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Where to Stay in Washington DC: 12 Best Areas & Places

Imagine waking up every morning of your vacation and having all the unforgettable moments, historical sites, and unique museums within steps of your hotel room. Washington, DC, is an iconic destination offering much more than being the country’s political epicenter.

This exciting city is home to charming neighborhoods lined with historic row houses, locally owned shops, and internationally inspired restaurants. Many of the legendary museums throughout the town are Smithsonian museums, something everyone traveling through must-see, along with a stop at the United States National Arboretum.

Other must-see attractions when sightseeing around Capitol Hill include the Washington Convention Center, the Capitol Building, the Space Museum, and the White House Visitor Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Also when you plan to stay in Washington, DC, exploring Fourteenth Street Historic District, Union Station, and other city attractions makes for an exciting experience. Most major attractions are within a short walk of each other, making it very easy to explore the U.S. capital. For major attractions not within walking distance of the main downtown area or Capitol Hill, the metro station offers transit to several areas throughout the community.

Of course, staying in a centrally located hotel keeps you within walking distance of all the thriving activity and action in Washington, DC. But, if you’d prefer to stay elsewhere in the Washington, DC, area, several other neighborhoods in the city offer amazing views and plenty of things to do nearby. 

Continue reading to learn more about the best places to stay when visiting Washington, DC.

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TL;DR

Best Areas to Stay in Washington, DC

  • Best area for first-timers/tourists – Downtown Washington
  • Best area for budget travelers – Adams Morgan
  • Best area for luxury travelers – Capitol Hill
  • Best area for safety – Georgetown
  • Best area for families – Woodley Park
  • Best area for culture/history – Chinatown
  • Best area for nightlife – Dupont Circle

Where to Stay in Washington, DC

1. Downtown Washington 

Downtown Washington Aerial View

The Downtown Washington area is where most visitors think of staying when planning a vacation to Washington, DC. The neighborhood is walkable, with tree-lined paved walkways, offering easy access to galleries, museums, restaurants, a cute boutique hotel (or two), and a bustling nightlife.

In addition, local parks are scattered throughout the Downtown DC area, providing plenty of entertainment and activities, including sporting events, concerts, and lots of green space to relax and enjoy the view. 

Many popular tourist destinations, such as the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, are located in this area. If you are planning on seeing all the typical tourist attractions and historic sites or this is your first time in Washington, DC, the Downtown DC area is the place to stay and explore.

As busy as this neighborhood is, it is very clean and safe to explore. You are sure to find something unique and memorable to experience in the area. Some of the must-see places and things to do in the Downtown DC area include: 

  • The White House
  • Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • Multiple Smithsonian Museums
  • National Mall
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts

Various hotels in this neighborhood provide unique places to stay for singles, couples, and families visiting Washington, DC. When deciding where to stay, consider these hotels in the Downtown DC area:

See Related: Best Day Trips from Washington DC By Train

2. Adams Morgan  

Adams Morgan Scenery
Andrei Medvedev / Shutterstock.com

Imagine walking down quaint streets lined with historic row houses among a mix of independently owned stores. You will experience this vision while exploring the Adams Morgan area of Washington, DC.

This neighborhood is the place many people visit when searching for vintage goods at Meeps or for DC-themed gifts and souvenirs at Urban Dwells. There are multiple things to do in the neighborhood, and it is a must-stay when you want to experience Washington, DC, but are not there for the monuments. 

A great location to visit in the neighborhood is the LINE DC, a DC-inspired hotel set inside a 110-year-old church, with an all-day cafe, rooftop bar, community center, and a fantastic restaurant. 

This area also hosts several events featuring live music, international food, unique vendors, and cultural demonstrations and dances. In addition, the area has many restaurants serving all types of cuisine from around the world. You will take advantage of plenty of things to do in the Adams Morgan area by skipping the traditional Washington, DC, monuments. 

Below is a list of must-experience things in the area: 

  • Hudson & Crane
  • The LINE DC
  • Lost City Books
  • Songbyrd Music House & Record Cafe

When visiting the Washington, DC, area, you will find multiple hotels to choose from, including historic buildings, luxury hotels, and an affordable hotel (or two). The Adams Morgan neighborhood offers many unique options when selecting a place to stay in Washington, DC.

3. Capitol Hill 

Capitol in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Capitol Hill is the center of U.S. government operations and where a lot of action occurs for locals and visitors. This neighborhood has mini neighborhoods, including Eastern Market and Barracks Row, which offer a unique blend of international and local culture. 

