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The area along H Street NE, just south of Gallaudet University, is known as the Atlas District. This area is one of the fastest developing neighborhoods of DC, where a ton of new bars have emerged out of nowhere in the past decade to form one of D.C.'s biggest and densest nightlife corridors. Serving as a sort of alternative to standard D.C. nightlife, the Atlas District attracts a slightly older, more eccentric and artsy, more local, and almost certainly less drunken and loud crowd than you'll find elsewhere in the city. It is home to D.C.'s most earnest attempt at hipster culture, although nearly all locals contend that you'll need to go to Baltimore to find the real thing.
The Red line stops at NoMa-Gallaudet U, very convenient to Gallaudet University, but a 10-15 minute walk from the nightlife in the Atlas District.
Gallaudet University is pretty easy to reach by Metrorail—there's no real need to bother with complicated bus routes. For the other destinations, however, you'll need a good bus plan if you don't have a car:
H St NE, to the dismay of the local business owners, is not accessible by Metro, and God only knows when or if that street car system will actually be up and running—the X2 is the only way to go. It runs by along H St every fifteen minutes during the day (and more like every 30 minutes after 10PM), and goes the length of the street back through Chinatown and the East End. The bar owners have also sprung for a shuttle bus that takes bargoers back to Union Station F-Sa 10PM-2:30AM. It is generally not possible to catch a bus, X2 or otherwise, between 2:30AM-4:30AM daily.
The Arboretum is better visited with a car or bicycle (since it itself is enormous). The only bus that goes out there is the B2, which runs up from the Stadium Armory Station on the Blue/Yellow lines. Get off on Bladensburg Rd at Rand St (just past the Arboretum sign on the right), then walk one block south back to R St, turn left and walk five minutes east to the Arboretum entrance.
This section of town is less densely populated, less frequently visited, and expansive—a car is not necessary to visit these areas, but it is the most convenient option, provided you trust yourself to navigate all the treacherous twisting diagonals.
Outside of the Atlas District, planning to catch taxis here would be a terrible idea. You'll often find them sitting at Metro stations, but otherwise you should call one in advance. Availability of taxis on the main section of H St NE is becoming less of a problem, but demand still far outstrips supply, and on weeknights it can take a while to find any.
- Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave NE, ☎ . Gallaudet is the nation's and the world's first university for the deaf, and remains the world's only university where all classes and services are tailored to the needs of the hearing-impaired. Aside from being the principal institution and center for American Sign Language, the university also comprises a National Historic District, a designation received for its several excellent examples of fanciful North American High Gothic architecture. The most famous of these is the campus' centerpiece, Chapel Hall. Tours can be arranged to be in spoken English, but only with a good amount of advance notice (they are routinely available in ASL), and are geared at information for prospective students and their families.
- National Arboretum, Entrances: 3501 New York Ave NE & 2400 R St NE, ☎ . 8AM-5PM daily. This is the biggest hidden gem of the city (quite literally). The park's sprawling acres of carefully manicured gardens, and its wide collection of trees from around the world are fantastic for getting away from the urban world, and for a picnic. There are several attractions within the park worth seeking out, including the original columns from the Capitol Building's first incarnation, now standing alone mimicking Roman ruins, a Japanese garden, and a great bonsai collection. This is one of D.C.'s favorite hidden cherry blossom destinations—you can stroll serenely through them, while inwardly chuckling at the uninformed hordes sweating it out at the sardined Tidal Basin. They are not exclusively of the sakura variant downtown. Rather, there is an extensive collection of over 30 different flowering cherry trees, making for an excellent scavenger hunt! Free.
- Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE, ☎ . Art gallery: Tu-Su noon-6PM. "The People's Kennedy Center." The Atlas Theatre was an old 1930s movie palace, and reopened several years ago after extensive renovations turning it into an arts center and performance venue on two big stages. Those performances run throughout the whole year, running the gamut from drama to musical to cabaret to dance. The building also houses an art gallery open throughout the week.
- H Street Playhouse, 1365 H St NE, ☎ . The Atlas Theatre's neighbor is smaller and less historic, offering a 100 seat black box theatre for a diverse range of contemporary dramatic productions in an intimate setting.
