DC National Zoo

DC National Zoo

Upper Northwest DC Neighborhood Overview

The upper northwest corner of D.C. is predominantly residential and in many places practically suburban. However, there are several good reasons to visit the leafy streets, including the National Zoo and National Cathedral. If the weather is fine, spend an afternoon strolling through Hillwood Gardens or tromping through Rock Creek Park’s many acres. You’ll have to travel some distance to see multiple attractions in one day, but many sights are accessible on foot from local Metro stops.

Upper Northwest Walk

Upper Northwest isn’t a neighborhood; it is a geographic grouping of several neighborhoods, including Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Tenleytown, Foxhall, and Friendship Heights. The majority of attractions lie on or near Connecticut Avenue north of Woodley Park or on Massachusetts Avenue north of Georgetown. The Kreeger Museum is the exception, with its location in Foxhall, northwest of Georgetown. This area divides into three walks. Either focus on the zoo and surrounding area, or head up to the cluster of museums and landmarks around Cleveland Park and Massachusetts Avenue. Alternatively, Rock Creek Park offers shady walks and activities for kids, or hit the shops at the edge of D.C. If you plan to see a lot of the area in one day, you’ll need to use the bus or Metro or drive.


The National Zoo is a reason in itself to head uptown. Although recent attention has focused on giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, the Smithsonian’s free zoological park is also home to red pandas, clouded leopards, and Japanese giant salamanders, as well as the traditional lions, tigers, and bears. The zoo makes for a picturesque stroll on warm days, but be prepared for some hills to climb and crowds on sunny weekends.

South of the zoo lies Woodley Park, a residential neighborhood filled with stately apartment buildings. The stretch of Connecticut Avenue between Calvert and Woodley Road is notable for its popular array of restaurants and the Wardman Tower, a cross-shape tower built in 1928 as a luxury apartment building. Once known for its famous residents, it’s now part of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Woodley, a Georgian mansion that served as the summer home of four presidents, lies on Cathedral Avenue between 29th and 31st streets. At Woodley Park/Zoo Metro, the Red Line takes you back Downtown.


These attractions are more scattered, so allow a bit more time, and plan to drive or take the bus or Metro.

A 20-minute walk uphill from the Van Ness Red Line stop or an easy drive or cab ride away, the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens displays cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of 18th- and 19th-century French and Russian decorative art. The grounds and gardens equal the art collection in beauty and size. Also in this area, Howard University Law School is famed for its African-American graduates, such as Oliver Hill, Thurgood Marshall, and Charles Hamilton Houston.

Farther south you could combine several attractions on Massachusetts Avenue. The Islamic Mosque and Cultural Center, with its 162-foot-high minaret, is the oldest Islamic house of worship in D.C. The Khalil Gibran Memorial Gardencombines Western and Arab symbols in remembrance of the Lebanese-born poet. Opposite the garden, the U.S. Naval Observatory makes a stand for science. Continuing north, the Greek Orthodox St. Sophia Cathedral is noted for the handsome mosaic work on the interior of its dome. Dominating the skyline, the Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world. Its Gothic decor features fanciful gargoyles, including one shaped like Darth Vader. In 2011 the Cathedral sustained damage caused by an earthquake but continues to host services and offer tours, including a tour and tea in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery.


Although the 1,800 acres of Rock Creek Park span much of Washington and into Maryland, two of the main driving entrances are in Upper Northwest. Take Tilden Road to get to the Peirce Mill and Military Road to reach the nature center and planetarium.

Tucked away in the Foxhall neighborhood, the Kreeger Museum showcases the small but impressive collections of paintings, sculpture, and African art collected by wealthy businessman David Kreeger. Tour the hall where he entertained famous musicians and the dining room decorated entirely with Monets. Reserve in advance except on Friday and Saturday.

At the Maryland border, the intersection of Wisconsin and Western avenues forms Friendship Heights. This shopping-mall district is the place to pick up the latest finds at Tiffany, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus. TJ Maxx and Loehmann’s provide designer deals. Catch sight of Top Chef’s Bryan Voltaggio at his new restaurant Range in Chevy Chase Pavilion.

(courtesy of Fodor’s Travel)

For more about Upper Northwest DC see these links:

[su_gmap width=”480″ height=”340″ address=”georgetown, dc”]




[bloglist posts=”2″ title=”Latest Posts” show_title=”yes” categories=”upper northwest”]