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Neighborhood 101: Adams Morgan

30 Dec

Madam’s Organ is easy to spot thanks to its famous mural. © dbking at Creative Commons

When I think of Adams Morgan two things to come to mind: getting drunk and eating brunch (not necessarily together but sometimes). Located in Northwest DC and considered a global village, the neighborhood is known for its restaurants and bars as well as independent shops. The main area is at the intersection of 18th and Columbia Road.

Getting There: Unfortunately, the closest Metro station—Woodley Park–Zoo/Adams Morgan on the Red Line—isn’t that close at all. It’s walkable, but rest assured, it’s a walk. Street parking is a pain but it’s possible (though not so much on Saturday nights) as long as you’re patient and, again, okay with walking.

Interesting Tidbit: Adams Morgan was named for the District’s first segregated schools—the all-black Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School and all-white John Quincy Adams Elementary School.

Hot Spots:
There are many, but here are a few of my favorites.

  • Madam’s Organ Blues Bar & Soul Food Restaurant—This landmark bar is known for its live music.
  • The Diner—Breakfast 24/7? Yes, please!
  • The Reef—It’s a restaurant as well as a bar, but I’ve only been there for drinks. They’ve got fish tanks, lots of them.
  • Grand Central—I fully recognize that this dance club is cheesy and only plays cliché Top 40 music and that people will judge me for listing it, but I can’t help myself, I love it.
  • Pizza Mart—Because there’s nothing like a jumbo slice at 1:30 in the morning.


  • Adams Morgan Day—This annual festival happens on the second Sunday of September.
  • Crafty Bastards—An alternative arts and crafts fair showcasing independent artists.

Shout Out: Nat Geo Museum

27 Dec

$7 not only gets you admission into the gecko exhibit but also this great mask!

A while back I wrote about great local museums that charge admission, and for some unknown reason I forgot to mention the National Geographic Museum. So I thought I’d give it its very own post, especially since I recently visited and had an oh-so-fabulous time.

To be honest, I really had no great desire to see the museum’s current gecko exhibit—which ends January 5—but my boyfriend is a big fan of lizards so I went to be nice. And what do you know, I had an excellent time! They have over 70 geckos housed in really well-done displays including an albino gecko, my personal favorite. What I really like about Nat Geo in general is that it’s pretty small—and therefore not overwhelming—and it’s also not too crowded. The gecko exhibit is, I guess, geared toward kids, but I really enjoyed it.

The other exhibit currently going on—Wild Music—was free so we wandered over there and spent a good half hour banging on instruments and what-not. Again, it was geared toward kids, but I can’t imagine any child having more fun than I did. The only negative was that when I was taking a melody quiz at one of the stations, it kept telling me that I was getting the answers wrong and that most infants know how to differentiate melodies. Um, are you trying to hurt my feelings?

The Wild Music exhibit ends January 2, so if you’re interested you’ll need to go soon. The museum is located at 17th and M in NW. It’s walkable from the Farragut North Metro station (Red Line) and Farragut West (Orange/Blue Lines). Street parking isn’t usually too difficult to find as long as you’re willing to walk a few blocks. Tip: The museum is free on Wednesdays (though it’s also more crowded).

The exhibit after geckos will open February 2. It’s a touring exhibition called America I AM: The African American Imprint.

After the museum my boyfriend and I grabbed lunch and headed over to E Street Cinema for a movie. I must say, it was a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Worth the money: DC museums that charge admission

1 Nov

Newseum © David Monack

It’s easy to get spoiled living in DC with all the free museums that are available. You can pop in during your lunch break, while waiting for a friend or to see a specific exhibit you’ve heard about. But some museums charge an admission fee, which hopefully won’t discourage you from going. Here are some of my favorites.

International Spy Museum: This museum near the Verizon Center is pretty new, having opened in 2002. It’s got a lot of interactive exhibits and you’ll leave feeling paranoid that everyone around you is a spy. A lot of kids go to this museum, but as an adult I really enjoyed it. My favorite part is the fake air shafts that you can crawl through, spying on other visitors. I’m surprised how crowded this museum can get considering that admission is pretty pricey: $18 for adults and $15 for children. You can purchase tickets in advance, which I’d probably recommend for weekends and during tourist seasons. Tip: Goldstar often sells discount tickets to the Spy Museum.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art: There’s no shortage of art museums in DC, so it’s easy to procrastinate about going to the Corcoran, but I encourage you to make the trip. The museum is the largest privately supported cultural institution in DC, and they focus on American art. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and admission for adults is $10 (kids are free and students are $8). The closest Metro stations are Farragut North and Farragut West.