You want to see the historic row homes, lively farmers’ markets, unique bazaars, and excitement of this historic, landmark, and walkable neighborhood. This area is a must when visiting Washington, DC, mainly stopping at the Capitol Visitor Center, which has all the information you need about exploring the site, including tours, programs, and free-of-charge activities. 

Capitol Hill is the place most tourists think about when looking to tour the many government-related monuments and attractions in Washington, DC. When in the Capitol Hill area, make sure to enjoy some of these must-see attractions and places to visit

  • Bartholdi Fountain and Gardens
  • Eastern Market
  • Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • Library of Congress
  • U.S. Capitol Grounds
  • The Dubliner Restaurant
  • United States Botanic Garden

Many hotels in the Capitol Hill area are a short walk to many major attractions and must- experience locations in Washington, DC. Some of the best hotels in this area include:

See Related: How to Plan a Family Getaway In Washington, DC

4. Georgetown

Georgetown Scenery in Washington, DC

Georgetown is the second top neighborhood people consider visiting in the Washington, DC, area. This area is home to the city’s top shops, restaurants, and luxury hotels. The retail scene includes everything from mainstream crowd-pleasers to more unique and locally owned businesses. 

Georgetown is also a great neighborhood for exploring and touring stunning historic 18th and 19th-century mansions, including the former homes of Julia Childs and JFK. Plus, great outdoor and waterfront activities are available at Georgetown Waterfront Park, including kayaking, strolling, cycling, jogging, and more. Foodies and night owls will also have a fantastic time visiting Washington Harbour’s waterfront restaurants, bars, and live jazz shows at Blues Alley. 

There is such a diverse collection of things to do in the Georgetown area that even if you can only get out there for dinner, it is a must-visit. Georgetown is a popular place for Georgetown University students to gather, generally making the area’s crowds younger. Check out some of these must-see things when in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC:

  • Explore the Potomac River
  • Washington Harbour
  • Dumbarton Oaks Museum
  • Tudor Place Historic House & Garden
  • Filomena Ristorante
  • Falafel Inc
  • Georgetown University

Georgetown is a beautiful community, with plenty of historic sites, fine restaurants, unique shops, and quality hotels. If you’re planning a stay in Washington, DC, these are our recommendations for the best hotels in the Georgetown area:

 5. Woodley Park 

Houses and Street in Woodley Park

Woodley Park has access to many outdoor recreational areas, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and visitors looking for something to explore besides the typical Washington, DC, monuments and street-filled neighborhoods. This area is set north of Dupont Circle, across Rock Creek Park and Adams Morgan, and is one of the most uptown neighborhoods popular for Washingtonians looking to escape the summer heat. 

When strolling the streets, you will see the historic architecture of homes, restaurants, shops, and hotels, which can be admired while enjoying coffee or tea at one of the many sidewalk cafes. During your adventures through Woodley Park, you will see a mural of Marilyn Monroe and breathtaking bridges, including the Taft and Duke Ellington. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo is also set in the area. It is home to the city’s famous giant pandas and more than 1,800 species of other animals, such as African elephants and Komodo dragons. 

Additionally, Rock Creek Park has a winding waterway traveling through the 2,100 acres where tourists and locals flock to enjoy winding trails, picnic spots, and beautiful water views. Metro stations connect with this area, offering easy access to the entirety of the city.

These are the top things you should experience when in the Woodley Park area: 

Plan your stay in Washington, DC, by booking a hotel in the Woodley Park area. With the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan subway station nearby, you’ll have easy access to everything in Washington, DC. Check out some of these unique places to stay when booking your DC vacation:

See Related: Best Tours in Washington DC to Book Today

6. Chinatown

Washington Chinatown Arc

Chinatown is a historic area east of Downtown Washington, DC, that was once the first United States home to thousands of Chinese immigrants and is now home to prominent landmarks, including the Capital One Arena.

The area has been renovated, preserving historic buildings, restaurants, shops, a bowling alley, and a cinema complex. Chinatown’s bustling nightlife is home to many entertainment venues, offering everything from dancing to live music and theater performances to comedy shows.

The restaurant, Wok and Roll, is in the former Mary Surratt Boarding House, which served as a meeting and planning place for John Wilkes Booth and several of his conspirators before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 

There are modern-day stores and all businesses must have their names written in Chinese on display outside; however, the most prominent attractions are the ones showcasing Chinese-American cultural and religious traditions. The Chinatown Community Cultural Center provides locals and visitors with numerous activities, classes, and services. 