- Langston Golf Course, 26th St & Benning Rd NE, ☎ . Given its obscure location, you might assume this would be an uncrowded 18 holes, but you'd be wrong—it may be a local secret, but it's no secret to the locals. Langston's public course offers the most challenging and interesting 18 inside the Beltway, including an infamous shot 200 yards out to an island on the Anacostia River. It opened up in 1939 as an African-American golf club, which has since attracted a good amount of African-American celebrities for a round—Joe Louis was a big fan and booster. If you hear about the other golf course in the area, Rock Creek Golf Course, skip it—the fairways look like a cow's been chewing on them. Weekdays: $15/nine, $22/eighteen; weekends: $20/nine, $30/eighteen.
- George's Place, 1001 H St NE, ☎ . M-Th 9:30AM-6:30PM, F-Sa 9:30AM-7PM. An upscale men's clothing store that's been here for over 40 years, serving local professionals. While they have clothes for all sizes, they have a particularly good selection of extra-size suits, and of dress shoes in exotic leathers.
- The Atlas Room, 1015 H St NE, ☎ . Tu-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-9:30PM; lounge until 1AM Tu-Th, 2AM F-Sa. Fine dining on H St today is the Atlas Room's dominion, although now defunct restaurants have given it a shot in the past. It's creative contemporary American cuisine in a small, simple, but very attractive room (great date spot). If you just want to check the place out without the cost of the full meal, stop in for one of their well-crafted classic cocktails (it's all about the inputs) at a worth-it $11. $35-65.
- Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1339 H St NE, ☎ . M-Th 11AM-midnight, F 11AM-3:30AM, Sa 9AM-3:30AM, Su 9AM-10PM. A slice of one of their savoury pies (like the wonderful steak, mushroom, and gruyère) can be enough for dinner, really, so this qualifies as a prime cheap eats spot on H St (or an inebriated after-bar indulgence). Among the dessert pies, it would be a shame not to try the strawberry rhubarb! An import from Baltimore, Dangerously Delicious has flourished here, and is probably the best bakery for pies in the immediate D.C. metro area. Look for pies by the slice out of their food truck downtown, too. By the slice: $4.50-6, whole pies: $30-35.
- Ethiopic, 401 H St NE, ☎ . Tu-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Su noon-10PM. While too far west to be considered part of the H St scene (it's closer to Union Station), this trendy restaurant was almost immediately hailed as D.C.'s best Ethiopian cooking on virtually all fronts. That's enormous praise in this city that is home to the second largest Ethiopian population in the world after Addis Ababa. If you are OK with raw meat, the raw kitfo is a standout entrée, especially with a little extra spicy red powder on the side. The location makes it a little hard to get to and from without a car—especially from, as it's hard to hail a taxi. The walk to Union Station isn't too far, but can be creepy in the quiet of the night. $14-22.
- Granville Moore's, 1238 H St NE, ☎ . Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. The gastropub fare here is great (seafood, salads, sandwiches), but the showstopper is the Belgian mussels and fries, and even more so the 50 Belgian beers chalked in on the board. Considered the gold standard for Belgian food in a city that loves the stuff. $15-25 (Belgian beers $8+).
- Horace & Dickie's Seafood, 809 12th St NE, ☎ . M-Sa 10AM-2AM, Su 10AM-9PM. Fish fry. When a neighborhood starts booming, usually at least one of the old businesses finds itself awash in late night revelers—on H St this is that place. It's hard to miss when the patrons line out the door to get the one dish this little take-out joint does quite well: fried whitefish sandwich (it does some others less well). It would be heretical to dispute H&D as the king of after-bar eating on H St. $4-7.
- Sticky Rice, 1224 H St NE, ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-2AM, F 11:30AM-3AM, Sa 5PM-3AM. A stylish sushi restaurant by day and crowded H St bar by night, the biggest draw here is the sushi. The rolls are big, inventive, and jaunty—and reasonably priced. If you are here for a couple beers, definitely order a bucket of tater tots. Tuesday nights are karaoke, while F-Sa nights see DJs. $8-22.
