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From the Forum – Advice for a DC newbie?

by Prince Of Petworth June 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm 79 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user streetamatic

Advice for a DC newbie?

So I recently moved to DC…as in two days ago. I’m super pumped about it, but a little overwhelmed.

Y’all have been so helpful over the last few weeks as I prepared for the move. I’ve been reading PoPville every night and searching some of the forums for answers to my questions.

But now I’d like to know–what should this DC newbie do? What do y’all wish you had known/done differently when you moved here?

I found a place in the 4500 block of Connecticut Ave, so I’m a little out of the way of everything. But I’m really looking forward to checking out some of the more interesting neighborhoods in DC. (Not that N. Cleveland Park isn’t “interesting.”)

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  • andy

    Get the tourist stuff out of the way. Hit Eastern Market, Capitol Hill, the Mall, and Georgetown one Saturday and get that out of your system. Overdose on Chili Dog at Ben’s the next day and wait in line for a seat at someplace overcrowded on 14th below U.

    The next weekend, get local. Now Van Ness doesn’t have a lot of “street cred” in PoPville, but if you like to run or walk you can cruise into Rock Creek Park or see some gazillion dollar houses from there. You can go up and hit Politics and Prose (drink coffee in the basement) and then Comet Ping Pong (pizza) from where you’re at. I think there’s some UDC farmer’s market action for you there on the weekend.

    Try to find a bar you like that’s near the house, or roll through the Park over to 14th St. NW – your options may depend on how you travel (car, bike, walking, Hoveround). Though I guess you could always get a tallboy and drink on the curb outside the Pier One and laugh at the Window People in the Gold’s Gym if you want to.

    • justinbc

      Addendum to the above post: Never eat at Ben’s sober. This is an experience that should be reserved for 3AM visits after a long night out on U St.

      • Anonymous

        And whatever you do, don’t eat Jumbo Slice sober!

        • justinbc

          Or ever.

          • Anonymous

            I disagree, it’s a rite of passage and something that’s kind of enjoyable in the right circumstances.

          • justinbc

            I’ve done it myself after my first trip to Dan’s Cafe. But I use that experience to caution others against how awful it is, not encourage them to join the brotherhood.

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn’t do the tourist stuff first. You will have visitors come to town and want to do tourist stuff, and that’s the time to do it. Eventually, you might be bored or annoyed every time someone wants to see a monument or museum, so you can wait on it.

      I would recommend picking a new neighborhood to see every week. Don’t just keep going back to where you know or feel comfortable, until you’ve seen most of the city.

  • Anonymous

    Make sure to wear a condom, and you should be pretty good to go methinks.

  • NW resident

    You’ll have plenty of time to do all that tourist stuff for the next however many years. Get to know your hood, which we share, and try not to be too influenced by the POPville set’s hyper-focus on “cool” areas. Van Ness/Cleveland Park/Woodley is the best place in the city–safe, beautiful, and yet close to everything and full of great shops, parks, restaurants, and transport. Take some long walks in your wonderful new area. Say hi to your new animal neighbors in the zoo. Find some fav eating spots in Cleveland Park and Van Ness.

    Most of all–don’t start thinking that where you live is somehow lame just because none of the cool DC blogs talk about it. You’re in the right place.

    • Anonymous

      Agree on everything except for Cleveland Park being close to everything. The few times I’ve had to go up that way for a doctor’s appointment it’s taken over an hour leaving from home or work, which I consider long for a DC-to-DC trip. It’s close to some things, but it’s hardly the middle of the city.

      • Anonymous

        Where do you live, Congress Heights? Cleveland Park is like a 15 minute ride from downtown on Metro!

        • Anonymous

          No, Capitol Hill.

        • novadancer

          hmm, maybe if you live on the redline. Definitely not the case for me either!

    • Anonymous

      “I’m a PC.”

      “I’m a Mac.”

      • NW

        “I’m on a tree lined street in a beautiful neighborhood”
        “I’m cool, there’s a rat and a cockroach and a tapas restaurant”

        • Jen Jen


  • Yeah, definitely get the tourist stuff out of the way but make sure you do it cause there is a lot of awesome stuff down here but you can expect everything to be super crowded with tourists as summer roles around. If you have some days during the week to go down to the mall or zoo do it then. One of the best things you can do if you’re looking to meet people is join either a kickball or softball team down on the mall. May be a little late to register but I’m sure you can find something. Don’t plan on actually playing the sport that much as the teams are generally over loaded but it’s a good way to meet people and go out drinking after and meet more people.

  • justinbc

    Get a Capital Bikeshare membership. Even if you have a car you would be surprised how often the access to them comes in handy.

