DC’s Great Streets: Part 2

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The District of Columbia is a beautiful city, full of great streets that connect our favorite places.  In Part 1, you saw half of our authors’ favorite streets in DC.  The streets ranged from quiet, tree-lined residential streets to boulevards with views of the Capitol and thriving mixed-use districts.  Here are the favorite streets of the rest of our authors:

Photo courtesy of
‘FBI Building’
courtesy of ‘mastermaq’
Ben: E Street, between 11th and 7th, NW. I used to love walking this street when I was working at a museum in that area of town. The ominous, ugly J. Edgar Hoover building always seemed to attract my attention; I’d wonder who was looking out at me, and if the cameras were even then watching my every move. I know FBI counter-intelligence agents use that area to train their rookies in the art of counter-spycraft and I’d try to see if I could spot the trainees – or even the teachers. I’ve no idea if I was ever right, but it was a great exercise during lunchtime outdoors.

These days, however, I’m beginning to learn to love K Street NW, between McPherson and Franklin Parks. It’s my new stomping grounds for lunchtime and coffee breaks and the people-watching here is so great you just have to spend five minutes on a park bench and watch. So many stories just passing in front of me as I suck down my daily dosage of caffeine…

Photo courtesy of
‘View of a walk at the US Botanic Garden’
courtesy of ‘DC Public Library Commons’
Paulo: Probably what would have been my favorite streets in Washington, DC are no longer there. Old Missouri Ave NW and Old Maine Ave SW (not to be confused with their present-day District counterparts) were two diagonal streets that ran right through Andrew Jackson Downing’s National Mall in the late 19th to early 20th Centuries, running from the Grant Statue up to what was then called Armory Square.

The old Botanic Garden and the Washington Gas Works used to sit between those two roads, with row houses and businesses lining the avenues pretty much in the middle of the mall, a literal stone’s throw from the Capitol lawn. Imagine life and work on those streets, smack dab on the axis of the city, with Capitol Hill rising from the winding paths and trees on your doorstep, and the stub of the nascent Washington Monument sticking out on the horizon, while boats plied the nearby canal which would later become Constitution Avenue, and trains crossed the Mall nearby, en route to the B&O Depot near Centre Market.  Centrally located, just a quick streetcar ride from anywhere, it would have been some prime real estate — so long as the Potomac wasn’t flooding, anyway.

Photo courtesy of
‘Stetson’s bar’
courtesy of ‘Alex Barth’
Kirk: At the end of every work week, my feet always lead me to one place: U St. NW. Some have called it the “beating heart of DC,” but I find it to be very unlike the stereotype of the city.  Most of the architecture isn’t high-brow and it owns a dressed down feel that is a welcome contrast to the suits and ties of Downtown. The area between 11th and 14th streets is home to some of the city’s best establishments and is completely lacking in pretense and foppishness. It puts me at ease and a visit is practically mandatory for me to begin my weekend.

Photo courtesy of
‘US Capitol from Pennsylvania Ave NW / 7th St NW’
courtesy of ‘KrS-NrY’
Don: When Shannon asked for this pick I ran down my mental list of streets that host restaurants, bars, and activities I love. Eventually I settled on the purely emotional choice that has nothing to do with what’s there and everything to do with what’s just down the road. Metro is my preferred way around town but I’m sometimes forced to drive. Maybe it’s because I don’t do it that often, but even after seven years here I still rubberneck like a tourist. Of all the things to gawk at, my favorite is still the view when I turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue heading east. The Capitol building isn’t even my favorite area landmark, but the sight of the dome, lit up at night and framed by the beautiful buildings that line Penn between 14th and 3rd NW, is surely my favorite vista.

Photo courtesy of
‘View from the Top’
courtesy of ‘JulieLG’
Donna: For a neighborhood stroll, I love to walk through the streets in Georgetown, near Dumbarton Oaks gardens, and look at all the different and spectacular row houses. But where I gawk the most is in tourist town. It’s the short stretch on 14th Street between Constitution and Independence, with the Capitol to one side and the Washington Monument to the other, and the open space of the Mall. It’s a view that’s uniquely Washington. At night when the Capitol is all lit up, I think about the amazing power of the decisions made there, whether I agree with them or not, to affect what happens here in our country and throughout the world.

Photo courtesy of
‘Taft Bridge and Kalorama’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’
Liam: My favorite street in the city is Connecticut Ave, NW between Ordway in Cleveland Park and Kalorama, with particular appreciation for the bridge that starts at Calvert and carries you over the Rock Creek Park. I could walk that street over and over. I think what I like most about it is that despite being only a mile from bustling Dupont and K-Street/Golden Triangle, this section of Connecticut manages to provide me with a feeling of a true neighborhood within the city. I like that I can hit up trivia or a movie at the Uptown and then walk down Connecticut, no matter what time of night, feeling safe, secure, and at peace. I like passing the zoo, and continuing down to the second little batch of neighborhood restaurants and shops just before the bridge. And of course, walking over that bridge provides some beautiful scenery and a feeling of peaceful solitude that I just don’t really get in any other part of DC. That’s what makes this my favorite street in Washington.

Photo courtesy of
‘i love the embassies’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’
Tiffany: My brother moved to a tiny little town in western Wyoming a couple of years ago. One evening, after getting home from visiting me in DC, he IMed me to say, “See, this is why I could never live in DC. Between my house and my job, there’s one traffic light, and I MIGHT see two other cars.” I said, “Well, traffic does suck, but I just got home from a party at the Irish embassy.” “Well,” my brother said, “I guess not everyone gets to do THAT.” Almost everywhere you look in DC, there’s a reminder that the United States is a rich, powerful nation. Embassy Row, on Massachusetts between Thomas and Ward Circles, with all the nations of the world that send representatives here to conduct business with our government remind you that we have neighbors, and our power and our wealth do not exist in a vacuum. And if their mere presence isn’t enough, they’re frequently more than happy to teach you about their countries by flinging open the embassy doors and throwing a party. Who doesn’t love that?
Photo courtesy of
‘Logan Circle homes’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’
Jenn: My favorite street in DC isn’t technically a street at all, unless you were able to unwind it, that is. Stand in Logan Circle with your back to the General and look around at the breathtaking array of architectural styles lining the circle proper. From classic Victorian, Romanesque and Second Empire, it’s a beautiful sampling of DC’s signature looks. You’ve got genteel magnolia trees and grand oaks too. I lived right on the circle for a few years and it was the coolest address ever, watching the belle of the ball, No. 1 & 2, be restored to its former glory, and a sad little “meadow” at the southern end get populated with new buildings respectfully reminiscent of the old. It’s one of the great success stories of our city – how this circle was revitalized into a residential core, as opposed to being bulldozed down for blank office space or pseudo-lofts. Ah, time for a picnic.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

One thought on “DC’s Great Streets: Part 2

  1. i love the Connecticut Ave bridge. I live really close to there, and one of my regular running routes is up kalorama then right on Connecticut, over the bridge, and left on Calvert into the park. Approaching the bridge with the morning sun just beginning to light up the trees NEVER gets old to me, ever.

    Many of my favorites lie along 17th street in dupont. Swann between 17th and 18th is lovely, so is Seaton between 17th and Florida. I also have soft spots for R and Corcoran between 16th and 14th, some amazing houses.