Business suits stride by cargo pants to the rhythm of bucket drums amidst a swirl of activity. Daytimes bring tourists, office workers, shoppers and neighborhood residents, while evenings bring sports fans, culture vultures and gourmands. Whether day or night, come to the Gallery Place neighborhood to be at the nexus of local, national and international Washington. You’ll be joining the fun and people-watching all of the visitors, residents and workers buzz up and down the sidewalk.
“Gallery Place” is named for the three art museums that are part of the neighborhood, with the primary axis running along 7th St NW.
If you’re headed to Gallery Place for a Great Evening, you can ease the transition from a day of touring by putting one of the museums here on your late afternoon to-do list and therefore have only a short walk to supper and the rest of your fun.
To the north, between F & G Sts NW, sits the stately building that houses two museums: the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both full of fascinating stuff with lots of timely, of-the-moment exhibits. The marvelous interior courtyard is a wonderful rest stop for the active visitor, with its year-round fountains and covered atrium. Four blocks to the south at Constitution Ave NW is the National Gallery of Art with its companion sculpture garden. A world class art collection shelters in two buildings, one neo-classical and the other post-modern, while giant sculptures grace a fenced enclosure around either a fountain or an ice rink depending on the season. Well worth a few hours browsing during daytime hours. And, like most museums in Washington, all three of these are entirely free.
The National Archives is the other major national museum in the neighborhood, at Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Streets NW. In addition to serving as the almost sacred home for important documents in our nation’s founding, a small exhibition space usually has some engaging show on about a facet of American history.
Other similar attractions in this museum-rich neighborhood charge a fee: the Newseum and the Spy Museum. We would recommend either one, with the Spy Museum being particularly worth the cost of admission for families and lovers of Disney-type attractions; the Newseum is more hit-or-miss especially given the steep price tag.
In between all of these museums are three major theaters – Woolly Mammoth’s below-ground ground jewel box and the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s two stages, the Harman and the Lansburgh – which often figure in editions of Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. and in evening-out info on this website.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres holds a lot of territory in these blocks with Jaleo, China Chilcano, Zaytinya and Oyamel all dishing up delicious meals. We would point you to any of these for a lively, tasty dining experience, along with Graffiato or Rasika. Any of these places will require both a reasonable-sized wallet and probably an advance reservation: save a lot of cash and time at fast-casual choices Protein Bar, Teaism or Merzi. Sweet teeth can be satisfied with the counter service at Pitango Gelato, Bakers and Baristas, or Red Velvet Cupcake. Thirsty travelers can hydrate at the District Chophouse, a brew pub whose bourbon barrel aged stout is a special treat, or Proof, an above-average (if perhaps too loud) wine bar.
If you’re surrounded by Capitols or Wizards jerseys, you can feel sure there’s a game on at the expansive Verizon Center. If you’re surrounded by families with kids in tow, then there’s probably a circus or Disney on Ice filling the enormous arena.
Two Metro stations serve the neighborhood, Archives/Navy Memorial to the south has Green and Yellow line trains while Gallery Place/Chinatown, with entrances in several spots in the neighborhood, has Green, Yellow and Red Line service.
Oh, and don’t be fooled by the “Chinatown” moniker — though there is a substantial and attractive Chinese-style “Friendship Archway” at 7th and H Streets NW, locals dismissively refer to this area as “China Block” (since it is hardly large enough to merit “town”), and pretty much none of the Chinese restaurants here are better or more interesting than what you’ll find in a strip mall closer to home.
Insider tip: If you’re yearning for some quiet moments, there are benches along a pretty pedestrian area just north of the Navy Memorial proper that are a great place to take a load off for a while and watch the passing scene, perhaps with a cup of tea from nearby Teaism or a pastry from Paul’s French patisserie.
This is the first in a series of posts in which we’ll provide a little more detail and context about the neighborhoods we send you to for Great Evenings Out. Please let us know if you’ve discovered anything in Gallery Place we should have mentioned either by commenting below or writing to us at email@example.com.