I know DC is a young city, but how young is it, really?
January 12, 2017 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be moving to DC and want to get an insider's view of the demographics of the place- namely, general age groups in certain neighborhoods.

I'm going to be looking for a place in DC and want to nail down neighborhood vibes from some of you lovely people who actually live there. I'm 38 (and single, if that matters, which if I'm being honest it sort of does) and I'm kind of done with the rowdy bar scene. I really don't have anything against younger humans but I'm just too grumpy for it all now. But I'm also not ready for suburbia.

If you look for people in their 40s it looks like someone knocked them all into the river and they washed up in Old Town. Old Town is really nice, but it's just a bit...staid? Monolithically preppy? And also the commute, while not awful, is more than I'd like. I've also heard people mention Cleveland Park and other Northwest areas, but they look like they'd be a bit too spread out and sleepy for me. (And even there, these demographics places are saying nobody is over 35?!)

I'm looking at Dupont/Kalorama/Adams Morgan/Logan Circleish areas, predictably, because they seem to have what I want in terms of 1. walkability, 2. restaurants, 3. row houses, 4. nice bars and assorted Stuff to do, and 5. a less buttoned-up vibe than a lot of other areas in the city. But citydata and all those demographics sites are saying the people living there are almost exclusively 20s, some 30s. Obviously, I know that it's younger crowds that bring the stuff to do in the first place, but in places like NYC etc you still get a wide mix of ages. Is it as stratified in DC as it seems to be? Would I find enough bitter old grouchy people in these neighborhoods to make me feel at home, should i just go with Old Town, or is there somewhere else I should be considering?

posted by Dormant Gorilla to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live right on the border of Kalorama and Adams Morgan, and I think it might actually be perfect for you. 18th St can get crazy, sure, but if you avoid it on Friday/Saturday nights, you quickly forget about it. There's a good mix of ages among the residents, even just in the building I lived in there were older families who owned their condos, young couples who were renting, and everyone was really friendly.

There's a bar on Columbia Road called Bedrock Billiards; go grab a drink there and talk to the bartenders about the neighborhood: they all know it and love it, and will be really honest about it.

God, I miss DC.
posted by wpgr at 7:21 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live near the convention center, and I see a wide variety of ages in my neighbors (in my building and in my neighborhood).

Do you know where the demographics you're seeing are coming from? Would they capture people who have lived in the neighborhood for longer than a few years? Many of my neighbors have lived in the building for a long, long time.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:47 AM on January 12, 2017

I'm almost your age and live in Park View, just south of Petworth. There are lots of us in the area and checks off all your boxes.

Is it as stratified in DC as it seems to be?

Not at all. There's a good mix of ages pretty much everywhere. Some other areas to look at I think would be around Eckington/Bloomingdale, Capitol Hill, H street, Shaw, Brookland, even Trinidad. Takoma on the DC side is pretty nice too, but a little sleepier.

(I tend to find the west of the park neighborhoods pretty boring, but YMMV).
posted by General Malaise at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2017

If you don't want the bar scene, avoid Adams Morgan (and even somewhat Mt. Pleasant) like the plague. I second Park View, Columbia Heights, and Petworth. Eckington, Bloomingdale are also good but a bit further out of the way. Shaw is the perfect neighborhood for what you are looking for.
posted by tooloudinhere at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2017

Anecdata, but I am in my mid-40s, grew up here, and part of a community of 40s/50s/60s folks from the DC punk scene centered around Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights. Go to a bar or a rock club on a weekday night and it will seem monolithically young, but there is a lot happening here culturally, politically, etc. that will reveal a whole world of engaged, interesting older folks if you nose around a little.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2017

Oh, and obviously Capitol Hill has all of these things too (slightly yuppier vibe maybe) and H Street is also out of the way but about to have everything.
posted by tooloudinhere at 8:20 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll also note that, as prices in DC go through the roof, a lot of older folks I know, esp. those w/families, have begun to migrate to parts of Prince Georges Co., MD that are immediately adjacent to the District. Mount Rainier, Cottage City, Hyattsville, and University Park all offer easy access to the city, nice and comparatively inexpensive housing stock, and, smart, politically and culturally engaged folks in their 40s and older. Things are in flux around here, but looking to the east rather than the west is generally good advice in DC if you're trying to avoid suburban dullness.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:29 AM on January 12, 2017

I live in Cleveland Park and am in my mid-20s. It's honestly a pretty age-diverse area, in that the vast majority of people I see around me are either around my age or young couples *or* they're senior citizens. The one group missing seems to be middle-aged people. It doesn't strike me as particularly sleepy. There's a good number of nice restaurants and bars and the public transportation access is good. The trip to Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan is so short that I find it better than paying more in those areas.

