Brookland, Petworth, and Takoma are three relatively quiet neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park. Following the "White Flight" after desegregation and the 1968 riots, these neighborhoods were left underpopulated, overwhelmingly African-American, and much less wealthy than the Upper Northwest, just across Rock Creek Park. These neighborhoods are rarely visited by travelers, except to see the National Shrine. However, there is a good reason to come here beyond the National Shrine — to better know the city as its residents do.
Brookland is an old established neighborhood around Catholic University, sometimes known as the "Little Vatican" for all its major Catholic institutions, as well as the National Shrine. The presence of Catholic University attracts many other Catholic organizations and institutions to the area. The neighborhood is named after Colonel Jehiel Brooks, who acquired 150-acres in the area via his marriage to Ann Margaret Queen, daughter of prominent Marylander Nicholas Louis (Lewis) Queen. Petworth is just north of Columbia Heights and takes its name from the 205-acre country estate of Benjamin Ogle Tayloe that encompassed most of what is now the neighborhood. It's home to the massive Armed Forces' Retirement Home, President Abraham Lincoln's Cottage, and beautiful Rock Creek Cemetery across the street. Takoma, dubbed the "Berkeley of the East," has good claim to be the most liberal neighborhood in the decidedly liberal D.C.-area, and has a good collection of quirky shops and ethnic restaurants.
The Red line stops at Takoma for Takoma Park, Brookland-CUA for Catholic University and Brookland's commercial strip, and Fort Totten, while the Green/Yellow lines stops at Georgia Ave/Petworth for the Petworth neighborhood and at Fort Totten where you can transfer to the Red Line.
While the area is served by Metrorail and that is the easiest public transport option for reaching Catholic University and the clusters of bars and restaurants, some attractions are more easily reached by bus.
Both President Lincoln's Cottage and Rock Creek Cemetery can be reached via Bus H2, which runs along Rock Creek Church Rd between the Brookland-CUA and Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro stations and further west on to the Columbia Heights station.
A car is not necessary to visit these areas, but it is the most convenient option. Georgia Ave is one of the city's main thoroughfares. Heading east out of the city towards the Beltway, routes US-1/Rhode Island Ave and US-50/New York Ave are the quickest options, albeit absolutely miserable in rush hour traffic.
Uber, Lyft, and Via are also easy options.
- 1 Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave NW (Metro: Brookland), ☏ , fax: . 1 April-31 Oct: 7AM-7PM daily, 1 Nov-31 March: 7AM-6PM daily; tours: M-Sa 9AM-3PM, Su 1:30PM-3:30PM (tours start on the hour). This massive, stunning basilica is worth a pilgrimage not just for American Catholics; people of any faith will be in awe at its sheer size, the largest house of worship in North America, and its vast collection of contemporary sacred art. Built entirely by traditional methods, it seamlessly blends architectural styles from different periods over the last 2,000 years. Tours: free.
- 2 Mount St Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, 1400 Quincy St NE (Metro: Brookland), ☏ . Grounds: 10AM-5PM daily (Catacombs visits require tour), tours: M-Sa 10AM,11AM, 1PM-3PM, Su 1PM-3PM (tours start on the hour). The Franciscan Monastery is home to a magnificent Italianate church and flower gardens, ringed by a Rosary Portico of 15 chapels with the Angelic Greeting written in 200 languages. The lower gardens are more kitschy— the monastery's founders, in the late nineteenth century, set out to create a Holy Land in America, and commissioned the construction of replicas of overseas holy sites, including the Roman Catacombs, The Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, the Grotto of the Nativity, and other assorted reproductions. A fine place to stroll, read, and contemplate. Free, donations encouraged.
- 3 Saint John Paul II National Shrine, 3900 Harewood Rd NE (Metro: Brookland), ☏ . Mo-Sa 10AM-5PM. Elevated to a national shrine in 2014, this Knights of Columbus-operated center offers exhibits on the life, legacy, and teaching of Pope St. John Paul II and on the Catholic heritage of North America. There is a weekday veneration service for a first-class relic, a piece of the blood-stained cassock worn by the pontiff when he was shot on May 13, 1981. Suggested donation: $5.
