Washington, D.C./West End

The West End is the western section of downtown, including the central business district, sometimes known as Golden Triangle or, simply, K St, along with the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The White House and its grounds function as a barrier between the East End and the West End, with the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Ave closed to motorists. In the daytime, Lafayette Square and the block of Pennsylvania Ave closed to motorists in front of the White House are popular with crowds and street hockey enthusiasts.


Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park

K St is infamous, best known as the physical location where money and power in the U.S. collude. The "fourth branch of government": Lobbyists, special interest groups, contractors, and out of work Congressmen all engage in the extremely lucrative business of political influence. This impression isn't totally fair—first of all, some of the lobbying firms are pushing for noble causes, and secondly, many if not most of the professionals are doing business unrelated to politics. But, K St's infamy outside the city is matched by its local infamy as the most boring section of town. Office buildings dominate and everybody leaves after punching out, leaving the neighborhood empty and quiet, save for big business hotels and expense account dinners. There is some truth to this, but the caricature overlooks the fact that there are some incredible restaurants, Dupont Circle is creeping down past M St, and the McPherson Square area now has its own homegrown clubbing scene.

And then, of course, there is the White House. Famous around the world as the home and office of the world's most powerful person, it is the capital icon most associated with the American government. Surrounded by parks, Lafayette Square and the Ellipse, it's also surprisingly accessible to visitors, and makes a nice backdrop for a casual picnic surrounded by history. And, just west of the White House and grounds are some great art galleries, especially at the Corcoran Museum.

To the southwest is Foggy Bottom, an old Washingtonian neighborhood home to George Washington University, and a prestigious stretch of waterfront home to the Watergate Apartments and the Kennedy Center. Foggy Bottom also houses several big international organizations, like the Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the American Red Cross, as well as several embassies.

Get in

By metro

Metro's Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines run through the West End along I St. Foggy Bottom in the west is the most convenient to the Kennedy Center and to George Washington University; it is also the closest station to the eastern part of Georgetown. The walk from Foggy Bottom to the Mall is a little far, but it is the closest metro station in D.C. to West Potomac Park. Farragut West and McPherson Square are mainly for the business district, but they are also both close to Lafayette Park. The latter is also just a couple blocks from the White House Visitor Center.

The Red Line cuts across the northeast part of the area, with one stop at Farragut North right on K St. Metro Center is the next stop to the east, in the East End, and is the closest Red Line stop to the White House Visitor Center.

By car

Downtown is not driver friendly. There are no above-ground garages, and underground garages are expensive. Street parking is metered, near impossible to find on weekdays, and has a two hour limit. Weeknights and weekends see some easier to find parking west of the White House and south of Pennsylvania Ave. Meter restrictions end Saturday at 6:30PM and all day Sunday. It's harder to find parking near Dupont Circle on weekends, although you might luck out around K St after 8PM weeknights.

K St is the main road, while M St is the (one way) route to Georgetown. Connecticut Ave (17th St below K St) is the main route heading north. I-66 comes in from Virginia, but leaving is easier via the Arlington Memorial Bridge south of 23rd St.

It is possible to hail a taxi from the street around the clock, but note that M St going to Georgetown has awful traffic during rush hour and weekend nights—it's often quicker to walk.

By bus

Metrobus routes downtown can be confusing, so it's best to make sure you don't ride past your intended stop, or you could find yourself lost in a strange part of town quickly. The following run daily roughly until midnight:

80 runs until midnight from Farragut Square east on K St to Chinatown, and west down 18th St past the Corcoran, through Foggy Bottom, and right by the Kennedy Center.

38B runs west on K St from Farragut Square, then up Pennsylvania to M St through Georgetown, and then over the Key Bridge into Arlington, right along Arlington's main commercial strips.

32 and 36 follow the same route as 38B, but turn north on Wisconsin Ave instead of going to Virginia. They also will take you straight east to the Mall, and then on to Eastern Market

The D.C. Circulator's Georgetown-Union Station "Yellow" line heads east along K St to Chinatown and west, after Washington Circle, up Pennsylvania to M St into Georgetown.


Map of the White House grounds and vicinity

White House

  White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,  +1 202 456-7041. Tours: Tu-Th 7:30AM-11AM, F 7:30AM-noon, sa 7:30AM-1PM. Free.

