17 Unexpected Georgetown Experiences

The best moments? The ones you never saw coming.

Visit Georgetown and let yourself get the good kind of lost.

Eating in the Street

Against everything your Mom ever told you, we want you to go in the street. The Georgetown BID has worked with over 30 restaurants and the city to permit outdoor eateries – known as “Streateries” – at nearly 25 locations throughout the commercial district. People-watch at one of the charming Wisconsin Avenue streateries, like Lutece (pictured above) or head to The Berliner for a unique experience underneath the Whitehurst Freeway on K /Water Street, across from Georgetown Waterfront Park and several trails. The industrial beer hall features German brats and beers, and an atmosphere that will make you forget you’re in DC. Prost!

Getting Your Mind GLOWn

It’s time to get lit. Georgetown GLOW is the region’s only free curated outdoor public light art experience, and it’s oh-so-Insta-worthy. The 7th edition of GLOW is currently underway as a two-part series featuring artworks by a majority of DC artists. Four artworks are on display through September 26, transforming several Georgetown alleys into modern art adventures – from a neon installation inspired by a Prince song, to a canopy of rainbow lights with a powerful chorus of LGBTQ+ voices filling the space, and a poem formed from diffused light.

Kayaking on the C&O Canal

It’s a heron! It’s a turtle! It’s…kayakers?! The historic C&O Canal and its towpath run 184.5 miles into Cumberland, MD – the first mile of which is through Georgetown. Today, this urban oasis is a popular running and cycling path, but for the truly adventurous, there’s no better way to explore than on the water. Head to Thompson Boat Center at Mile Marker 0 to rent a kayak or canoe, or begin at Fletcher’s Boathouse at Mile Marker 3.1, and enjoy the Canal upstream of Lock 4.

Meeting the Most Surprising Business Owners

From Monica Lewinsky’s former hairdresser to an Exorcist expert, an octogenarian ceramicist, and a former hip hop promoter turned sneakerhead entrepreneur, you never know who you’re going to run into when you’re in a Georgetown business – and the stories they have to share!

Spacing Out (Literally) on the Georgetown Decks

You said you needed space…

The Georgetown BID recently built 3,400 linear feet of sidewalk deck panels on M Street between 34th Street and 29th Street, and on Wisconsin Avenue between Q Street and the Canal – offering more room to comfortably dine, shop and stroll in Georgetown.

How much space? Enough space to socially distance from your in-laws. Or start a long-distance relationship. Or display a single CVS receipt. Or…well, you get it. The decking extends our narrow sidewalks from an average of 9.5 feet to an average of 15 feet, using removable 4′ x 6.5′ panels that are designed to be accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. This is a pilot program through 2021, so come see the Georgetown Decks while you can!

Finding Easy Parking

We SWEAR there is parking in Georgetown – and a lot of it. 3,200 garage and lot spaces, to be exact, in addition to on-street parking.

It’s also affordable. Shocking, we know! Jamestown is offering reduced on-site rates at Georgetown Park (3222 M Street, with entrances on Potomac Street and Wisconsin Avenue), including $12 on Thursdays and Fridays after 5 pm, and $15 max on Saturdays and Sundays – now through September 6, 2021.

Discovering the Back Patios of Book Hill

Known for its antique stores, art galleries, independent boutiques and buttery croissants, the historic Book Hill neighborhood is home to more than 50 small businesses, the heart of which are along the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Wisconsin Avenue. Lesser known are its hidden backyard patios and gardens, perfect for a quiet and picturesque escape. Enjoy a cappuccino and apricot tart on Patisserie Poupon’s patio, or dinner under the garden lights at City Sliders. If you’re here to shop, Pretty Chic has discounted clothing racks and consignment finds under its backyard garden tent. A few blocks down the hill, Boulangerie Christophe’s back patio features a hidden mural.

Grabbing a Bite on Grace Street

Time to take the sidewalk less traveled. Some of Georgetown’s best food is off the beaten path on Grace Street, a hidden gem sandwiched between the Canal and the waterfront. Grace Street Collective is home to South Block acai bowls, Grace Street Coffee Roasters, Georgetown Butcher, and the much-anticipated Green Almond Pantry (one word: focaccia). Tucked away off of the neighboring alley on Cherry Hill Lane, Johnny Spero’s Reverie offers a tasting menu of new American fare. Next door, Dog Tag Bakery serves coffee, baked goods and cafe items in support of wounded veterans and their families. If tacos are calling your name, Chaia has the best vegetarian variety in the city (get the kale & potato), while Sweetgreen caters to the health-conscious with a full range of salad options.

Bonus: One of the most Insta-worthy residential blocks in Georgetown is off of Grace Street, on Cecil Place.

