Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.

This post is a summary of things to do in Georgetown, DC, including sightseeing, restaurants and shopping.  To most, Georgetown is just a name of the local university, but this neighborhood of Washington, DC is full of history, fun and food – and cupcakes. It’s on the top of our list of places to see in DC – here you can find great shopping (to us, “Mall” means a big park with memorials), the oldest family run restaurant, the homes of celebrities and historical figures past and present. Whether a quick visit for a highlight tour or a full day of historic homes and gardens, you can find much to do in this quaint historic part of town.


Tours of Georgetown

What To See in Georgetown

Restaurants in Georgetown

Free Tours by Foot

 

Getting to Georgetown

Brief History of Georgetown

Accommodation in Georgetown

Shopping in Georgetown

 


 
Our own tour guide Canden has published a book on the wicked side of Georgetown history! Wicked Georgetown: Scoundrels, Sinners and Spies  and a pictorial history using vintage photographs, Images of Georgetown.
 

WHERE IS GEORGETOWN?

The district of Georgetown is located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, with its eastern most border approximately 1 mile northwest of the White House.  Georgetown has a reputation for being difficult to get to, but with a little know how – it is very accessible!

 

Where is Georgetown, DC

 

By Metro (subway):

Technically, there is no Metro in Georgetown but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Metro accessible. The main strip of Georgetown, M Street NW, is about 15-minute walk from Foggy Bottom/GWU stop on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines. As you exit the Metro, turn left and walk one block up the hill to Washington Circle, follow the Circle left to Penn Ave NW and that will eventually become M Street NW after you cross over Rock Creek Parkway.

 

 Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.

 

If you’re trying to get to the western side of Georgetown, you can also walk from Rosslyn stop on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines. You can say you walked all the way from Virginia! When you exit the station, head north (right if you’re exiting on to Fort Myer Drive and left if you’re on Moore St) to cross the Key Bridge. The bridge dead-ends on the far western part of M St NW.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.

 

By Bus:

There are many bus routes that service Georgetown, both down M St NW and northern areas of the neighborhood. Any of these routes will get you to Georgetown:  31, 32, 36, 38B, D1, D2, D5, D6, and G2. Visit the Trip Planner at WMATA to get specific directions from your location.

The Circulator is only $1 ride or accepts SmarTrip cards. The Dupont-Georgetown-Rosslyn line runs from the Dupont Circle to the Rosslyn metro station, with stops along M Street. The Union Station-Georgetown line runs from Union Station to Georgetown via K Street and back to Union Station with stops on M Street traveling eastbound. These buses are distinctive red and black buses with similar looking signs at the bus stops.


Parking in Georgetown

Like many busy parts of the cities, parking in Georgetown can be difficult! There is street parking throughout the neighborhood. Street parking is $2/hr Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and holidays do not have parking enforcement. When parking, look for rush hour restrictions – parking on Monday through Friday along M Street and on the 1100-1600 blocks of Wisconsin Avenue, NW from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m will resulted in a towed car! Parking on neighborhood non-metered streets is limited to 2 hours – legally, that is applicable to the whole of Zone 2 so moving your car from one spot to another in the same neighborhood may still result in a ticket.

Another easy way to park in Georgetown is through a service called Parking Panda. This website enables drivers to search for, compare, and purchase guaranteed parking spaces ahead of time in garages. They have a bunch of cheap options in Georgetown. Click below to take a look!

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.
 


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TOURS OF GEORGETOWN

Guided Walking Tours

We quite partial to our Historic Georgetown tour for a highlight walk through the neighborhood. Our historic tour covers some of the well known residents and sites, but also some of those you may not know. For a darker side of the neighborhood, our nighttime Ghosts of Georgetown tour covers eerie coincidences and curses, as well as a few documented haunted houses! And join our newest tour, the foodie side of Georgetown: Georgetown Cupcakes & Desserts Tour.

Self-Guided Tours

If you can’t take advantage of our guided tour, then consider one of our themed self-guided tours of Georgetown

We also offer Audio Tours of Georgetown as an addition to our Historic Georgetown Walking tour.

