D.C. Neighborhood Spotlight: Adams Morgan

A Saturday morning stroll through Adams Morgan is like walking the streets the morning after a street festival. Cigarette butts, drink containers, gum, flyers, and random miscellanea freckle the pavement. Gone are the buoyant late-night revelers, replaced by the joggers and the dog-walkers and the brunch-seekers.

Adams Morgan is a refreshingly unpretentious corner of D.C. It’s the charming-but-kind-of-unkempt quarter known for booze, brunch, and bright buildings.

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

Same façade, different color.

In the fall, this part of the city lights up with electric-yellow ginkgo trees that set off the area’s classic row homes and stately mansions. It’s my favorite time of year to hang out in Adams Morgan, and the reason why I chose it to be the backdrop of my first D.C. Neighborhood series post.

Let me take you on a tour, and while we’re at it, I’ll show you three ways to style one of my favorite dresses for fall! (You’ve seen it here before.)

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

Follow me!

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

Ok, first, a pit stop on the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge to look at Rock Creek (the bridge connects Adams Morgan to the Metro at Woodley Park Station).

Where is Adams Morgan?

Adams Morgan, or AdMo to locals, sits north of the White House by about two miles. The neighborhood is perched at the top of a large hill that affords direct, unobstructed views of the Washington Monument. It’s accessible by the Metro (Red Line – Woodley Park-Zoo-Adams Morgan) or by a number of bus lines.

Where Did the Name Come From?

Adams Morgan was historically known as Lanier Heights. After a period of decline in the 1950s-1960s, it was renamed Adams Morgan by a neighborhood group trying to revitalize the area. The name was actually derived from two formerly-segregated elementary schools, John Quincy Adams Elementary (predominantly white) and Thomas P. Morgan Elementary (predominantly black). (More on AdMo’s history can be found here.)

Why Visit?

Adams Morgan defies the standard mold of Northwest D.C.’s largely-affluent neighborhoods. It lacks all pretension and maintains an ethnic, bohemian, underground vibe that is absent from many other areas of this affluent quadrant. Its architecture is unique and bright, and it has numerous local shops and unique restaurants that make it a great place to spend a morning or afternoon during a visit to the city.

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

AdMo’s characteristic angular turrets.

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

You can’t help but smile when surrounded by so much color!

Dress: Pink Rose (similar)
Jacket: Gap (similar)
Belt: My own, and I’m having a hell of a time finding a similar moss green belt to share. *sigh*
Hat: The Hatter Company via Lou Lou Boutique (similar)
Boots: Target

What Should You See?

  • 18th Street. The intersection of 18th and Columbia is the center of AdMo. From here you can walk south down 18th to see all the shops and restaurants, go northwest on Calvert to see some lovely homes and catch the Metro, or go west on Columbia to dive into the famous Kalorama neighborhood.
  • The Kalorama Triangle. This historic neighborhood with many a famous address is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama will rent an estate there when his term ends, and a laundry list of ex-presidents, lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, and well-known figures have called this neighborhood home. Here’s some history and information courtesy of the National Park Service and UrbanTurf.
Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

The houses are GORG.

Blanket scarf: Etsy – LePetitMonkey
Waist Belt: My own (similar)

Necklace: My own – preserved aspen leaves from Rocky Mountain National Park.

Where to Go?

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

I spent many a Wednesday night at Grand Central during my kickball days (kickball is D.C.’s most popular recreational activity for 20-somethings). It’s about one part sport and two parts booze.

Turtleneck: Gap (similar)


  • The Blaguard. My favorite neighborhood bar. It’s down the street from the main drag on 18th Street and is a local favorite. It’s a great place to catch a game and enjoy drinks that won’t drain your wallet. Bonus: no tourists.

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

  • Bourbon. A solid bar for drinking and dancing. As the name implies, they have a huge bourbon selection.
  • Columbia Station. For those looking for a very low-key bar with live music. Jazz groups play every night of the week, and I’ve never had to share the restaurant with more than five other people.
  • Madam’s Organ (see what they did there?). A blues bar featuring live music every night and a rowdy weekend scene. Go for the music, stay for the party. Just expect shoulder-to-shoulder people on a busy weekend.

Restaurants & Cafés

  • Tail Up Goat. This Michelin-starred restaurant is a new fixture in the neighborhood. Its chefs are alums of the distinguished Komi and Little Serow in Dupont Circle and have surpassed their former restaurant in international acclaim with their recognition by Michelin in D.C.’s first-ever city guide. My own experience here was good, but I think they may have been working out some kinks when I visited (it had just opened). I need to go back to get a true taste of what all the buzz is about.
  • Tryst. A local coffeehouse/bar/lounge that is a staple of the neighborhood.
  • Roofer’s Union. A great place for brunch in an open and buzzy atmosphere. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in all that morning light. So don’t go with a hangover.
  • Julia’s Empanadas. Y’all know how much I like empanadas if you’ve read any of my Argentina posts. Julia’s serves up fresh empanadas in locations around D.C. and it is a favorite go-to spot for many after a night out, or whenever the craving strikes.
  • Songbyrd. Another restaurant/bar/café/music venue with a local vibe and young, diverse clientele. Find the striped building near the intersection of 18th and Columbia and you’ll know you’re there.

    Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

    Songbyrd Music House and Record Café.


Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

Everyone should celebrate a good haul!

  • Meeps. DC is known for its homogenous, Ann Taylor-clad populus. Meeps is a departure from that. They offer unique vintage clothes, costumes, and locally-made goods.
  • Idle Time Books. Every neighborhood needs its book store, and Idle Time Books has been a favorite for book lovers since the 1980s. It sells used, rare, and out of print books.

Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

Have you been to Adams Morgan? What’s your favorite part about the area? Let me and other readers know in the comments!

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Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Guide: Adams Morgan

CREDITS: Photos of Marissa by Seanie Blue.