Washington, D.C./Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights

Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights are three bordering neighborhoods in Washington DC, each with a different character, but united in an unmistakable sense of dynamism, diversity, youth, and nightlife.

Understand

The Meridian Hill Park Fountain

Dubbed by the Washington City Paper as the Liquorridor, these 3 neighborhoods contain a denser population of bars and clubs than anywhere else in Washington DC, and are an extremely trendy spots for a night on the town. There are plenty of great ethnic restaurants, most often offering a better value for your money than in Dupont Circle, downtown, or Georgetown. These neighborhoods are good places to see the city at its most dynamic; people from all walks of life, culture, race, sexual orientation, immigrants, natives, transplants, etc. all converge here to have a good time.

Adams Morgan is north of Dupont Circle and the U St Corridor. It is best known for the nightlife district on 18th St between Florida and Columbia Rd, which after midnight on weekends gets so packed full of revelers that it's hard to move down the sidewalk. It's more than that, though—it's a lovely, historic, culturally vibrant neighborhood, full of eccentric shopping, outdoor markets, great restaurants, and community murals!

Mount Pleasant, with a population of approximately 11,000 people, is more of a small town in the city. Mount Pleasant Street is full of small shops, bars, and restaurants, primarily serving Latin American food. Although 50% white, the population here is 25% Hispanic and is the cultural center of the city's Salvadoran population, although the vast majority of the area's enormous Salvadoran population lives outside the city proper. It is nice for a Saturday stroll to soak up the Latin vibes, see some chanchona bands, and delve into one of the city's famous pupuserías.

Columbia Heights, like much of the city, was devastated by the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Efforts to revitalize the area are much more recent than in Adams Morgan or Shaw and Columbia Heights is now in the midst of gentrification. The neighborhood includes the Tivoli Theatre, home of the GALA Hispanic Theatre, and the DCUSA shopping mall, which includes several major chain retailers including Target, Best Buy, Marshall's, and Bed Bath & Beyond. There are many restaurants, bars, and hipster hangouts, lending to a vibe as close to that of New York's Williamsburg.

Columbia Heights is marked dramatically on its southern border by the a geological formation known as the Fall Line, which runs along Florida Avenue. This steep escarpment divides America's Piedmont Plateau from the Tidewater region of Virginia. If you are looking for a good view of the city, head to the hill on 13th St just north of Florida near Cardozo High School. This natural formation is also responsible for the dramatic terraces and fountains of Meridian Hill aka Malcolm X Park which, aside from restaurants and bars, is the major point of interest in the neighborhood.

Get in

By Metrorail

For more information on riding the Metrorail in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get around.

The closest stop to Adams Morgan is the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan stop on the Red Line, which is actually a 10 minute walk from Adams Morgan's bars on 18th street. The Columbia Heights metro station on the Green and Yellow Lines is located at the main commercial intersection of Columbia Heights and is a few blocks from Mount Pleasant.

By bus

The following are the main bus routes operating in these neighborhoods, along with links to timetables and route maps. For more information on riding buses in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get around.

By car

The main streets for driving north-south are 16th St and Georgia Ave, although 14th St can be a surprisingly quick route north of U St. Major east-west routes are fewer and more confusing: Columbia Rd is the best route to go between Connecticut Ave in Dupont Circle and the Washington Hospital Center and Catholic University and points in Brookland.

Parking & safety considerations

It's not very hard to find street parking on side streets in Columbia Heights and to a lesser extent Mount Pleasant. Adams Morgan, on the other hand, is packed. Since these neighborhoods have an above-average frequency of muggings, be careful when walking back to your car at night by yourself.

By taxi

Taxis are easy to catch on the main drags in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, and pretty much anywhere within Adams Morgan.

See

Bars and restaurants in Adams Morgan

Cultural Tourism DC has established 16 Neighborhood Heritage Trails throughout DC. These are free self-guided walking tours that take approximately 90 minutes each to complete. Important sites on the trails are marked by large poster-sized signs attached to lampposts - you will see these all over the city. These trails will take you to lesser-known historic sites and will give you a unique insight into life in DC over the years. Each of Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, and Adams Morgan have a separate Neighborhood Heritage Trail.

Parks

Murals

The legendary Madam's Organ

This part of the city has a ton of colorful neighborhood murals, worth seeking out if you like public art, and worth noticing even if you couldn't care less!

