SW/NW
At Thomas Circle, the street becomes a little less monumental and a little more local, while remaining iconic. Brilliant modern buildings have been sprouting up by classic older buildings, creating an interesting and exciting streetscape.
Perhaps most recognizable these days would be the fantastic redevelopment of Columbia Heights, now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods on the east coast. North of there, 14th Street is a little sleepier but nonetheless charming through 16th Street Heights all the way to Brightwood. From national icon to neighborhood main street, 14th has shown the character and continuity of the DC city street.
4) U Street NW
Bars, jazz and rock music venues, and chili half smokes are what you’re likely to seek on U Street’s prominent corridor between 9th and 16th. But there is a great deal of local history tied to it as well. The African American Civil War Memorial sits at 10th and U.
A few blocks east, U Street runs through historic LeDroit Park. The intersection of 14th and U marks the epicenter of the 1968 riots destroyed much of the corridor among others in the city. It also represents one of the most successful urban revitalization efforts in the United States. 40 years after the intersection was decimated by unrest, it was the site of celebration after the election of Barack Obama.
3) Rhode Island Avenue NE/NW
There are many roads to use to enter the city, many of them the monumental state avenues. Rhode Island is my favorite because it enters from the charming trolley suburb/artists community Mount Rainier.
From there it passes through Woodridge, which right now isn’t as charming as it has been in the past or will be in the future, it typifies outer DC residential neighborhoods with a charming mix of bungalows and colonials. From South Dakota to the train tracks, it separates Brookland in the north from Langdon to the southeast and Brentwood to the southwest. The urbanism slowly intensifies up to the Rhode Island Avenue station, which actually has quite remarkable views of the monuments from the platform. The area around the station is also slated for improvements.
Next is Eckington, where you begin to see historic row houses. Shaw is next, including the now-revived Logan Circle, which has become some of DC’s choicest real estate. Finally it comes to an end on Connecticut just south of Dupont Circle, surrounded by office towers with a healthy mix of urban nightlife nearby. Rhode Island Avenue showcases just about everything DC has to offer, from quiet suburban Woodridge to the hustle and bustle of the Golden Triangle.
2) Massachusetts Avenue SE/NE/NW
Home to many of the embassies, Massachusetts Avenue is in a way the face of DC to the rest of the world. Starting in the East End amidst some classic brick Federals, it pushes on through the older heart of Capitol Hill including Lincoln Park and Stanton Park, home to many Hill staffers from all over the United States. Anyone arriving by train knows Union Station at Columbus Circle as the grand entrance to the city.
Somewhere in there, the embassies start. Embassy Row, formerly known as Millionaire’s Row, is home to some of the most spectacular buildings in the city. 58 Embassies lie on Embassy Row, with 47 of them holding an address on Massachusetts Avenue. Just beyond Ward Circle sits American University, one of DC’s many prestigious institutions of higher learning. From there, it passes through Spring Valley to Westmoreland Circle, address of some of DC’s finest Colonials. Through three quadrants and numerous neighborhoods, Massachusetts Avenue connects some of the best that DC has to offer, and for many diplomats, politicos, students, and tourists, it is the face of the city.
1) Q Street NW/NE
I think Q stands for Quiet and Quaint. Starting from the west just past Wisconsin Avenue, Q street runs past the Tudor Place mansion through Dumbarton Oaks, perhaps the most beautiful part of any downtown in any large American city I have ever seen.
After the bridge over Rock Creek Park, Q passes just south of Sheridan Circle and just north of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, by-passing the traffic (and making a nice bike ride) while still basking in the charm of those three distinct neighborhoods.
Between 17th and 16th you have the Cairo, the largest DC residential building, a gorgeous and historic 164 foot tower. It passes through the heart of Shaw before ending in Eckington. The entire length is characterized by some of DC’s most beautiful Federals and Victorians, often with charming gardens in front. It is one of the cleanest and friendliest streets in DC, close to just about everything but quiet and less traveled than nearby P Street.
Researching these streets has been fun and interesting. However, there are certainly streets that I haven’t yet discovered in this fine city. What are your favorite streets?
- P Street NW: The stately link between Georgetown, Dupont, and Logan Circle
- Benning Road NE: Perhaps not much to look at now, but the promise of streetcars brings much potential
- Kansas Avenue NW: The charming heart of Petworth
- South Carolina SE: Capitol Hill’s unassuming beauty
- Kennedy Street NW/NE: Dynamic up-and-coming Vinegar Hill destination
- Wisconsin Avenue NW: Grand corridor between Bethesda and Georgetown
- Reno Road NW: Scenic alternative to Wisconsin and Connecticut