Also written by Jessica Jordano.
Living in D.C. can feel exciting. But sometimes staying in one place for too long will make you lose your mind with boredom. Even though you may go to college at the George Washington University right in the middle of D.C., Foggy Bottom can get old real fast. And you need to relax after a week of insanely challenging classes.
Ditch Foggy Botttom and check out these 10 unconventional off-campus hangouts around D.C.
Everyone comes here for your basic graffiti and overlooking-waterfront pics. “There’s this path near the waterfront of Georgetown, but if you keep walking, it’s a completely covered bike path,” sophomore Emily Kopach said. “You can walk up to that place with the graffiti that looks onto Arlington and the Potomac, and it’s just really pretty.” Only 15 minutes from campus, the Georgetown Waterfront provides a perfectly tranquil place for your college existential crisis.
2. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Honestly, all the Smithsonian museums are great spots (and quick Metro rides away), but sophomore Caitlyn Leong adores the Air and Space Museum. “I love Air and Space because the exhibits are really interesting and the design of the museum is nice and open,” Leong said. “It’s the best Smithsonian, hands down.” Even better? It doubles as a great study space. “I highly recommend it, especially in the winter and early spring before tourist season,” Leong added.
They don’t call it retail therapy for nothing. Only a 10–15 minute walk from campus, the city of Georgetown serves as an exciting place to get away from campus. “There are loads of cool and unique stores to check out,” freshman Christina Josie Goodman said. Grab a cupcake at Baked and Wired, spend your GWorld money at the Chipotle, watch a movie while sitting in the red, plush AMC Theater chairs, smell the relaxing soaps and bath bombs at Lush or max out your credit cards at Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. You’ll literally find no limit to what you can do over there.
4. Crumbs and Whiskers Cat Café
Do you procrastinate by watching cat videos on Youtube? Try watching real cats. You’ll find this animal lover haven located in the outskirts of Georgetown (Wisconsin Ave and O St.). “It’s kinda expensive ($25), but you get to drink coffee and play with cats,” Leong said. “It’s awesome for destressing.” Cat cafes like Crumbs and Whiskers provide the perfect unconventional escape, and hanging out with cats will never get old.
5. Busboys and Poets Bookstore
If you can’t stand to study in Gelman any longer, try one of the thousands of bookstores around D.C. Switch things up by going to the 14 and V St. location at U Street. Students prefer its classic bookstore vibe instead of the ugly Gelman cubicles. Relax in this comforting bookstore by grabbing a bite or cup of coffee, sitting in the corner with your Shakespeare or Adam Smith reading and immerse yourself in a bookish world.
6. Landmark Theaters E Street Cinema
Nothing feels better than unwinding at a movie theater. Head over to this trendy, upscale theater in Chinatown and catch an indie movie or Academy Award flick. “It’s nice to just get away,” sophomore Olivia Eggers said. “It’s very plush and comfortable. There’s a place to get food or alcohol if you’re 21+.” What’s more amazing than dinner, drinks and movie? Feeling fancy AF while doing so. That’s right—treat yo self at the movie theater, because you deserve it.
7. Annandale, VA
Going to Annandale, VA is more of a trek because you’ll have to take I-66W and I-495S to get there, but the food and stores make it worth the drive. If you have suburban roots, you’ll feel right at home in this town. Sophomore Elena Hoffman goes there for the Korean food. “Go to KBBQ in Annandale,” Hoffman said. “I would suggest Kogiya.” If you want an even more upscale or closer location, you can even hop on the Metro and head to nearby Tyson’s Corner. Sometimes, nothing feels better than getting away from the city and spending a Saturday in suburbia.
8. Arlington, VA
This other location in Virginia is close to campus. “You can get there by Metro and it’s like, just quieter and less crowded than D.C. and nicer too,” Kopach said. “I belong to a boxing gym there, so I spend like almost as much time there as I do on campus.” Or visit some memorials around the city. People usually head to the Pentagon Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Arlington Cemetery. You can even watch planes fly overhead at Gravelly Point Park, watch shows at the renowned Synthetic and Signature Theaters or shop at the Pentagon City mall.
9. Eastern Market
A Metro ride away, Eastern Market equals a foodie’s paradise. “I like the Eastern Market because of the long strip of good restaurants and the farmers market the street has,” freshman Christina Josie Goodman said. “There are all types of choices from fast food chains to fancy, pricey restaurants to hookah bars. A few examples of restaurants are Italian, Hispanic, Asian and American.” Goodman’s favorite restaurants include District Donuts and Ted’s Bulletin. If you plan on stress-eating, you might as well go all in.
10. CityCenter D.C.
This outdoor shopping and residential center a couple blocks from the Metro Center station features year-long activities. Take a picture with the string lights that adorn the Center in the wintertime. In the spring, search for those picture-perfect cherry blossoms and flowers. Head to the famous MilkBar CityCenter DC restaurant for cookies and soft serve in the summer. If you don’t take a photo of your cereal milk soft serve in front of the MilkBar CityCenter logo, did you really visit CityCenter?
Ready for more adventure? Read on for 10 more spots to resist the urge to retreat into the Foggy Bottom Bubble.
11. U Street
U St. Music Hall screams “Friday night indie-concert,” but try walking along U St. during the day. The unique street art, the variety of restaurants and the vintage architecture make up a signature vibe of this part of D.C. Check out U St. on a Saturday morning when you need a study break, too. According to junior Barbara Alberts, it’s very easy to get stuck in the bubble. She suggests to going for long walks around D.C. to explore the city around you. “My biggest piece of advice… is to just lace up your shoes and take a long walk through D.C., even if you’re going by yourself,” Alberts said. “The more I focused myself to get out of my comfort zone, the easier it was for me to venture out alone.”
