1. Stroll along the C&O Canal
Back when Georgetown was a bustling tobacco port, the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal began its 184-mile route right here in Washington. These days, what remains is a serene, unhurried towpath that’s perfect for walking, running and cycling – or just taking in a quiet moment of peace.
2. Sit in the booth where JFK popped the question
Legend held that then Senator John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier in booth 3 at Martin’s Tavern in June 1953. The tavern marked the spot with a brass plaque, and so many couples followed suit that the booth became famous for engagements of mere mortals, too. Turns out it wasn’t just wishful folklore—in 2015, a 98-year-old eyewitness confirmed the tale.
3. Explore the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks
Secluded and lush, the grounds of this beautiful park have been described as being like The Secret Garden and it’s no surprise why: Manicured greenery, winding pathways and classical fountains comprise a 27-acre historic park that sits atop the highest hill in Georgetown. An adjacent museum specializes in Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art.
4. Ogle famous homes
Georgetown has been home to lots of celebrities: Julia Child taught cooking lessons and tested recipes for her legendary first cookbook while living in the yellow wood-frame house at 2706 Olive Street in the 1950s (the home sold for nearly a million dollars in 2015 to a local family). You can also learn about the home John F. Kennedy once lived in on a walking tour of historic Georgetown.
5. Climb – carefully! – the “Exorcist Stairs”
A draw for fitness buffs and movie nerds alike, the 75 super-steep stone stairs at the corner of 36th and Prospect Streets gained their big moment of fame as the spot where Father Karras tumbled to his demise in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. The staircase even snagged a historical designation in 2015.
6. Take a sweets break with a celebrity cupcake
Local bakery Georgetown Cupcake shot to fame when its owners, sisters Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne, became the focus of a three-season TLC reality show. The line for the shop’s sweet treats usually snakes around the block. Don’t feel like waiting for a cupcake? Head down the street to Baked & Wired, another local favorite.
7. Get active on the Potomac
In warmer months, head to Key Bridge Boathouse to rent kayaks and canoes or take a stand-up paddleboarding lesson.
8. Visit DC’s oldest house
Among modern shops on bustling M Street sits Washington’s oldest unchanged building and the city’s sole pre-Revolutionary Colonial home, Old Stone House, built in 1765. Today, the house is owned by the National Park Service and visitors can stop in to scope out the home’s kitchen, parlor and bedrooms for free. There’s also a beautiful garden to explore behind the structure.
9. Marvel modern architecture at the House of Sweden
A spectacular example of modern Scandinavian architecture, this waterfront building – which houses the embassies of Sweden and Iceland – regularly hosts events like yoga and jazz on its rooftop terrace, and exhibits on varied topics (a recent one celebrated Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman).
10. Catch some live jazz at Blues Alley
Founded in 1965 and modeled after the jazz clubs of the 1920s, this supper club-style music venue is hidden away in an alley carriage house and hosts live jazz musicians almost every night of the year. Throughout Blue Alley’s history, such legendary performers as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Bennett have taken the stage at the Washington institution.
11. Solve a mystery at Escape Room Live
Looking for a unique experience? Try this live game, in which a small group of participants must decipher clues to find their way out of a locked room. The Georgetown location has three different themed rooms and reservations are required.
12. Sip the perfect Manhattan at Rosewood’s Rye Bar
The luxury hotel’s handsome bar elevates the classic cocktail to an art form. A thoughtfully curated selection of rare and popular rye whiskeys, housemade bitters and hand-pressed and chipped ice are just a few of the careful details that go into crafting a drink. It isn’t cheap—the bar’s Manhattan will run you more than a Jackson—but it’ll impress even the most discerning cocktail connoisseur.
13. Splash or skate at the Washington Harbour
Georgetown’s river waterfront is home to tons of great restaurants – many, including Sequoia and Farmers Fishers Bakers, offer patio seating in warm weather – and plenty of outdoor activities. In summer, children (and adults, too) can splash in the sprinkler-style water fountain, watch the boats and feed the ducks. In winter months, the region’s largest ice rink opens for skating.
14. Get your bocce on at Pinstripes
This family-friendly game space – which fuses an Italian-American restaurant with a sprawling bowling alley – offers 14 bowling lanes and six bocce courts in an enormous 32,000 square foot space that borders the canal.
15. Gallery hop
Georgetown’s home to many of the city’s best art galleries. Head north on Wisconsin Avenue to what’s known as Book Hill to visit Cross Mackenzie, Addison-Ripley Fine Art, Susan Calloway Fine Arts and more. A helpful map can be found here.
16. Shop Small Along Georgetown Row
Many local and independently-owned shops dot the 1400-1500 blocks of Wisconsin Avenue, from O Street to Q Street – known as Georgetown Row. Find special gifts, fashion, art or home furnishings at any of the 30+ stores, and meet the shopkeepers behind these unique places that make Georgetown special.
There really is a lot going on in Georgetown. If you’re looking to explore another neighborhood, check out all the things to see and do in Capitol Hill.