Where to live in DC area?
October 1, 2010 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I am moving to DC in a month. I want to live somewhere a short metro ride away from Union Station (I will work near there). Second, I want to be in a place where I can meet nearby single people around my age. (I am a 26 year old male.) I am not a partier, I don't drink much, and I'm not big into night life. I prefer board games, soccer, museums, exploring etc. What do you think would be the best area for me?

I am looking at Silver Spring/Takoma for the quick metro ride to Union Station, but that also means a longer trip to anywhere else. The other main option seems to be Arlington, which I have heard some good things about. If in Arlington, I think Crystal City may be the best place to live to get into the city quickly, but I am not sure if it has the kind of people I am looking for. I am also open to other areas, such as U-Street, Capitol Hill, Falls Church, Alexandria, NW DC, etc.

I prefer to spend less than $1,200 if possible, and I would be willing to live with others.

posted by catquas to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, for quick access to Union Station, you want the Red Line. So not Virginia, unless you don't mind transferibg. You might like Cleveland Park or Woodley Park-- walkable to Dupont Circle / the Mall, but fairly low key. The zoo is right there, tons of restaurants, a great Irish Pub with a trivia night.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:42 PM on October 1, 2010

catquas, I'd try for living in a group house in the Eastern Market or Columbia Heights area: both access to young professional peers without being overrun by nightlife. Depends whether you want roommates.
posted by deanc at 12:46 PM on October 1, 2010

Why not just get a place on Capitol Hill? Walk to Union Station from most neighborhoods. Eastern Market, 8th St SE and H St NE all have pretty good, somewhat geeky social scenes. Lots of group houses and fairly reasonable rents. Walk to the museums on the mall. Much more social opportunities for your age group than Takoma, much less Crystal City or any of the other places in the suburbs.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks charmcityblues! I know the red line would be best for commute time, but that is only one of my priorities. If the social environment is a better match somewhere else, or if there is another factor I should consider which points to somewhere else, I may be willing to prioritize that over a short commute.
posted by catquas at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2010

You will find out after you've been here for awhile that people who are from the area have very strong opinions on MD vs. VA. As a full disclaimer, I am a transplant and live in Silver Spring, but most of my friends either live or are from MD or live in DC proper. But I've never heard anything great about Arlington and I was lead to believe that Crystal City was a particularly soulless place, primarily for hotels for tourists who don't want to pay DC prices. I could be way off base though.

I like living in Silver Spring and it is a quick commute to Union Sq. and most of Downtown DC (when the red line isn't acting up; sadly the red line seems to have more than its share of problems). But I am a woman who is old enough to be your Mom. I think that if you could afford it, you'd be happier living in DC in the neighborhoods recommended above. I have a couple of friends in their late 20s/early 30s who've moved into the area around H ST NE that's becoming known as the Atlas District. It's a rapidly gentrifying area, but it's not fully gentrified so I imagine that there are a few safety issues there. It would be very convenient to Union Station. However, the people I know who've moved into this area have bought. I don't know what the rentals are like. If you decide to live in VA, I do have know several people (most closer to your age than mine) who really liked living in or near Old Town Alexandria.
posted by kaybdc at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2010

Check out Bloomingdale (around 1st and R) and LeDroit Park, both near U Street but straight shot down Georgia Ave to Union Station.
posted by parmanparman at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2010

I live on capitol hill, and bike to work (at the Capitol) every day. It's a nice extra $60 in my pocket every month, and actually faster than most Metro commutes.

The H St NE area has some good nightlife options, and is rapidly developing. The 90/92/93 buses run up 8th St NE to Florida Ave, and then up to U St and Adams Morgan, both of which host the vast majority of DC's nightlife options.

The area by the NY Ave Metro station is quickly developing into a tiny urban center, but still has plenty of cheap housing near it (the neighborhood has about 8 names, so good luck googling it -- 'Near Northeast,' 'Old City,' 'NoMA,' 'H St,' 'Atlas District,' and 'Gallaudet' could all accurately describe it). In my opinion, it offers a lot of "best of both worlds" scenarios. You're still walk/bikeable to the capitol. The H St nightlife areas are about a 10-15 minute walk. You've got super-easy access to the Red Line, and also the 90s buses on Florida Ave. There's also a new 24/7 supermarket opening "any day now" right next to the metro station. The neighborhood itself is completely unremarkable, but you've got good connectivity to the rest of the city.

The Eastern Market and Barracks Row areas are also good suggestions for similar reasons. They've got a bit more going on in the neighborhoods themselves, which may make them more attractive. It's also a more established and safer neighborhood than the area surrounding the NY Ave Metro (and hence, more expensive). 8th St and Pennsylvania Ave have a bunch of pretty good bars and restaurants -- the scene here is a bit calmer and more mature than what you'll find on U St and Adams Morgan. More 30-somethings, fewer 20-somethings.

The social "scene" in Columbia Heights is a bit overrated in my opinion, and doesn't even seem to exist as much as some claim it to. I find it difficult to justify the higher rent in that neighborhood.

