Where in DC do I want to live?

Next August I’ll be moving to Washington DC to attend graduate school at American University. Since I’m not from the area and have no way to visit before I move, I’d appreciate some advice.

I will likely be looking for a 2 bedroom apartment that I will share with some friends who are going to Georgetown, so we’d hope to find something convenient to both schools. I’m hoping not to have to drive, so metro access is a good thing.

I’m hoping for a lively area, within walking distance to shops, restaurants and hopefully some nightlife. We are all pretty international and would appreciate diversity and good ethnic food. While I don’t want to be in an outright dangerous neighborhood, I’m pretty comfortable in borderline areas and wouldn’t mind a slightly sketchy area if the price is right.

Since we are all doing this on loans, something affordable would be nice.

Any suggestions?

Well, a quick answer would be Adams-Morgan or Dupont Circle or U Street in terms of the neighborhoods with the most going on and the most culture. Georgetown is pretty, but can be very expensive. In additional to the above, and as a starting point, you might also want to look at Columbia Heights, Tenleytown and Logan Circle. These days, I’ve kind of stopped keeping track of which neighborhoods are most suitable based on different criteria, but other people no doubt know. I personally like most of the neighborhoods in the NW part of the District, especially near any of the large parks (most notably Rock Creek Park). There are some nice scenic views east of the Anacostia, but it is still the most crime-ridden portion of the District and I don’t think I would feel safe living there.

Here’s a partially tongue-in-cheek guide to DC neighborhoods. (Most of the useful information is in the “Essays”.)

Georgetown is, unfortunately, devoid of a Metro stop. The closest one would be Rosslyn but that’s a hike across the Potomac.

I lived in Columbia Heights and Petworth for several years and liked that a lot, although Petworth was decidedly the sketchier of the two with a lot less to offer. Columbia Heights isn’t all that far from U Street and Adams Morgan (both of which have great nightlife) and a fair walk from Dupont Circle but I used to walk that all the time and had no problems whatsoever. West of the Red Line properties get a little more expensive, so you might want to look into the bus options from the areas I mentioned.

How much do you have to spend on rent?

We lived in Rosslyn, VA across the river from DC (and Georgetown) in a complex called Summit Village. The unit we were in was about 1100 sq.ft. with two bedrooms for about $1100/mo. That was in 1993. Walking distance to the metro and a Safeway and restaurants. No idea what they charge now.

Any and all answers really depend on what you want to spend for rent. For some reason, most of the really good ethnic places tend to be in suburbs with the exception of Ethiopian places.

Are they going to go to school in Georgetown’s main campus or are they going to be in the law school? Georgetown itself isn’t really metro accessible, although I believe there is a shuttle that runs from the Roslyn Metro. American is metro accessible.

The quick and dirty answer is either Adams Morgan or more likely Columbia Heights. Petworth is very residential and doesn’t have much in the way or commerce or nightlife. (With the exception of Domku, and may some other places)

In your case, I would want to be near the red line, which runs by Tenleytown. Your roommates will probably have to take a bus to get to school.

If you are willing to go further out in the city, H Street, NE may be a good fit. It is an up and coming neighborhood with a lot of bars opening up. Depending on where you are, the Florida Avenue metro and Union Station are walkable. There are plenty of bars and restaurants and more opening up each month. There is a supermarket within walking distance, and the Eastern Market is about a one mile walk. There is also a Farmer’s market in the summer.

Roslyn which is in Arlington, VA just across the bridge is generally pricy, but there are some bargains to be found. Chefguy, I lived in Roslyn in 2003 and my rent on a small one bedroom was $1,100.00 a month. This was considered a bargain among my friends for the location.

I second Columbia Heights. Lived in Petworth for a few years, and it’s only the next Metro stop down from there. Or consider Silver Spring, MD or Arlington, VA. Not significantly more or less expensive than CH, but you’ll get more for the money, there’s lots of shit to do right there, and it’s still easy to get downtown.

VA or MD somewhere on the metro line, you will save on rent and are only a quick ride to everywhere.

Why hasn’t there ever been a Metro station put in at Georgetown? Aesthetic reasons? I grew up in Northern Virginia and was amazed as the progression of the Metro grew farther and farther out into the NOVA burbs. I assume its similar for southern Maryland.

I went to American University’s law school, which is about a ten-minute walk from the main campus. Lived in a shared house near the Van Ness metro, which worked really well for me - the Van Ness metro is on the red line, but it was actually almost as fast to just walk to school (about a half-hour walk). Note that American is a good twenty-minute walk from the Tenley metro station, though there is a free shuttle.

Van Ness is an extremely safe neighborhood, as is most of the upper northwest quadrant of the city. I routinely walked home from law school at 2 in the morning, or later (thanks, law journal!), and never felt the least bit unsafe. You’d also be only a couple metro stops from the Adams Morgan nightlife district, one stop further to Dupont Circle, and another couple stops to downtown.

Most important, Van Ness is affordable. If you get a group house, or share an apartment, it should be pretty darned easy to pay less than $1000/month in rent. I paid a bit less than $800, though that was unusual.