- 4 President Lincoln's Cottage, Enter at Rock Creek Church Rd & Upshur St NW (on the Armed Forces' Retirement Home grounds), ☏ . Visitor Center: M-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM, Su 11:30AM-5:30PM; tours: M-Sa 10AM-3PM, Su noon-4PM (tours start on the hour). President Lincoln and his family summered here from 1862–1864 to escape the awful climate (physical and political) by the White House. Here he penned the second draft of his Emancipation Proclamation. Recognizing that Lincoln's political acumen was rivaled by his taste in abodes, later presidents James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur all took up the cottage as a summer residence as well. In addition to simply looking lovely, the cottage today contains several exhibits, as well as a reproduction of the desk on which Lincoln wrote his Proclamation. $12, $5/child 6–12.
- 5 Rock Creek Cemetery, Rock Creek Church Rd & Webster St NW, ☏ . Dawn-dusk daily. This is no Congressional Cemetery, no Arlington Cemetery. That is to say, no one has heard of the place or the people buried therein. But this is a beautifully-set nineteenth century cemetery, with a High Gothic statuary impressive in quantity and quality. The most famous statue/tomb here is known to Washingtonians as Grief, incorrectly, as the famous sculptor Saint-Gaudens gave it a less catchy title: The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding. The grounds are huge, so it will pay off to get a map from the cemetery office if you plan to look for anything in particular. Grief is in Section E.
- Dance Place, 3225 8th Street NE (At Kearney St), ☏ . A DC institution that offers drop-in dance classes and occasional dance performances.
- PollySue's Vintage Shop, 6915 Laurel Ave, Takoma Park, MD, ☏ . M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM-6PM. D.C.'s (OK, technically Maryland's) favorite hidden gem of a vintage boutique is just a five minute walk from the Takoma metro station. Rest assured the prices here will be far more reasonable, and the vintage clothing far more vintage, than the yuppie-hipster fodder downtown. There are plenty of very wearable items here, but there are also a good amount of clothes that would be more fun at a party than in public!
- 1 Loyalty Bookstore, 827 Upshur St NW, ☏ . A well-decorated quirky bookstore with author presentations and sing-a-longs.
Brookland has several fast casual restaurants such as Chipotle, Potbelly's, & Pizza, and Chick-fil-a between the Metrorail station and Catholic University.
- Brookland's Finest, 3126 12th St NE (between Irving St & Jackson St), ☏ . A family-friendly establishment with a modern-industrial theme and a nice outdoor patio.
- Busboys & Poets, 625 Monroe St NE, ☏ . A cafe / bookstore / restaurant focused with a liberal theme.
- Menomale, 2711 12th St NE (between Evarts St & Franklin St), ☏ . A very popular pizza / calzone / sandwich shop.
- San Antonio Grill, 3908 12th St NE, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. A nice Tex-Mex restaurant near Catholic, with Mexican food far above the local average, as well as a few Salvadoran and Cuban entries (try the Cuban masitas de puerco). The margaritas have quickly become famous, not just for being tasty, but also for being extremely large. $8-25.
- 1 DC Reynolds, 3628 Georgia Ave NW, ☏ . A laid-back bar/restaurant with a large outdoor back patio.
- 2 El Torogoz, 4231 9th St NW, ☏ . Good Central and South American food and drinks with karaoke nights.
- The Hitching Post, 200 Upshur St NW, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:30AM-10PM. A comfortable, homey, friendly, old-time soul food diner off by the Armed Forces Home, serving some of the best fried chicken in the metro area, always cooked to order. The sides of slaw, mac 'n cheese, etc. also drive the locals into a foodie frenzy. The portions are enormous; it's not terribly clear how "half chicken dinner" translates into twelve pieces of bird. All in all, a great place to settle into a casual, drawn out meal of slow cooked food during a football game or over a good conversation. $6-15.