Crystal City has all of the charm of......something completely devoid of charm. There's a cute strip of restaurants on 23rd St, but everybody I know who lives there comes into DC to socialize. CC is an incredibly dehumanizing place -- Soviet housing projects literally have more charm. The Clarendon (also in Arlington, orange line) area has a great crowd, but is a bit far from where you work.
posted by schmod at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2010

Recently moved to Old Town Alexandria here, and I'm within walking distance of two metro stops and all the bars and restaurants I could ask for. If you don't mind transferring once (a transfer you can do from either the blue or yellow line, insulating you from delays) it's a very reasonable commute. During rush hour you're never waiting more than a couple minutes for your transfer to or from the red line.

I highly recommend it.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2010

Good ideas here like Capitol Hill (walking distance) or pretty much anywhere on the red line. Don't live in Crystal City; it's just a bunch of office buildings.

There is no fantasy neighborhood full of young folks who like board games and dislike drinking (as awesome as that would be). Realize that like any city, "young singles area" in DC is synonymous with "nightlife" or "close to bars". That said, I'd say something like Petworth has a real neighborhoody vibe, is really popular with young people, is close enough to "nightlife" that you can get to the bars in less than 5 minutes but far enough away that you're not dealing with swarms of loud drunken kids walking around after last call.
posted by windbox at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2010

Would you consider a bicycle commute? DC is pretty bikeable, and there are a lot of nice neighborhoods that aren't well-served by transit. Bloomingdale (near Howard University) has a nice coffee shop, a Sunday farmer's market, and is a quick bike ride to Union Station, Dupont, Adams Morgan, and U Street.

Takoma is nice, but the vibe is more family/middle-aged than young singles.
posted by the_blizz at 1:11 PM on October 1, 2010

I live in Clarendon and work in Georgetown, and the rent here is much more sane than in the District. The Blue/Orange lines and several bus routes exist to get me into the city, and the area is very pleasant for walking around or cycling on weekends. Cherrydale & Lyon Village are nice, small neighborhoods within Arlington. Great farmers markets and places to eat. The area seems predominantly composed of 20-30ish professionals who commute into the city for work. The socializing options are pretty good... I've never lived in a place with so many young people who love to play board games & pub quiz trivia.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:13 PM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far!

When I say Crystal City, I am more thinking of the Aurora Highlands than the high rises. Does that make a difference?

the_blizz: I would definitely consider a bike commute.

windbox: I realize that there is no place like that, although it would be nice - I was just emphasizing that being close to bars etc. is of minimal importance to me. Thanks for the Petworth suggestion - what do you think is the best way to commute to Union Station from there?
posted by catquas at 2:00 PM on October 1, 2010

I used to live in Takoma Park. It was lovely and I loved it, but full of younger people and places to go in the evenings it is not.

A good friend of mine lives near the U St corridor (NW), a couple of blocks from the U St/Cardozo Metro. This is a green/yellow line, so not a direct ride to Union Station, but an easy bike, a slightly longer walk, or only one change on the train. And there are bars, restaurants, coffee houses, art galleries, cool shops, and the like.
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2010

A good friend of mine lives near the U St corridor (NW), a couple of blocks from the U St/Cardozo Metro. This is a green/yellow line, so not a direct ride to Union Station, but an easy bike, a slightly longer walk, or only one change on the train.

The 96 bus runs directly between the two. It runs somewhat infrequently at night, but should be fine during rush hours.

The bus....not just for poor people!
posted by schmod at 2:49 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

You like museums, so live in the city. Capitol Hill is good. It's great to be able to walk into the National Gallery or one of the Smithsonians, look at your favorite piece, and then walk out. There are lots of single people in the city to meet and many do geeky things.

Avoid the suburbs--not because the suburbs are bad, but because you want to be close to Union Station, want to meet people, and like museums. All you will get in the suburbs is a longer commute. The suburbs will not save you any money, especially if you want a short Metro ride to Union Station. Just move to the city.
posted by massysett at 5:37 PM on October 1, 2010

I've lived in DC for most of the past 10 years (9 of those in Adams Morgan), and even though Arlington has enlivened substantially in that time, I still think you'll get more of what you're looking for in the city.

You should avoid Crystal City, even if you're not considering the high rises. Clarendon might suit you, but I can't imagine the commute length to Union Station being worth it.

My recommendations, in order of closeness to where you'll work (all neighborhoods equally meritorious as compared to your list of qualifications): the H Street corridor (also apparently called "Atlas District"), Capitol Hill (north/Senate side, ie "NE" addresses), Dupont Circle/Logan Circle (red line), Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights (green line, but bikeable to Union Station), Adams Morgan (short walk to green line or red line, depending on the address).

I'd put Bloomingdale (as parmanparman and the_blizz mentioned) on the list, too, but a half-step down on the list because even though it is home to many great Washingtonians and my favorite coffeehouse, it has a bit fewer things to do and places to go.

I'll chime in as another voice in the "consider a bike" chorus, too. It makes everything easier, faster, and seemingly closer.