I think DC is just generally a pretty 20/early 30s-oriented city because most people tend to move to northern Virginia or Maryland or leave DC entirely once they get much older than that. I've seen this with practically all of my older colleagues. Those that stayed in DC live in Capitol Hill or the upper Northwest neighborhoods, like Cleveland Park. A few in Columbia Heights too.
posted by armadillo1224 at 8:35 AM on January 12, 2017

I think DC is just generally a pretty 20/early 30s-oriented city because most people tend to move to northern Virginia or Maryland or leave DC entirely once they get much older than that.

This is true of a certain moneyed, conservative demographic, but, as a lifelong resident, I can say confidently that this is not universally true. Cross the park into Mt. Pleasant and you'll find a lot of older, lifelong city dwellers.

OK, I'll stop thread sitting now!
posted by ryanshepard at 8:39 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

You want Brookland. You really do.
posted by nkknkk at 8:51 AM on January 12, 2017

I would recommend the Columbia Heights/Park View area (might be marketed as "east Columbia Heights," lol) or the Logan/Shaw area. They fit your boxes for stuff to do, easy access to transportation, and a diverse population.

I think that the Cleveland Park/other NW areas on the red line are sleepy -- also the further west you get in NW the more buttoned up it is going to get. I would avoid Adams Morgan and U Street like the plague if you don't want to see drunk 20-year-olds every night. Kalorama is chill (and you could be neighbors with Obama!) but the bars/etc nearby are Adams Morgan bars which, again, AVOID. Mt. Pleasant is great, but I'm not sure of the demographics. Brookland is fine, but with all of the new development there looks super Starbucks-y to me.
posted by aaanastasia at 8:58 AM on January 12, 2017

This is all really helpful and reassuring, thank you guys! And I've never heard of a few of these places. Can't mark anything as best because I would rather keep milking you all for all the info you've got.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2017

Takoma's got plenty of old hippies and so forth. maybe too low-key for you but not boring like Virginia boring.

or edge into Maryland if you must, but don't give up DC without even trying. you got to be the angry old person you want to see in the world.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be cynical here and suggest that the reason the predominant image of DC is one of young, transient people is because a lot of the older population is poor and non-white and therefore not part of the hipster vibe that developers and politicians are trying to promote.

I spent my time in DC living in Congress Heights, on the east side of the Anacostia River. (Note that I am white and lived there from the ages of 22-24). I'm not going to recommend it for your purposes. There's no nightlife to speak of, hauling across the city for anything fun gets old fast, it has a very spread out, suburban feel. But if you ever want to talk to meet older residents of the district who've lived there forever and hear what life was in different eras, there is no better place in the city.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:09 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be cynical here and suggest that the reason the predominant image of DC is one of young, transient people is because a lot of the older population is poor and non-white and therefore not part of the hipster vibe that developers and politicians are trying to promote.

Emphatically true, though "working class and poor" is more accurate - see also: "No one is actually from here."
posted by ryanshepard at 2:48 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Years and years ago, I lived a few blocks away from 18th St NW in the neighborhood you describe (Kalorama/Dupont/Adams Morgan). If you don't go to 18th St NW on Friday or Saturday (maybe even Thursday), you'll probably avoid a lot of rowdiness. That said, do you want to live in a neighborhood where you can't enjoy a big part of it 2-3 days a week? Real question. I did and it was fine but I felt like it was a little bit of a waste.

I live in Eckington and think you would enjoy Shaw or Bloomingdale. Shaw has more of your restaurants and bars, Bloomingdale is a little more sleepy and family friendly. I also like Brookland but haven't spent as much time there as I have spent in Shaw and Bloomingdale.
posted by kat518 at 2:50 PM on January 12, 2017

As a native Washingtonian, in his mid-40's, who lives on Capitol Hill (NE, but not quite H St), I think you'll find the diversity of age groups in almost any neighborhood. I have friends and relatives from their 20s to 70s living in all four quadrants of the city.

