Get to Know DC’s Neighborhoods

Deciding where to visit during a visit to the District is a critical decision for any enterprise. The District is composed of eight wards, each with multiple neighborhoods and at least one central business district. The city offers different incentive programs for businesses, and some of them are based on a particular ward or neighborhood. The DC Office of Planning descriptions of the eight wards offers you insight into DC’s memorable neighborhoods:

Ward 1

The smallest ward in terms of area, Ward 1 is the most densely populated one in the District. It is dominated by some of the best-known residential neighborhoods in the city, many of which have great historic significance for the local African-American and Latino populations.

While most of these neighborhoods are dominated by rowhouses, they are all distinct. Columbia Heights sits right in the middle of the ward, boasting beautiful historic townhomes, a major commercial core anchored by Target, the popular big box retailer, and landmarks such as the Tivoli Theater. The Adams Morgan neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and bars, and has long been a center for city nightlife for Millennials. This activity extends along the U Street Corridor, much of which serves as the southern boundary of the ward.

Mount Pleasant is known for its unique townhouses, strong international cultural mix and leafy streets that push into Rock Creek Park and up against the National Zoo. The Pleasant Plains neighborhood is home to Howard University, which also abuts the townhouses and gracious Victorian homes of historic LeDroit Park and portions of the Shaw neighborhood. Serving as a grand boulevard running through the center of the ward, 16the Street Northwest is lined with impressive apartment buildings, embassies, churches, and Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park. Ward 1 is a culturally rich, intricate section of the city that serves many roles for many different people.

Ward 3

Ward 3 is a largely residential area located in the upper Northwest quadrant of the city. In many ways, its neighborhoods are a series of villages clustered around local commercial centers. Some of these neighborhoods grew up along the Connecticut Avenue streetcar line that connected DC with Chevy Chase in suburban Maryland. Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, North Cleveland Park/Forest Hills and the DC-portion of Chevy Chase all follow a similar pattern of a commercial core with local shops and restaurants, surrounded by a cluster of dense apartment buildings and/or townhouses, and spreading out into single-family homes.

Tenleytown, Palisades, and Spring Valley, straddling Wisconsin Avenue, MacArthur Boulevard, and Massachusetts Avenue respectively, follow a similar, though more single-family, home-oriented, pattern. Friendship Heights also follows this pattern, but its commercial core has grown tremendously over the past 10 years, stretching into Maryland, is now a regional draw with its high-end shops and restaurants.

Much of the remainder of the ward consists of single-family homes set among tall trees and parks. Some are modest in size, while others are veritable mansions, home to some of the wealthiest DC residents and a large number of foreign ambassadorial residences. The character of these areas is more suburban in nature, with a greater concentration of cul-de-sacs than anywhere else in the city.

Ward 5

Extremely diverse in character and history, Ward 5 ranges from quiet residential neighborhoods and local shopping streets, to new high-rise development and industrial uses. The Brookland neighborhood sits in the middle of the ward in the northeast quadrant. Developed as a commuter rail village in the late 19th century, it is full of charming Victorian homes and a number of Catholic institutions such as Catholic University of America and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. Brookland gives way to early 20th century bungalow neighborhoods such as Michigan Park to the north and Woodridge to the east.

To the west, neighborhoods such as Eckington and Bloomingdale, on either side of North Capitol Street, are more typical of the townhouse neighborhoods of central Washington, DC. To the south, Trinidad and Carver Langston are dominated by 20th century porch-front townhouses. To the east, Fort Lincoln is a modern “new town” development, with a mix of townhouses and apartments from the 1960s and 1970s. Ward 5 has a great deal of both industrial land and open space. Florida Avenue Market is the city’s wholesale center, with other industrial spaces in Eckington and Fort Totten, and along the railroad tracks, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road. The Ward is also home to the rolling hills of the National Arboretum and the great lawns of the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home.

The northern portion of the NOMA neighborhood and Gallaudet University, a college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, sit within Ward 5, and a number of mixed-use, high-rise developments are finished or in the works in the Union Market neighborhood, bringing a bit of the hustle and bustle of downtown to the ward.

Ward 7

This diverse section of the District is distinguished by its leafy streets, single-family homes, transit stations, and above all, its green space. It is home to a number of Civil War fort sites that have since been turned into parkland including: Fort Mahan Park, Fort Davis Park, Fort Chaplin Park, and Fort Dupont Park, the largest city-owned park in the District. Ward 7 is also home to green spaces such as Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Watts Branch Park, Anacostia River Park, and Kingman Island.

The neighborhoods of Ward 7 are proud, distinct, and numerous. Deanwood, situated on the north end of the ward, is one of the oldest communities in the Northeast quadrant, and has a pleasant small-town character with its many wood-frame and brick houses. To the south of Deanwood are neighborhoods such as Capitol View, Benning Heights, and Marshall Heights, characterized by a variety of single-family homes, duplexes, garden apartments, and apartment buildings. Further south, neighborhoods including Hillcrest, Dupont Park, and Penn Branch have a very suburban character, dominated by single-family detached homes with large yards and lawns. Ward 7 also has an extensive waterfront along the Anacostia River, which will likely see a rebirth as the District looks to revitalize stretches of the waterfront. River Terrace, Mayfair, and Eastland Gardens abut the east side of the river, while Kingman Park sits to the west.

