The 13 Best Things About Living in the District

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

Now I hate when people tell others to move to the suburbs if they don’t like something about living in DC but if you don’t enjoy at least a few of the following things below, it’s not time to move to the suburbs, it’s time to move to a completely new city. I kicked a box of wine by myself coming up with this list:

13. The Mall and Monuments – an easy one but if you haven’t been in a while you forget just how beautiful they really are.
12. Admittedly, not for my conservative cousins but despite being known for the stalemate often seen in Congress with national politics – our local politics are pretty progressive.
11. Row Houses – we have some damn beautiful row house lined streets.
10. Walkability – You can, particularly when the weather gets nicer, walk end to end. Pretty far anyway.
9. History – big props to the Cultural Tourism folks and their African American Heritage Trail as well all the other great history everywhere you turn.
8. Libraries – most of our neighborhood libraries now kick ass. Not to mention the Library of Congress.
7. The 9:30 Club – best small(ish) live performance spot I’ve ever been to.
6. Weather – we can complain a lot but taking a step back overall we have a pretty moderate climate – we get some snow but not too much and our Autumns and Springs are among the best in the world.
5. The Nationals – finally a sports team that can unite nearly the entire District as we saw in 2012 – just wait till this year.
4. The Cherry Blossoms blooming – if you don’t take at least one second to admire them (even just regular blooming trees in our neighborhoods) then I’m sorry – you have no soul.
3. Our Museums – and many of them are free which is really an amazing thing when you drop $30 or more in other cities.
2. Our Revival – the District was devastated after the riots and fires of ’68. To live here now while our avenues get reborn is seriously an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.
1. The People – Something we can take far too easily for granted – DC is filled with some of the smartest and most passionate people in the country. Our conversations are not dull. You can meet people knowledgeable about pretty much anything and everything. As one who comes from a long line of folks who like to bullshit, argue and debate – it makes for good times.

106 Comment

  • You didn’t mention Metro……just kidding!

  • what happened to the nats in 2013? lol

  • RE: #6 Weather. This is after the Polar Vortex and the now pending ice storm to kick off March? Mild?

    I would also throw in Location as number #14 or #15. We are can drive to other major cities pretty easily for weekend trips and beaches aren’t too far of a drive. St Louis, Chicago and other midwest cities cant really say that.

    • oh man, I didn’t see this comment and echoed you almost exactly!

    • The weather here sucks except for Spring (unless we get a lot of rain) or fall (unless we get the back end of hurricanes). Access to the mountains and shore is great, but there are plenty of weekend trips one can do from Chicago (Saugatuck, various places in Wisconsin). St L not so much.

    • We had a huge crippling snow in mid-March in 1993.

  • +12! (I’ve never been to the 9:30 Club.)

    I never forget how great this city is because I walk to work most days through Meridian Hill Park. Happy dogs, good-looking joggers, cool architecture, and that view to the Washington Monument. Damn fine way to start the day. (And re: weather: it’s only a handful of days each year that are too hot, too cold, or too wet to walk two miles.)

    • Agreed, I think the more you walk in this city directly equates with the more you love the place. On the days I work at an office, I try to walk to and from work every day, and I pass trees, dogs and their walkers, rowhouses, federal buildings, monuments, museums … it’s all awesome and a great way to start the day.

      • Great point about walking being good for the soul! (Especially in the beautiful city that is DC!)

    • I do a lot of walking, and thanks to PoP I pay more attention to doors and vestibules and trees and the somewhat everyday things that makes DC special.

  • Hear hear! I agree with almost all of this list (and could add a ton more myself… for example one thing I love about DC also is our proximity to so many things. The beach, Annapolis, Shenandoah, Baltimore/Philly/NYC, the “South”, on and on…!)

    I cannot get on board with the weather though. Even my rosiest colored DC glasses thinks that the weather here is the pits. I will grant that the falls and springs are beautiful but they are short lived.

    • Eh, I think this awful winter is clouding folks’ judgement. This winter has been a beast, no doubt, but I’d say it’s been more the exception than the rule. Outside of the Snowpacalypse back in 2010, I don’t think the winters here are *that* bad (especially compared to other cities like Boston, Chicago, etc.), and I’m from NC (I grew up thinking 50 degrees was cold). But all that said, this winter has been particularly brutal and I just want it to be over!!

      • True, winters aren’t too bad, although I’ve had more than my fair share of icy rain and “wintry mix” (something I never even knew existed before I moved here). But really what I hate the most are the summers. They kill me!! There is no excuse for that kind of muggy humidity.

        • Yeah, I think we’ve all had more than our fair share of wintry mixes, and the forecast for Monday made me scream a few obscenities.