Check out Capitol Hill. I appreciate living close to H St, but not so close that I can't avoid the younger crowd's nightlife madness. I can walk to Eastern Market, Union Market, Navy Yard, and Union Station (and the Mall, Chinatown, and Gallery Place for that matter). There aren't as many top notch restaurants as some other areas (Shaw, 14th St, for instance) or as many galleries as Dupont, but its walkable, neighborly and convenient. And i can take public transportation or drive to those areas.

Major qualification: housing is expensive in DC generally and on Capitol Hill particularly.
posted by jindc at 7:09 AM on January 13, 2017

I'm not sure you're really going to get a good idea of how a neighborhood vibe in DC will work for you until you actually live here. When I moved here (welp) 18 years ago, everything I thought I'd like from a distance turned out to be wrong.

It will help to know what your budget is, whether you plan to live alone or with a roommate (or roommates), and whether you plan to rent or buy. To overgeneralize a little for illustration purposes: Shaw (the larger neighborhood that contains Logan Circle) has a lot of big, new, expensive apartment buildings, Bloomingdale has more group houses, and Capital Hill has group houses as well as row houses that have been divided up into small apartments. Depending on what you actually want one neighborhood might be more likely to suit you than the other simply because it has more of the right kind of housing stock.

And before anybody begs to differ with me, you'll find group houses and subdivided row houses in any of those neighborhoods, and maybe my impression of the mix is a little off, but I don't think it is. In that group Shaw is the only one where a whole bunch of new development money has gone into big apartment buildings. You'll also find that sort of thing along 14th St NW and U St NW, which are just outside Shaw, as well as near some other centrally located Metro stations.

Anecdata: my wife and I were socially an old married couple for years before we got married, and we have lived in Petworth since 2008. There has been a recent mini-boom in restaurants and bars and there seems to be enough momentum to support them all, but it's not a nightlife destination like, say, U Street or Adams Morgan. I'm not sure I'd recommend any person who says they're too old for the bar scene live in or near Adams Morgan. And Kalorama is soon to be home to the Obamas, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Jeff Bezos (when he's here, anyway), so I don't think I'd want proximity to that much of a constant security presence.
posted by fedward at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2017

I know I won't really be able to tell without being there myself, but the advice and background info here is way, way better than reading some neighborhood guide or similar. To answer your questions- looking for a one bedroom, living alone, definitely renting, don't want to go over $2500, would be happier around $2k. Much happier in old row houses than new developments--which I know complicates the issue even further. There are so many factors to deal with that that's why I had been keeping the main question to the age/vibe thing.

The other thing is that I've lived in DC before, on 17th and T, but this was 2003. So a LOT has changed, but I have indelible memories of both that area and the Hill and they're... not super great memories, so those are out of the running.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2017

Should say- lived there for about three months. So not really long enough to get to know it. And I was in my early 20s and not paying attention to any of the things I care about now. Anyway- Mt Pleasant is sounding like a definite option. Surprised nobody mentioned Woodley Park, because that was on the Maybe list- maybe it should be on the maybe not list.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2017

Hmmm, what didn't you like about 17th & T? A friend of ours had a place on Willard. I don't recall ever feeling unsafe over there and that seems far enough up from all the nightlife on 17th that it wouldn't be too loud.

Your price range should be doable for a 1BR, although proximity to Metro will push you to the top end of that. How far are you willing to walk? Will you ride buses?
posted by fedward at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2017

There is significant growth in SW DC, and SE near the Navy Yard - still affordable and pretty nice to live - fits your order pretty well.

Wife and I - early 40s, live in SW but pretty much do our dining/drinking/going out around the Yards Park area near Nationals Ballpark - we're just on the other side.

SW is a lot quieter than other areas, with less to do, but it's really accessible to other things. The Metro is easy to get around on (when it's working) so nothing is too far from anything else.
posted by Thistledown at 1:47 PM on January 14, 2017

Sorry for late response- nothing wrong with those areas, it was just sort of a rotten time and now I associate them psychologically with where I was.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 7:53 AM on January 17, 2017

Woodley Park is great for young families, but it doesn't meet most of your criteria. Go to Brookland. Really.
posted by nkknkk at 6:41 AM on January 20, 2017

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