Tell me about Takoma Park
October 15, 2007 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to DC next month and considering renting a room in a house in Takoma Park. But of course, I have some questions...

I was originally only looking in Mt Pleasant and environs, because I really liked Mt Pleasant when I lived in DC briefly a few years ago (at the time, I lived at H St NE, but it seemed like all my friends lived around Mt P or Columbia Heights). Also, I'll be working near Farragut Square, so the 42 bus seems like a really convenient route to work (I could even walk on nice days when I have some time in the morning!).

However, I looked at a place in Takoma Park (on the DC side, 5 minutes from the metro) that seemed really nice, and I've heard good things about the area. However, I don't really know that much about it, so I thought I'd pick the hive mind. I have read the many other questions dealing with DC neighborhoods, and I hope no one objects to one specifically about these two neighborhoods.

Things I'm wondering about Takoma Park:
- Crime levels (I'd be on the DC side)
- Proximity to supermarkets (I know about the co op and farmers market, looking for mainstream supermarkets to complement these)
- Ease of getting to BWI/National from Takoma (I will be traveling a lot for work)
- What kinds of folks live in Takoma? What's "the scene" like?

Generally, I'm trying to get a sense for how the experience of living here would differ from the experience of living in Mt P. I know they're both funky, liberal areas, I know Mt P is more urban (suspect it has higher crime levels?) and also more central. Anything else I should know?

Oh, and a few things that are probably relevant:
- I will have a car, and the place in Takoma has free, off-street parking.
- I would like my commute to be less than half an hour by metro.
- I plan to have an active social life, probably centering around Dupont/Adams Morgan and, unfortunately, Arlington (where many of my friends live).

posted by lunasol to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's a big Safeway pretty close to takoma park off.. piney branch, I believe. I have friends who live in the area and they've not had any problems, but be careful when walking home from metro at night, stay on the busy streets, don't take a shortcut through deserted/dark area.

National is easy to get to, take red line to chinatown, transfer to yellow line. BWI, never easy from anywhere in DC to be honest - you could get a shuttle, else you'd have to metro to Greenbelt and take the metrobus that runs to the airport (kind of a production).

Takoma - the people's republic of Takoma Park! very very liberal! veggie co-op, restaurant, cool vintage/antique shops, good video store. It's neat.
posted by citron at 1:28 PM on October 15, 2007

Personally I think Takoma Park is kinda a hike to where you're going, and that Mt. P would be more convenient, but check out the travel time calculator on the WMATA website for a precise evaluation.
posted by letahl at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2007

FWIW: I have been on Capitol Hill for my many years here in DC, and I love The Hill but Takoma Park is literally one of only three places I would move to. It's all about personal preference, but I like what Takoma is throwing down, moreso than Mount P. I have had friends in both, and Mount P can be a pain in the arse to get to, whereas Takoma is on the red line and infinitely less traffic in-and-around. If you're asking (Based on your parameters) what *I* would do in your situation: no contest. TP for sure.
posted by indiebass at 1:33 PM on October 15, 2007

I used to live on Flower and University -- there's a Giant and a... Bestway, I think it was? An oversized bodega. As Citron noted, there's also a Safeway that would be slightly closer to the Takoma end of town.

I found Takoma Park very pleasant (and it's quite liberal), but it's not at all a hip, happening place to be. You'll be near some decent ethnic food in Langley Park and Silver Srping and the outdoor mall at Silver Spring Place. There's a well-stocked Video Americain outlet in town. More exciting activities will require a trip on the Red Line. Racial diversity is quite high -- my block was largely Salvadorean, and there are quite a few older African-Americans (and younger ones, thanks to the Adventist college) -- and it's a very liberal town.
posted by snarkout at 1:35 PM on October 15, 2007

Mt Pleasant is pretty and close to lots of things but the thing about it is.. street parking is a freaking nightmare.. only one bus line (the 42) but.. walking anywhere to get to it, you're usually walking down dark narrow streets. And if you are driving to go places, you have to come back and find a parking spot on those crazy narrow Mt Pleasant streets and then walk back to your place..

If you lived on H St NE either of those places is a lot safer and more convenient..

Couldn't you take the red line from Takoma Park to Farragut North? it's fast during rush hour and you wouldn't have to switch trains even.