    Talk to your neighbors if you’re in a house. Getting to know the people around you is the ultimate safety net.

    Invest in linen clothing. DC summers are incredibly humid, and even if it’s a linen blend it will help drastically with cooling.

    Don’t lead off conversations with “So what do you do?” Get to know people outside of what their titles are, and if they really care that much about it they’ll wind up sharing it eventually anyway.

    • BrennaLM

      Some people really hate the “what do you do” question, but I don’t think it’s that bad. Maybe I just don’t ask it with the intentions of other people (who use it as a status proxy). Your job takes up 2/3 of your day, it’s a significant part of your life. Hopefully it’s something that they are interested in, and if they are not, steer the conversation to what they are interested in. Otherwise the convo goes more down the “oh, how did you get into that?” route.

      • Anon

        Since when is 8 hours 2/3 of your day? Its either 1/3 of a 24 hour day of 1/2 of your waking hours. Do you work 10 hour days and sleep 9 hours a night, or maybe work 16 hour days and do nothing but sleep outside the office?

        • dcd

          You’re one of those people with 8 hr/day jobs? Slacker.

          I’m at work for 11 hours a day – that’s just about 2/3 of my waking hours.

          • Anonymous

            I’m sorry to hear that!

      • justinbc

        Many people in this city aren’t really allowed to discuss what they do for work, which often winds up resulting in awkward conversation killers. And, unfortunately, a lot of people really hate the job they have, or at the very least find it quite boring (when viewed on a daily basis). So having to discuss it even further is just something they would prefer to avoid.

        • Anonymous

          Especially these days, with so many people being unemployed, or being forced to take jobs that aren’t very prestigious or not what they really want to do. A lot of people ask about jobs because it opens the door for them to brag about their own, and you don’t want to give someone that impression. Then again, some people don’t have much going on in their lives besides their jobs. Usually you can sense pretty quickly if someone wants to talk about work or if they’d rather talk about other stuff, and you can steer the conversation in that direction.

      • Anonymous

        So your job takes up 2/3rds of your day, and you want to spend the other 1/3rd talking about it? I like my job but it’s the last thing I want to think about when I’m not at work.

  • Anonymous

    Stop saying y’all.

    • bizzinger


      • OP Anon

        My west coast-born ears can’t stand it. Are you from the South, Bizz?

        Most of my southern friends and co-workers hide their accents fairly well in professional settings. But after a few drinks “y’all” starts flying out at the rate of once per sentence spoken. It guess it’s the Southern version of “um” or “like”.

        • justinbc

          I’m from the South, I don’t say y’all. I don’t find it quite as annoying of some of the other Southern stand-bys, but that level of annoyance is usually directly related to the cuteness of the person saying it anyway.

          • khoww

            “Don’t worry about losing your accent, a Southern Man tells better jokes.”

          • dcd

            I think you mean inversely, not directly.

        • Anonymous

          Well, I can’t stand bad manners. So buzz off!

          I’m sorry your friends & co-workers feel the need to hide their accents from you uppity, condescending a-holes from either Coast. As if impressing any of you is going to make them happy.

        • Mike

          No, it’s a southern and midwestern version of “you all” or “you guys.” If someone is using it like um or like then they’re doing it wrong.

    • epric002

      there’s nothing wrong with y’all, y’all.

      • textdoc

        Amen. I hardly ever use it in speech any more, but I still find it helpful to distinguish between second-person singular and second-person plural.

    • Anonymous

      Y’all looking for a good time?

      • Allison

        I try not to use y’all when I’m at work, but it definitely slips out when I get excited, angry, or drunk. You can take the girl out of Texas…

  • Anonymous

    First of all, don’t be discouraged that you’re in Cleveland Park. A lot of newcomers choose quiet neighborhoods like that before moving on to more affordable and/or more interesting places. So check out some of your local watering holes and I’m sure you’ll find some like-minded friends who are in the same situation as you. My first few years were spent residing in Northern Virginia, but I spent almost all my time in DC and had a blast. It does help to make friends who live in places like U Street who will let you crash on their couch every now and then!

  • Ben

    Don’t forget to hit up 2Amy’s.


    • andy

      Good spot for a first date. Learn whether your date likes kids!

      • justinbc

        Waiting 90 minutes for a table is really a bad idea for a first date.

      • eponymous


  • TG

    Be sure to support local education. For example, the Cardozo band ….

