Penn Quarter & Chinatown

  • Bright
  • Trendy
  • Lively
  • Nightlife
Chinatown's Friendship Archway

You are here

Satisfy your appetite for hip restaurants and culture in this diverse ’hood where museums like the National Portrait Gallery and the International Spy Museum keep company with eateries by celebrity chefs.

Penn Quarter & Chinatown draws foodies, culture vultures, shoppers and sports fans with something to dig into in these neighborhoods north of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, which is as hopping at night as during the day.

@discoverwithblake - Electronic Superhighway at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - Free museum in Washington, DC

Museum fans can wander the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum (both housed in the same neoclassical building). Nearby, the United States Navy Memorial pays respect to veterans who served in the U.S. Navy with a commemorative public plaza, symbolic statue of a Lone Sailor and the Naval Heritage Center.

By evening, theaters (both movie and live performance) fill up with throngs of people, including the classically minded Shakespeare Theatre Company and the avant-garde Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

If you’re a history buff, Ford’s Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, is restored to look much as it did that night, and also holds an artifact-filled museum. Expand your Civil War-era knowledge further with a trip to Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum, where the legendary caretaker tended to wounded Civil War soldiers.

@rickysanch - Washington Wizards NBA basketball game at Capital One Arena - Pro sports events in Washington, DC

Restaurants from celeb chefs like José Andrés anchor a vibrant dining scene, with dozens of eateries, including high-style, high-end spots at CityCenterDC and down-home options just two blocks north in Chinatown (just look for the colorful Friendship Archway, which marks the latter and features 272 dragons). And when you've found the Archway, look for the nearby Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center, whose rooftop bar, Crimson View, offers the best bird's eye view of Chinatown. 

There’s also a buzzing bar scene at spots along Sixth and Seventh streets NW to tune into the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team or the Washington Wizards NBA team, just steps away from their home arena. The District’s Capital One Arena typically hosts everything from professional sports teams to American rock icons, plus intimate film and stage theaters, and it’s no surprise there’s action here from early til late.

Locals Love

Indie plays at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and visiting the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, the only Smithsonian museums open until 7 p.m.

Getting There

To land in the middle of this walkable zone, take Metro’s Red Line to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop, or the Yellow or Green lines to the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter stop. The Georgetown-Union Station Circulator bus also services the area, as do multiple Metrobus lines. Capital Bikeshare stations are also plentiful.