I'm sure either one could be OK but I find.. a bus commute where you only have one bus you can take is annoying if you're like me & don't have a specific routine.. there are those days you're waiting 20 minutes in bad weather for a bus. But then, you could probably walk over to 16th St and take the S bus downtown as well?
posted by citron at 1:36 PM on October 15, 2007

I lived on Jackson, just down from the Chillum Road/Ethan Allen interchange near the TPSS. My house was awful. I lived in a house that had neither A/C, a dryer, or hot water for an entire summer with my then-girlfriend. Takoma is not at all hip and good luck finding a place to hang out after 8 o'clock. It's just boring. The TPSS, or Takoma Co-Op, is not actually a co-op. Rather it just has memberships and overpriced fare. The metro station is pretty far from where most people live in the city and you really do need to wait for the bus most times of the year, because it's either way too hot to walk home or it's so icy that walking is not an option. I cannot say there are good local shopping options unless you plan to be awake extra early for the farmers market on Sunday. Shopping can be a pain unless you own a car and can go to either the overpriced Silver Spring Safeway or Whole Foods or want to venture to the Shoppers in Hyattsville.

My question is: Have you thought to look in the Hyattsville or Mount Rainer area? It's very close to some excellent restaurants on upper Rhode Island, is an easy drive into DC, and is on the Green Line to the bus to BWI.
posted by parmanparman at 2:14 PM on October 15, 2007

I just got back from Takky Park!

I lived there about 6 years, about 7 years ago - off Flower ave, so not very near the DC line.

There isn't much "scene" in TP. It's wicked liberal, and has a groovy farmers market, but a lot of the folks who live there are settled-down-married-with kids types. The DC side of the line (which makes it plain ole Takoma, by the way, since it's a DC neighborhood and not its own town) may be a little different - there's a good jazz club on the main strip there, but I can't remember what else.

There have been a lot of muggings on Cedar, my friends (who live on Cedar) tell me - they pick each other up at the Metro station, although they live less than 10 minutes' walk down the street.

If most of your friends and nightlife will be in Dupont/Mt Pleasant (I also used to live there), then I think it's a better bet for you to live closer. I did experience one unfortunate snow/icestorm that closed the above-ground portion of the red line, and after 24 hours without friends (or electricity) I was so bored that I walked to where they were at 13th and U NW - they had soup and movies and hot water, so it was a no-brainer for me. Streets were sort of plowed, but no buses were running.

BTW, the farmers market in TP doesn't even open until 10, so getting there early would be useless.
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on October 15, 2007

I was born in DC, and when I'm back there, I rent a room in Takoma Park from a friend. I'm on the Maryland side, though, and further from the Metro.

Mt Pleasant is AGES away from the Metro. It's more gentrified and safer than it was, but believe what you hear about awful parking and awkward transport there.

I'd say go for Takoma Park if you're near the metro. As others have said, it's not big on nightlife, but its daylife is pleasant and safe and full of interesting eclectic things. If you like barbecue, one of the best BBQ joints in DC is right by the Metro station.

BWI from Takoma Park: Red Line to Union Station, and then tons of trains stop at BWI. The Acela gets there fast, the MARC gets there slowly and cheaply. Beats the hell out of the horribly expensive cab ride from Dulles.

I think, when you're looking at places, you'll know when one feels right to you. Good luck!
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:05 PM on October 15, 2007

Basically, what parmanparman and rtha said. Takoma Park is more for hippies than for 'the hip', although that suits me just fine.

The police of the City of Takoma Park and the DC police seem (AFAIK) to work together pretty well to challenge crossover crime. The TPP bulletin page gives a good idea of the area's problems, which of course nobody hears much about unless they read the bulletin. Since you've lived in DC, you probably know that crime tends to be inversely proportional to distance from a metro stop. WMATA is considering selling a parcel of land next to Takoma station for housing development, which could change the profile of the area a bit (many Takoma area residents are not in favor of the current plan).

Overall, the area is remarkably quiet. The City of Takoma Park hosts three festivals a year, and community life is pretty active if you choose to join in, but it's very "small town" for being on the edge of DC. Access to Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan is pretty easy via Metro; even people who don't live near a station take the metro to those places. Arlington is a little more difficult, but other than the length of the metro ride, I don't know how that would differ much from Mt. Pleasant's access.
posted by zennie at 3:34 PM on October 15, 2007

TP to Arlington on the metro involves a train change, but it's not so bad. TP is also on the Red Line, which breaks if it ices, gets too hot, or someone sneezes. It's also in Maryland, and you're either a Virginia person or a Maryland person.