Do

Shops, restaurants, and bars on 18th St

Theater

Festivals & Events

Buy

Import shops and record stores are strongly associated with Adams Morgan, specifically on 18th street.

Columbia Heights is the location of the DCUSA Shopping Mall, the largest retail development within the city limits, which includes the large discount chains of Best Buy, Target, Marshall's, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Imports

Fashion

18th St in Adams Morgan

Books and Music

Happily, Adams Morgan's book and music shops, while esoteric, lack the pretension and snobbishness you'll find in most other cities. Staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and welcoming (if slow).

Farmers' Markets

These outdoor markets, held on Saturday mornings year-round except winter, are extremely popular places to buy locally produced goods from farmers and bakers.

Eat

Jumbo Slice Pizza is the food specialty of Adams Morgan. Various take out stores along the 18th St nightlife strip, between Columbia Rd and Florida Ave, serve enormous, greasy slices of pizza for around $5 per slice to hungry drunks until 4AM. There are different opinions about which of the jumbo slice pizza places is best, but the truth is that it's never good pizza --- but it can be very satisfying late at night if you need a quick fill, especially after drinking at the adjacent bars. The three most well-known pizza stores are Pizza Mart (2445 18th St NW), Jumbo Pizza (2341 18th St NW), and Pizza Boli's (1511 U St NW), a DC-area chain with a location in Shaw.

Jumbo slice pizza

Salvadoran Cuisine, provided by the area's enormous Salvadoran community, is the food specialty of Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant. There is one word that you will know after a visit, and that is pupusa. Pupusas are thick corn maize tortillas stuffed with soft cheese, cheese + loroco (a Salvadoran flower), squash, pork, refried beans, or all sorts of other things, then topped with pickled cabbage (curtido) and tangy red sauce. They generally cost $1.50-$2.00 each, but you will need at least a few if you are hungry. Pupusas revueltas include more than one filling, such as bacon and cheese - a local favorite. They are delicious. Pupusas in D.C. are serious business; they are always cooked to order, and will take at least ten minutes to prepare. Someone will almost always speak some English, but it's a good idea to keep a little Spanish in your pocket (dos pupusas de loroco con queso, por favor). Aside from pupusas, look for Salvadoran soups and delicious atoles. An atol is somewhere between porridge, hot chocolate, and a milkshake, made from corn meal, most of the spices you'd expect in pumpkin pie, and occasionally chocolate.

Beware Mexican food served in the Salvadoran restaurants, or anywhere in D.C., as there is virtually no Mexican immigrant community. With the exception of Taquería Distrito Federal and Super Tacos and Bakery, the Mexican dishes are inauthentic rubbish. Stick to the Salvadoran entrees. The Salvadoreños do Peruvian food quite well, though, so you'll find good lomo saltado everywhere, and occasionally some incredible pollo a la brasa.

Budget

Pupuserías

Mid-range

Splurge

The Tivoli Theatre

Drink

There are far too many good options to list here—you'd be well-served to do your own reconnaissance by walking up and down 18th St in Adams Morgan. You could hop between five places per day, and it would still take about a month to finish off the neighborhood. Many bars and clubs have sidewalk or rooftop patios that are open during the warmer months. Bars are serving anything from cheap pitchers of beer to expensive champagne based cocktails.

Be aware that on F-Sa nights, the crowd is young and drunk and the whole thing can look a bit like the capital's take on Mardi Gras. That's either a plus or a minus depending on your view, but you can escape this crowd if you choose your bar carefully. Regardless of your tastes, you should be sure to stop by the legendary New Orleans themed Madam's Organ, which offers live music every night of the week.

Bars/Lounges

Clubs

Mount Pleasant rowhouses

Live music

Cafes

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Crime

Muggings are a serious problem in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. Muggings happen more often on quiet side streets, so simply restricting your walks to the main streets and traveling in groups of three or more will lower your odds of a problem.

Pickpocketing is rampant on 18th St on weekend nights. Immense crowds of drunk people bumping into each other makes for a pickpocketing bonanza.

Connect

In addition to the cafes/coffeeshops above, the Mt Pleasant Branch Library is a great place to surf the web on the public terminals or the free Wifi:

Go next

Routes through Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights

Greenbelt Petworth  N  S  Shaw East End
END Petworth  N  S  Shaw East End


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, June 25, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.