Ward 2

Best known as the home of the National Mall, the White House, the Washington Monument, and world-class museums, Ward 2 is the place where many ttheists and other visitors spend the bulk of their time. The iconic images that define Washington are most associated with this ward. It also includes the non-residential, federal office enclaves of Federal Triangle and Southwest Federal Center.

Ward 2 is a thriving commercial center for the city, stretching along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest from Georgetown to Foggy Bottom to Downtown. Retail and commercial outlets range from quirky shops to luxury retailers. The storied K Street Corridor houses government affairs, lobbyist offices, and law firms, another economic engine in the District. The Downtown neighborhood has seen tremendous growth and redevelopment over the past 10 years as vacant buildings have been renovated, vacant lots built on, and empty storefronts filled with new retail, restaurants, entertainment venues and museums.

But Ward 2 is so much more than government and retail. It encompasses some of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the city, and includes a mix of historic townhouses, apartment and office buildings. Sheridan-Kalorama and Dupont Circle are home to grand Victorian townhomes and stand-alone mansions, many of which are occupied by foreign embassies and chanceries. The Logan Circle, Mount Vernon Square, and Shaw neighborhoods have undergone significant changes in the last few years as houses are renovated and new multi-family and commercial development are completed, particularly along the 14th Street corridor.

Ward 4

Largely a residential area located in the northernmost portion of the city, Ward 4 straddles the Northwest and Northeast quadrants. Georgia Avenue bisects the ward, and serves as its major commercial spine, extending from the Petworth neighborhood into downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, to the north. Smaller, local commercial areas include 4th Street, Northwest in Takoma, Kennedy Street, Northwest in Brightwood, and portions of 14th Street within the ward. Petworth is the southernmost neighborhood in Ward 4, notable for its rich architectural variety of townhouses, broad boulevards, and circles. And recently it has become a thriving area for offbeat restaurants and shops.

Brightwood, one of the largest neighborhoods in the city, sits in the middle of the ward, and is made up of a variety of townhouses, small apartment buildings, and comfortable single-family homes. Grand and gracious buildings line 16th Street, Northwest, including churches, schools, ambassadorial residences, and private homes.

Fort Totten and Lamond-Riggs are both solid, middle-class neighborhoods of apartments, townhouses, and single-family detached homes. The neighborhoods along 16th Street, such as Crestwood, 16th Street Heights, Colonial Village and Shepherd Park, contain large single-family detached homes and townhouses, nestled against Rock Creek Park and its tributary parks. The Takoma neighborhood abuts the City of Takoma Park, Maryland – together they made up a late 19th-century streetcar suburb, and now share a commercial center that straddles the DC/Maryland border and an architectural heritage emphasizing Victorian and bungalow style single-family homes.

Ward 6

Ward 6 is located in the heart of Washington, DC, and is the only ward to include portions of each of the fthe quadrants of the city. As a consequence, it has a highly diverse population and housing stock, and a myriad of neighborhood characteristics. To the west, Ward 6 covers parts of Downtown and the Penn Quarter, Gallery Place, and Chinatown neighborhoods, home to office buildings, major retail, and restaurants, hotels, museums, and theaters, federal buildings, and, particularly over the past ten years, a growing number of residential buildings. To the south are the Modern high-rises and townhouses of the Southwest Waterfront, and the major new development of the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, anchored by the new Nationals Stadium and soon to include a variety of housing, retail and office buildings as well as two new parks. 

The center of the Ward is the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, with its townhouses and local commercial corridors. While this area includes major national symbols such as the United States Capitol Building and the Library of Congress, it is also a tight-knit community with local restheces such as Eastern Market and the Old Naval Hospital.

Ward 8

Much of what is now Ward 8 was farmland during the early history of Washington, DC, and a rural character is occasionally evident among the houses, apartment buildings, and institutions of the ward. The historic Anacostia neighborhood is the oldest in the ward, having been founded as Uniontown, one of Washington’s first suburbs, in 1854. It has a variety of wood frame, brick houses, and townhouses, as well as grander homes such as Cedar Hill, the Frederick Douglass House. Further south is the neighborhood of Congress Heights, which has the largest commercial area in the ward, which runs along Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X Avenues, as well as a number of garden apartments and single-family bungalows. Washington Highlands is located further south, and is home to many apartment complexes, as well as new single-family homes at Walter Washington Estates. 

The neighborhood of Bellevue sits at the far southern end of the District, and has many garden apartments and 1940s era detached homes with yards. Ward 8 also has several large federal and local institutions. Bolling Air Force Base, for example, is in many ways a small town of its own, stretching along the Anacostia riverfront. Saint Elizabeths Hospital is a large campus with sweeping views of the city that has become home to local and federal government agencies. The Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant and DC Village both take up significant acreage at the southern tip of the city.