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Washington, D.C., College Visit Guide

Explore the diverse neighborhoods of D.C. during your college visit.

 

You don’t have to be a political science major to attend a Washington, D.C., college; the nation’s capital has more than 34 colleges (according to U.S. College Search), universities and vocational schools with studies ranging from English literature to art, medicine, music and law. In addition to being the political lifeline of the United States, D.C. offers an impressive arts and entertainment scene, an eclectic mix of international restaurants and fantastic shopping, from Georgetown boutiques to neighborhood markets. Committed to historical preservation, education and cultural celebration, the capital is an exciting and cosmopolitan city in which to visit and live. Our college visit guide to The District highlights neighborhood spots around the city’s top schools.

Getting Around

Washington’s Metro transit system is highly accessible and easy to use. You’ll have more fun navigating the Metro and exploring D.C. neighborhoods without a car; bus rates are $1.35, and rail rates range from $1.65 to $4.50. Invest in a SmarTrip pass—good for bus or rail—and get reduced rates; one card costs $5 and can be purchased at Metro sales offices. Up to two children under 4 years old ride for free with each adult. Plan your trips at www.wmata.com.

Another transportation option is D.C.’s new bike sharing program called SmartbikeDC, which allows commuters to rent bikes from various rental locations; annual service fee: $39.99.

Stay Somewhere Central

The following hotels are all located near downtown D.C. and are within easy walking distance to many attractions and Metro stops:

Willard Intercontinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue; grand, historic hotel. Tel. 202-628-9100.
Hay-Adams Hotel, 16th and H Streets NW; luxurious, White House views. Tel. 202-638-6600.
Madison Hotel, 1177 15th Street; full-amenity, pets welcome. Tel. 202-862-1600.
Morrison-Clark Hotel, 1015 L. Street; historic Victorian boutique hotel. Tel. 202-898-1200.

Day 1: Corcoran College, George Washington University, Georgetown University and American University

Using the White House on 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as a starting point, head west to the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, where you’ll find two great schools to check out. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, at 500 17th Street, is only a block from the White House. Don’t miss the Corcoran Gallery, which houses an extensive collection of 19th century American art, including a temporary exhibit, The American Evolution—a collection of rare colonial period artifacts and art. General admission is $6 and free for children 6 and under, with additional fees for some exhibits.

Foggy Bottom’s premier feature is George Washington University at 2121 I Street NW, a school with just under 10,000 undergraduates, regarded for its international business, political business and science programs. Other Foggy Bottom sites include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Department of the Interior Museum, the National Academy of Sciences, the infamous Watergate hotel and the headquarters for various international organizations.

Just a Metro ride away from Foggy Bottom is Georgetown University in the glamorous Georgetown district; take the Orange Line from the GWU Metro station and check www.wmata.com for connecting bus routes. A former tobacco port town, Georgetown exploded as a commercial center. It endures as an elegant neighborhood full of grand old estate homes, many of which are preserved as public museums; Tudor Place and Dumbarton Oaks are two popular ones. Today, Georgetown is a popular place to walk, eat and boutique shop. Also visit the historic 185-mile long Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (popularly, the C&O canal) where your family can take a mule-pulled boat ride.

Next, pop over to American University in residential Spring Valley. A school of 5,000 undergrads from more than 100 countries, American U. churns out young international leaders like none other. Also visit neighboring historic Cleveland Park to see well-preserved old mansions in this community-oriented district. Take the Red Line rail from Tenleytown-AU Metro to Cleveland Park Metro; this rail stop spits you right out onto bustling Connecticut Avenue, full of eateries and plenty of shopping. Don’t miss the architecturally stunning Washington National Cathedral, the sixth-largest cathedral in the world. If your family has enough energy left, finish off your day with a trip to the National Zoo to see the giant pandas. But don’t worry if you have to cut your visit short or break it up into two days—admission to the zoo is free.

Good Eats

Cleveland Park: Lavandou, 3321 Connecticut Avenue. French. Georgetown: Mie N Yu, 3125 M Street. Asian, African, Mediterranean fusion.

Day 2: Howard University, Gallaudet University and Catholic University of America 

Howard University is north of Le Droit Park neighborhood, a historically intellectual center for African-American residents. Howard U. produces the most African-American PhDs in the country and it’s had a prominent activist role throughout the Civil Rights movement. Walk a couple of blocks west to the U Street/Shaw district, Duke Ellington’s youthful stomping grounds; U Street is hopping at night with its various music clubs and performances at The Lincoln Theatre.

If you’re interested in visiting Gallaudet University—which specializes in higher education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students—take the rail from the U Street-Cardozo Metro Station. The nearby Florida Avenue Market is a farmers market-shopper’s paradise; it’s comprised of largely wholesale goods and food, and is not for people with weak stomachs (i.e., there will be a lot of raw meat scents wafting in the air), but it’s definitely an opportunity to get off the beaten path. 

 

If you’d rather head to Catholic University of America, take the Green Line to Fort Totten Metro station, then the Red Line to Brookland-CUA. The Catholic-influenced Brookland neighborhood is often called “Little Rome.” Check out the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; its lengthy title is as impressive as its Roman-Byzantine architecture: the Shrine is built solely out of stone, tile, brick and mortar. Other Brookland attractions include the 446-acre National Arboretum (with a 2-acre herb garden) and the Franciscan Monastery gardens. Dance Place is a premier community art and dance venue and hosts top acts throughout the year.

Good Eats

Brookland: Deli City, 2200 Bladensburg Road NE. Its stuffed sandwiches will fill you up.

Day 3: Additional Neighborhood Scenes

On your last day in D.C., check out a few neighborhoods you skipped during your college hunt. Take Connecticut Avenue northwest of the Capitol to Dupont Circle, a cosmopolitan district smattered with boutiques, cafés, independent bookshops and several fine arts museums. The famous ‘circle’ is the neighborhood’s vibrant hub; you’ll see people everywhere: eating, walking their dogs, playing chess. Keep your eyes peeled for old police call boxes; it’s part of Cultural Tourism D.C.’s “Art on Call” project that aims to transform late 19th century police and fire call boxes into public art. The project, featuring local artists’ work, is citywide; Dupont Circle has 22 boxes.

Another must-see neighborhood, Adams Morgan, is a foodie’s heaven and a diverse, international community, centered on Columbia Road and 18th Street. Colorful murals decorate the buildings in this neighborhood; the slightly risqué redheaded Madam mural marks the spot for popular nightclub, Madam’s Organ, which hosts live bluegrass shows on Wednesdays.

Good Eats

Adams Morgan: Madam's Organ, 2461 18th Street. Soul food; The Grill From Ipanema, 1858 Columbia Road. Argentinian cuisine; Cashion’s Eat Place, 1819 Columbia Road. American fare.

Mark Your 2008 Calendar

May 18, The Post Hunt: An urban scavenger hunt around the Penn Quarter district where you have to solve challenging and wacky puzzles hosted by the Washington Post.  Bring your Sunday, May 18 copy of the paper for the hunt. Starts at the City Center, at the corner of H Street and 10th Street.

May 22-June 1, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Free For All”: A free Shakespeare production—this year, it’s Hamlet—will be performed in the Rock Creek Park. (Appropriate for ages 10 and up.) www.shakespearedc.org

July, Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: A 14-acre park with 100,000 water lilies, ferns and lotuses; they bloom in July. www.nps.gov/keaq

July, D.C. Fringe Festival: Local arts and music extravaganza. Venues are interspersed throughout the downtown D.C. area.


Destinations: Washington

Themes: College Visits, Historical Vacations

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Museums, Sightseeing


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