Newseum: One of my favorites! I loved the Newseum when it was in Arlington and was really happy when it finally reopened six years later in 2008 at its new space near the Mall on Pennsylvania. The new building is amazing and the exhibits are always changing. An added bonus is that there usually aren’t a lot of kids at the museum, so it’s typically pretty quiet. I love the interactive exhibits and for a small fee you can read from a teleprompter like you’re on the news; they give you a photo and when you go home you can view your video online. They’ve also got a huge balcony with an amazing view of the Capitol. Adult admission is $19.95 and kids are $12.95. I’ve heard that the Newseum has struggled financially since reopening, so you’ll often find special discounts on their website in an attempt to increase the number of visitors.

The Phillips Collection: I only recently went to this art gallery, and I don’t know what took me so long. Located near Dupont Circle, the museum houses modern art in an intimate setting. I think brunch in Dupont followed by a visit to the The Phillips Collection would be a great Saturday afternoon. The museum recently had a small fire (no artwork was damaged) and so now is an especially great time to support repairs by visiting. The gallery isn’t opened Sundays or Mondays, and admission costs $12 for adults and is free for kids.

Capital Bikeshare

18 Oct

In 2008, Clear Channel brought a public bike share program to DC: SmartBike. It was a cool idea, but it didn’t take long to realize that the program itself pretty much sucked. First off, there weren’t many bikes or bike stations. Second, they had no plans of expanding. Third, the bikes started looking pretty sad and tired looking. And last but not least, you had to pay for a yearly membership (thus excluding tourists and the occasional rider).

But hope has arrived! This past September, DC launched Capital Bikeshare. With 1,100 bikes and 100 docking stations throughout the city and Northern Virginia, it’s the largest bike share program in the U.S. And you can pay for a day, a month or a year. In the past month and a half, I’ve already seen more people using the new bikes than I ever saw using the SmartBikes.

Keep in mind, you have to bring your own helmet. And the two bike share programs aren’t combined, so don’t think you can rent a bike from one program and return it to a docking station for the other. I’m not sure what the city plans on doing with the old program, but I suspect it will completely disappear soon.

Below is a promo video that explains how to get a bike. Happy peddling!

The places less traveled

19 Sep


There are over 100 rooms at O Mansion.


Now that you call DC home, you will have no shortage of family and friends coming to visit. (Interestingly, I had no one visit me during the year I lived in Delaware.) You are going to go to the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the National Archives and the Lincoln Monument more times than you can count. So when you have time to explore the city on your own, I suggest going to less popular–but just as interesting–museums and landmarks. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started:

The National Postal Museum. The first time I went here I did so because I thought it was funny and random. But it’s actually a really great museum! It’s under the Smithsonian umbrella and it opened pretty recently–1993–right next to Union Station. You’ll have it almost exclusively to yourself, and there’s lots of  interactive exhibits.

O Mansion
. Located in Dupont Circle, this place is hard to describe. It’s basically four brick stone houses that are connected through secret doorways and passages, and there are knick-knacks everywhere. You can go to the mansion for tea, brunch, lunch or dinner and then explore the houses (finding secret doors through mirrors and secret rooms in kitchens). It’s also a hotel, so you can stay in one of the rooms, and they have a party space for events like weddings and corporate events. Basically, seeing is believing and you just need to go.

US National Arboretum. I lived in the DC area for three years before I heard about the National Arboretum, which is amazing considering it’s 412 acres in northeast. I think the ideal way to explore the grounds is by bike, but on foot and by car work too. It’s a really peaceful place to relax without having to leave the District.

Glen Echo Park. The first time I went to this Maryland landmark was just a few months ago for a wedding. The website describes it as a “magical place” and, I must admit, it kind of is. It was an amusement park from the early 1900s until 1968. Now its owned by the National Park Service. The feel of the old-timey amusement park is very well maintained, and the carousel is still operational. You can take all kinds of classes at the park, go dancing or just visit and have a picnic and walk around.