Planning a getaway to the nation’s capital? If you’re looking for a setting that blends historic charm with 21st-century urban energy, make tracks to Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC.
The oldest neighborhood in Washington DC, Foggy Bottom sits on the southern edge of beautiful Rock Creek Park just west of downtown. Culture vulture, history buff, or outdoor enthusiast: You’ll find plenty to satisfy your appetite here!
Founded by 18th-century German immigrants, Foggy Bottom was once Washington’s manufacturing hub. The factories are gone, but much of the old neighborhood has been preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Foggy Bottom brims with new energy as the home base for George Washington University.
Stroll the Historic District and view buildings that housed the 19th-century working community. Hike or bike the trails along the Potomac River. Take in world-famous landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill.
Kick back and catch a show at the world-famous Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dig into a delicious meal at an award-winning restaurant. Sample some suds at one of the nearby breweries, or check out the nightlife at a live music venue.
Ready to roll? Check out this guide to what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Foggy Bottom, Washington DC.
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What to see & do in Foggy Bottom
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Culture vultures on the hunt for tasty offerings will find a table laden with treats at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Set on the eastern bank of the Potomac River, it was built as a “living memorial” to the slain president. Today, it’s Washington, DC’s crowning cultural jewel.
This “big tent” operation features a dazzling array of performing arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts guarantees world-class performances nearly every night of the year on its nine stages.
Choose from a menu that includes hip-hop, comedy, jazz, theater, dance, opera, and orchestral music. You can catch everything from free performances to splurge-worthy shows like “Hamilton.” (And it’s all just a 5-minute Metro ride from the Foggy Bottom station.)
Between acts, head up to the open-air rooftop terrace for a different kind of show: spectacular panoramic views across the Potomac all the way to Virginia!
The Octagon Museum
History buff or architecture enthusiast, you’ll want to carve out time for The Octagon Museum. Constructed in 1801, this extraordinary eight-sided landmark is the oldest private residence in Washington, DC. Today, the Octagon Museum offers compelling insights into life in the nation’s capital in the early 19th century.
Built by enslaved workers as the home for one of Virginia’s wealthiest plantation families, this was a prominent symbol of power and influence. The site of lavish dinners and balls, the mansion hosted luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Andrew Jackson. It became the president’s residence for six months after the British burned the White House in 1814.
The mansion’s interior is a sobering study in contrasts. The three upper levels of the Octagon Museum are filled with high ceilings, winding staircases, graceful archways, chandeliers, and massive Venetian windows. Below ground sits the dark basement occupied by the “help” who worked in servitude to the owners and their 15 children.
Explore on your own, or take a guided tour for deeper insights. Take in thought-provoking installations like “I Was Here,” commemorating the lives of the enslaved workers who built and maintained the beautiful Octagon House. It’s a journey you won’t forget!
Art Museum of the Americas
Art enthusiasts with a taste for rare finds will find a treasure trove at the Art Museum of the Americas. One of the world’s leading collections of Latin American and Caribbean modern and contemporary art, this site is a cultural gem and one of DC’s top-rated museums.
Just steps from major landmarks like the White House and the Washington Monument, the Art Museum of the Americas is a hub for creative expression and a lively space for educational programming.
Stroll through this vibrant collection of artworks and drink in the rich diversity of artistic expression in the Latin American and Caribbean worlds. Browse a range of media, including sculpture, painting, installations, photographs, and prints.
Enjoy a rare, up-close look at works by creators at the forefront of artistic innovation and now regarded as masters of mid-century Latin American and Caribbean art.
The National Museum of American Diplomacy
With nearly 200 embassies, Washington, DC, is big in the diplomacy business. So, where better to peek behind the curtain than at The National Museum of American Diplomacy?
And there’s plenty to discover here on your Washington DC itinerary. Stroll through the museum’s award-winning 20,000-square-foot pavilion, and you’ll be awed. (It was meant to impress!)
Check out interactive exhibits that explore modern American diplomacy, what diplomats do, and where they’re posted around the world.
Want to test your diplomatic skills? Dive into an immersive diplomatic simulation. Your mission (should you decide to accept it) will be to work with a team to negotiate a solution to an international crisis while the clock is ticking. Easy-peasy.
Tip: If you want to get the inside track, check the museum’s schedule for programs featuring discussions and presentations by foreign policy experts, diplomats, and historians who share their compelling insights.