Below are some of the must-see things to do in Washington, DC’s Chinatown:

  • Capital One Arena
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Ford’s Theatre
  • Zaytinya Restaurant
  • Temperance Fountain

If you’re interested in staying in the Chinatown area, you’ll be within walking distance to many internationally inspired restaurants, as well as metro stations that can transport you to other areas of Washington, DC. Some popular hotels in Chinatown include:

7. Dupont Circle 

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is home to dozens of bars, boutiques, museums, and bistros, making this vibrant community a must-experience when sightseeing in Washington, DC. Visitors worldwide flock to Dupont Circle annually to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and experience fun and exciting activities, events, and more. This unique neighborhood has a little bit of something for everyone, and the shops have everything you need in one central location. 

Connecticut Avenue is one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood and is the place to be when looking for local excitement in Washington, DC. There is enough excitement on this street to keep you going all day. The Phillips Collection is an exciting display of America’s first museum of modern art, perfect for exploring before enjoying dinner at one of the many local restaurants influenced by nearby embassies. 

If you are in the area on Sunday, visit the year-round Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market, which is a favorite thing to do for locals and tourists. The market runs from the front of the metro station entrance to both Q and 20th streets. Plus, the Dupont Circle Metro Station offers easy access to other nearby areas and major attractions.

Other exciting and must-do things in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC, include: 

  • Embassy Row
  • The Phillips Collection
  • Woodrow Wilson House
  • National Geographic Museum
  • National Museum of American Jewish Military History
  • Dupont Underground
  • DC Comedy Loft
  • Larz Anderson House

Dupont Circle has many unique and historic locations within a short walk of one another and the Dupont Circle Metro Station offers service to other neighborhoods and areas of town. When staying in Washington, DC, check out these excellent Dupont Circle hotels:

See Related: Best Washington D.C. Walking Tours

8. U Street Corridor 

Shop in Washington's U Street
David Harmantas / Shutterstock.com

U Street Corridor is the birthplace of Duke Ellington, a celebrated Washington, DC hero and jazz musician, and offers visitors a rich, vibrant neighborhood with tons of history. The lively 14th Street corridor is the place for an immersive historical experience, including a walk through the areas where Ellington once stood, studied, and performed.

Foodies love the U Street Corridor area because restaurants in the area are eclectic and exciting, serving everything from Southern comfort foods to high-end luxury meals. Even the most selective eaters can find something to enjoy when dining at a U Street Corridor restaurant. 

Spend Saturday at the farmers’ market and then stop for ice cream from the local favorite, Ice Cream Jubilee. When done, go for a stroll and discover why many people flock to the U Street Corridor for its rich culture, historical sites, fantastic restaurants, and quaint boutiques. This area of Washington, DC, is perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee or iced tea and sitting outside for exciting people-watching. 

Some of the must-experience things in the U Street Corridor area include: 

  • 9:30 Club
  • The Howard Theatre
  • Goodwood
  • African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

Staying in the U Street Corridor area offers many opportunities to see historic cites and grab some amazing eats. Here are some of the best hotels in the area:

9. Logan Circle Neighborhood

Logan Circle Neighborhood

If you want the ultimate food experience in Washington, DC, plan to visit Logan Circle. This unique, up-and-coming neighborhood is named for Civil War General John Logan, who is displayed high on his horse in the statue monument that centers the circular park.

The neighborhood offers fabulous restaurants offering all-day menus and late-night eats. Many restaurants here have also been influenced by local embassies offering cuisine options worldwide. You will find everything from Mexican, French, Greek, and American-inspired restaurants, including casual and fine-dining menu options. 

In addition to the fantastic restaurants, Logan Circle has a bustling commercial district with shops perfect for designers, tourists, and window shoppers. Stores offer a unique mix of items for younger generations and traditional items for more seasoned shoppers. If you are still in the area at night, you will quickly discover how hopping Logan Circle gets when the sun goes down, including nighttime entertainment, bars, nightclubs, and more. Here are some of the best things to do in Logan Circle:

The Logan Circle neighborhood is the place to go for nightlife entertainment, and staying at one of the following area hotels will keep you within walking distance of all the action:

See Related: Best Family Vacations on a Budget

10. Navy Yard 

Bridge in Navy Yard

Navy Yard is the place to visit historic sites, watch a Nationals baseball game, or enjoy summer picnics. This area has a rich history from the late 19th century through World War II and to the present day.

It is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, sports fans, foodies, and nature lovers. Though it is best to visit Navy Yard during the warmer months, this neighborhood in Washington, DC, is worth the visit any time of the year. 

