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.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

Roving Asian mendicant, can occasionally be seen wandering the streets of downtown Washington, muttering unintelligible gibberish to passers-by while pushing a “bag lady” shopping cart full of old blankets, American flags, soda cans, and healthy secondhand snacks from organic food shop dumpsters. Used to live in a cardboard box at 16th and K but the rent was too expensive.

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