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Why D.C.’s Oldest Neighborhood Is a Go-To for History and Shopping

Brimming with charming boutiques, architecture, and more, the historic Georgetown area is a visual treat for every type of traveler.

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Georgetown is one of D.C.’s most lively destinations for dining, shopping, and entertainment–all by the water.

For many, traveling to a place that delights all the senses is a must—especially when it comes to design—and the flourishing historic neighborhood of Georgetown, with its well-preserved colonial and Federal architecture, has style in spades. Whether you’re searching for a statement fashion piece or simply want to walk along the historic, cobblestone streets, Washington D.C.’s oldest neighborhood is a treat for your eyes, offering plenty of other delights too. Here’s how to immerse yourself in this National Historic Landmark.

Experience the blending of old and new

Cobblestone streets are lined with boutiques showcasing the height of contemporary fashion. Historic sites serve as jumping-off points for outdoor adventure. Federalist architecture provides a backdrop for modern life. These Georgetown scenes all set it apart as a destination that delightfully integrates the past with the present.

Blues Alley, the country’s oldest, continuously operating jazz supper club, epitomizes this marriage. Set in an 18th-century brick carriage house, music lovers of all ages can dine on authentic Creole cuisine while enjoying live music. And art and history fans should check out Dumbarton Oaks, the sprawling Federal-style home of former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun. Featuring permanent and rotating exhibits within its rooms, the estate also has tranquil landscaped gardens to roam.

Shop independent stores and more

Old streets juxtapose modern trends right in the heart of Georgetown, which houses some of the best places for retail therapy in the city. Find colorful, wearable art pieces at LiLi the First; AFAR favorite Buck Mason’s updated American classics, made using a very Georgetown approach of innovation-meets-craft; and Billy Reid. which focuses on menswear while providing timeless selections for women. You may even spot a mural or two when traversing from shop to shop.

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Find vibrant murals and independent boutiques along D.C.’s cobblestone streets.

Photo courtesy of washington.org

A stop by Cady’s Alley, an award-winning example of urban design in the Georgetown Design District, includes walking down cobblestone streets while browsing jewelry shops and curated labels at boutiques like Relish, along with some 30 other stores. Interior design lovers can browse home-centric shops, such as Thos. Moser and Design Within Reach, for decor inspiration. And District Doughnut and Kafe Leopold offer places for a snack or meal.

Enjoy harborside activities

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Outdoor water activities like kayaks and paddleboarding are one of the best ways to explore DC’s waterfronts.

Whether you want to dine, soak up the history, or experience outdoor adventure, the Washington Harbour is the place to be. Visit iconic landmarks, such as Key Bridge—D.C.’s oldest standing bridge—and the accompanying Key Bridge Boathouse. Not only is it one of the city’s most photographed and recognizable boathouses, but it’s where to go to adventure on the waterway. Explore the harbor via kayak, spend the day in a canoe, or test your skills on a stand-up paddleboard, all of which you can rent at the boathouse.

Another excellent way to enjoy the water is to book a boat tour on the C+O Canal. Boarding one of the long, stately canal boats affords intimate views of the scenery and includes a one-hour guided excursion, highlighting the technology, culture, and two-century-old history of the canal and the people who lived, played, and worked nearby. In the evenings, the docked canal boats are available to rent for private events, and land-lovers can also explore the waterway via a footpath along the canal.

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Take a stroll along the C&O Canal in Georgetown.

After exploring, satiate your appetite by dining along the Potomac River, where the menu selections are as spectacular as the waterside views. For freshly caught seafood, stop by Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place and savor classics like Chesapeake-style crab cakes or tempt yourself with the fresh catch of the day. To further immerse yourself in the full Georgetown experience, head to 1789 Restaurant & Bar for fine dining in a Federal-era house filled with antiques. Fiola Mare is known for their lavish Sunday brunch, although its carefully curated menus offer other creative selections all week long. Stop at Filomena Ristorante, which specializes in Italian fare, for homemade bread, delectable desserts, and house-made pasta.

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Hay-roasted oysters from 1789 Restaurant & Bar’s seasonal menu.

Anchor your stay with neighborhood accommodations

Experience a deeper sense of place in Georgetown by resting your head there too. From boutique hotels to trusted international brands, there’s something for everyone when it comes to staying overnight. For a more intimate place to rest, book The Georgetown House Inn, an 1830s dwelling with 11 bedrooms, many of which overlook the canal. For classic accommodations, the Four Seasons Hotel, Washington DC has more than 200 rooms in its two wings, which connect through a glass-enclosed walkway. Another worthy option is The Graham Georgetown, within walking distance of many restaurants, shops, and historic sites—for a laidback way to spend your days in Georgetown, plus easy access to nightlife.

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