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
Vivid. Unique. Exotic. If that’s what you look for in works of art, then you’ll be captivated by The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.
Enthralled by the beauty of non-Western textiles, private collector George Hewitt Myers spent much of his life scouring the globe for extraordinary samples of woven art. His small private collection grew, and in 1925, his home became a museum.
Today, you’ll find The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum housed in a 53,000-square-foot museum building on the university’s campus. The museum is a treasury of nearly 20,000 exquisite, handcrafted works spanning 5,000 years, some of them dating back to 3,000 B.C.
Drink in an awesome array of beauty. You’ll find Ottoman carpets, 15th-century Mamluk rugs from Egypt, Spanish carpets, rare classical Indian carpet fragments, and a wide assortment of textiles ranging from early Islamic to pre-Columbian Peruvian.
Check out a wide range of programs for audiences of all ages to learn more about the vibrant cultures that created these remarkable works of art.
Want a break from the hustle and bustle? Savor a getaway in one of The District’s best-kept secrets: Rawlins Park. This beautiful urban oasis is the perfect place to chill out and reboot. And if you’re visiting during cherry blossom season, this magnolia-filled haven is a great alternative to the cherry blossom crowds on the National Mall!
Set adjacent to the George Washington University Campus, Rawlins Park offers 1.5 acres of serenity. If you visit during March or April, you’re in luck because that’s when the park comes alive with the beauty of its blooming magnolia trees.
Take in the soothing sight of a bubbling fountain and stroll past two long reflecting pools, a favorite spot for ducks. Tip your hat to the impressive bronze sculpture of the park’s namesake, John Rawlins, Ulysses S. Grant’s right-hand man during the American Civil War.
Find yourself a bench, pull out a book, unpack a picnic, or just drink in the gorgeous bursts of blossoming color and feel your pulse slow.
National Academy of Sciences
You don’t have to be a science nerd to get a thrill out of a visit to the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1863, this world-renowned institution was a legacy of Abraham Lincoln – and it may be one of his greatest.
A private, nonprofit group of the country’s leading researchers, the National Academy of Sciences members serve pro bono as independent “advisers to the nation.” Not always an easy task – especially when the advice isn’t welcome. (Remember Covid?)
Dedicated in 1924, the striking neoclassical building is on the National Register of Historic Places – and it’s an awesome sight. Step inside and marvel at a stunning vestibule and foyer with cream-stone walls and a mahogany ceiling. Move on to the Great Hall, featuring a magnificent dome embellished with images reflecting the history of science.
Explore the adjacent galleries, and you’ll discover fascinating exhibits that highlight the Academy’s history and work, as well as cutting-edge research on subjects ranging from Artificial Intelligence to climate change.
If you’re a fan of wide-open spaces under a roof, you’ll get a kick out of Constitution Hall. A National Historic Landmark Building, it’s been a major Washington DC cultural hub for nearly a century and one of the must-see Washington DC tourist attractions.
Constitution Hall was the brainchild of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). This exclusive group was made up of direct descendants of individuals who had aided the independence cause during the American Revolutionary War of the late 1700s.
Exclusive, yes – but popular, too; so popular that DAR needed a massive space to house their annual convention. Ergo: Constitution Hall, a beautiful Neoclassical building that houses the largest concert hall in Washington, DC.
This was the first home of the National Symphony Orchestra and still houses the original pipe organ. Today, it’s a city landmark, welcoming over half a million patrons every year. It’s played host to hundreds of top-flight performers. If you’re up for some big-scale entertainment, check their schedule to see what’s on tap.
Where to eat & drink
Looking for great spots to eat and drink? You’re in the right place: Foggy Bottom is home to a thriving wining and dining scene that serves up delicious food and drink to suit every taste.
Craving food that’s fresh, healthy, and soul-satisfying? You’ll find it at Flower Child. Their made-from-scratch menu caters to all lifestyles, from vegetarian and vegan to gluten-free, to keto and paleo. Choose from a yummy array of salads, wraps, bowls, and healthy proteins.
If farm-fresh food ranks high on your list, take a seat at one of the handcrafted tables at Founding Farmers DC. This award-winning, farmer-owned cooperative in Downtown DC serves up down-home comfort food sourced from local family farms in an “urban farmhouse” setting. Dig into delectables ranging from buttermilk biscuits to custom-built veggie bowls to spicy chicken waffles.