12. Milk Bar
Food will open you up to the world beyond Foggy Bottom. GW does not have the best dining options (District House and Whole Foods can only feed you for so long). So plan your exploring of the city around your meals or snacks. Milk Bar, a GW student go-to off-campus stop, makes the perfect duo of milk and cereal in an ice cream shop with milky ice cream covered in sweet corn flakes. Originally started in NYC, the shop has its own trendy, alternative vibe with a variety of tasty desserts on its menu. Although expensive, students can save this excursion for the Saturday before finals for a motivational treat to help tackle the week ahead.
13. Midnight Monuments Walk
We might groan at the tired memories of old Colonial Inauguration events. But traveling the monuments at midnight never gets old. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve found some [of] my favorite places in the city by just walking around,” Alberts said. The monuments glowing with the midnight sky as a backdrop inspires awe in even history majors. And when you do need inspiration to keep going, trudge through finals season or having trouble with some college friendships, go to the monuments to remember what great leaders have accomplished before you. They probably had bigger problems than final exams.
Spontaneity leads to the best adventures in a city with hidden gems like D.C. Grab your metro card and get off at a random stop. The Metro has about 90 stations, meaning you’ll find 90 different neighborhoods to explore in the District. Yes, the tourist activities are something to try, but don’t forget about the forgotten corners. “'[I’d tell incoming freshmen to] be patient with themselves as they adjust to college life,” said junior and former freshman RA Maggie Kritzberg. “Develop a balance between school and doing fun, adventurous things on campus—give yourself time to figure out what [a] balance is.” Who knows what you might find if you just give it some time?
15. Adams Morgan
Adams Morgan, a neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of D.C., is the epitome of the “hustle and bustle” of a city. From the glowing streetlights to the clatter of women’s heels on the pavement, Adams Morgan makes for a perfect Saturday night with friends. How could it not, with its variety of bars, restaurants and shopping? “You have to actively fight [the Foggy Bottom bubble] because this is living and breathing culture and opportunity. Whether it’s photographing pristine Georgetown [or] sitting down for a piping hot bowl of ramen in Adams Morgan amdist all the bustle of a Friday night… there is so much more to D.C. than the typical sights of Foggy Bottom,” junior Sanchaya Satish said.
16. Gallery Place/Chinatown Movie Theater
The Georgetown AMC Theater borders Foggy Bottom. Resist the convenience of this theater and hop on the metro to Gallery Place. The theater at Gallery Place has many more food options, ranging from pubs to ice cream. Pro tip: You’ll find a bowling alley in this theater if you are 21+ and looking for a game after your movie. “[My friends] all had different tastes in food so a lot of the time we would take the metro to Gallery Place Chinatown and explore the Latin and Asian restaurants there,” junior Elle Lu said.
17. D.C. United Game
Don’t underestimate the local D.C. sporting events. A D.C. United Game or a National’s Game get you out of the city while learning something new. If you don’t like sports, don’t say no just yet. You don’t have to love sports to enjoy the laughing with friends, cold beer and new adventures that come with the games. “I guess [getting out of the bubble] is a combination of being infinitely curious about DC, wanting to go explore where I’m going to school for the next four years and being around a really great group of people,” Lu said. Need I say more?
18. Natural History Museum
A visit to the Natural History Museum brings your inner, curious 11-year-old self out. “My favorite D.C. adventure is spending a day off campus whether is be studying or exploring a museum because that’s when you feel like it’s home and are truly immersed in the D.C. culture and life and you feel like a local,” junior Preeti Turpuseema said. This visit welcomes more than STEM majors. At the Natural History Museum, you learn about the history of the earth in an innovative way that appeals to any interests. Spending a day there with an in-town relative or some friends shows you do more than hit the library or the bars. Although it sounds cliché, definitely go spend a Saturday at the Smithsonians.
19. D.C. LGBT Center
The District boasts unique service sites, and service makes up an integral part of the college experience in D.C. Based in D.C., this nonprofit organization works to raise awareness for the LGBT community in D.C. and works to prevent the spread of HIV in the District. The community at the LGBT Center welcomes volunteers with open arms. Attend their monthly pack-it parties, which involves packing condoms and lube for the LGBT community, or attend one of their other events including fundraisers and mixers. What better way to escape Foggy Bottom than which service, which peels away the layers of D.C. clichés and exposes the real culture and people of the District?
20. Charlie’s Place
Near DuPont Circle at the Immaculate Conception Church, Charlie’s Place has served D.C. locals experiencing homelessness for 27 years. In a week, Charlie’s Place serves almost 12,500 meals, according to their website. Charlie’s Place welcomes volunteers for meal times seven days a week. Serve the District and volunteer a Saturday morning or a Friday afternoon at Charlie’s Place. Satish said service has been a key to helping her get out of the Foggy Bottom bubble. “You really get a feel for the real nature of D.C., and that there’s real people who live here with lives that deal with things much harder than the gleaming polish of Foggy might indicate. The best way to remember to continue exploring is to never lose your wonder that you live in a place that others only dream about seeing one day,” said Satish. “Make it your dream too.”
*Updated on June 13, 2017 by Jessica Jordano to include off-campus spots 11-20.