What to do in D.C. for the Atlantic 10 tournament


The Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament comes to Washington, DC starting March 9, and we at Colonial Hoops have some suggestions for things to do – sights to see, bars, restaurants, and so on.

The games will be at Capital One Arena (home of the Wizards and Capitals) in Chinatown in the heart of DC (the A10 logo on the map.) The arena is pretty close to the National Mall, White House and of course the George Washington University, everyone’s favorite college in DC. It’s also near a bunch of Metro (subway) stations, so you can easily travel around the city for a few bucks.

DC is a city of neighborhoods, each with a different vibe, and they’re all very walkable. Below we suggest a few favorites for each neighborhood, but there are tons of other great options not listed.

Chinatown

Chinatown is where the arena is, as well as a big nightlife area. Sadly there are only a few remaining Chinese places, mostly on H Street NW between 5th and 7th, and a few on and 6th Street NW south of H Street NW. I like China Boy for dim sum, the hand-pulled noodle place at the southwest corner of 6th and H NW, Tony Cheng's on H, and New Big Wong (yes, that’s the name) which is open until 4am on weekends, so it’s a good option for late night post-going out food.

However there are a lot of other really good restaurants and solid bars in the neighborhood.
  • Daikaya and Izakaya are two great Japanese places, a downstairs ramen spot and an upstairs cool Japanese street food/cocktail bar. 
  • Bantam King is another great ramen spot with Taiwanese fried chicken, and Free State in the basement is a solid bar
  • Denson, nice cozy cocktail bar
  • Clyde's, big bar with good American food
  • Jaleo, China Chilcano, Oyamel and Zaytinya are nice places opened by celebrity chef and GW honorary doctor Jose AndrĂ©s (also the World Central Kitchen guy) – Spanish tapas, Chinese/Peruvian, Mexican, and Mediterranean respectively
  • Rasika, fancy Indian food
  • Pi Pizzeria and Matchbox, solid pizza spots (I prefer Pi but Matchbox is decent too.)
  • Hill Country BBQ hosts a great karaoke night with live music on Wednesdays from 9-12, making for a great activity following the A-10 pillow fight in the afternoon. They also have great Texas-style BBQ.
There are also lots of other decent bars around the arena area like Rocket Bar and Jackpot right across the street, and Irish Channel, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, and too many more to list within a few blocks.

There are also cultural and historical things to check out in and close to Chinatown.
  • Ford’s Theatre is close by, where Lincoln was shot
  • The Building Museum is in an awesome Civil War-era government building right next to the Capital One Arena
  • The Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum are across the street from the arena. There's a section with portraits of each president and First Lady, pretty neat. They are free, too.
  • The National Mall and Washington Monument are about a 20 minute walk away 
  • Same for the various Smithsonian Museums – Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, Natural History Museum, American History Museum, American Indian Museum, African American History Museum, Hirshhorn (modern art), Asian Art, and others. They are all free, but some may require advanced tickets. 
  • The National Archives where you can pull a Nicolas Cage and steal the Declaration of Independence is also close by (free reservations required.)
Beyond Chinatown, there are a lot of cool neighborhoods, most Metro-accessible or a short Lyft ride.

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan is another big bar and restaurant area in NW DC, a couple Metro stops from Chinatown (including 20 minute walk across a nice bridge) or a short rideshare. There’s about 3 long blocks totally packed with bars and restaurants along 18th Street NW (and some on Columbia Rd NW too.) Dan’s Cafe is a great dive bar where they serve shots in squirt bottles and it smells real bad. Always a drunken good time. Grand Duchess is a relaxed hip place, Jack Rose has a huge whiskey selection, and there are a million other bars and restaurants. Some good Korean food too. Shenanigans is an Irish sports bar and the name is a solid description of what it's like in there.

U Street NW and Shaw

Just south of Adams Morgan is U Street NW with a lot of bars and restaurants. I like American Ice Co. (pulled pork nachos), Ben’s Chili bowl (a long running famous chili spot), The Saloon (chill Belgian beer bar), Solly’s (local divey bar), and there are lots more. U Street also has a number of Ethiopian restaurants, which is a popular cuisine in DC.

Going east on U Street and you’ll come to Shaw, which has grown a lot lately with a lot of new places, a bit fancier than the rest of U Street and with a younger crowd. Takoda is a popular spot with a rooftop bar, and I really like DC9, a chill indie rock music venue also with a rooftop bar.

14th Street NW

South of Adams Morgan is another big strip of bars and restaurants, about 10 blocks long with various somewhat more upscale options than Adams Morgan. Etto is solid Italian, Great Wall Szechuan has a secret menu with mouth-numbing spices, Garden District is a nice little beer garden, Le Diplomate is fancy French food (lots of politicos hang out there), Pearl Dive is a popular oyster spot, Bar Pilar and Saint Ex are solid bar/restaurants, and so on. Lots of other good spots here.

H Street NE 

H Street NE to the east of Union Station has a ton of bars and restaurants from about 10th to 14th Streets NE. There isn’t a Metro station nearby so you’ll need to take a rideshare. We like Maketto (cool Asian fusion), Little Miss Whiskey’s (kind of a nightclub), the Pug (divey neighborhood bar), Toki Underground (ramen and drinks) but there are many more. A little farther afield is Jimmy Valentine’s, an awesome after hours bar (you’ll need to Lyft there.)