        • albany

          I’m with you Kelly, I don’t mind the wintry mix, it’s the ‘heat dome’ in July that gets me – Everyday 95+ and humid for a month straight give or take.

        • It’s the mosquitos here that really kill summer for me :/ moved here a few years ago and I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Everytime I go outside for 5 minutes I come back in with several welts. Hope the cold winter killed some of them off this year

      • If you eliminate motoring, how terrible and disruptive are these minor snow anyways? If you like many others here walk, bike or take transit to get to your jobs and daily needs, the snow really isn’t a big deal and you might even get a paid day off work because of it. It only becomes a dreaded problem if your daily needs revolve around motoring.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    +++for #2 and #1 I was in middle school during the riots. I remember 14thst as a long line of topless bars and strip joints. Now I am living at 14th and W and I just love it. Seeing all the new buildings going up is a real thrill to this long-time DCer.

  • Having 3 airports is a pretty sweet thing, too.

    • Yeah! And DCA in particular deserves a spot on the list, my favorite airport I’ve ever been to. This thread is getting me so excited, haha.

    • yes the airports! Always better luck trying to find a deal and being able to take metro to National is an added bonus. I would also add in all the new playground renovations! Now that I have a kid, I definitely love the money and effort DPR is putting into so many great new facilities and playgrounds. You really can’t appreciate it until you see how dismal some cities are with their playgrounds.
      AND lastly, the new Yards Park on the waterfront. Love it.

    • I love flying into National at night after being away for awhile. Coming into DC via the Memorial bridge and seeing all the monuments at night – even after countless times, it is still stunning.

    • Yep, really wanted to mention this! We can easily bus to BWI, Metro to DCA and soon Metro to Dulles.

  • Wow I guess its time for me to move. 🙁 This list feels lackluster. To each their own.

  • while I’m a big Nats fan, I still think the Skins do a better job of uniting the District.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      No way – with the name, the history (jeez we literally have Dallas fans born and raised in the District, our arch rival…) However, in the future, maybe a couple generations from now, they certainly can be.

      • The cowboys fan-dom has a good reason – apparently goes back to the racist redskins days and residents decided to cheer for the arch rivals instead.

        DC UNITED!

      • +1. Definitely not with that name — I have zero interest in sports, but I feel generally positive about the Nationals and negative/embarrassed about the Skins.

    • Skins are in Landover, MD :p

    • Wash your mouth out with soap! Nothing, and that includes Congress, makes this city feel more torn apart than the NFL franchise in this town (well, Ashburn, VA to be exact).

    • jim_ed

      You are absolutely correct. I love the Nats, (and The Wiz, for that matter), but nothing brings this city together like the Redskins being good. Football Sundays, walking to/from the bar or transit from the game in my Skins jersey, and it seems like everyone wants to honk and wave or dap up or yell “How bout them Redkins!”.Its honestly one of my favorite things about this city.
      I’ve spent more time talking to my neighbors over beers about RG3 than all other topics combined. Fact is, most people in this town couldn’t care less about the name, but they care tremendously about how the burgundy and gold play.

      • Lost of people here could care less about sports and people from real sports towns could care less about the Deadskins, in particular. Even before the doomed move to Landover, they were an overhyped team whose tickets were tough to get unless you knew someone at one of the many trade associations, lobbyist lay firms etc. that owned most of the season tickets. Easily the phoniest team this side of Dallas and “America’ Team”.

        • jim_ed

          You’re right, how could I forget that DC isn’t a “real sports town,” what with our lack of championships in the major sports, and you know that NO ONE is really from here anyways. Thanks for setting me straight with a real argument instead of resorting to lazy ad hominems dreamed up by past their prime hacks like Dan shaunnessy or Angelo Cataldi. You sure showed us deadskin fans.

      • As a DCer who is originally from Dallas and is a lifelong Cowboy fan, I have to laugh at the notion that DC is unified by the Redskins. There are probably a solid 2/3 as many Cowboys fans here as there are Redskins fans. By contrast, I had never even seen or heard of anyone in the Dallas area who wasn’t a Cowboys fan until I left there for college. You just don’t see it — though maybe a little now since so many people have transplanted themselves there.

        You can go to any bar in this town, AT ANY TIME, and there will ALWAYS be at least one cowboys fan in the house. Always.

  • Agree wholeheartedly to all of it. I even agree about the weather. We typically get a little bit of every climate without spending too long in any one area (granted some years, we linger in summer or winter a bit too long, but on average, it’s a nice variety, and when the seasons change, it’s a nice change of pace and routine).

  • TREES! Probably the densest urban canopy in the country.

    • +100 For me it’s all about tree lined streets, parks (big – Rock Creek, and small), and a walkable city. Then come all the stuff you can do for free – see, museums, libraries, monuments, etc.

