Five DC neighborhoods for college students

A guide to where students should go in Adams Morgan, Shaw, Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Anacostia

Five DC neighborhoods for college students

To outsiders, it may seem like D.C. is simply a historic and political city with a lot of monuments and museums. But those who have lived in the District know that there are many neighborhoods within the city, each with its own distinct flavor. Measuring 68.34 square miles and comprised of eight different wards, D.C. as a whole is home to dozens of neighborhoods. Here is a look at five great neighborhoods in D.C. for college students.

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan undergoes an incredible transformation from weekdays to weekends. On weekdays, young professionals can be spotted brunching at local favorites like Southern Hospitality or leisurely hanging out in massive cafés like Tryst, before heading to the DC Arts Center to check out its latest exhibit. Ethnic restaurants line the streets, such as the small yet sleek Donburi for Japanese rice bowls.

But on weekends, Adams Morgan is home to rowdy college students looking for a fun night out. Favorites among students include seedy yet fun Mexican Taqueria bar Johnny Pistola’s, the classic college bar Town Tavern and Amsterdam Falafelshop. After a long night out, take the crew over to Jumbo Slice for a greasy slice of pizza bigger than your face.

Shaw/U Street

The Shaw neighborhood is known as the heart of African American culture in D.C. Many trendy restaurants, bars and shops have cropped up in the area. During the day, visitors can explore unique and niche boutiques like Miss Pixies, an upscale yet funky second-hand store. Relax after shopping with a drink at Compass Coffee, which serves fair-trade and locally roasted coffee, and maybe grab a bite to eat at Haikan Ramen.

For evening activities, the Landmark Theatre has a bar and offers many foreign and indie movies that you can’t see at the more mainstream theaters in D.C. Nightlife in the area mostly revolves around dive bars like American Ice, known for its famous pulled pork nachos, as well as outdoor bars like the Dacha Beer Garden.

DuPont Circle

At first glance, the DuPont neighborhood can appear to be a little too upscale for a college student’s budget, but there are plenty of cool and affordable things to do in the area. Visit the permanent collection at the Phillip’s Collection, which is the United States’ first modern art museum. Admission to the collection is free (or by donation) on Tuesdays through Fridays. For $10, students can visit the current exhibition — right now, the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Go to DC Improv to listen to some local comedic talent at a free open mic night. Afterwards, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is open until 1 a.m., so swing by if you feel like curling up with a good book late at night with a thick slice of red velvet cake or maybe a mocha milkshake.


Georgetown has a reputation for being bougie, but if you look carefully there are many things you can do for free or only a few dollars. If it’s a nice day, walk along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and make your way to Baked and Wired (much better than the vastly overrated Georgetown Cupcake) for a cupcake and espresso.

If you’re with friends, rent a kayak or canoe and spend an hour on the Potomac River before heading to Tudor Place to check out its five acres of gorgeous gardens. For a late night snack, check out Thomas Sweet, which is known for its huge selection of homemade ice cream flavors.


This historic neighborhood is most famous as the home of civil rights activist Frederick Douglass, but it also has a growing arts scene. Visitors can tour Frederick Douglass’s home at Cedar Hill and get a cool panoramic view of the area. To see some local art or history, make a trip to the Anacostia Arts Center and Anacostia Community Museum, respectively. Anacostia is also home to several natural wonders, including the Kenilworth Park & Gardens as well as the Anacostia River and its waterfront. Check out Uniontown Bar & Grill for cocktails named after celebrities and politicians and then stop by neighborhood favorite Good Hope Carry Out to pick up some no frills wings and fries.

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