Built starting in 1792, and first residence for the nation's second president, John Adams, the White House has been the residence and office for each presidency since. The building's chief architect, James Hoban, an Irishman, left a nationalistic mark on the U.S., modeling the President's home after Ireland's National Parliament building in Dublin. While Hoban's vision has survived the past 200+ years, including the 1814 fire set by invading British forces, the interior has hardly been static. As it is, after all, the president's house, each president has taken the liberty of various redecoratings, expansions, and additions—the entire East Wing, for example, was added only during the Coolidge Administration. The last major renovation occurred under Truman, but much of the antiques, artwork, and decorating styles you'll see today come courtesy of a certain First Lady of renowned taste, Jackie Kennedy.

President Jefferson opened the White House to the public, and it has remained so during peacetime (with varying restrictions) ever since. Following the attacks of September 11th, tours have been available only for groups of ten or more, and these must be requested up to six months and at least one month in advance through your congressman if you're a U.S. citizen, or through your country's embassy in Washington, D.C. if you're not. Note that the standard tours focus on the social/residential part of the White House—the East Wing, rather than the working West Wing. Abide by the stated dress code, or you will be refused admission!

You can see the front door from Lafayette Square on the north side, and the back (the more famous curved facade) from the Ellipse on the south side. Political demonstrations typically take place at the front, though larger ones have been known to encircle the fence.

The Ellipse

The Ellipse is the park to the south of the White House. During the Civil War, the space was used as a cattle and horse corral, the smell of which festered in the summer humidity, making life at the White House unpleasant enough where there was a proposal to abandon it and relocate—possibly to Meridian Hill, in Adams Morgan. President Grant nixed the idea, and had the grounds improved, installing a fountain in 1876, and two gatehouses relocated from the Capitol to the southwest and southeast corners of the Ellipse.

A number of memorials are located on the Ellipse, including the Butt-Millet Fountain, added in 1913 in honor of two prominent Titanic victims—Army Major Archibald Butt and painter Francis Millet. The Zero Milestone stands at the north end of the park, and is the marker by which all road distances would be measured (this idea was a flop, and only D.C.'s roads use it as a measure). Larger memorials on the Ellipse include a memorial to 5,599 soldiers of the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force killed in World War I, and another memorial in honor of the Second Division in World War I on Constitution Ave. currently, in nice weather, the park serves mostly for the public to enjoy the good views and play frisbee.

Lafayette Park

Named for French General Lafayette of American Revolutionary fame (better known to his friends as Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette), this park is a national historic landmark seemingly dedicated to the purpose of taking pictures of the White House. The large equestrian statue at its center is of President Andrew Jackson, while the statues on the four corners of the park are dedicated to Revolutionary heroes, all of them foreign: Lafayette, French Major General Rochambeau, Polish General Kosciuszko, and Prussian Major General Friedrich von Steuben.

And if you like bushy-tailed rodents, you're in luck—Lafayette Park is home to the densest squirrel population known to science, lured here no doubt by their lust for power. Look especially for those black squirrels, descendants of a group of eighteen Canadians that escaped the National Zoo during Teddy Roosevelt's presidency.

Lafayette Square

Blair House, and the adjoining Lee House

The blocks immediately surrounding Lafayette Park are part of the National Historic Landmark, and there is much to see here:

Other sites

The Octagon House

The Nixon tapes

The tapes weren't shocking just for implicating the president in federal crimes, they were devastating for what they revealed about him personally. Memorable quotes include:

  • The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time they steal, they're dishonest, but they do have some concept of family life. They don't live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.
  • You know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags. Neither in a public way. You know what happened to the popes? They were layin' the nuns; that's been goin' on for years, centuries. But the Catholic Church went to hell three or four centuries ago. It was homosexual, and it had to be cleaned out.
  • There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.
  • To Kissinger: The only place where you and I disagree ... is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about civilians and I don't give a damn. I don't care.
  • I'm not for women, frankly, in any job. I don't want any of them around. Thank God we don't have any in the Cabinet.
  • On Jews: But by God, they're exceptions... you can't trust the bastards. They turn on us.


Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center

, 2700 F St NW,  +1 202 467-4600.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located along the Potomac River, adjacent to the Watergate Complex, in Foggy Bottom. It was built as a private-public partnership, in effort to create a National Cultural Center for the nation's capital. President Kennedy helped move the project forward, and when he was assassinated, the center was named after him as a living memorial. Architect Edward Durrell Stone designed the building, which opened in 1971.

