My friend Kelly came into town, and on one of the days I took her to see an area of DC I hadn’t spent enough time in: the northern part, which features Embassy Row, the National Cathedral, and Georgetown.
Since we were in a car, it was easy enough for us to just slowly drive around the Kalorama neighborhood, near Massachusetts Avenue and Sheridan Circle. You could also take a Zip car- I noticed quite a few Zip cars in the area, and there were Capital Bike docks nearby as well, so a bike ride in nice weather would be a lovely way to see the embassies. DC has more than 175 foreign embassies, residences, and diplomatic missions, so don’t expect to see them all. But focusing on Massachusetts Avenue and nearby streets should let you see close to 30 of them, including Philippines, Portugal, Togo, Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, and Japan. My favorite is the imposing Kazakhstan embassy. In fact, here’s a handy map.
In addition to seeing a bunch of embassies, we also saw Jared and Ivanka Trump’s house, the Obama’s new house, and Jeff Bezos’ place, which is actually the biggest house in Washington, and formerly was the Textile Museum. As we drove by, they were removing the Textile Museum marble sign.
In May of each year, over 50 embassies open their doors for public visits. You can try various foods, and watch cultural dances or presentations like karate. The event is from 10 am-4 pm on May 5th this year (2018). You don’t need a reservation, but you will need to bring an ID. Follow #passportDC on Twitter for more info if you’re thinking of visiting.
I have a habit of getting lost while driving around DC, but I pretended to Kelly that I was really just showing her all the sights. Eventually we made it to the National Cathedral, parked, and as luck would have it, there was a guided tour starting in just a few minutes. We joined in, and I learned a lot of fascinating information. For instance, there is a stained glass window depicting the lunar landing- and embedded in the glass is a small, actual moon rock. There used to be a stained glass window featuring Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson, which was quietly removed in September 2017. Only one US president (Woodrow Wilson) is buried in the Cathedral, and Helen Keller and her tutor Anne Sullivan are buried there as well. There is a Darth Vader gargoyle on one of the towers (courtesy of a school-children contest in the 1980’s); also, you can take an elevator up to the tower and walk around and get an amazing view of Washington (it is the highest point in DC). It cost $65 million to build, and none of that came from the federal government. The cathedral is free to visit; there are some free guided tours, and there are also other paid guided tours of the inside and the grounds- see their website for details. They also feature musical concerts, weddings, and of course worship services there.
As it was a nice day, and we really wanted to pick up a Georgetown cupcake, we drove a few blocks to Georgetown, parked, and walked up and down M Street NW. The Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath goes right through that area, and makes a nice walk, jog, or bike path along the water and a little away from the shopping crowds. There is every clothing store you can imagine on that stretch, as well as bars, restaurants, bookshops, and of course cupcakes. The line was around the block but we were not deterred. Many people don’t know that the Dumbarton Oaks park, a 27-acre gem, is right by there, as is the Francis Scott Key Park, and you can also walk down to the Potomac and try out some kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards at the Key Bridge Boathouse. Georgetown is pretty famous: Julia Child used to live there, and the “Exorcist stairs” are there as well- see if you can find them. All the architecture along the street is varied and interesting to look at.
All of these areas are fun, and easy enough if you’re in a car. If not, you can take the metro or you can try my super “insider DC” trick: I recommend that people take the DC Circulator out to the farthest site they want to see on any day, then spend the rest of the day meandering back to their hotel (if you’re staying in the District). The Circulator is only $1 each time you hop on it. They have six different lines and go pretty much everywhere in DC. It’s a great way to see DC!
What’s your favorite neighborhood in DC? Let me know in the comments below!