The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., in a cloudy sunrise with mirror reflection.

City Guide / Washington, D.C.

What’s It Like Living in Washington, D.C.?

By Bri Hand | Dec 2, 2021

Washington, D.C. is many things: the nation’s capital, a hub for history-loving tourists, and a city bustling with political happenings and government officials. It’s also home to over 700,000 people—and that’s not including the surrounding metropolitan area, which encompasses parts of Maryland and Virginia.

As compact and fast-moving as it may be, the community has a little something for all D.C. residents, from a wide range of entertainment to some of the best public transportation options in the country. Read on to discover what it’s like living in Washington, D.C., including:

  • Best neighborhoods 
  • Transportation 
  • Cost of living 
  • Dog-friendly spots
  • Fun things to do

Let’s get started!

Washington D.C.’s best neighborhoods

The city is composed of a colorful mosaic of neighborhoods, each defined by its own mosaic of sights and sounds. Whether you’re energized by crowds or prefer more peaceful surroundings, there’s a spot in the area with your name on it. 

To that end, here is our guide to the five of the best neighborhoods to reside in D.C.:

1. Adams Morgan

If you enjoy an active nightlife, impressively varied dining options, and a general sense of energy, Adams Morgan is an ideal choice. A few highlights:

  • Tail Up Goat: As weird a name as it is a restaurant, its menu features a fusion of Mediterranean and Caribbean delicacies.
  • Songbyrd: Night owls and music lovers converge at Songbyrd, where locals come to see live bands and even partake in a dance party or two.
  • DC Arts Center: Head to the DC Arts Center to check out the community’s newest art galleries and theatre performances. 

There’s always something happening in Adams Morgan, so the neighborhood’s population of young professionals should come as no surprise.

2. Foggy Bottom

So named for the persistent blanket of fog rising off the Potomac River, Foggy Bottom’s long history is evident in its architecture. Yet because George Washington University is nearby, the neighborhood doesn’t feel as old as some of its buildings look. Check out: 

  • The Kennedy Center: The Kennedy Center is a performing arts hub admired worldwide and features a collection of free shows. 
  • Farming Founders: The farmer-owned Farming Founders makes all its delicious food from scratch, serving up bourbon battered French toast, fried green tomatoes, and smoked salmon.
  • Rock Creek Park: Beautiful Rock Creek Park is just nearby, perfect for picnicking and horseback riding alike. Plus there’s plenty of individual and group volunteering opportunities throughout the park.

Although Foggy Bottom is a bit on the expensive side, there’s plenty in this cultural hub to justify the steep pricing.

3. Forest Hills/Van Ness

Featuring some of the most varied architecture in all of D.C., Forest Hills/Van Ness is more than just a pretty face. The quiet, suburban neighborhood has plenty to keep residents entertained, including:

Is it as exciting as Adams Morgan? No. As historically relevant as Foggy Bottom? No. But the Forest Hills/Van Ness area is a much-appreciated, serene oasis in a busy city.

4. Georgetown

The waterfront home of a Hidden Ivy, Georgetown combines centuries-old sensibilities with a modern aesthetic. The respectable neighborhood boasts:

  • Georgetown Cupcake: The original Georgetown Cupcake’s delectable treats have spread to other cities despite only being around since 2008.
  • Fiola Mare: Here, you not only get some of the best food in the city, but can reserve an igloo to dine in during the winter.

A note of caution: There are no train or bus stops in Georgetown, so you’ll need a car or a sturdy pair of legs to head to other parts of town.

5. Logan Circle

Named for its traffic roundabout and Civil War general John Logan, this neighborhood is nestled comfortably near the center of the city. Logan Circle is known for its stunning Victorian houses as much as for its hip atmosphere. When strolling through the area’s many townhouse-lined streets, you’ll find:

  • Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot: Miss Pixie’s quaint shop abounds with vintage home furnishings, and a truckload of new items arrives every Wednesday. You can even take your dog with you to pursue the offerings—as long as you carry your vintage-loving pup with you (no paws are allowed on the floor). 
  • Le Diplomate: Situated on the 14th Street corridor, Le Diplomate is a cozy French restaurant and gathering place that offers Gallic classics like steak frites and escargot. Plus, they host numerous happenings featuring caricature artists, face painters, and live music. 
  • Black Cat: This ever-popular music and dance venue features local, national, and international artists in its 7,000-square-foot concert room. After the show, stop by the hall’s Red Room Bar for a craft brew and a game of pinball. 

Young and stylish locals flock to this area to experience its swanky eateries, indie shops, and charming historic houses. Discover more of the best neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. on our blog.

Transportation in Washington, D.C.

No matter what part of the capital you live in, knowing how to get around is essential—especially if you want to experience all that D.C. has to offer, from contemporary theatre performances to celebrated museum exhibits.

