Georgetown represents Washington's genteel, southern side, where cobblestones, and shady streets invite ambles among the Federal-style row houses that line them. The following walk is about three miles in length, but the surrounding bustle of always-nearby main arteries Wisconsin and M Streets offers plenty of options for a pop into an air-conditioned shop or a bite or beverage at a sidewalk café.
Just over the hill on the back side of the intersection of 27th and Q Streets overlooking Rock Creek Park is the (1) Mount Zion Cemetery, one of the city's oldest all-black burial sites dating from 1808 and taken over by the Mount Zion Methodist Church in 1879 for the burial of free blacks. The adjacent (2) Oak Hill Cemetery's main gate is at 30th and R Streets a few blocks away. This gracious cemetery's elaborate statuaried gravesites and mausoleums house the remains of Washington notables such as Edwin Stanton (Lincoln's secretary of war), Dean Acheson (Truman's secretary of state), and Philip and Katherine Graham (both publishers of the Washington Post).
Turn right onto R outside the main gate to reach (3) Dumbarton Oaks, the former home of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss that is now serves as Harvard's center for pre-Columbian and Byzantine studies. The exceptional garden features an antique Provençal fountain, a mini Roman amphitheater, and a 16th-century-style arbor. Tip: Go during the spring when the dogwoods are blooming.
Turn left onto 31st Street and continue a block to (4) Tudor Place, a neoclassical house designed by William Thornton, the first architect of the Capitol, featuring 5 ½ acres of gardens and an extensive collection of objects once belonging to George and Martha Washington. A right onto O Street two blocks farther on 31st brings you to (5) Thornton's St. John's Church, which, with only a six year gap from 1831 to 1837, has been holding Anglican services since 1804. Duck onto N Street between 33rd and 34th to see (6) Cox's Row, a grouping of five Federal style townhouses (3327 to 3339 N Street) built by future Georgetown mayor John Cox in 1817, and (7) 3307 N Street, where JFK and Jackie lived as Senator and wife from 1958 to 1960.
Three blocks farther along O is the main gate of (8) Georgetown University, operating since 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution took effect. Turn left onto 37th from the main gate and swing left onto Prospect Street then right onto 36th, where you'll reach the (9) Exorcist Steps, a stone set of 75 stairs that featured terrifyingly in the 1973 horror film; "Kitschy fun; be prepared to huff and puff, but it's worth it to relive the movie."—Gabriel Einsohn, Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.
At the bottom, turn left onto M Street (to your right across the Potomac River and the Francis Scott Key Bridge lies Rosslyn, Virginia) and continue along Georgetown's main east to west thoroughfare and browse shops and art galleries until you reach (10) The Old Stone House, built of locally quarried blue granite in 1765 and the oldest building standing in the District. Turn right onto Thomas Jefferson to cross the (11) C&O canal towpath that was the city's primary shipping route in the 19th century and continue two blocks more to reach the (12) Washington Harbour, with unparalleled close-up Potomac views, including Roosevelt Island (dead ahead) and the Kennedy Center to the left.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.