Several riverfront parks and wide open green spaces throughout Navy Yard offer plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the area’s natural beauty. Stop by Yards Park to see a dramatic bridge, water features, and more. This park is a must-see, especially when it’s hosting one of the many special events and festivals throughout the year.

Navy Yard is also the neighborhood to visit for locally-sourced seafood and fantastic wine. When dining at one of the restaurants, you will have great waterfront views, mouthwatering menu items, and excellent service. Explore Navy Yard and discover why many people visit and live in the Washington, DC, area. Some additional must-dos in the area include: 

  • Navy Yard Metro Shops
  • Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge
  • Fort McNair
  • Nationals Park
  • U.S. Navy Museum
  • Cold War Gallery Museum

When looking for a place to stay in Washington DC, the Navy Yard area offers many things for visitors to see, do, and experience, while offering access to other areas of town through public transportation options. Popular hotels in the Navy Yard area include:

11. Forest Hills 

Forest Hills Street Scenery
Eric T Gunther, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Forest Hills in Washington, DC, is a popular place residents choose to live and tourists come to explore. Forest Hills is one of the safest Washington, DC, neighborhoods and offers an urban feel with many restaurants, shops, and parks. Many people, especially locals, refer to the Forest Hills area as Van Ness because it is near the University of the District of Columbia’s Van Ness campus. 

This neighborhood is the former site of the Civil War-era Fort Kearny; however, no remains of the former fort remain, but the absence of the fort does not take away from the charm or desire to explore Forest Hills. Many people flock to the area to explore Soapstone Valley Park and nearby Rock Creek Park.

Set among the many parks, the Forest Hills neighborhood is home to many museums, restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

A famous museum visited by people worldwide is the Hillwood Museum, which is set in the home that once bellowed to philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post. The museum also houses some decorative objects, including her beloved Fabergé eggs. 

Several embassies are found in and around the Forest Hills neighborhood, which has influenced the great restaurants and shops in the area. Some of the must-see things in the Forest Hills area of Washington, DC, include: 

  • Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
  • Linnean Park
  • Soapstone Valley Park
  • Rock Creek Park
  • Capitol Stones
  • Peirce Mill

Forest Hills is home to many beautiful gardens, several within a short walk of neighborhood hotels, including the following accommodations:

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Seattle, Washington

12. Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom Aerial View

The Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC, stretches from the Potomac River to the far western edge of Georgetown. It is named after the unique layer of fog that seems to linger there. This neighborhood is an excellent location in Washington, DC, when looking for a place that offers main attractions, unique restaurants, and plenty of shopping.

The most popular attraction in Foggy Bottom is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is a Potomac River-side performing arts center promoting world-class music, drama, and dance performances. The venue has nine stages and hosts performances almost daily, and its Millennium Stage hosts free nightly shows starting at 6 p.m.

Foggy Bottom is also home to various other significant landmarks, including the U.S. Department of State, and the Watergate Hotel and Office Building, which was home to the 1972 Democratic National Committee break-in, igniting one of the country’s most memorable scandals.

This neighborhood is also trendy among those looking to explore the outdoors and has many parks, green spaces, and riverside walking trails, perfect for nature-viewing opportunities. As you can see, Foggy Bottom is a unique neighborhood and includes the following must-experience places:

  • John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Watergate Hotel and Office Building
  • Thompson Boat Center
  • The George Washington University
  • Edward J. Kelly Park
  • Albert Einstein Memorial

The Foggy Bottom neighborhood is conveniently located, with many area attractions and a metro station for easy access to other areas of town. If you choose to stay in this area of Washington, DC, here are some of its top accommodations:

FAQ

Where is a good place to stay in Washington, DC, near The White House?

The best place to stay while visiting Washington, DC, and wanting to be near The White House is the historic Hay-Adams hotel, which is nestled directly across the street. This hotel is the number one choice for people visiting Washington, DC, looking for luxury accommodations, close to the nation’s capital, and offering easy access to many must-see things in the Downtown Washington area. 

What is the best area to stay in Washington, DC?

There are many neighborhoods to stay in while visiting Washington, DC, ranging from affordable hotels to high-end luxury; however, one of the best areas to stay is the Downtown area. This neighborhood puts you close to all the Washington, DC, action, and you still have easy access to transportation options that connect with the many other notable communities throughout the city. 

What are the best neighborhoods to stay in the Washington, DC, area?

Several neighborhoods in the Washington, DC, area offer exciting things to do, various accommodation styles and costs, and are in safe areas of town. Some of the best community neighborhoods to stay in when visiting Washington, DC, include Georgetown, Downtown Washington, Capitol Hill, Chinatown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Logan Circle. 

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