Driving

Between tourists, workers, and the city’s relatively small size, “The traffic is a nightmare,” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Roads and highways slow to a crawl day in and day out, with yearly delays reaching up to 42 hours. To that end, hauling your car to the nation’s capital may not be the best option if you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to get around the city. 

Metrorail

Despite being one of the busiest train systems in the nation, the Metrorail is remarkably easy to use, is clean as a whistle, and services 91 stations across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Plus, each line is laid out perfectly so that it’s possible to travel between any two stations with no more than one transfer. It’s an incredible feat, all things considered! 

Metrobus

Run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Metrobus is nothing to scoff at, either. Its whopping 12,216 bus stops make it one of the best travel options in the area.

Walking and biking

D.C. is an eminently walkable city, regardless of your neighborhood of choice. The streets are easy to navigate, and amenities are almost always close by. Those who prefer biking will find much to love with Capital Bikeshare, with over 500 stations around the city. Mount Vernon Trail and Capital Crescent Trail are perfect for residents looking for a beautiful joyride.

The cost of living in Washington, D.C.

The average cost of living in Washington, D.C. will depend on any number of factors, from where you’re staying to where you shop.

Rent

A one-bedroom apartment in the more upscale parts of town averages at $2,285/month, but similar apartments farther from the city center cost around $1,791/month. Add two more bedrooms, and you’re looking at anywhere between $3,070 and $4,161 in monthly rent costs.

Utilities

Including water, electricity, garbage, and heating/cooling, your utility bill should come out to approximately $159/month. Internet packages are provider-specific, but a good plan is around $64/month.

Public transportation

Monthly Metro passes (which cover trains and buses) average out at $100, although the distance you travel using public transit can increase or decrease that amount. For drivers, you’ll normally be filling up at $2.91/gallon.

Food and entertainment

In terms of basic groceries, a gallon of milk will cost about $3.49, a loaf of white bread $2.58, and a dozen eggs $2.84. All in all, food shopping isn’t significantly higher than the national average.

Going out with a friend? Movie tickets are $14 a pop, and $80 should get you a filling meal at a trendy restaurant.

Dog-friendly spots in Washington, D.C.

In 2017, community legislators signed off on a bill allowing man’s best friend into restaurants, so long as the establishments themselves are okay with it. Here are a few of the best eateries to bring your tail-wagging companion:

  • Art and Soul: Art and Soul is notable for its dog-friendly patio and its dog-centric menu. The Peanut-Banana Pupsicles are ideal for D.C.’s infamous muggy days. While your pup chops down on its pupsicle, you can dine on hand-made spaghetti, scallop crudo, and strawberry bread pudding.
  • Colada Shop: This spot has multiple locations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia—all of which serve cookies for canines. The Colada Shop has four ideals: coffee, food, cocktails, and conversation. Stop by with your furry friend to meet your neighbors, dine on Cuban snacks, and sip on fruity cocktails.
  • Commissary: Logan Circle’s Commissary lets pooches on the patio and hosts an annual adoption with City Dogs Rescue. In addition to its outdoor cafe and free Wi-Fi, this eatery also offers local and sustainable eats, seasonal specials, and a lineup of house cocktails.

It’s not all about the food, though. Let your furry buddy work off those calories in one of these local dog parks:

  • S Street Dog Park: S Street Dog Park is clean, boasts ample shade for sunny days, and has a water fountain for when pups need a drink.
  • Shaw Dog Park: Shaw Dog Park is as big as they come, boasting amenities of all kinds—including lights for nighttime fun.
  • Glencarlyn Dog Park: Located in nearby Arlington, Virginia, Glencarlyn Dog Park is well worth the trip for its swimmable stream.

Fun things to do in Washington, D.C.

While D.C. is undoubtedly a tourism-heavy city filled with internationally recognized monuments and museums, it does cater to its residents as well. Indeed, living in D.C. is more than its bustling atmosphere would have you believe. Here are a few fun things to do in Washington, D.C.:

  • Grab a cocktail with an ambassador: The U.S. capital’s embassies host cocktail parties and events from time to time, often based on the culture of the host’s home country.
  • Get toasty at a holiday market: Winters are made warm by the annual Downtown Holiday Market, an outdoor extravaganza of food, drinks, and hand-crafted goods.
  • Explore historical speakeasies: Traditional bars and nightclubs are one thing, but hard-to-find speakeasies like the intimate Captain Gregory’s are treasures worth searching for (and sharing!).
  • Catch a view: The Potomac is a staple of community life, but nowhere is it more spectacular than Great Falls Park, located just a half-hour outside city limits.

Landing’s furnished apartments in Washington, D.C.

D.C. is a treasure trove of history, culture, and novelty, but it’s difficult to truly experience the intricacies of all this city has to offer without living there. That’s where Landing comes in. 

We offer fully furnished apartments in Washington, D.C. suited for both short-term and long-term stays. Plus, you don’t have to worry about paying application fees, security deposits, or an additional month’s rent upfront. Our membership-based network makes moving easy. Start your move today with Landing!

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About the author

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.