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The 6 Best Vinyl Shops in Washington D.C.

Plus, what to buy, where to eat and stay, and what to do in the nation’s capital.

The exterior of Smash Records next to other colorful buildings in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

D.C.’s punk spirit lives on at Smash Records in the colorful Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Courtesy of washington.org

While visitors often flock to Washington, D.C.'s iconic museums and monuments, truly understanding the city is to experience its deep influence on another aspect of American culture: music. Spanning genres such as jazz, punk, and go-go—D.C.’s distinctive blend of funk, rhythm, and blues—the capital’s contribution to the nation’s musical heritage is evident in the vibrant live music scene and thrives within its vinyl culture.

To get to know the capital beyond the marble and memorials, we compiled a list of the six best vinyl shops in D.C. and suggestions of where to eat and stay nearby. For first-time and frequent visitors alike, exploring the city through its vinyl record shops offers a unique perspective on the city’s musical influence.

HR (Home Rule) Records

HR Records, in Brightwood Park, is the go-to spot for aficionados of jazz, soul, funk, and go-go vinyl. Owner Charvis Campbell, a passionate advocate for music preservation, is also the visionary behind the Home Rule Music Festival, an annual live music event and record fair that celebrates D.C.’s music culture each June.

No matter what time of year you’re exploring the capital, don’t go home without a souvenir representing D.C.-born legend, Duke Ellington. A recommended find is Ellington’s A Drum is a Woman. If crate-digging worked up an appetite, head across the street to Mita Cafe, featuring an eclectic menu of sushi and Ethiopian cuisine.

Smash Records

A longtime Adams Morgan staple, Smash Records is the place for punk, alternative, and indie vinyl and CDs. Vintage band patches, t-shirts, accessories, and skateboards round out the offerings.

Scour the shelves for the seminal Fugazi (EP) by Fugazi, which represents D.C.’s hardcore scene and is an essential part of any punk collection. Continue exploring the vibe of the capital nearby at Shanklin Hall, a moody social club–meets–food incubator dedicated to representing the richness of Black culinary traditions.

A colorful mural of musicians on U Street in Washington, D.C.

On U Street, a mural honors D.C.'s rich musical tradition.

Courtesy of washington.org

Joint Custody

Joint Custody, a self-described “freak emporium,” is nestled in the heart of U Street’s live music scene. Fans of reggae, punk/hardcore, hip-hop, and metal are sure to find something in this cozy basement shop which also features vintage boomboxes, turntables, Harley paraphernalia, posters, and vintage concert tees.

One standout record to seek: Scream’s No More Censorship, featuring D.C. native Dave Grohl prior to his Nirvana fame. After the eclectic experience of Joint Custody, head over to the original Busboys and Poets location a couple of blocks away for a vast vegan-friendly menu, progressive bookstore, and open-mic nights.

Som Records

Frequently named the best record store in D.C., Som Records is housed in an easy-to-miss basement location under a barber’s shop (look for the barber’s pole) and prides itself on carrying everything from samba and salsa to dollar bin finds and rare collectibles. A turntable with headphones means you can try before you buy.

Keep an eye out for D.C. legend Chuck Brown’s Go-Go Swing Live. Then continue your musical journey nearby at another neighborhood icon, Black Cat, the beloved music venue featuring local, national, and alternative music for more than 30 years.

Byrdland Records

Located in the Union Market District, Byrdland Records is the sister store to Songbyrd Music House and specializes in local D.C. artists, turntables, and gear. Don’t miss their Saturday Spins—vinyl DJs play each Saturday to enhance your shopping experience.

For a recent take on the capital’s legendary punk scene, take home a copy of Bad Moves’ Untenable, or even better, sign up for Byrdland’s record club for a curated record of the month from several categories, including local D.C. music. It’s easy to fill an afternoon exploring the shops and eateries of Union Market, but you can level up your cultural immersion by catching a film. The arthouse cinema, Angelika, has a pop-up Union Market location serving beer, wine, and ice cream in a repurposed industrial warehouse.

Decibel Music

D.C.’s newest record store, Decibel Music, brings a huge section of R&B, jazz, soul, gospel, comedy, and hip-hop to the Shaw neighborhood. Featuring an inviting aesthetic, in-store performances, and listening stations, this Black-owned business has quickly cultivated a passionate and loyal clientele.

Browse the racks for another D.C. classic, Billy Stewart’s Summertime, before catching a show at The Howard Theatre, a historic cultural institution and cornerstone of African American entertainment since opening in 1910.

Hotel recommendations for music fans

For vinyl enthusiasts looking to extend their immersive musical journey to their accommodation, Eaton DC fits the bill nicely. Amenities cater to music lovers: expect in-room turntables, R&B yoga, a rooftop music venue, sound healing experiences, and more.

Other music-centric D.C. hotels include Yours Truly DC, featuring a music library and in-room record player on request, and The Line DC inside of a former neoclassical church which is also home to the Half Moon Radio broadcast.

To learn more about how to experience music in DC, visit washington.org

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