Dupont Circle

Home to an extensive array of nightlife options and not far from GW, Dupont Circle is a good mix of low-key calm bars and the classic college bar experience. Sauf Haus Bier Hall is a great German-themed spot and has a great selection of beers. Madhatter and Lucky Bar are popular with college kids and others -- Madhatter serves a drink called “The Hat” which you just have to experience. Lucky Bar is great for the A-10’s soccer fans as they always show soccer games from across the world.

Georgetown

Georgetown is the oldest part of the city, it predates even the Capitol and White House. There are lots of shops and restaurants and many beautiful old Colonial-era buildings. More of a family-friendly vibe. There is also a nice park along the Potomac River that is worth a walk if the weather is nice.

Columbia Heights/Petworth

Columbia Heights has become a bit of a destination in recent years, with fancy restaurants like Queen's English (Hong Kong Chinese, a favorite of Jeff Bezos) and Bad Saint (really delicious Filipino food) to fun bars like Wonderland (always dancing upstairs on Friday and Saturday) and more relaxed divey ones like Red Derby and Lyman's. Along Georgia Avenue NW, Looking Glass, Sonny's Pizza and cozy cocktail spot No Kisses are all good options. Petworth a bit farther north has some chill neighborhood spots too.

Union Market

Union Market is a nice food hall in NE DC with a number of nice restaurants around it as well. A fun destination for a bite and a drink during the day with a ton of options.

Waterfront/Nationals Park/Navy Yard

The waterfront in SW DC (also called the Wharf or other names) has been developed recently with a lot of  nice restaurants and a waterfront promenade. Another good family-friendly option.

And a couple Metro stations or a short Lyft ride to the east, the area around the Navy Yard and Nationals Park (the baseball stadium, home of your 2019 World Series champs) has some bars and restaurants, and a nice waterfront park called Yards Park.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is a nice area to walk around, but is mostly residential and not a big nightlife or food destination. The Capitol is there, of course, as well as the Library of Congress and Supreme Court. If you want to explore and see nice houses or take pictures of the Capitol, this is a good option. There are some bars and restaurants on Pennsylvania Ave SE like Mr. Henry's, Barrel and Tune Inn, as well as on 6th Street SE near Eastern Market (Tunnicliff's is a good pub over there) and along Barracks Row on 8th Street SE. 

Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom (funny name, right?) is the home of the GW campus and State Department, as well as a few bars. We love it, but it's kind of residential and quiet, not a real destination. If you do want to check it out however, there are some bars, and you'll pass through it if you are going to Georgetown.

Froggy Bottom (note the r) is a more casual, sit-down bar with solid food and drinks, perfect for those who want to experience the awe of the Charles Entertainment Smith Center (GW's arena) and the rest of the GW campus then grab a bite to eat. Tonic on the GW campus is also a good pub -- it was formerly the GW Geography department and before that a soda fountain. The GW Deli is a good spot for cheap breakfast or lunch.

Breweries

In the last few years, a bunch of solid breweries have popped around the city. You really can't go wrong, but some favorites are Right Proper (with a brewpub restaurant in Shaw and the actual brewery and tasting room in Edgewood in NE), City State, Three Stars, DC Brau, Bluejacket and Red Bear. There are also some good ones just outside DC in Maryland as well.

Fancy restaurants

There are also a lot of really nice restaurants in DC with Michelin stars all over the city (except the Inn at Little Washington which is way outside the city). Here's a list of those.

Nature and hiking

D.C. also has some nature-y things to do, like hiking in Rock Creek Park in D.C. (one of the biggest urban parks in the country) or at the spectacular Great Falls along the Potomac just northwest of D.C., as well as the National Arboretum (which has the original columns of the Capitol) and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens farther east, which has a wild lilypad area.

Getting around

The city is pretty small, so walking can be an option. Metro runs all over and is a couple bucks each trip but doesn't run after midnight (and earlier on weekdays.) Capital Bikeshare is also a good option with docks around the city, plus the various rental scooters, especially going to and from or around the Mall. You can use the Lyft or Uber apps to find scooters. For cars, Lyft and Uber are similar price-wise, and there are DC cabs as well.

Other things to note

Note that DC streets have a quadrant in their name (NW, NE, SE, SW) – the Capital One Arena is on 6th Street NW, which is different from 6th Street NE or other directions. Most things listed here are in NW DC but some suggestions are in NE or SE.

You can count how far things are based on the street names or intersections too – numbered streets are how far east or west you are from the Capitol building, and letters (A-Z) are alphabetically how far north or south you are from it. So at 6th and H NW for example, you are 6 blocks west (1st to 6th) and 8 blocks (A to H) north.

And despite what you might hear from Fox News and such, downtown DC isn’t a destroyed shell. It’s just kind of boring with lots of offices and lunch places. We recommend going elsewhere for a fun experience, although there are nice buildings and lots of lunch options.

Thanks to Ryan Puleo for his contributions to this post

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