 

 

If you like the Georgetown neighborhood, you may also want to take our Self Guided Tour of Old Town Alexandria.

Trolley/Hop On-Off Tours

Many of the cities trolley and bus tours drive through Georgetown, with a few select locations to hop on/off. Click here to compare the different options.

 


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BRIEF HISTORY OF GEORGETOWN

Founded in 1751 in the colony of Maryland, the town of George was founded as a tobacco port city on the Potomac River. Georgetown as we know it today is much larger than the original town boundaries. What is now N St NW (formally Gay Street) was the northern boundary of the city, the rest was bordered south by the river, east by Rock Creek and west by what is now the University.

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.When the founding fathers were decided where to put the new federal district, the port of Georgetown was included in the boundaries. In 1800, it became Georgetown, DC – still it’s own city. This changed in 1871 when Washington city expanded and Georgetown lost it’s autonomy. The streets were renamed and the city council disbanded.

The small town grew with the success of it’s merchants until the mid 1800s. With the growth of the federal city, the stress of the Civil War, the silting of the Potomac River and the failing of the C&O Canal, Georgetown fell into a decline that lasted decades. After the New Deal-ers moved into the affordable neighborhood, cemented by the presence of the Kennedy’s, Georgetown became once again a neighborhood of businessmen and politicians.

Diverse is not the word you’d use to describe Georgetown today, but through it’s history it has been the home of leading political figures and simple merchants and their slaves, full of Scottish and German immigrants, a thriving community of freedmen at Herring Hill. It went from mansions to slums and back again. A walk through this pre- Revolutionary neighborhood takes you through 250 years of history through it’s architecture and the stories of the people who once and still live there.

If you’d like to learn more, our guide, Canden, has had two books published on Georgetown! Wicked Georgetown: Scoundrels, Sinners and Spies and Images of America: Georgetown. Both available on her Amazon author page!
 


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PLACES TO VISIT IN GEORGETOWN

What should you see in Georgetown? Everything! But with so much history, architecture and pop culture references in this neighborhood, you might not have time to see it all. Most of these sites are visited or talked about on our Historic Georgetown and Ghosts of Georgetown Walking Tours!

We’ve put together our Top Ten List of Must See places in Georgetown:Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.

1. Old Stone House: This is the oldest residence in DC still standing, built in 1765, by German immigrant, Christopher Laymen. Through the years it has been a clock maker’s shop, a tavern, and a used car sale lot! Owned by the National Park Service, the Old Stone House has been restored to it’s nineteenth century state. There is a bookstore and a Park Ranger available during business hours to answer your questions. Outside of business hours, you can still wander the English-style gardens in the back of the house.

Location: 3051 M St NW, Washington DC 20007

Cost: FREE

Hours: 11am-6pm (various days, depending on season)

Fun Fact: This was never George Washington’s headquarters but for many years that was the myth and a sign out front advertised visits for a nickel to those who wanted to see where the General slept!

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.2. Dumbarton House: A federal style house was built in 1800 and is preserved today as the headquarters of the TheNational Society of The Colonial Dames of America. Through the historic interpretation of the architecture, furnishings and interior design, you can learn about the earliest time of our Nation and the Nourse family who lived here.

Location: 2715 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Cost: $5

Hours: 11am-3pm. Closed on Mondays and most Federal Holidays

Fun Fact: This is not it’s original location! When they built the Q Street Bridge to connect northern Georgetown to the federal city, the road went straight through the house, so they picked it up and moved it back about 100 feet! You can see how much the road has been graded as you walk up the stairs to the house from the road.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.3. Oak Hill Cemetery – This rural movement cemetery dates back to 1848 when it was founded by W. W. Corcoran. Interred here are many well known names: Edwin Station, Lincoln’s Secretary of War; Ben Bradlee and the Grahams of the Washington Post; John Howard Payne, composer of Home! Sweet Home! All among beautiful maintained walkways, forested areas and gardens.

Location: 3001 R Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007

Cost: Free. If you’d like a self guided walking tour map, you can purchase one at the Gatehouse.

Hours: 9am-430pm Monday-Friday / 11am-4pm Sat / Sun 1pm-4pm. Closed during funerals and federal holidays.

