The elegant and energetic neighborhood features a boisterous college and commercial scene punctuated with fancy homes and quick forays into nature.

Washington, D.C. Tour: Georgetown
Credit: Ann Purcell / Alamy

Georgetown has every right to name-drop. Some of the city’s most venerated figures, such as Thomas Jefferson, Henry Kissinger, and most famously John and Jackie Kennedy, lived and socialized here. Juicy stories involving high-society parties and the powerful elite are as integral to the neighborhood’s history as Georgetown University, the Potomac River, and the C&O Canal. The area maintains its fine polish but has grown more democratic with blocks of shops, restaurants, and bars accessible to the masses. The commercial hub, a busy swirl of chain stores, boutiques and even a TV star, centers on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. However, visitors can also politely excuse themselves from the delightfully hectic setting and find quiet moments on the river, along the C&O Canal trail, or among the still-grand mansions.

Thompson Boat Center

Paddle or sail the Potomac in a canoe, single or double kayak, rowing shell or Sunfish rented by the hour or the day. Go left and float by Watergate, the Kennedy Center and the Arlington Memorial Bridge; turn right for a snapshot of Georgetown’s convivial waterfront. Don’t miss a visit to the C&O Canal Visitor Center (1057 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, 20007, (202) 653-5190).

The Tombs

Open since the class of 1962, the closest bar to Georgetown University draws students on a study break, as well as alum wistful for the good ole days. The décor is a hodgepodge of WWI posters, sporty memorabilia, such as rowing oars and Andre Agassi’s tennis racquet, and plaques honoring members of the 99 Days Club (seniors who patronized the watering hole for the last 99 days before graduation.) Show your college pride by ordering a Hoya Blue shooter.

Latham Hotel

This 133-room boutique hotel is in the middle of M Street action but set slightly back, insulating guests from the loud street clatter. The property has two standout features: a rooftop pool and, off the lobby, the acclaimed Citronelle restaurant, run by celeb chef Michel Richard. If you can’t secure a reservation at the French restaurant, order room service, which is prepared in the acclaimed kitchen.

Sherman Pickey

The boutique for men and women features a well-curated selection of styles appropriate for nearly every occasion: day job, garden party, weekend in the Hamptons, your best friend’s wedding. The owner, formerly of Ralph Lauren, highlights designers both established (Tory Burch, Milly, Lilly Pulitzer) and emerging (Morine Comte Marant, Alicia Bell).

Thunder Burger and Bar

The restaurant rocks out with fine (and sometimes exotic) meats, American craft beer (more than 20 on tap), and a punk roadhouse atmosphere. Every Wednesday, the chef adds a special wild game entrée (kangaroo, snake, ostrich, yak, etc.) to the already adventurous menu. The signature dish, the build-your-own Thunder burger, is available every day, as are the toppings, including pineapple salsa, wasabi mayo, fried egg and foie gras.

Ching Ching Cha Tea House

Kick off your shoes, grab a cushion, and sample teas from around the world (Japan, China, South Africa, Taiwan, more). The trained staff delivers the hot beverage in traditional Chinese serving and sipping vessels, and throws in a lesson on the steeping and serving process. For those wishing to practice the ceremony at home, the store sells loose-leaf teas and an array of accoutrements.

Tudor Place

Tudor Place, owned by Thomas Peter, son of Georgetown’s first mayor, and Martha Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington, stayed in the family for nearly 180 years. Over six generations, the clan amassed an impressive trove of artifacts and objets d’art, including silver, porcelain, and more than 100 items belonging to Custis’s grandparents. Take a guided house or lead yourself around the 5 1/2-acre manicured gardens.