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User:Ruud Koot/Sandbox/Washington, D.C./East End

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The Chinatown Gate

East End is D.C.'s old downtown quarter, east of 15th St, including the smaller downtown neighborhoods of Chinatown, Penn Quarter, Judiciary Square, and Mount Vernon Square.


The East End, just north of the National Mall is the center of tourism in the city, home to most of the city's museums and event venues, and full of restaurants, bars, and large hotels. Its heart beats through the ceremonial stretch of Pennsylvania Ave, which runs through the Penn Quarter from the White House to the Capitol Building, serving as a bridge from the city center to the Mall (as you might expect, this road has nice views).


In the early 1990s, when Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Abe Pollin arrived for the first time by limousine at 7th and F St NW to scout out possible sites for a new arena, he was told not to get out of the vehicle. The site, then a parking lot, had drug dealers doing business there, and the neighborhood was crime-ridden and deserted at night. But, he decided that was the place to build his new arena. The Verizon Center (then the MCI Center) opened in December 1997, and since then, the neighborhood has experienced a remarkable turnaround with tremendous gentrification.

Penn Quarter and Gallery Place (the bustling entertainment area between the Verizon Center and the National Portrait Gallery) comprise the heart of the East End, and indeed have a valid claim to be the commercial and touristic heart of the city. The Penn Quarter is dominated by the Pennsylvania Ave stretch, whose sidewalks and parks comprise a National Park, is the city's number two staging ground for races, large festivals, and parades. Penn Quarter is distinguished from the rest of downtown by its nineteenth century buildings and facades. After the opening of the Verizon Center in 1997, and the resulting development boom, most of these buildings were redeveloped as the ground-floor facades of private luxury apartments and office buildings, resulting in the creation of an "arts and entertainment" district. The biggest draw for city visitors, however, is Penn Quarter's theater district, and its tremendous quantity of first-rate museums.

The Kogod Courtyard inside the National Portrait Gallery

To the north of Penn Quarter is Chinatown. The neighborhood is quite safe nowadays and lively in the evenings. As an increasing number of chain stores and restaurants have opened in recent years, and Chinatown increasingly resembles a miniature Times Square with activity day and night into the wee hours. On the other hand, it now struggles to resemble the once thriving ethnic community for which it is named, even though the city government heavily promotes the original character—new businesses in the neighborhood are even required to post signage in Chinese. Some shops and restaurants remained and quite recently more have opened on and just steps away from H St, again infusing H St with more of an Asian flavor. But those expecting something like New York's Chinatown will be sorely disappointed—area residents have taken to calling it Chinablock.

Judiciary Square, located to the east of Penn Quarter, is home to the United States District Court building, along with the D.C. Superior Court building, and various other government buildings. Just north is the massive, 2.3 million square foot (210,000 m²) Convention Center, just north of Mt Vernon Square. The Convention Center was completed in 2003, and has since been the favorite site for presidential inaugural balls.

Tourist information[edit]

D.C.'s principal visitor information center is at the west end of Pennsylvania Ave, and offers maps, brochures and other information for visitors:

Get in[edit]

By metro[edit]

East End map.png

Metro is the best way for getting into Penn Quarter and Chinatown, the former serviced by the busy Metro Center (on the Red, Orange, and Blue lines), as well as Federal Triangle (Blue and Orange) and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green and Yellow). The Gallery Pl-Chinatown will drop you off right in the heart of the neighborhood at the Verizon Center—use the H St exit for Chinatown.

For the Convention Center, get off at Mount Vernon Square on the Green and Yellow lines. For Judiciary Square in the east, take the Red Line to Judiciary Square.

By car[edit]

The East End is probably the single worst place to drive to in the city. On weekdays and during peak tourist season, street parking is either unavailable, or will take a longer time to find than it would take to ride the Metro here. Most parking garages fill up by 9AM. Downtown traffic jams are frequent and awful. You might find parking on off-hours, or during the winter, but it's almost always easier to take public transport. Take note of garage hours—after they close, you won't be able to get your car.

The main north-south routes are 7th St (which turns into Georgia further north), as well as I-395 from Virginia, which terminates east of the Convention Center. Major east-west routes include H St, which runs through Chinatown, and of course Pennsylvania Ave. Crisscrossing the area on diagonals through Mt Vernon Square are New York Ave and Massachusetts Ave. The latter, as well as H St, offer a fun game—trying to stay on either is something like riding a bucking bronco.

By taxi[edit]

It is possible to hail taxis from the street at almost any hour of the day or night, and they are a convenient way to travel relatively short distances. They are also your only alternative to the bus if you are heading west to Georgetown.

By bus[edit]

The Metrobus system is centered on downtown D.C., but is complex and not well tailored to visitors. There is no central terminal or bus mall. Some useful routes include:

#31 [1] and #32, #36 [2], run along Pennsylvania Ave northwest to Georgetown and upper Wisconsin Avenue, as well as southeast to the Mall.

#52, #53, and #54 [3] head up 14th St to Logan Circle and U St.

The D.C. Circulator’s Georgetown–Union Station "Yellow" line runs through the south end of Mount Vernon Square, heading east along Mass Ave to Union Station, and west along K St through the West End and on to Georgetown.