  • With walkability, which I agree with, should have added bikeability too. Love biking around this town, even in frosty weather like today.

  • LOL @ this article being posted at 4:20pm

  • justinbc

    Agree with everything except the Nats, I couldn’t care less about them. But I also don’t really like baseball, it’s boring as hell to me. And every %$#@* time I go to a game there it rains.

    • Too nuanced of a game. Makes sense.

      • justinbc

        Oh I understand it completely, I just have no interest in sports where you sit there for 3+ hours watching virtually nothing happen.

        • If you think “virtually nothing happens”, you don’t understand the game.

          • justinbc

            Take it personal if you want, but to me it’s boring as hell. Watching guys play chess in the park is more exciting.

          • See? Good analogy. I don’t enjoy watching chess, because I don’t understand it. I know how each piece moves, and the overall goal of the game, but I never learned any strategy. And somehow I am able to avoid saying to chess lovers “the game that you love is boring as hell to me.” Responding to someone’s stated love of chess with comments about how uninteresting it is to me would be egocentric and rude. So I refrain.

          • Agreed. The more I learn about the game, the more I appreciate its intricacies and chess-like strategy. In some ways, it is more interesting and complex than American football, in my opinion.

          • “If you think “virtually nothing happens”, you don’t understand the game.”
            I was going to write, word for word, the same response.
            People have their own preferences, for sure, and to each his own. No one has to like everything. Heck, thinking baseball is boring is fine, too, I suppose, although I disagree. But to say that “virtually nothing happens” throughout a baseball game is to demonstrate a profound lack of understanding, notwithstanding protests to the contrary. (As an aside, this comment is often made by ardent football fans, which is hilarious – the average actual playing time in an NFL game is 12-15 minuites, so for roughly 2:45 minutes per game, nothing is happening.)

          • Wdc–great points

          • I’m with justinbc on this one. Sure, there is strategy in baseball. But I watch sports to see people doing athletic things, not standing around a pitcher’s mound discussing what to do. Same complaint about football – I wish they would lengthen the game time and keep the clock running. I much prefer continuous-motion sports like soccer. Hockey is better on this count, even with all its stoppages.

      • nuanced? *snort*

        thats funny.

      • Study finds that baseball games average less than 18 minutes of action

        at least there’s beer.

    • Agreed, the entire Nats franchise is cursed given the way DC strong armed and practically stole land from private owners and transferred the wealth to a private family interest in Maryland, a disgrace actually!

  • This is a great new feature dan. And this one is a good list.

  • They’re all great points, but I’m an especially big fan of the Walkability one!

    I can’t think of another city of DC’s size (and many much larger, as well) where someone can live without a car with little-to-no inconvenience. It’s a huge plus for me living in DC that I don’t have to deal with the requisite issues that come along with car ownership and get to avoid the headache that is DC metro area traffic.

  • Whoa whoa whoa. I need to take issue with the claim that our local politics are progressive.

    It was just last year that liquor sales were finally allowed on Sundays.
    DC’s state income taxes are barely progressive in the literal sense of the word (did you know someone making $40,001 and someone making $350,000 are taxed at the same rate?), and not at all progressive in the political sense.
    Our minimum wage only a dollar more than the federally mandated minimum wage.
    Putting in bike lanes and getting transit improvements is nigh impossible most of the time and like pulling teeth the rest of the time.
    Marijuana use is still a misdemeanor, and smoking outdoors is still illegal.
    Many ANCs and neighborhood leaders are actively reactionary and regressive in attempting to “preserve the character of the neighborhood” when blocking new developments, inclusionary zoning, zoning laws that would allow corner stores, micro units, liquor licenses, and so on.

    Sure, we Washingtonians overwhelmingly vote D in both local and presidential elections, but that hardly means that our politics are progressive.

    The rest of the list was more or less spot on, though.

    • “Many ANCs and neighborhood leaders are actively reactionary and regressive in attempting to “preserve the character of the neighborhood” when blocking new developments, inclusionary zoning, zoning laws that would allow corner stores, micro units, liquor licenses, and so on.”

  • A bunch of things!: Our ability to turn just the threat of snow into a snow day! We have pretty nice moderate weather, and when there’s the hint of it being icky, we hunker down with cocoa and netflix. and when it actually IS icky, we organize snowball fights. Also, running along the canal. Also, growing up here, I had classmates whose families were from literally all over the world. Wasnt until I got to college that I realized how unusual that is, and how special that was! And also, as a kid here, its like an educational smorgasbord -(ok, helped that my parents were pretty determined that i’d take advantage of it): if you have to do a report on a piece of art, chances you can find it in one the museums. Have to do a report on a foreign country? Go visit the embassy. Have to do research? You can find anything you need at the Library of Congress. All that made for a pretty amazing learning environment as a kid!