My take on Silver Spring/Takoma: they have their charms, but fewer young people than you'd like. And it sounds harsh, but chances are low that any new friends you meet in the city are going to trek all the way up there. You might find yourself always going in to the city to meet up with friends, and checking the "last train" times from wherever you are (Metro stops running earlier than you'd guess for a city this size).
posted by celilo at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2010

I'm in Arlington, near the Rosslyn station. When we looked at places in June, one bedrooms in the 1200 range were . . . not so great. We pay nearly 1400 for a metro-walkable one bedroom. So you might be living with roomies, even here.

While I like living here (it's pretty! and safe!), it's the oldest "young" place I ever lived. Plenty of young professionals--but emphasis is on the "professional." And I'm not a big partier, either, and love board games and stuff but it's just been a little sedate even for me. Places to eat and stuff, sure, but . . . eh, I just have a feeling that it's not the vibe you're looking for (and I suspect Alexandria wouldn't be, either). This is stunningly accurate, just to give you an idea. If that appeals to you, go for it. But you've been warned!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:32 PM on October 1, 2010

Seconding Cleveland Park. A little over ten minutes on the red line to Union Station, low-key neighborhood with a few pretty chill hangouts and a bunch of good restaurants. Access in one place to most of the things you need. Can do Zipcar for things which are further away/not metro accessible. I lived there for two years and thought it was not bad.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:47 PM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the additional answers! I've thought about biking, but I've never done it in a city before. Is it hard to get used to? Do you need to be an experienced biker? (I know how to ride but haven't gotten on a bike in years)
posted by catquas at 5:57 PM on October 3, 2010

Thanks for the additional answers! I've thought about biking, but I've never done it in a city before. Is it hard to get used to? Do you need to be an experienced biker?

For the most part, DC's got nice wide roads, and the vast majority of residential neighborhoods tend to be fairly quiet and low-density. During the 2000 census, it was revealed that only about 5,000 people actually "live" in the Downtown business district.

Union Station is coincidentally on the eastern end of what you'd consider to be "downtown," and is directly bordered by Capitol Hill, which is composed entirely of 2-3 story townhouses, and has plenty of wide, tree-lined roads with bike lanes. Generally speaking, it's a safer and easier place to be a cyclist that most suburbs (or most big cities for that matter). Other residential areas (even the ones that have been more built-up) are fairly similar.

There are a small number of places in Northwest that have what you'd probably consider to be "city" streets -- lots of cars, traffic, and activity. In almost every one of these cases, there is an adjacent street that's quiet, and has a dedicated bicycle lane (eg. K Street is always busy; L St is almost always quiet) . DC is not New York City -- you don't need to be an expert cyclist or to risk life and limb in order to ride a bike here.

There are a small number of roads that I wouldn't bike on, although there are almost always plenty of alternate routes available (notable exceptions: there are surprisingly few places to safely cross New York Ave, and Florida Ave is weirdly tricky to parallel, as it requires lots of zigzagging through one-way streets). If in doubt, check Google's bike map.

The DC Department of Transportation has placed a pretty high priority on making the city even more bicycle-friendly. New bike lanes appear all the time, and we've been experimenting with contraflow bike lanes, sharrows, and bicycle-specific traffic signals. We also just opened the country's largest bikesharing network (which will hopefully get even larger as time goes on).
posted by schmod at 9:21 PM on October 3, 2010

Response by poster: Hi Schmod, I just saw your answer. Thanks, good info!

Another question though: What about biking in the dark? I read this from here:

Darkness: Once the time change occurs in late October, you suddenly find that it begins getting dark by 5pm. By late December, it is pitch dark by 5pm. One way around this problem is to adjust your hours so that you get home by 4:30 or so. The other option is to get some serious light equipment. Headlights not only help you see where you are going, but are also very important to help warn motorist not to pull out in front of you. I personally use a 30 watt dual beam system that comes with a rechargeable battery shaped like a water bottle (which fits nicely in my bottle holder). For tail lights, I use these great red LED flashers which can be seen over a mile away. Additionally, I make sure reflectors are also in place and I wear a bright colored windbreaker. However, even with all this equipment, do not assume you can be seen! Headlights from oncoming traffic will still make you practically invisible to overtaking traffic. Extreme vigilance is required when riding at night.

I'm not sure I'm up to that. I also wonder about rain, snow, and ice. If I got a place I could only commute from using a bike, then I would be committed to using a bike every day, not just during good weather. I'm wondering if I should get a place in capitol hill where I can walk to work from in 15 minutes or less, but then when I can use the bike and make it a 5 minute trip or something.
posted by catquas at 9:50 AM on October 7, 2010

This sounds more like suburban advice.

I've ridden around DC at night plenty of times; the streets (at least in the denser parts of town) are always well-lit; seeing is no problem at all. You should have front and rear lights for visibility in any case.

You may want to consider the type of bike you get. A commuter bike or cruiser with fat tires and an upright posture will be much easier than an aggressive road bike where you're hunched over the handlebars. You won't go as fast, but you'll probably be more comfortable, and speed doesn't matter so much over short distances.

The downsides of bad-weather cycling are partially about safety and partially about comfort. It's not bad to have an alternate route. Why not check the bus lines and see which neighborhoods are best-served? It can be way more expensive to live near a Metro station, but that's not true for the buses.
posted by the_blizz at 8:14 PM on October 10, 2010

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