The Best and the Worst Places to be in DC
A subjective list by Gretchen Kast
THE WORST OF DC
Grand Central in Adams Morgan at 2 am on a Saturday
If you are over the age of 21 and have lived in this city for an extended period of time, you know Adams Morgan is often best avoided on a weekend night. It’s a sloppy, tiresome mess. And Grand Central is the worst out of the whole lot. The absolute worst. This bar is generally crowded to the point of being impenetrable. The over-cologned, glistening skin of strangers stick to your face; drunken bodies writhe as old men leer around the edges. The last time I was there, I walked in and was immediately swept into a sea of sweaty undergrads. I stopped in my tracks and clawed my way back out the front door.
Gallery Place/Chinatown at 6 pm on a Friday
The attraction of Chinatown is absolutely lost on me. Besides for the movie theater and unlimited tapas lunch at La Tosca, I don’t know why people go. But go they do. Packs of loitering youths stand in the sidewalk and make me, at 22 years of age, feel insufferably old as I wind my way around them, wishing they’d quiet down and get out of my way. It reliably smells like poop everywhere you go, which is distressing. Also the floor of every bathroom at every bar is wet. Every one. I simply don’t get Chinatown.
Georgetown at 3 pm on a Sunday
The sidewalks are crowded with girls in Patagonia vests and J.Crew boots, their eyes covered in aviator sunglasses. They travel in packs, overstuffed shopping bags swinging in the crook of their arm. Georgetown attracts the worst kind of DC tourist—the kind not drawn to the history or the museums or the culture. These are the people who are excited by the chain clothing stores and endless queues for a $5 Georgetown cupcake. Sunday afternoon is for leisurely shopping and sipping chocolate drinks at Serendipity and therefore everyone is walking extra slow and the chatter is extra chirpy. My advice is to walk as quickly as possible towards Dupont. Run!
That Starbucks by Metro Center at 8 am on a Tuesday
All of the pant suits. All of the Bluetooth. All of the harried hustle and bustle and extra expresso shots. This is literally the worst DC stereotype come to life.
The Red Line any time between 8pm on Friday until Monday morning
Complaining about WMATA is a tired subject but 20 minutes for a metro? Seriously?
THE BEST OF DC
The beat of the weekly drum circle echoes throughout the hilly enclave as groups of youthful yuppies furtively drink wine on picnic blankets. There’s always a gaggle of hippies walking on DIY tight-ropes strung up between trees. Old women are grooving as young parents parade their children about. While the pretentious Portlandia-vibe is evident, it’s not showy. Instead, everything takes on a very pleasant air—everyone is doing their own thing and looking happy. I am at my most content when I’m lying in the grass reading a book as the water is bubbling down the man-made waterfall. From the Joan of Arc statue at the top, you can look out over the whole city, which is a grand feeling.
The outside patio at Wonderland Ballroom OR the roof at DC9 at 10:30pm on a Saturday
When the weather is nice, the crowd is unstuffy, and the drinks are cheap, you really can’t go wrong. At DC9, you’ll drink your beer and listen to good music while at Wonderland you’ll sip your drink and watch boys play pick-up night soccer on the field across the street. With pleasant bartenders to facilitate the imbibing, you’re in for a truly lovely evening.
The National Mall at 9pm on a Thursday
This is a clichéd freshman year staple, but there is something undeniably majestic about the monuments at night, something that never really gets old. At 9pm, the daytime crowds have gone back to their hotels and what’s left are the alabaster statues of our country’s history, illuminated, glowing. There’s a vibrancy about it that elicits the sort of patriotism I often forget I have. It’s quiet and simple and beautiful.
The Sculpture Garden at 7 pm on a Friday in the summer
Jazz in the Sculpture Garden is my favorite part about DC mostly because I think drinking outside is the best kind of drinking. And drinking outside in a beautiful garden as live jazz plays? The best of the best! The sangria is surprisingly strong and the people are always surprisingly well-dressed. You get to experience some culture while getting wasted in your work clothes. Yes, you will inevitably run into your boss or that person you went to middle school with who you heard moved here recently, but it’s ok. You’ll smile and clink plastic cups and go back to lounging.
Red Derby at noon on a Sunday
This is not a Sex and the City kind of brunch place. The lighting is dark and the eggs greasy, served in baskets atop tater tots. There’s always an outdated movie projected onto the wall and if you ask them nice enough, they’ll take requests (I recommend Lethal Weapon). The mimosas are three dollars each, which means it’ll take nine of them to meet the usual “25 dollars unlimited mimosa deal” at all other brunch places. I recommend clearing your schedule for the rest of the day and taking advantage of that.
After a particularly sloppy brunch with about 12 of my closest friends, we apologized to our waiter for being such a mess. “No worries,” he replied. “Brunch is a confusing time. You’re hungover from the night before, you’re trying to get drunk again. I get it.” Red Derby get’s it. You will stumble out at 3pm, blinded by the sun as you trek down 14th street to head home to take a much-needed nap.
The corner of 42nd and Albemarle at sundown any day of the week
If you happen to ever find yourself in Tenleytown as the sun is setting, take a detour down Albermarle St. I used to live at the bottom of the hill and the best part of the walk home at night was standing at the top of it at this street corner. The view looks out over the trees of Maryland and the sun sets off beautiful rosy colors in the sky. There’s no need to actually walk down the street, there’s nothing of interest there and you will inevitably have to trek back up the hill and let me tell you, it’s a doozy. But standing at that intersection as the sun is setting is just the simplest perfection.