I’m lucky that I have great travel friends to gallivant with. Most summers, my friend Allison and I visit a new state, but with the pandemic and travel restrictions, we had to keep our adventures closer to home. Despite living in the DC area for 12 years, there are still many neighborhoods that I haven’t explored. On a hot summer day, we decided to explore some new places in Southwest DC.
DC is split into four quadrants with the Capitol building at the center. I could write a whole separate post about the fascinating history behind the city plan and its enactment, but I will save that for another day. Southwest is the smallest of these quadrants and includes a portion of the Anacostia River. It contains some of the oldest buildings in the city and has seen huge changes over time. During the 1980s and 90s, this area was dubbed “The Murder Capital of America” but after redevelopment in the new millennium, it now hosts DC’s Major League baseball stadium, some top restaurants, and several notable commercial and green spaces.
We started with an Instagram lovers dream: CultureHouse DC. This former Baptist church was built in 1886 but has since been transformed into a cultural and artistic space. We couldn’t go inside due to Covid, but were awed by the colorful exterior painted by the artist HENSE and enjoyed doing our own tongue-in-cheek Instagram photo shoot.
As we made our way towards our lunch destination, we were delighted to find dozens of vibrant murals on sides of buildings and in the local park. There was so much color to be found in an area that was largely tall brick buildings.
Erik Bruner-Yang‘s latest restaurant ABC Pony was our lunch destination. We ordered online when we first parked and when we walked in to pick it up, were instantly disappointed that we couldn’t dine inside. The restaurant decor is inspired by the late 1980s/early 1990s and I just wanted to walk around and soak in every detail. The menu is a cross of Italian and Asian foods and didn’t disappoint. I have dined at most of this James Beard nominee’s restaurants and while they are all different, they always serve memorable dishes. We took our yummy lunch to nearby Lansburgh Park for a picnic. The park had shaded tables, colorful murals, and a vibrant garden.
As the temperatures soared into the 90s, we decided to head for the water. I had visited the Wharf several times to eat and stroll, Yards Park for concerts, water features, and great meals, and even DC’s only houseboat community, Gangplank Marina, but had never been in this part of the waterfront . We walked to Washington Channel park to see the Titanic Memorial. This 16 foot tall granite statue was built in 1931 to honor the men of the Titanic who sacrificed their lives so that women and children might be saved. It is an excellent example of Girl Power. It was largely paid for by single $1 donations from more than 25,000 women all over America and the competition for its creator was restricted to female artists. It was initially erected in Rock Creek park but was later relocated here to make way for the Kennedy Center. Does the pose look familiar? Rumor has it that the statue inspired that famous “I’m Flying” moment in the Titanic movie.
We walked the length of Washington Channel park and retreated to the car for some much-needed air conditioning. This exploration made me hungry to check out more local neighborhoods and thankful that while we can’t travel far, I can sate my wanderlust close to home.
Ready to gallivant on your own? Here are some terrific resources to help plan your journey.
- The DC tourist bureau has an awesome neighborhood by neighborhood overview with sights to see, places to eat, and a bit of history.
- Looking for an outstanding restaurant? I am OBSESSED with the Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurant list. it is updated every February and we strive to visit as many as possible, especially during DC restaurant week when it’s a bit more affordable.