Local Strolls: A self-guided walking tour of Georgetown, Washington, DC

Delve into Local Strolls, a series where writers reveal their favorite walks in their hometowns. Each route offers a snapshot of urban life, guiding you to lesser-known attractions and cherished local spots. Here, Alexa Moore takes us on a two-mile-long amble through the historic streets of Georgetown, Washington, DC.

Washington, DC, is not simply cherry blossoms and politics. It’s a city with complex and diverse stories, expertly dissected into four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast, and at the center of it all lies the US Capitol. DC’s oldest stories hide amongst the historic streets of Georgetown, in DC’s Northwest. US presidents and Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor once called this place home. It was also home to an African-American community. Resident numbers have dwindled, but remnants like the First Baptist Church of Georgetown, founded by a former enslaved man, still stand firm. 

So, let’s begin our walk.

Distance: Approx 2 miles
Total walk time: 45 minutes at a leisurely pace

Any good stroll in DC must start with coffee. I’m the kind of gal who needs a little motivation to get my steps in, so I stop into Baked and Wired. The pink window panes beckon me into the split bakery and coffee shop. A dirty chai with house-made horchata is what I order – it’s only 9am and I can’t justify my usual red velvet cupcake this early in the day.

Left: A coffee from Baked and Wired, Georgetown; Right: Walking along the C&O Canal
Left: Grab a coffee from Baked and Wired before starting your stroll © Alexa Moore; Right: The brick homes along the C&O Canal are worth a Zillow search © Elisank79 / Getty Images

With long and slow strides, I stroll down picturesque Canal Street briefly. It’s adjacent to the currently semi-barren C&O Canal, and the loveliest little brick houses juxtapose its dry, muddy banks. I resist the temptation to search for their property value on Zillow. 

I turn right to head up M St, Georgetown’s famous shopping promenade. All the buildings are different hues, yet there’s a subtle uniformity. The storefront windows are like portals into wild worlds of fashion I cannot afford. I pass the oldest unchanged structure in the city, the tan-colored relic aptly named the Old Stone House, built in 1765.

Photo collage. Left: Shops lining Georgetown; Right: Beautiful gold bank in Georgetown
Left: Meander down M St for a bit of window shopping © krblokhin / Getty Images; Right: Alexa pauses to admire her favorite building in the neighborhood © Alexa Moore

Approaching the intersection of M St and Wisconsin Ave, I meet my favorite golden-domed Neoclassical building. I adore how the dome’s reflective golden hue brightens up Georgetown’s streets. Built in the 1920s, it now operates as a PNC bank branch. My mind can’t help but wonder how it shined in its heyday, so to Google I go. Turns out, even a century ago, it was still a bank, a reassuring reminder that while things evolve in the rest of DC and the wider world, things tend to stay the same in Georgetown.

I do a quick heel stretch before turning right and starting my ascent up Wisconsin Ave. If you continue this path, you’ll eventually pass green areas like Book Hill Park and the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden. However, on this particularly chilly (and lazy) spring day, I ditch my usual hike and swing left onto N St, gazing at the manicured gardens of homes and the ruby-red-brick sidewalks that lay below.

Left: A beautiful yellow townhome in Georgetown, DC; Right: the controversial "Transformers House"
Left: John F Kennedy rented this beautiful townhome in the 1950s © Alexa Moore; Right: Don’t miss the controversial “Transformers house” © Kit Leong / Shutterstock

I find myself at 3260 N St, uncovering a slice of presidential (and very romantic) history. President John F Kennedy rented this home while running for Senate and met Jackie Onassis, the future First Lady, at a nearby Georgetown dinner party in 1952.

Turning down 35th St, I arrive at Georgetown University’s campus. I spot the controversial Transformers-decorated house and can’t help but giggle. The burly machines juxtapose the manicured brick facade, and the “Robots in Disguise” are the stars of an ongoing legal battle between the homeowner and the city on whether the statues can stay.

A narrow set of steps in Georgetown, DC – featured in "The Exorcist"
You might recognize this tucked-away staircase from a popular horror film © Alexa Moore

I’m searching for something I haven’t seen before – the infamous steps used in the climactic ending of the 1973 film The Exorcist. They’re steep. There’s something a bit eerie about this tucked-away staircase, so I use the handrails and focus carefully as I descend.

I continue this journey down through the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, cross the Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge, and eventually find my way back to the C&O Canal Towpath. What a difference a few blocks make, as this side boasts mossy-green grass and pools of water reflecting the fluffy clouds above.

Finally, I head towards the river and my favorite sitting spot at the Georgetown Waterfront Park. I end my nearly two-mile saunter on a bench near the twisting path of the park’s Labyrinth, a bit regretful that I didn’t buy that red velvet cupcake after all.

Keep planning your trip to Washington, DC:

Explore these top neighborhoods after your stroll through Georgetown
These experiences should be on your DC itinerary 
Find the best times to visit
Getting around DC is easier than you think – here’s how

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