Georgetown, a trendy neighborhood in Washington, DC, holds a special place in our hearts. For four years it was a focal point in our family, as our son attended Georgetown University. His four years at the university gave us the perfect opportunity to get to know Washington, DC. Little did we know that eight years later we would relocate to the east coast where Washington, DC and Georgetown would become our nearby playgrounds.
With that being said, let’s spend a day exploring Georgetown, shall we?
The university is a private Jesuit research university, but the grounds of the campus are open to those who wish to take a stroll. I may be biased, but the campus is truly beautiful and I never get tired of seeing this magnificent building, Healy Hall, when we visit.
Sitting majestically on a hilltop overlooking the Potomac River, the university was founded by Bishop John Carroll in 1789 and it’s the oldest Catholic University in the US. The grounds encompass 104 acres. On average 19,000 students attend each academic year and while the Jesuit community does participate as teachers and administrators, the university is governed by an independent non-religious affiliated board and most of the students are not Catholic. It’s inspiring to think about 230+ years of learning as you stroll the grounds. Click here for a walking guide.
- Find your way to the main gates at the top of the hill at 3700 O Street NW and spend an hour or two exploring this beautiful campus. Go Hoyas!
Walk Across the Key Bridge
If I can do it. You can do it. For those who have been with us for a while, you know I have a wicked fear of heights. There have been times in our travels when I’ve panicked and retreated from an attempt to overcome the fear, and times when I didn’t have a choice but to press on. The Key Bridge is actually not too scary. It has a wide pedestrian path on both sides of the bridge and the views of the Potomac River are well-worth the effort. Plus, you get bragging rights if you walk over and back.
Walk across the bridge to Rosslyn, VA then turn around and walk back to DC on the opposite side of the bridge. In this way you can take in the view from both sides. If I can do it. You can do it.
- Make your way to M Street NW and 35th Street NW, at the base of the hill near the Exorcist Stairs, to locate the bridge.
Climb the Exorcist Stairs
Let me just say that I have never actually climbed the Exorcist Stairs. There are either 75 or 97 stairs, depending on the source, and they are steep! I don’t have bragging rights on this one. I sacrificed them for a pain free foot. Since I’ve never climbed the stairs I haven’t counted them, so I can’t say definitively if it’s 75 or 97.
The stairs were featured in the 1973 movie, “The Exorcist”. In the scene Father Karras threw himself out the window and violently tumbled down the stairs. I was a junior in high school when the movie came out and I don’t mind telling you it was one scary movie. I’m pretty sure I watched half of it with my hands over my eyes.
If you’re interested, click here to see the scene.
The stairs are locally well-known and actually, they are adjacent to the Georgetown University campus. Scenes in the movie were filmed on the campus as well.
- Make your way to 3600 Prospect Street NW and earn your bragging rights!
Shoppers & Foodies Delight
Name pretty much any boutique shop and you’ll find it in Georgetown. It’s a shoppers’ happy place. Everything from home decor, to funky chic clothing, to high end fashion can be found on M Street NW, and the surrounding neighborhood streets. The flower basket lined streets are busy on any given afternoon and evening. All that shopping works up an appetite. People gather at local eateries for lunch or dinner, or they grab a quick cup of coffee, and possibly a cupcake from the infamous Georgetown Cupcake. Remember, it’s a university neighborhood so during the school year, there’s a lot of life along M Street. It’s all kinds of fun.
Map of Georgetown & M Street NW
The C&O Canal
If shopping isn’t your thing, or even if it is, taking a walk (or riding a bicycle) along the C&O Canal is a great way to glean some exercise and take in a bit of history. The historic C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal, also known as the Grand Old Ditch was in use from 1831 to 1924 and it follows the Potomac River for 184 1/2 miles. With a series of 74 locks, the canal provided a way to transport cargo between Washington, DC and Cumberland, Maryland.
In our explorations of DC, MD and VA, we’ve walked along several sections of the canal, including a section in Great Falls National Park. For those looking for a good long thru-hike, it is possible to walk the entire length of the canal.
- Make your way to the visitor center at 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street NW. (closed for construction at the time of this post) It’s easy to pick up the trail as it runs right through the neighborhood.
Watch Your Step
There seems to be a general theme in this post about exploring Georgetown, and that is … walking. It’s a big plus for us as letting our feet lead the way is our favorite mode of exploration. Georgetown, and Washington, DC, are actually very pedestrian friendly. Keep in mind the neighborhood was founded in 1751 and as such there are a few trip hazards on the historic tree-lined streets. Watch your step.
Even though cobblestone streets are charming they are uncomfortable to walk on. And, the herringbone-patterned brick sidewalks are uneven. But don’t miss out on strolling along the beautiful tree-lined neighborhood streets. You’ll find everything from college student rental houses to extraordinary palatial homes and everything in between. Many well-known residents live in the neighborhood, but my favorite home is that of Julia Child and her husband Paul Child, which is located at 2706 Olive Street NW. You can read here about the history of the house and the on-going renovation.
The Waterfront Promenade
The waterfront will be the last stop on our exploration of Georgetown, but there is so much more to experience. Whether it be simply to stroll the promenade along the Potomac River, or watch the sunset while sipping a happy hour glass of wine at one of the several outdoor eateries, the waterfront is lovely.
Gone are the decaying wharves and factories that once lined the Potomac River, today’s waterfront is actually a national park. The area underwent a dramatic transformation which was completed in 2011. Today, it’s a gathering place for visitors and locals alike.
Spend a Day in Georgetown
It’s easy to lose track of time when exploring Georgetown because it is a fantastic neighborhood that offers something for everyone. We never get tired of revisiting our favorite places and we hope you find yourself enjoying the sites as well. If you’ve earned your bragging rights for walking across the Key Bridge and/or climbing the Exorcist Stairs, please share your experience.