For your friends - well, living in Rosslyn, or even farther into Arlington, would work really well for them - but it would be absolutely terrible for you. Your commute via public transit would take a good hour, more or less. A good compromise option might be to live in Tenleytown proper - actually a bit closer to AU, and more expensive, but it’s right on a bus line into Georgetown.

Congratulations on coming to DC, by the way - this is an incredible city.

The two theories I’ve heard are that (1) the water table is too high to permit easy metro station construction, and (2) that it’s to keep the rabble out. Both are probably true to some extent.

These are all good choices to live in DC generally, but they aren’t great choices for AU students. The metro commute from Silver Spring to AU, would probably be the better part of an hour. Columbia Heights would be better - I had friends who lived in U Street, one metro stop away - but it’s still tricky.

Besides which, I highly recommend living within a half-hour or so walk of campus. Metro stops running at midnight on weeknights - if you’re working later, you’ll need to bring a car or call a cab if you’re not in walking distance.

I travel from Takoma to Medical Center every day and it’s 40 minutes and several additional stops. But you’re right. And it’s definitely easier for the OP to get to AU from anywhere as opposed to his friends getting to Georgetown. Anywhere from Tenleytown to Woodley Park could work.

The best thing about DC is the actual city proper is quite small. No matter where you are, you’re really not that far from anything. You realize this when you notice that most downtown Metro stops are literally 3 blocks apart. Hell, if you stand at the end of the platform at Metro Center and look down the tunnel you can actually see Gallery Place/Chinatown.

If you want to live someplace resembling a city, don’t move to Georgetown. It thinks of itself as more of a suburb than part of DC and has an overactive neighborhood board. A lot of elitism. Rossyln is alright if your goal is access to Georgetown University Main Campus/Med School, but it would be about an hour long bus ride from M St up Wisconsin to Tenley Circle and then you’d have to transfer on the AU shuttle.

Dupont, with its metro access, is probably the best alternative in terms of lots of “young professionals”, alright nightlife and a walking distance from Adams Morgan, which, along with U St, is where the real night life is (from this college student’s perspective.) I would also check out Apartments in Farragut North, which is on the red line, or along Wisconsin Avenue as Wisconsin is the street that really connects Tenleytown to Georgetown - there are plenty of apartment complexes along that stretch. The 31, 32, and 33 buses run up and down Wisconsin with speed varying depending on time of day.

I saw someone suggested Columbia Heights - but the relative accessability for someone who wants to get to Gtown is low. Though Petworth/Columbia Heights is slowly being gentrified and would probably be the cheapest option.

For those of you who are wondering why Georgetown doesn’t have a metro - in the beginning, the residents did not want the throughway and “urban” environment that having a metro stop would bring. A few years ago though, someone came up with the grand plan of putting a blue line stop in Georgetown on M St. That’s when they realized that building under M St had the potential to flood, it being right along the Potomac.

If there’s one place you don’t want to be during rush hour, it’s West Georgetown or M St.

Here’s another vote for Northern Virginia. If you live somewhere on the orange line or blue line, even as far out as Ballston or Crystal City, you’ll have really good access to the city by metro. Prices are much more reasonable than they are in the city proper.

even sven, from my sense of your posts, I’m guessing that for cultural reasons you’d prefer being in the city to being in the suburbs, even the suburbs with good Metro access. (There are plenty of ethnic restaurants in the city proper.) Riding the subway in and out every day takes time (and some money; it’s not the cheapest of subway systems, and longer rides cost more), and limits spontaneity, you might say.

You can probably save on rent by looking at city neighborhoods just beyond those already mentioned. For example, I lived in Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan once upon a time, but I also lived in Mount Pleasant just to the north of AM. Sheltered white people tended to find MP more “sketchy”–more Hispanic street life up that way–but I never had any troubles (and overall DC crime rates were worse then than now).

The Dupont location was the best in terms of easy walking to many different desirable destinations, but I had a particularly sweet deal on the rent there and couldn’t have afforded such a place otherwise. Living in MP was as good as living in AM, but cheaper, and certainly more time-efficient than riding all the way in and out to the 'burbs every day. It was a 20-some-minute walk to Woodley Park Metro (which despite having “Adams Morgan” in its official name, is actually on the other side of Rock Creek Park from the AM/MP neighborhoods). The Columbia Heights station is closer (on the wrong line for going to AU, but giving easy access to many other parts of the city).

I suspect that your Georgetown friends will find that, if they live anywhere but Georgetown itself, they’ll want or have to acquaint themselves with the bus system.

Let us know when you arrive and we’ll put on a Dopefest to welcome you.

I wouldn’t want to metro to AU from Ballston or Crystal City. While this is maybe too obvious, have you considered Tenleytown?

spark240, just FYI Mt Pleasant—Where I live–Has been hugely gentrified over the past few years. It’s still a fun neighborhood though.

Okay. I figured it was headed that way. Actually, when I lived in Adams Morgan, that was undergoing its own transformation.

So, is the idea that Mt. Pleasant might represent a somewhat lower-rent district now out of date?