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Last Revised: 2001 January 20
Have you seen the Main Washington DC Page?
There is also another completely independent review of Dupont Circle by a current resident.
Beware after dark, there have been a rash of robberies in the general area.
To the north of Dupont Circle: The New Adams-Morgan Page!
Dupont Circle is also one of the five points of the Great Inverted Pentagram of Washington, DC. To the south-southeast, Connecticut Avenue runs directly into the back corner of Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. To the north-northwest, Connecticut runs all of the way out into Montgomery County, Maryland, finally dead-ending in the overbuilt residential neighborhood of Aspen Hill.
Massachusetts Avenue, which is often better known as " Embassy Row", is a long elegant boulevard which runs from the District Line in far Northwest to slant all of the way down into Southeast Capitol Hill.
New Hampshire Avenue runs south-southwest past some fine examples of restored and sometimes modernized mid-to-late 19th-century housing on the triangular block of 21st, "N", and New Hampshire on the western side. After crossing "M" Street (running horizontally across the bottom of the image), New Hampshire runs on into George Washington Circle, intersecting Pennsylvania Avenue. Anything to the south of Pennsylvania Avenue is likely to be George Washington University, distributed throughout the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. To the northeast, after a few fits and false-starts and joggings around various buildings, parks and construction sites, New Hampshire eventually reaches Maryland in Prince George's County. It cuts back across eastern Montgomery County, eventually reaching nearly to the Howard County line before it turns westward to become the Sunshine-Darnestown Road, if I remember right.
"P" Street between Dupont Circle and Rock Creek Park is prime cruising territory for many local gays. The "P" Street Beach, at the southeastern part of the "S"-curve of Rock Creek, is a notorious hangout for overbuilt fellows who spend large amounts of time greasing each other with assorted oils and possibly with less-mentionable things. If you're easily shocked, do not at any time wander through the wooded hills on the east-bank of Rock Creek between "P" and "M" streets. To the west of Rock Creek Park is Georgetown. Once you cross the bridge to the Georgetown side, you enter the truly old parts of Washington. Walk a few blocks west and visit the "R" Street Cemetary (Oak Hill), but not after dark. Or go down to "M" Street and cross Rock Creek, and join all of the other tourists who for some inexplicable reason just have to see Georgetown.
In this close-up, you might be able to discern that the circle is divided into several sections. Well, maybe you can't tell. The image resolution was only one meter per pixel This should give you some indication of the size of the place. At any rate, Dupont Circle has an inner two-lane "express" lane which is supposed to promote flow along Massachussets Avenue. Since it has to twice cross the outer true-circle double-lane of traffic, this rarely actually happens. Inside the Circle Park itself, there are wide grassy spaces suitable for a good game of touch football, though the crowds might make that inadvisable. The beautiful fountain on the inside is worth scrutinizing. If the weather's nice and you get there about five o'clock in the afternoon, you might be able to get into a good game of hackeysack, or maybe toss a frisbee around, or get to know some of the locals.
Dupont Circle is easily accessible by Metrorail. Exits are located at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and 19th Streets, NW, at the extreme south of the circle, and another is located at Connecticut and "Q", a block off of the circle to the north. Many bus routes also connect, at Connecticut and the Circle proper, outside of the traffic lanes on the southeast, and at 20th and "P".
Notes on the locals: "Wide Variety". Whatever you're looking for you can probably find. Dupont Circle is a sort of northern demarkation of the money-and-power zone of business-and-law. North of "P" Street along Connecticut Avenue, there are many shops and restaurants. If you head east along "P" street to 17th street and then head north, you're going to find a lot of shops and stores catering to the locals. Head south along 19th street, and you'll find lots of the more-pricey bars and restaurants, and south along Connecticut Avenue, you'll find more of the same.
But only continue east along "P" street to 14th street, NW, and you'll find yourself in a different world. Beyond 14th street, things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly. A good rule for walking tours of the area is this: If you're south of Massachussetts Avenue and West of 15th Street NW, you're probably pretty safe. If you head northeast on New Hampshire Avenue and go past the really beautiful Malcolm X. Shabazz/Meridian Hill Park, which has a southern boundary at about 15th and New Hampshire, things go to hell in a big way awfully quickly.
If you will walk east along "P" Street, NW, and take a left at the corner of 18th Street, NW, ignore the cameras of the Iraqi Embassy and cross 18th to take a look at the park next to St. Albans Church Ruins. The church burned down, leaving only the altar. They've made it into a very nice and rather restful little park.
Continue north along 18th Street, and about eight blocks later, you'll be in Adams-Morgan, a very popular place to hang out and party! Less well-known than is Georgetown, this is still a great place to go and get loose. Beware, you will find parking only through the intervention of the parking people, mostly hard-working homeless people trying to get you parked and get themselves some money. You may wish to walk. You may also wish to see Rex' Adams-Morgan/Reed-Cooke/Mt.-Pleasant Page for more information and a fairly sour view, and lots of street-level images.
Local cultures in Dupont: "Name it". There are the lunchtime yuppies, sporting watches that would cost me a year's pay. There are PR flacks catching some breeze after a hard day sweating over a terminal in some lair-of-the-great-untanned. There's regular folks from the neighborhood. There's a lot of panhandlers, some of whom are pretty aggressive, and there is no shortage of one-percenters and two-bit hustlers. There are some thugs. There are junkies. There are, at present, a couple of recent-releases from the cash-strapped and soon-to-be-discredited St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital. Some may occasionally be violent. There are assorted crusing drag-queens. The international element continuously wander through on their inscrutible errands. After all, Embassy Row extends to both sides. If they're basing their opinions of America on Dupont Circle, the rest of the world's governments assuredly think we're all nuts. The majority cultures are probably the yuppies, bums, and the afterwork assembly of the bicycle couriers. For what it's worth, where the bicycle messengers used to be very cool people, most of the ones I've met recently are complete loser riffraff. But what do you expect of rookies, anyway?