Like to season your meals with a dash of buzz? Then check out CIRCA at Foggy Bottom, a trendy, high-energy neighborhood bistro offering seasonal menus, creative New American fare (including gluten-free options), and a generous beverage list. Order a cocktail, grab some goodies like Wagyu Meatball Sliders or Shotgun Shrimp, and head out to the patio to see and be seen.
In the mood for something nice ’n’ spicy? Settle back and enjoy at North Italia. Set on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a ten-minute walk from the Kennedy Center in Foggy Bottom, this modern Italian restaurant is upscale while offering a homey, rustic vibe. They promise “crave-worthy” food made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Treat your tastebuds to favorites like their made-from-scratch White Truffle Garlic Bread or Vodka Sauce Pasta, and pair it with a retro-inspired cocktail.
Looking for a cool spot to hang out, eat, and drink? Drop into the Froggy Bottom pub, a favorite with college students and young professionals. Take your pick of lip-smackin’ pub grub like wings, burgers, and nachos. The Frog’s Vietnamese owners have added some tasty Asian twists. Check out the very popular Pho or Bahn Mi. Pair it with a great draft beer or a luscious handcrafted cocktail. (Water Lily Lychee Martin, anyone?)
Think of Cheers gone funky, and you’ll get the vibe at The Bottom Line. This friendly basement hangout is a local hot spot for lunch, Happy Hour, and late night. Take your pick of custom-built burgers, jam-packed wraps, deli sandwiches, or zesty Mexican fare. Wash it down with a selection from their beer or cocktail menu.
If you’re a burger hound, you’ll want to dig in at Duke’s Grocery, consistently voted as having the best beef patties in DC. Set on the George Washington University campus, this watering hole is a favorite with students and locals. Check out the wall-sized graffiti mural while you kick back at the bar with an on-tap brew. During the warm months, snag a spot on the outdoor patio and watch the passing parade.
Want to hang with the hipster crowd? Buzz over to the Hive Bar. Set in the chic Hive Hotel, this trendy spot is a magnet for millennials. The menu is limited to flatbread pizzas, but it’s a mouthwatering assortment that includes tempting flavors like garlic ricotta and mushroom-balsamic. Settle in on the bar’s ground floor, or head up to the rooftop to savor the view while you sip a craft cocktail or local brew.
Where to stay
As Foggy Bottom sits in the heart of the city, it’s one of the coolest neighborhoods to stay in DC. If you run out of options here, expand your lodgings search to nearby areas in Downtown Washington, DC, like Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and the Penn Quarter, or further afield to neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Navy Yard.
If you’re on the hunt for a refined urban retreat, you’ll find it at the State Plaza Hotel. Set on a tree-lined street in the financial district, this hotel is ideal for business travelers looking for a home away from home. Stretch out in a spacious guest room, or settle into a suite with a fully-equipped kitchen and beautifully designed living and dining areas.
Hear that buzz? It’s probably coming from the Hotel Hive, DC’s first micro-hotel. Yes, the rooms are small (125 to 250 square feet). But what this historic building lacks in space, it makes up for in value and character. For optimum space and charm, book a Loft Room on the top floor for high ceilings, rustic beams, and exposed brick. Want to stretch out? Make yourself at home in the indoor seating area, private courtyard, or front patio.
For an intriguing blend of historic charm and urban chic, settle into the Hotel Lombardy. Set in the heart of the business district, this iconic landmark is one of the Historic Hotels of America. Furnished with imported Italian fabrics, oriental rugs, and Frette linens, the Lombardy’s boutique-style rooms and suites offer a serene retreat. Nibble on delicious bistro-style cuisine at Café Lombardy, or sit fireside in the Venetian Room Bar as you toy with a martini.
If you’re planning an extended stay, do it in style at AKA White House. Just a block from the nearest metro station and a 6-minute walk from the “real” White House, this upscale extended-stay hotel is furnished with chic, understated décor.
The sleek 1- and 2-bedroom suites feature fully equipped kitchens, plus washer/dryers and flat-screen TVs. Unwind in the 24-hour fitness facility, then head to the rooftop terrace for great views of the city.
Want a break from the downtown buzz? Get away from it all at The River Inn-A Modus Hotel, a boutique hotel tucked away on a tree-lined street in Foggy Bottom. Make yourself at home in spacious, elegantly furnished suites featuring a full kitchen and comfortable lounging area. Book a room with a view, and you’ll be treated to a beautiful Potomac riverscape. Feeling adventurous? Hop on a complimentary bike and explore the neighborhood!