By foot[edit]

The Penn Quarter area is easily walkable from the Mall and the museums by walking north through the courtyards of Federal Triangle, past the National Archives. It's an easy walk after sightseeing to get to the shops and restaurants. From the White House, walk east on Pennsylvania Avenue to G, F, or E St. From the Mall, just aim north.


The Verizon Center


Landmarks and memorials[edit]

The imposing Canadian Embassy

Public squares[edit]

D.C.'s downtown is notable for its grand squares, though they may get more use from homeless people and pigeons than visitors (there are no downtown homeless shelters).


Verizon Center[edit]

The Verizon Center, 601 F St NW, ☎ +1 202 661-5000, [4] is home to both the Washington Wizards [5] of the NBA and the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals [6]. The Georgetown Hoyas [7] college basketball team also plays games here, as do the WNBA's Washington Mystics [8]. It also hosts major concerts, WWE wrestling, and various other events throughout the year. Tickets are sold through Ticketmaster [9], or at the box office.

Convention Center[edit]

The Reagan Building's main entrance

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Pl NW, ☎ +1 202 249-3000 [10] hosts events throughout the year, including shows geared towards the public, as well as trade shows and conferences. The popular Washington Auto Show takes place annually in late January or early February, the Washington Home and Garden Show is in March, and the Washington Craft Show in November.


You can go to the theater throughout the city, but the Theater District is in Penn Quarter. The most popular theater company in the area, and likely the whole D.C. area, is the Shakespeare Theatre Company, whose performances of Shakespeare and other classical plays rank among the nation's most renowned. Another very popular show is the long-running Capitol Steps [11] show of political satire, where everyone in the political spectrum gets roasted every F-Sa in the Reagan Building.


The balcony where President Lincoln was assassinated - Ford's Theatre



The Penn Quarter was once the capital's premiere shopping district. Macy's, 1201 G St NW, +1 202 628-6661 (on top of Metro Center), is the only remaining department store, with a number of shops nearby on 13th St and several shops both on F St between 14th and 9th, and on 7th St between G and H and near D St. The museums here have great gift shops—the National Building Museum's is especially worth searching out. There are also shops oriented to tourists and a food court at the Pavilion at the Old Post Office. Ground zero for souvenir shops is the 500 block of 10th St NW, surrounding Ford's Theatre

Spring–fall, a Thursday farmers market is on 8th St between D and E, 3-7PM. In December, the Downtown Holiday Market is set up on F St between 7th and 9th, with an array of handcrafted items, jewelry, pottery, and food. And on 13 Sep, 11AM-5PM, Arts on Foot [12] includes an Art Market with some 80 artists and craftsmen selling their art on F St between 7th and 9th.

Art galleries[edit]

At one time, Penn Quarter also had numerous art galleries and artist studios, a few of which remain. But with the development booms downtown over the past three decades, the artists have fled the soaring rents, and the galleries followed them north.


All hail José Andrés!

D.C.'s Spanish transplant, now one of America's most famous celebrity chefs, originally moved here as the head chef of Jaleo, a great tapas restaurant that has grown into a small local chain. He has since come to dominate the area's most trendy restaurants, opening up a host of them in the East End from Greek through Aztec, and is often credited with popularizing the art of the small dish in the U.S.

The East End is home to the flashiest high end cooking in the city, as well as the most overpriced tourist trap rubbish that can suck you in if you are not careful. (Of course, if you dine a la Andrés, you'll see D.C. cooking at its best.) Being as they are downtown, nearly all the really nice restaurants are relatively big, loud, cramped, and impersonal—but they'll serve great food. Chinatown, while small, supplies several great budget options, as long as you can appreciate the special charms of Chinatown service.



The Old Post Office Building



Not long ago, asking a local about nightlife downtown would get you an eye roll. While this has changed a bit (there still are no tolerable nightclubs), options here (and there are many) are often very overpriced, and cater to tourists or people who otherwise don't know where to go. There are a handful of good places, though, depending on what you are looking for, so you don't necessarily need to flee north to U St or Dupont Circle.

Several of the restaurants above have excellent bars, particularly if you like high end cocktails surrounded by fashionable clientéle—try PS 7, Proof (make reservations), Graffiato, Poste, or any of the José Andrés restaurants' bars. Clyde's, District Chophouse, and District of Pi (believe it or not) double as solid places for beer lovers. If you are looking for a really unpretentious spot, try one of the Chinese places on H St, which stay open late, and serve "low-end" stiff tiki drinks, Chinese beers, and plentiful cheap sake late into the night.

Straying from the recommendations here and above, though, could mean either really awful experiences, overpriced chains you could find in any other city, or the tourist purgatory of the Hard Rock Cafe (999 E St NW).


Surprisingly, there are budget options here. The mainstay, though, are big chain hotels—a few of them very upscale. If you are staying in the East End, you have a good location already, but the further southwest you are, the better (unless your destination is the Convention Center).





Go next[edit]

  • The obvious place to go from the East End is the National Mall, just to the south, where you will find, well, just about all of the capital's main attractions.
  • The nightlife here is plentiful and very visitor-friendly, but it is very much divorced from real Washingtonian culture—head up to the north central neighborhoods of Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and the U St Corridor to see how the locals like to wine, dine, and party.