    • Anonymous


    • Anonymous

      Yes, Heads Up! Oh and there are a lot of assholes on the inter-tubes

  • Stavros

    Hmm, I lived on the 4500 block of Conn. for years. My best advice: don’t stay too long. It’s not a bad base of operations, but after a while you’ll find that it’s close to many things but of none. Even the trip down to Cleveland Park becomes a pain after a while (granted, there was no Bikeshare when I lived there). I don’t at all know what you are like, but I know I was a lot happier once I moved someplace, if you’ll forgive the phrase, closer to the action.

    There are a lot of cool shows at Comet Ping Pong and they’re not all that well advertised, so be sure to check that out. Politics & Prose is the best bookstore in the city, so you’re lucky there.

  • Anon

    See something, say something. A good DC native dials “311” when you need attention to something that needs done around town. I just did it today. For weeks the tree has been covering the pedestrian light/sign at 15th and N Streets, NW. Couldn’t take it anymore, so I called.

    They take a report, give you a confirmation number and you will see it fixed within days or weeks of your call. You should get familiar with the mayor’s website for parking and zones also.

    Welcome to DC!

  • Welcome to the neighborhood! I’m sure you will find it is a great place to live. If you need any help with DC government-related issues, or have other random DC questions, feel free to email us.

  • Anonymous

    If you’re into running or hiking, go both south and north in Rock Creek Park. There are some beautiful trails in either direction.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, and if you’re into running, try running through the Zoo in the morning- it’s great to see all the animals wake up.

      • andy

        For a first-timer, it’s always best to first do it in the downhill (west-to-east) direction…

  • elly

    Maybe too basic – but buy a Smart Trip card and register it online so you can disable the card if you should ever lose it. You can also set it up to automatically refill.

    If you drive, always double check the parking signs on the block. And heed speed limits, DC makes A TON of money off speed cameras.

    Take some time to figure out who your council member and local ANC reps are. They can be very helpful if you email them about issues you may run into with the DC government. (It also will let you figure out who to vote out of office next election! only half joking, see the recent WAMU piece on contractor donations to local politicians).

    And then as others mentioned, don’t be afraid to do the tourist route. The smithsonians are great. Keep an eye out on sites like this or DCist, Washington Post ect. for summer events like Screen on the Green (or a number of neighborhood outdoor movies), Jazz in the Garden, or festivals – a ton of fun events in DC every summer.


    • justinbc

      Yes, pay extra attention to every street sign when parking. And if you ever question “should I put money in the meter or not” it’s best to just go ahead and spend the $2.

  • AMDCer

    Welcome to DC! Lots of good comments here, though I take a bit of exception at “get the tourist stuff out of the way.” There is a reason 17 million tourists came to DC last year – consider yourself lucky that you live here and don’t have to get that stuff “out of the way” but can spend your time exploring it at your own pace. You’re also lucky that you can wait until after the summer season and hit the museums in off-peak times. I have lived in DC for 20 years (and grew up in the area, so had many many field trips to the Smithsonian), and just this past weekend I went to the Sackler and Freer galleries again after several years. They were practically empty, and as I wandered through in the peace and quiet, I reflected on how lucky I am to live in a city (and country) where these amazing collections and buildings are open and free to the public. I say take them slow, in small bites, reflect, and enjoy!

    • justinbc


    • andy

      I’ll just say, having lived here a long time, I didn’t do the major tourist stuff for almost 5 years. I almost could’ve moved out of DC at that point, and would not have seen some of the best stuff. Now, I’m trying to joke around with my suggestions, but it would’ve been a big regret not to have done the major attractions of DC before I left. So, my suggestion to someone new would be to not skip past the big attractions – do them quickly.

  • Anonymous

    Do the monuments at night! Less people, not as hot, and the monuments all lit up are really beautiful. Most of them are open all night long (with a security guard). I wouldnt recommend going at 2am, but its nice to go at 8 or 9.

    • Anonymous


  • anon

    -forget the metro. buses are the best way to get around this town and now with bikeshare and car2go, there’s no need to ever wait for a train
    -don’t be scared of areas that people tout as high crime — anacostia is a lovely neighborhood with lovely people
    -if you’re not on it already, join linkedin

    • Anonymous

      YES to the first one especially. You’ll see more of the city (esepcially places you might never spend time in otherwise) if you’re aboveground. The bus is cheaper and the riders are less likely to be wrapped up in themselves than they are on the train. Walking’s a great way to get around, too.

    • Allison

      Agree on don’t be afraid of the buses! I got around my first year here exclusively on metro trains because I knew how they worked and was too confused by the bus system and/or afraid I’d end up in the middle of no where, but now that I’ve discovered the buses they are the best.

  • Anonymous

    Do the Drum Circle your first Sunday here!