During warmer weather, many of the District's homeless drift through, occasionally congregating. On Sundays at about 4:00PM, a local group of volunteers, "DC Food Not Bombs", provides nutritious vegetarian meals to the hungry. Please see their homepage and learn how you can help end the shame of people going hungry in the capital of the world's greatest agricultural nation.
Basic Rule for Dupont Survival: Be respectful, and demand respect as well. Enter at your own risk; this is DC, you will be tested.
Another Basic Rule for Dupont Survival - get outta town when the sun goes down. In Dupont particularly, once darkness falls there are a lot of things which, having slept the day peacefully under their assorted rocks, emerge at nighttime. If you're still in the area, you may wish to head up towards Adams-Morgan.
Then again, you may not wish to head anywhere near Adams-Morgan, as the same cheerful folks immortalized in this short-story are infesting Adams-Morgan in full force. And though the ylook just like yuppies, if you're not their kind, they like to hurt you. And they're very inventive and clever about it and the cops are too busy trying to reduce street-hustlers, which is pretty pointless cosidering what's going on right in front of them, right under their noses.
In any case, recent reports of armed robberies, as many as two or three a night in the immediate vicinity, should cause the visitor to be a little more alert and a little less casual about Dupont Circle these days.
So you could head south towards:
To the south of Dupont Circle (top and center of the map) we see the primary business zone of Washington. This is where the money's made.
Map Courtesy of Yahoo and Mapquest
Walk south from Dupont Circle,
along Connecticut Avenue NW, and you will eventually wind up at lovely Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue NW from the White House. On almost any day, you can see protestors encamped on their crusade against nuclear weapons, or people passing out leaflets for or against this or that worthy or unworthy cause. If you like to rollerblade or even skateboard, Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 17th and 15th Streets NW has been blocked off to decrease the President's risks of being car-bombed. It's a very popular place for the rollerblading set.
Downtown Dupont is home and workplace to some of the most powerful and wealthy persons on the planet. It is defined as the area between George Washington Circle at the intersections of 23rd and "K" Streets and Pennsylvania and New Hampsire Avenues, NW, Dupont Circle itself, and Lafayette Park. This is also so-called the "Golden Triangle" business district.
Walk along "K" Street NW between 23rd and 10th Streets NW, and if you accidentally get hit by a car, ask for a lawyer and the entire street will offer you their card. This whole area's like that, lawyers, lawfirms, lobbyists and charitable organizations and their staffers abound. A bit farther to the north, one sees along "L" Street NW a panoply of some of Washington's finer shops. Actually, there are fine shops located at the ground level almost anywhere in this area of tall office blocks. There are some fine restaurants as well, though they are to be found in the greatest concentration in the general vicinity of "M" Street NW.
The entire Dupont Area is simply littered with eateries. If you're anywhere on the always-busy streets when the lunch-hour comes, expect to either be trampled or learn to move with the thundering herd. If you ride the Metrorail at either lunchtime or the rushhours, please be courteous and do not block the entrances or exits of the escalators or expect to be the victims of Executive Washington's infamous exasperation with tourists. Your safest bet at times like these is to get safely inside a restaurant and eat something. You can generally find something within your price-range, from the ubiquitous generic fastfood places to five-star restaurants where the average waiter's tip is eighty dollars. Ethnic cuisine abounds. The geographic center of the restaurant trade is the 19th Street NW corridor, bisected by "M" Street NW, another axis of dining fine and otherwise. At night, the 19th & "M" corridor is another party zone which rivals Georgetown or Adams-Morgan. There are any number of bars and nightspots here. ("your advertisement here!") This tends to be most popular for the college set, in particular students from out of town. Locals, and the post-graduate set seem to favor Adams-Morgan.
Downtown Dupont is served mostly by the Farragut North "Red Line" Metrorail Station (Connecticut and "L" near the White House at Farragut Square, which is bounded by Connecticut Avenue and 17th, "K" and "I" (or "Eye") Streets NW. The Farragut West "Orange and Blue Lines" Metro station is located at 18th and "I" Streets on the other side of Farragut Square. It's also served by the Foggy Bottom Metro station located at 23rd and "I" Streets NW. The northern end of the "Golden Triangle" is of course served by the Dupont Circle station.
Please see the Clickable MetroRail System Map which will show you how to get around Washington!
It may interest visitors to know that the reason the place is looking so much cleaner these days is this: the Golden Triangle Business Investment District (BID), patterned after the Downtown BID, a consortium of local businessmen, has hired workers to offset the generic lack of City of Washington sanitation services. A privately-funded cleanup crew is now prowling Downtown Dupont. Interestingly, according to the Washington Post, over the last 14 week, the Downtown BID has removed over 80 tons of trash, assisted over 24,000 visitors with information, and has given referrals to over 3,000 homeless persons. The Golden Triangle BID will probably start with a much-cleaner environment, but every little bit helps. Washington, long accustomed to being a city of blowing trash and overflowing rat-filled trashcans, continues its renaissance and re-greening. Expect this pattern of "voluntary taxation" to expand citywide, and expect an increasingly beautiful and livable Washington.