Seeing the Oldest House Plant in North America

And you thought keeping that orchid alive was hard?! Inside of the Dumbarton Oaks orangery grows a 150-year-old Ficus Pumila – the oldest house plant in North America. All of the historic estate’s gardens are rooted in the legacy of Dumbarton Oak’s original gardener, Beatrix Jones Farrand. The only female founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Beatrix began designing the garden in 1921 with Mildred Barnes Bliss, who purchased the property with her husband the year prior. The grounds were eventually donated to Harvard University.

In addition to the gardens, don’t miss the Dumbarton House museum for its world-class collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art.

Visiting Europe Via Cady's Alley

Tucked away just one block south of bustling M Street, Cady’s Alley feels like you’ve been transported to a quiet European village (without involving TSA). The charming cobblestone alley is home to more than 20 home furnishing showrooms, fashion and specialty boutiques nestled in a cluster of historic industrial buildings. Nestled in between the showrooms, Kafe Leopold serves Austrian fare, from schnitzel to strudel, on its patio. A few doors down, you can also grab some of the best treats in town at District Doughnut. For a real show, order the creme brulee doughnut and watch them torch it to perfection.

Sipping Cocktails Along the Canal

Looking for less kayaking and more Ketel One? Grab dinner and a drink on the terrace at the Rosewood Hotel’s CUT Bar and Lounge for one of the most unique restaurant views in DC. There’s waterfront dining, and then there’s this.

Exorcising that Burger and Fries

Forget the gym; some of the best exercise in DC is straight out of a cult classic horror film. The Exorcist steps at 3600 Prospect St NW are famous for the iconic scene at the end of the movie, and were designated a Historic Landmark in 2019. Movie buffs may flock here for the commemorative plaque, but locals know the spot for its 75-step workout. Just don’t eat any pea soup before you run them…

Singing 'Piano Man' With Politicos

In the basement of a non-descript building on M Street, one of the biggest health care reform players in town is playing…the piano. Once the director for the office responsible for crafting the Affordable Care Act’s Patient Bill of Rights under the Obama administration, Jay Angoff is now a class action litigator by day and dueling piano performer by night. At Georgetown Piano Bar, he’s joined in rousing rounds of Sweet Caroline by fellow performer Hunter Lang – former intern for then-Vice President Joe Biden. Only in DC.

 

 

Meditating Near the Key Bridge

Toward the western end of Georgetown Waterfront Park, you can get your meditation on with a few laps around the labyrinth – funded by an organization that promotes urban green spaces to facilitate community healing. Work your way from the outer edge along a circular path to the center and quiet your mind. One lap for every day since March 2020 should do the trick.

Watching Free Performances From Rising Stars

The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts – DC’s only accredited actor training studio program – has operated out of a basement-level building off of Wisconsin Avenue since 1975. Run by husband-and-wife Ray and Nan Ficca, who met while training at the conservatory, the humble yet prolific program churns out actors who go on to land movie and TV roles in L.A. For an experience most locals don’t even know about, check out one of the free, public student performances out of their black box theater.

Discovering a Stop on the Underground Railroad

In the corner of Mt. Zion / Female Union Band Society Cemetery – where enslaved residents, freedmen and (mostly) African-American citizens are laid to rest – an outbuilding that once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad sits on the hill above Rock Creek. According to oral histories passed down through Georgetown’s Black community, the eight-foot-by-eight-foot structure was an overnight thoroughfare for those continuing north or west. The building remains unmarked, but Dr. Thornell Page – head of Mt. Zion United Methodist’s building and cemetery committees – is leading a large effort to audit and restore the neglected cemetery.

Hailing a (Water) Taxi

Georgetown’s waterfront is home to tons of great restaurants, including Fiola Mare, Sequoia, Guapo’s, Bangkok Joe’s, Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place and Farmers Fishers Bakers. But why walk, bike, or drive there when you can travel via the Potomac?! Potomac Riverboat Company offers a scenic mode of travel around DC a with a water taxi that connects The Wharf in Southwest DC with Georgetown. With up to four daily departures from Georgetown’s Washington Harbour (31st & K St), the 25-minute ride is a unique way to experience DC’s waterfront destinations.

The Washington by Water Monuments Cruise also connects Alexandria’s historic waterfront to Georgetown’s. Service is offered from Georgetown’s Washington Harbour as well as the Alexandria City Marina.

Your Unexpected Story

We’ve given you a few insider tips to get started, but why spoil all the fun? Plan for the unplanned and make your own unexpected discoveries in Georgetown.

Share your surprising experiences (or things we missed) on Instagram using #UnexpecteDC and #UnexpectedGeorgetown, and you might get featured on this page!

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