    • Anonymous

      Why the rush? It isn’t like the circle is going to be going away anytime soon. And you might want to add where the circle is (Meridian Hill Park, which is between 15th st. and 16th st. nw, and Florida Ave and Euclid Ave)

      • Anonymous

        I was suggesting it because I consider the drum circle to be one of the best ways to see all walks of DC life coming together in one place. Also, it’s fairly close to where the OP is living. So it would be a great thing to do right off the bat.

        • Anonymous

          It’s 3 miles away from where OP is living. Not exactly an epic journey but I wouldn’t call that “fairly close”.

          • Anonymous

            Well it’s a lot closer than most of the other suggestions. When you live out there you have to take what you can get (also, I walked to the drum circle from the zoo recently and it was a lovely walk).

          • positive pamela

            you’re a mean washingtonian :(

            pretty sure this guy was just suggesting a fun thing for OP to do. you don’t have to be so negative and oppositional.

  • Anonymous

    Never travel with anything on you that you wouldnt mind getting stolen.

    • Allison

      Yeah, it’s always a good time for a PSA on wandering around with your smartphone in front of you– either in the metro system or on a street. You are running the risk of getting punched in the face, and having it get swiped. Don’t do it.

  • cc

    Go to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall. It’s the most grueling, yet fun, way to fully immerse yourself in DC’s hot humidity.

  • texantransplant

    Oh my goodness–this is downright amazing. Y’alls comments are so helpful…or your comments are all so helpful. Same difference. ;)

    Politics and Prose and Comet are definitely on my list, and 2Amy’s and the drum circle too. I’ve got the metro card down (I work right off the red line), but it’ll take some work to get my street smarts on track. Small town girl and all. As for the condoms, I’m not quite anatomically able to follow the advice from that commenter.

    But again, thanks so much everyone! DC folks are so much nicer than your rep would make one imagine.

    • justinbc

      They make them for both genders.

      • justinbc

        (and all joking aside, it’s actually not a bad suggestion…DC is the #1 market on OKCupid in the US, and I’m guessing a good chunk of that isn’t all just dating)

    • cloDC

      As a fellow Texan (from the border), I’m going to tell you right now not to bother with the Tex Mex or Mexican food here. Someone will inevitably tell you to go to Cactus Cantina or Lauriol Plaza. DON’T DO IT.

      If you need a taco, go to Tacos El Chilango on 11th and V (http://www.tacoselchilango.com/). Some places will claim to serve Mexican food and you may think it’s okay because they speak Spanish. However, they will likely be Salvadoran so order yourself a delicious pupusa instead.

      • Anonymous

        I’m from Connecticut. Still hate Lauriol Plaza. That tells you how bad it is ;)

  • ET

    I think I would do some of the tourist things first – particularly if you think you are going to have visitors. It will get that stuff out of the way and leave you a bit more educated than the visitors. Also, it is a fun way to see the city. Just don’t do it all in a day or you may be begging to go home…… Then look to some of the fun stuff that not all the tourists hit cause when you take visitors they think that got something only the locals know.

    I would suggest learning the history of the city – the kind of stuff you get on the local tours run by the DC Cultural Tourism sponsors like the self guides Heritage Trails or the Biketown/Walktown that they do once or twice a year. They introduce to DC as a place people have always lived in and show that the city is more than just the government.

  • I live right there my first year in the city, agree…its a nice area but you will quickly realize there is no reliable bus service there and relying on the metro SUCKS (just wait for that first break down of the summer, happened about once a month)/ Biking is not really an option either.

    But if you are there cool things to check out….comet ping pong (gets crowded for dinner and most of the time has no tables to actually play pong), italian pizza kitchen’s pizza is actually probably better than comet’s. Some nice parks up near tenelytown, Cleveland park has a few decent bars but nothing ‘of character’. Also the Giant by Van Ness Metro – AVOID, i am surprised there has not been a murder inside there yet…everyone has this disgusting look on there face like they want to.

    If you really want to live the DC life style Van Ness/North Cleveland Park/Forrest Hills is not it. Very very nice area but lacks in character, restaurants, and night life. It is almost disconnected from the city…any area over the connecticut bridge IMO is a separate city. Good first place to ‘get your feet wet’ in the ‘city’

    • Anonymous

      Dang… pessimistic much??

      Sure, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in that area, but it’s attractive. As long as the OP doesn’t limit her (his?) explorations to the immediate neighborhood, I don’t see that the location should pose a problem.

    • Anonymous

      That there is not one “DC lifestyle.” It may not be *your* lifestyle to live in Cleveland Park, but if it fits the OP’s desires then that’s great.


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