There are three main theaters in the Kennedy Center: the Concert Hall, Opera House, and Eisenhower Theater. The National Symphony Orchestra performs at the Concert Hall, while the Opera House is home to the Washington National Opera and the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The Eisenhower Theater is a smaller venue that hosts theater, musicals, operas, ballet, and dance performances. The Kennedy Center has a number of smaller venues, with various events geared towards children and other audiences. The Millennium Stage, located at the end of the Grand Foyer, hosts daily, free performances. If you are looking for a really special, classic Washingtonian event, the two big ones are right around Christmas—the National Ballet's yearly performance of The Nutcracker, and the Handel's Messiah Singalong. For the latter, the entire audience, mostly of amateur and professional choirs, join the Master Chorus and Orchestra in singing the full oratorio—it's an amazing experience for singers and non-singers alike.

Docent-led tours are available for walk-ins M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 10AM-1PM every ten minutes. Just head over to the tour desk to get on one. At any time you can head up to the rooftop terrace for a spectacular view (it's probably best to skip the overpriced restaurant). The building more or less closes 30 minutes after the end of the night's last performance.

White House

The White House hosts a number of special annual events, including the popular White House Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn. The annual tradition was started in 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes, who invited local children to the White House lawn for the event. The event includes various other activities for children, including face painting, music, magicians, egg coloring, and story telling, along with food. The event is open to children ages 7 or younger. Free tickets are distributed a few days before Easter, though people usually begin lining up many hours in advance, in the wee hours of the morning, as demand far exceeds supply.

Each year in December, the White House Christmas Tree is displayed on the Ellipse, along with a huge Menorah for Hanukkah. Tickets are required for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which features the President and/or First Lady lighting the tree. People line up to get free tickets for the event when they are handed out—usually a month in advance. Once the tree is lit, it is open to the public who can see it lit up each evening, along with smaller trees for each state.

Twice each year, tours take place of the Rose Garden and other gardens on the White House grounds. Over the years, the Presidents and First Ladies changed up the gardens to suit their tastes, including a colonial garden planted by Edith Roosevelt in 1902. President Woodrow Wilson's wife, Ellen, replaced the colonial garden with a Rose Garden, which has remained. The East Garden was redesigned by Jacqueline Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson created a Children's Garden at the White House. The White House holds the Fall Garden Tours in October, while the Spring Garden Tours are held in April. Tickets are distributed on the morning of the tour—first-come, first served.

Other venues

The U.S. Navy Band at D.A.R. Constitution Hall


While this is not at all a shopping destination, there are a few shops and restaurants located at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave, near George Washington University, with original townhouse facades preserved on the exterior of the building. There are a couple of really top notch bookstores as well.

Downtown shopping in the West End is rather dispersed, but there are shops at International Square, located near the Farragut West station on the Orange and Blue Lines, and along Connecticut Ave north of K St, and here and there on streets near Connecticut Ave.

  • Washington Law Books,  +1 202 223-5543. M-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Washington Law Books, affiliated with Reiters, has a selection of books geared towards law students and professionals, as well as books on international studies, political science, and economics.


The National Christmas Tree in President's Park

West End dining equals power dining. Whether you are on K St, or sitting opposite Lafayette Square, you'll be joined by lobbyists, lawyers, contractors, and politicos. There are several stand-out restaurants here, but the most famous are undoubtedly the Old Ebbitt Grill and the Lafayette Room.




The Old Executive Office Building


Inside the Corcoran

The West End is not where the nightlife is. Downtown empties out after work, and the middling happy hour ends by 8PM. After that the whole area is dead. There are a couple of nice, standard bars by GW, a bunch of decent fake Irish pubs just west of Farragut Square, and a few clubs on K St by the McPherson Sq Metro stop. Otherwise, walk a few blocks north to Dupont Circle or catch a cab west to Georgetown.







POV Lounge on top of the W Hotel (old Hotel Washington)


Go next

Routes through West End

Springfield Arlington  W  E  East End Largo
Vienna Arlington  W  E  East End New Carrollton
Reston Arlington  W  E  East End Largo
Gaithersburg Dupont Circle  N  E  East End Wheaton

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.