- Mark's Kitchen, 7006 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD, ☏ . M-F 9AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-8PM. Mark's is a fixture of the downtown Takoma Park area. It's a little, very unpretentious Korean restaurant with a specialty in vegetarian dishes, and some solid American dishes at that—you can get your breakfast of buckwheat pancakes, or mung bean pancakes! $8-14.
- Brookland Pint, 716 Monroe St NE, ☏ . Modern-rustic ambiance and an extensive craft beer menu.
- Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House + Tasting Room, 920 Girard St NE, ☏ . A tasting room where you can drink the beers brewed on site. Food is not served but you can bring your own.
- Smith Public Trust, 3514 12th St NE (between Monroe St & Newton St), ☏ . The bar is made of a shipping container.
- Zeke's Coffee, 2300 Rhode Island Ave NE, ☏ . A small, quiet cafe with friendly staff.
- 1 The Airedale DC, 3605 14th St NW, ☏ . A soccer-themed European bar with a really nice outdoor deck and 15 beers on tap.
- 2 Looking Glass Lounge, 3634 Georgia Ave NW, ☏ . A bar with nice stained-glass windows. Features open mic and trivia nights.
- 3 Lyman's Tavern, 3720 14th St NW, ☏ . A trendy bar with pinball tables, a jukebox, and a piano.
- 4 Petworth Citizen & Reading Room, 829 Upshur St NW, ☏ . A cozy bar with a library that serves bar food and eclectic cocktails.
- 5 The Pitch Tavern, 4015 Georgia Ave NW, ☏ . A sports bar with occasional live music.
- 6 Red Derby, 3718 14th St NW, ☏ . A dive bar that serves beer in cans, but it is usually a fun time. Nice roof deck.
- Takoma Station Tavern, 6914 4th St NW, ☏ . M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa 6PM-3AM, Su 6PM-2AM. W-Sa nights see nightly jazz/R&B/gogo performances (this is the best bar period to see a gogo performance), and Mondays are stand-up comedy. Music usually starts around 11PM.
- Hilltop Hostel, 300 Carroll St NW, ☏ . A converted Victorian house down the block from the Takoma Metro station, this is an affordable way to sleep in D.C. without staying somewhere seedy or boring. Private rooms with shared facilities available. $24/bed.
- The Uptown House, 4907 14th St NW, ☏ . Bedandbreakfast.com chose this as the number one urban B&B in the country. It's a simply gorgeous turn-of-the-century 11-bedroom Victorian B&B in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood, with a famously hospitable owner, and a large, beautiful garden patio (a good place for one of Sandy's lemon drop martinis). The full hot breakfasts are on a level you won't likely find elsewhere (think crab quiche, belgian waffles, fresh fruit). The rates are affordable because it is far from the center, but Metrobus 52/54 stops right outside the front door, and runs all day straight south through Downtown to the National Mall. $140-225.
In addition to the cafes above, the following all also provide free internet (and the libraries also offer public terminals):
- Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Ave NW, ☏ . M,W 1PM-9PM, Tu,Th-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
- Shepherd Park Library, 7420 Georgia Ave NW, ☏ . M,W 1PM-9PM, Tu,Th-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
- Takoma Park Library, 416 Cedar St NW, ☏ . M,W,F-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Tu,Th 1PM-9PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
- Woodridge Library, 1801 Hamlin St NE, ☏ . M,W 1PM-9PM, Tu,Th-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
Aside from the obvious southward trip downtown, you could take a trip across the D.C. border into Maryland, especially to visit adjacent Silver Spring to the north, which is accessible via the Red Line Metrorail, and has the American Film Institute Theater and a lot of restaurants and bars.
|Routes through Brookland-Petworth-Takoma|
|East End ← Near Northeast ←||S N||→ Silver Spring → Wheaton|
|Greenbelt ← Hyattsville ←||N S||→ Columbia Heights → East End|
|END ←||N S||→ Columbia Heights → East End|