  • You can’t mention the wonderful things about DC without noting the incredible diversity, whether it is diverse philosophies, experiences, races or cultures. There are few other places in the continental US where you can walk down the street and hear multiple languages and smell so many different cuisines.

    Additionally, It is worth noting the rich art scene and jazz tradition in DC, (U-Street, Lincoln Theater, Bohemian Caverns, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Langston Hughes, Open mics Spoken word, BusBoy & Poets ).

    • + 1,000. I left DC after college, went to grad school and then took a job in a large southern “city.” Realized just how racially separated much of the rest of this country is. I was spoiled as a college kid in DC, and mistook the diversity here as a normal thing. I promptly moved back to DC, bought my rowhouse, and haven’t looked back!

  • Is there another major, undeniably urban, multi-cultural, very walkable city with so many amazing attractions and underground rail transprtation that affords so many people have the opportunity to dwell in its midst in single-family homes, most with decent front and back yards? No wonder a house is so expensive here…

  • Bike paths! Also, all of the organized sports leagues!

  • It’s gotten much better. I lived here in the 90—the second rate border town was much more evident. the undeserved smugness is still here but it’s much more of a real city.

  • When I first moved here 16 years ago, I knew I loved this city when I sat on a bus on my way to work, listening to two Russians talking in their home language in front of me, watching a woman reading her Spanish Bible sitting beside me, and another reading her Koran across the aisle.

    And I came from South Florida. The thing is, down there, you live in segregated neighborhoods and you don’t have very good mass transit.

  • I think you missed two crucial points, the first is my overall favorite reason for living here:
    (1) No tall buldings allowed. That gives the downtown a genteel feel not as oppressive as the downtowns of skyscarper cities.

    (2) I would also note that, though small, DC is a very cosmopolitan place with hardly any of the “you are not from here” attitude a non-native might expect. In fact, I think DC is the most non-parochial American city I have been to.

    • Good points. I agree with both, but especially #1. Believe me I am pro-development, but am NOT in favor of amending the Height Act for this very reason. We need more infill development to accomplish more housing units and commercial options. We don’t need to sell our soul to gain those things by building a bunch of tall buildings that make us look like we are trying to be a 2nd rate NYC.

  • I agree with every point except #1. There are some great people here, but there are great people everywhere. Most of the folks I’ve met in DC have been sycophants. True, I don’t get out much. But my interactions with people other than my neighbors have not given me much of a reason to.

    • Yeah, I think PoP got #1 wrong. There are a disproportionate number of jerks in this town.

      • not in my experience.

      • skj84

        While I don’t disagree there are jerks in this town, I don’t think there is a huge number of them. I’ve lived here 9 years and most of the people I’ve encountered are super chill and friendly. Maybe its the social circle you’re in?

      • Definitely smart people but disproportionately lacking in social grace and humility. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I think he/she has Aspergers” I don’t even believe it’s a condition anymore.

    • Do you often find that you have trouble making friends?

  • You forgot one Dan – we have PoPville thanks to great folk like you and yours.

  • I love the fact that DC is a small town. I go to events and see someone I know from some other walk of life, I take the bus and have conversations with interesting folks, I walk my dog and meet many other dog people. DC isn’t perfect, but it’s home.

  • Notable that local food/music/art scenes are not on this list, appropriately so most would say. I do appreciate the local theatrical community. Remarkable that a city of DC’s size has as many accessible and prolific professional theatrical outlets. Also love that DC has main boulevards that aren’t cluttered commercial strips (parts of Wisconsin, Conn and Mass Ave in NW, Penn Ave in SE, Rhode Island in NE). It’s a drawback for many, but I find the aesthetically calming.

  • Agree w/ILOVEDC and Tom the diversity here is the big draw. Also, madly in love with porch culture. So uniquely DC. Can’t wait for Spring.

  • I love DC for all the reasons you’ve put on the list except weather. I’ve lived in Buffalo and Phoenix and can say by far DC has the most annoying weather, simply for the reason is that you get the whole nine yards: wintry, blustery frigidness in the winter, soaking rain in the fall and spring and extreme heat and mugginess in the summer. When I’m walking upwards of a mile a day to and from work it gets really frustrating not to know what to expect.

    • That’s what I love about DC weather: we get it all. I can’t imagine living in a place without snowy winters and brutally hot summers. It makes life interesting, and the perfect spring and fall days all the more special.

  • I will add:
    -a culture that celebrates brunches and rooftops and beer gardens
    -The Passenger
    -The Mt Vernon trail/Gravelly Point Park

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