If you visited Washington, D.C., a decade ago, your must-hit neighborhoods were probably Georgetown (redbrick sidewalks, boutiques, Kennedy lore) and Capitol Hill (that iconic dome, row houses with charming Victorian architecture). But thanks to an influx of development and new residents (often millennials), zones that once didn’t have names now buzz with restaurants, nightlife and Instagram-worthy design. Here are three newly hip hamlets ready for their close-ups, plus what to do there.
Faithful Catholics have long flocked to Northeast’s “little Rome,” with Catholic University, the blue-domed Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Monastery with its bucolic garden. But recently, the enclave has boomed with art, retail and restaurants.
The Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market holds studios and storefronts for local talents like Kicheko Goods (mod jewelry) and Kuzeh (dreamy pottery). Around the corner, Dance Place hosts edgy contemporary shows in a black box theater. Restaurants and bars cluster along 12th Street NE. The buzziest bets include the down-home Smith Public Trust for brews, burgers and live music and Primrose, a new French bistro and wine bar, where dishes like trout with sorrel cream are served in "are-we-in-Paris?" digs with a zinc bar and ostrich-plume chandeliers.
Ivy City/Union Market
In Northeast, these slightly gritty adjacent areas are transforming former warehouses (Ivy City) and wholesale food stalls (Union Market) into vibrant retail and restaurant hot spots. In Ivy City, the art deco Hecht’s Warehouse anchors a new complex of apartments, cafes and shops, with hip places like soccer bar Dock FC and Mexican hangout La Puerta Verde with tuna tostadas and mezcal margaritas doled out in a colorful, tile-filled room. Also popping up in Ivy City: distilleries and breweries including Jos. A. Magnus & Co., which makes gin, whiskey and rum in a jumbo warehouse with an attached cocktail bar where you can lounge on plush leather sofas.
Just to the south, Union Market is a rehabbed 1967 building holding dozens of food vendors, a wine store, restaurants and boutiques. Here, you can graze your way through a multi-course meal on Prescription Chicken’s homey soups, the District Fish Wife’s spicy salmon burgers and Panorama Bakery’s chocolate eclairs. For stylish souvenirs like arty jewelry, cocktail glasses and popular cookbooks, pop into Salt & Sundry.
Surrounding blocks hold both old-school food wholesalers and new businesses like high-end Italian restaurant Masseria for multi-coursed, pasta-centric meals in a chill indoor-outdoor space, and Brief Assembly, which sells indie fashions and home décor in a bright, white boutique with exposed brick walls.
If you built a whole neighborhood, would everybody come? That’s precisely what happened with The Wharf, the glassy, classy development that debuted last fall on the Southwest Waterfront. The 24-acre, $2.4 billion section populates its cobble-stoned walkways and towering midrange buildings with condos, hotels, shops and restaurants like Barack Obama fave Hank’s Oyster Bar and Fabio Trabbochi’s glam Spanish seafood spot, Del Mar.
During the day, you can rent a canoe or kayak to ply the Washington Channel at the Wharf Boathouse. Come nightfall, denizens get down thanks to multiple concert halls, including the jumbo Anthem for big-name rock acts and Pearl Street Warehouse for bluegrass, folk and Americana in an intimate, diner-like setting.
Other nearby zones are drawing fans, too. H Street NE hums with hip bars like Copycat Co., shops like the restaurant-retail mashup Maketto and indoor mini golf hangout H Street Country Club. Just across the river from Southwest Waterfront, Anacostia emerges with restaurants and galleries, plus Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and Frederick Douglass’s hilltop home.