- Toki Underground, 1234 H St NE (2nd floor, with the door marked only by a symbol just left of The Pug's entrance), ☎ . M-W,Su 5PM-10PM, Th 5PM-midnight, F-Sa 5PM-2AM. Northeast's hottest and arguably hippest restaurant is a Taiwanese-style ramen house, run by (per the We Love DC blog) D.C.'s "culinary ninja," Erik Bruner-Yang. For those uninitiated, Taiwanese-style ramen differs from the Japanese-style in throwing tradition and orthodoxy out the window, and mixing the soup up with eggs, pork belly, curries, and all sorts of other options. (Both these gourmet styles differ greatly from that weird fake microwavable stuff you ate in college for 15¢ a bag by being delicious.) The inventive cocktails are a treat too, but possibly eclipsing even the incredible noodle soups are the cookies—yes the cookies—freshly baked by a friend in the neighborhood, hot and oozing gooeyness, and accompanied with a shot of milk. During peak hours it can be tough to get a seat (all of them at a counter or bar) in this tiny space. The best approach is to give the host your cell number, head out for drinks elsewhere, and he/she will text you when your turn comes up on the list. $10-22.
The Atlas District has been going strong for several years now, despite the fact that most Washingtonians remain ill-informedly afraid of the neighborhood, and offers D.C.'s most eclectic, most unique, most off-beat nightlife. This isn't simply a strip full of hipsters lounging in dives—the different venues, bars, and lounges all have a very strong sense of individual character. Since they're pretty much all lined up on the 1200 and 1300 blocks, you can have a very fulfilling one-night crawl! Below is only a sampling, new places open regularly in the neighborhood, and most of the restaurants become bars later on in the night as well.
- Biergarten Haus, 1355 H St NE, ☎ . M-F 5PM-1AM, Sa-Su 10AM-1AM. The outdoor courtyard is an enormous draw on H St, as is the great selection of German draughts served in huge mugs, meaning this is one crowded hotspot in good weather. If you can get past the bartenders to that courtyard, by all means spend the night here, but otherwise the indoor section is more than a fine spot for a pint. The food is not up to par with the rest of what is on offer, but even low quality German food will go well with some good beer and F-Sa live polka bands.
- H Street Country Club, 1335 H St NE, ☎ . Su-Th 5PM-2AM, F-Sa 5PM-3AM. H St's take on Dave & Busters is possibly aiming to steal the title of the street's most eclectic venue: upscale Mexican cuisine in the dining room via a nationally acclaimed chef, an impressive cocktail menu via a nationally acclaimed mixologist, and then an outrageous mini-golf course, along with pool tables, shuffleboard, skee-ball, etc. The golf course is a work of art, full of random Washingtonian references and inside jokes (like Marion Barry's Awakening on hole eight). It can also be extremely crowded, and best played on a weeknight or otherwise very early in the evening. Alcohol is served on the course, so it's 21+. Golf: $7.
- Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St, NE, ☎ . Su-Th 7PM-2AM, F-Sa 7PM-3AM. Not a hotel, rather H Street's biggest performance venue/nightclub in a former funeral home. Regardless of whether anyone's playing downstairs (indie rock or DJs), the upstairs is a pretty terrific place to hang out, shoot some pool, get some drinks, or play that piano (if you can hear yourself over the blaring rock music). The atmosphere is a fun mix of metal and Western. Sometimes covers: $4-15.
- SOVA Espresso & Wine, 1359 H St NE, ☎ . M 7AM-9PM, Tu-Th 7AM-10PM, F 7AM-1AM, Sa 7:30AM-1AM, Su 8AM-8PM. SOVA fills two niches at once as the neighborhood's coffeeshop/WiFi hangout, and as the nightlife strip's wine bar in the evenings (second floor). The coffee and tea are top notch (Intelligentsia & loose leaf Rishi Teas). The wine bar/lounge, which also serves beer and cocktails, is beautiful, comfortable, and very romantic.
There are a handful of bland and relatively uninviting low end chain hotels along US-50/New York Avenue NE just north of Gallaudet University catering mostly to motorists. Be sure to check online reviews prior to booking as many are adjacent to the busy Amtrak Northeast Corridor rail line.
- Motel 6 Washington DC, 1345 4th St NE. $100.
- Kellogg Conference Hotel, 800 Florida Ave NE, ☎ , fax: 202 651-6107. Located on the campus of Gallaudet University.
- Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/U.S. Capitol, 1225 1st St NE, ☎ . $279.
- Courtyard Washington, DC/U.S. Capitol, 1325 2nd St NE, ☎ . $299.
- Hyatt Place Washington, DC/U.S. Capitol, 33 New York Ave NE, ☎ .
Free outdoor wifi is available in parts of the NoMa neighborhood, especially along First Street NE. Most restaurants and cafes also offer free WiFi.
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