Fun Fact: The 1850 Renwick Chapel, one of the few Gothic pieces in DC, was designed by James Renwick, architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

 

4. Dumbarton Oaks – This estate sprawls through the north of Georgetown with it’s magnificent architecture and garden. Once the home to the Calhoun family amongst other early owners, it was last privately owned by Robert and Mildred Bliss. They donated both the property and their large pre-Columbian and Byzantine art collection to Harvard University, who runs it today as a research center. Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.The Bliss’ art collection and museum is open to the public, as is it’s renowned garden (ranked 6th in the world by National Geographic)

Location: 3120 R Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007

Cost: Museum: Free

Garden: $5-8 (March 15 through October 31)/ Free (November 1 through March 14)

Hours: Museum: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.mClosed on Mondays and most Federal Holidays

Garden: 2pm-6pm (March 15 through October 31)/ 2pm-5pm (November 1 through March 14)

Fun Fact: The Washington Conversations were held here in 1944 when the United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China and the United States all joined together to discuss an international peace keeping and security force. It’s also known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conference which would lead to the signing of the United Nations Charter.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.5. Book Hill Park: For a stunning view of Georgetown and the Potomac River looking out towards Virginia, climb the stairs at Book Hill off Wisconsin Avenue to the Georgetown Public Library. This section of Wisconsin Avenue is a bit more peaceful than the hustle of lower Georgetown. Mostly independently owned shops, the block evokes a feel of European quaintness.

Location: 1693 Wisconsin Ave NW Washington, DC 20007

Cost: Free

Hours: Always Open!

Fun Fact: There are names carved into the trees around the park, some of them from the 1950s and earlier. Please don’t contribute your own!

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.6. Tudor Place – Another Federal style home, the residence of this house have always been interested in preserving the history of the house and family. Descendents of Martha Washington and relatives of Robert E. Lee, the Peter family that lived here documented family heirlooms and architectural details of the house. Inside you can see George Washington’s Revolutionary War camp stool, the family office from the 1920s with added electricity in a unique place to protect the historic floorboards, and a closet full of clothes from the 1960s.

Location:1644 31st Street NW Washington, DC 20007

Cost: $3-$10 Garden Tours: $3

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm / Sunday 12pm-4pm. Closed on Mondays, Federal Holidays and the entire month of January!

Fun Fact: Tudor Place has only been owned by one family – the Peter Family, from 1806-1983.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.7. Georgetown University This historic school began in 1789 as the first Catholic/Jesuit school in the United States. The oldest campus building still standing, Old North, is where George Washington, and many subsequent presidents, to address the collegiate body. The most iconic building, Healy Hall, towers at the main gate. Take our self-guided tour of Georgetown University.

Location: 3700 O St NW Washington, DC 20007

Cost: To wander? Free. To attend school? A lot more.

Hours: Campus grounds are generally open.

Fun Fact: Georgetown’s school colors are Blue for Union uniforms and Grey for the Confederate uniforms, adopted by the rowing team in solidarity with all the student and faculty veterans returning after the Civil War.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.8. Exorcist Steps – If you’ve seen the 1970s film, The Exorcist, these steps will look familiar. They’ve always been an eerie part of town and were known as the Hitchcock Steps before the movie was filmed here in Georgetown. The Exorcist House, where the young possessed girl lived, is just to the right of the stairs. It was movie magic that put the two immediately next to each other. In reality there is a small yard and driveway.

Location: 3600 Prospect St NW,Washington, DC 20007

Cost: Just your soul…

Hours: Whenever you dare.

Fun Fact: It’s not actually haunted. But it is creepy – especially knowing that the movie was based on a true story.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.9. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal: Used for over a century, the C&O Canal was a lifeline for this port city once the river silted up. Coal, agriculture and move traveled down this waterway and canal boatmen and their family created a distinctive community here.

The best place to start is at 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW Washington, DC 20007 – technically the canal extends for 185 miles into Cumberland, MD. The Georgetown Visitor’s Center (closed) has the most picturesque views of the Georgetown portion of the canal. Walk along the towpath for a few blocks for quaint houses and an old canal boat.

