Georgetown Intro for the Carless DC Noob

Ah, Georgetown! Once I thought of it as “that snooty place I never go to because the rich preppy folk didn’t want a Metro stop*,” but having recently taken a job there, I’ve discovered — and maybe even grown to love — that historic part of DC.

georgetown1900s.jpg This part of Georgetown wasn’t always so swanky — an old friend from church who grew up in 1950s DC regaled me with stories about how none of the kids ever went to Georgetown back in his youth because it was a slum, and the canal stunk up everything below M Street. Georgetown was just recovering from its days as an early 20th Century industrial center at the time, with factories, mills, rendering plants and a streetcar power station dotting the slope down to the waterfront. But then came the Kennedies, and the Watergate went from literal canal “gate to the water” to swanky hotel-condo-office development, and the mills and stacks and rowhouses were closed down and demolished or repurposed into shops and malls and restaurants and bars, and soon the gentrification migrated down, till the Georgetown we know today — stilleto heels and popped collars and all — filled the space from Glover Park and Social Safeway to the theaters and harbor under the Whitehurst.

Walking Washingtonians, don’t let the distance from a Metro stop deter you from paying Georgetown a visit once in a while; it’s actually a lot closer than you think. There’s three ways to get to Georgetown on foot from Foggy Bottom /GWU Metro if you don’t want to wait for the shuttle bus:

  1. GrayPenn.jpg The Pennsylania Avenue Way: If you’ve ever walked over to Trader Joe’s from Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro, you’ve already made it more than halfway. Just keep going up Penn Ave till you pass the Salvation Army building, cross the bridge over Rock Creek, pass two or three panhandlers, and when you see Four Seasons Hotel and a Lukoil gas station, you’ve made it.
  2. KStWalk.jpg The K Street Way: Alternatively, you can go west along K Street to where it meets the Whitehurst off-ramp, where after two or three pedestrian crossings and a down-ramp you emerge near the theaters, but I hate walking there. The interchange makes for a vulnerable crossing and the waterfront under the Whitehurst is anything but picturesque outside of the harbor. It is, however, the shortest walk, but my least favorite.
  3. KeyBridg.jpg The Watergate Way: This is the longest, most roundabout stroll, but it’s nice and scenic. From the metro, cross the GWU plaza and go down New Hampshire Ave to Virginia Ave and the Watergate, then just keep walking down Virginia Ave till you get to Rock Creek Parkway, where you’ll have to push a walk button. The timing of the pedestrian crosswalk light is surprisingly nice to bikers and walkers (probably to the detriment of motor traffic), and you won’t have to wait long for the walk sign. Cross the little bridge over to Thompson Boat House, turn right, and you’ll find yourself walking along the Potomac with a nice view of Roosevelt Island and the Key Bridge. The route to K Street is just a short step up through Washington Harbour.

I hope this helps any fresh carless DC newbies who might feel intimidated by the prospect of trekking to Georgetown, like I did until this year. It turned out to be not so hard; now I do it all week.

See it on Google Maps.

* The truth of the matter, according to The Great Society Subway, is that a Georgetown Metro station would have been prohibitively difficult and expensive from an engineering and legal standpoint, requiring a deep dig under private buildings.

9 Comments so far

  1. Lucy (unregistered) on October 29th, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

    You can also get to Georgetown pleasantly across the P Street Bridge which brings you first into residential and religious Georgetown and then you can choose when to descend into commercial Georgetown.

    There is also the bus — the 30s on Penn Ave. and the Ds from Dupont Circle.

  2. Jenn L (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    There’s also the G8 that runs along P Street…

  3. Chris L (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 11:00 am

    …and the Circulator. Hop on it for a buck anywhere on K street from Union Station to Foggy Bottom and it will take you to Gtown.

  4. donny (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

    And if you happen to be on the opposite bank, then its a quick walk across the Key Bridge.

  5. Anon (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

    It’s the G2, not the G8 that goes along P st.

    I live in the Northeastern part of Georgetown and "enter" and "exit" the neighborhood mostly by way of the beautiful Q St. bridge (which as I recall reading is the only purely masonry bridge that is curved in the entire United States).

    I find that a lot of people have a pretty irrational hatred towards Georgetown, which is normally based upon cliches and a sort of reverse-snob snobbery. I understand that there’s plenty of stuff not to like about the place, but I find that people go out of their way to say how much they hate the place and never go there.

  6. Don (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

    My hatred is pretty rational; I don’t mind its existence, but going there is almost always painful. The canal boat tour is fun and a lot of it is pretty but if you drive in (the above options sound great but it usually isn’t up to me…) the traffic and then parking is just so arduous as to suck the fun out of anything that comes next.

  7. Paulo (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

    I really should have clarified I meant the best ways to get to Georgetown on foot *from Foggy Bottom*. Thanks for the additional tips; I did mention the Rose Park route in an older entry, and of course, yes, there’s always the Circulator.

  8. Bill Walsh (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

    Or take the Metro to Rosslyn and walk across Key Bridge. Very pleasant.

  9. poo poo (unregistered) on October 30th, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    i used to live in georgetown (cecil place), right behind the georgetown park mall. it’s one of the quaintest streets in the city. no parking, so i had to consistently find parking every day of the week. it’s a pain, but that’s the price you pay, if you wanna play…

    i sold the place a few years ago, and i have to admit, i rarely find myself traversing the city from capitol hill just to hang in gtown. there’s plenty of other nooks and crannies that i have yet to discover throughout this city (the latest one being the DC farmer’s market).

    the one thing that was great about gtown was the fletcher boat house. rent a canoe and get your exercise in style right on the potomac. i also used to run the c&o canal on a regular basis.

    all in all, it’s great to hang there on an ‘occasion’, but after living there for 8 years, i sort of feeling i’m on vacation, even though i’m just across the pool on capitol hill.

    if you ever want to check out a cool little street, hit volta place. also, foxhall has a nifty little restaurant that only locals know about.

    i guess there’s all kinds of interesting spots in this city….

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