 

Things to Do in Georgetown, D.C.10. Georgetown Waterfront Park: The original waterfront was lined with sailing vessels and industrial buildings. Today it has been reclaimed as a relaxing park and boardwalk lined with restaurants and the occasional yacht. In summer months, the Washington Harbor Fountain lights up with music and a show and in winter it becomes an outdoor skating rink. Opened in 2011, it has very little historic feel left to it but it’s a great place for people watching and good food with views of the Kennedy Center, Watergate, Teddy Roosevelt Island and sunset over the Potomac River.

 

Have a bit more time or specific interests? There are some great off-the-beaten-path sites in the neighborhood.
 


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ACCOMMODATION IN GEORGETOWN: 

As the oldest and one of the most affluent neighborhoods in DC, Georgetown is home to some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in the city. There are many hotels to choose from, but here are some of our favorites.

Capella Washington, D.C. Georgetown: 1050 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – $$$$

The Melrose Georgetown: 2430 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037 – $$$$

Georgetown Inn: 1310 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 – $$$

Georgetown Inn West End: 1121 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037 – $$

Looking to learn more about accommodation in DC? Check out the following posts:

 


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RESTAURANTS IN GEORGETOWN:

If you’ve ever been on Canden’s Georgetown tours, you’ll hear her talk about one and only one restaurant. By far all of our favorite places to eat in Georgetown, Martin’s Tavern is Canden’s only recommendation. It has great food (their grandmother’s recipe crab cakes are amazing), but what we love most is it’s history. Martin’s Tavern opened in 1933 by an Irish immigrant, Billy Martin and is still run by his great-grandson, also Billy Martin, who can sometimes be found behind the bar. If you go there and tell them DC By Foot sent you… nothing will happen, they have no idea who we are but we highly recommend it!

Martin’s Tavern: 1264 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC – American Tavern $$

Shanghai Lounge: 1734 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 – Dumplings/Chinese $

Sequoia: 3000 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – American $$$

Filomena: 1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 – Italian $$$

Old Glory BBQ: 3139 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – BBQ $$

Moby Dick House of Kebab: 1070 31st St NW – Mediterranean $
 


DESSERTS IN GEORGETOWN:

Join our newest tour, the foodie side of Georgetown: Georgetown Cupcakes & Desserts Tour.

If you have any interest in desserts, you’ve likely heard of TLC’s “DC Cupcake” television show. It is based on the shop, Georgetown Cupcakes on M St NW.

Fan of the show? By all means, go visit the shop. There will be a line – they even have a bouncer! If you follow them on Twitter/Facebook, the first 100 guests to order the cupcake of the day by name get it for free!

But Georgetown Cupcakes is not the only place dessert place in Georgetown.

Thomas Sweet’s Ice Cream & Chocolate: 3214 P St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – Homemade ice cream and fudge

Dolcezza: 1560 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 – Argentinean Gelato

Sprinkles: 3015 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – Also known due to a TV show – Cupcakes

Baked & Wired: 1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – our favorite – delicious desserts of all kinds!

 


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SHOPPING IN GEORGETOWN

Georgetown is the go-to shopping area inside the District. While walking along the two main streets of Georgetown – M Street NW and Wisconsin Ave NW you’ll find everything from staples such as Urban Outfitters and Nike to secondhand stores to vintage shops that carry designer brands.

 

 

The northern section of Wisconsin Ave NW (by the Georgetown Library) will have you feeling as if you are wandering the streets of Paris. Book Hill, as this area is known, offers more than the standard retail outlets. Here you’ll find Antiques Row, bespoke jewelry, and curious treasures to take home with you.

Meanwhile, M Street NW offers more of the shopping mall experience without the mall itself. Large chain stores can be found along this main road. Banana Republic, Anthropologie, J. Crew and more can all be found along M Street.

If you’re looking for a few unique finds or you just need to replace a lost suitcase, Georgetown shopping offers a varied experience to add to your visit to DC.

For a complete list of all the stores you can find in Georgetown, check out: http://www.georgetowndc.com/explore/fashion

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