Virginia people tend to think of Maryland as a very surburban place that's hard to drive around with really bad drivers, and is kind of ugly. Maryland people tend of think of Virginia as a place that has too high taxes, politically backward (I'll them that), and too yuppified.

Personally, I have a severe hate on for TP (I live in S. Arlington, FWIW) - many people do not share this. It's full of hippies with money who pretend to have principles, are annoyingly self-righteous and completely up in your business. It's also super boring, has little decent to eat, and nothing to do - it's a suburb with a metro station in Maryland, with a really active civic association.

Of course, lots of people feel this way about Arlington, which is full of pseudo-bohemian people with enough money to live there, who still the need to be completely self-righteous and up in your business. But we do have a lot of good places to eat.
posted by beezy at 3:50 PM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

I never found Mt Pleasant all that hard to get to/from when I was there - and that was before the metro put in the Columbia Heights stop. It was an easy walk to the restaurant/bar center of 18th and Columbia, and a slightly longer walk or a bus ride to the Dupont metro. YMMV, natch.
posted by rtha at 4:18 PM on October 15, 2007

Takoma Park is pleasant but pretty dull - there is no nightlife to speak of, and few decent restaurants. The Metro is close for getting into the fun areas of the District and if you have a car you can go to downtown Silver Spring which is sort of manufactured but has some good non-chain places and a huge free parking garage. Silver Spring has a Whole Foods, Safeway and Giant, so plenty of supermarketage within a ten minute drive.

Crime-wise, I have a hunch the DC side is a bit worse than the Maryland side but that's not substantiated. I generally feel very safe walking around anywhere during the day, but stay away from the DC side and the New Hampshire Ave side at night. In general Takoma Park is great if you have kids or just like to live someplace quiet and friendly, but it's definitely a suburb. If you really want urban, Mt Pleasant is a better spot.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 5:56 PM on October 15, 2007

Thanks for all the advice/wisdom. I think it'll probably end up being more a function of the house/apartment than the neighborhood, but this is very helpful.

Beezy - my impression of Arlington so far is that it's sort of a boring suburb with lots of cookie-cutter high-rise buildings that have no character, but your post piqued my interest. Am I wrong?
posted by lunasol at 5:56 PM on October 15, 2007

Beezy - my impression of Arlington so far is that it's sort of a boring suburb with lots of cookie-cutter high-rise buildings that have no character, but your post piqued my interest. Am I wrong?

That describes Roslyn very well and sort of describes Courthouse and Ballston, but Clarendon is pretty great.

I am doing Silver Spring to Courthouse fairly frequently, and I think it's a pain in the ass by metro (1 1/4 hr usually). By car it's about 1/2 hour, so that's more doable. I tend to stay over in Courthouse if I go out there. All I can say about TP is that it feels very removed from DC. Much more so than when I lived in Courthouse. You have all upper DC to cross. But it is great to be right on the red line and you can always get a seat.

How long will your walk to metro be? After that, I bet it's about 30 minutes from TP to Farrugut North on metro on the average day.
posted by Amizu at 6:29 PM on October 15, 2007

Contact me off list immediately. I lived in a group house there (Takoma DC) and you should vet the owner with me. If it is who I think it might be, you need to know info.

I've lived in both places. Mt. P blows Takoma DC away. Not a great deal of nightlife, long ride in to have fun elsewhere.

Crime is about equal--never had any problem either place and I've lived in DC for a decade.

In short I would take Mt. P over Takoma any day.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:51 PM on October 15, 2007

It's full of hippies with money who pretend to have principles, are annoyingly self-righteous and completely up in your business.

Yeah, Takoma neighbors will be totally up in your business, talking to you about your life and joining the neighborhood watch so they can lurk around at night. It's horrid.
posted by zennie at 7:58 AM on October 16, 2007

Bah, don't in Tacoma Park unless you're ready to settle down in the aging hippie/hipster lifestyle. Know knock on TP, it's a great place. But you seem young and full of life. I'd hate to see you pass up an opportunity to enjoy the best neighborhood in Washington.
Yes, I live in Mt. Pleasant and I take offense to the slander on this thread about my fair neighborhood.

Parking: Sucks. Nothing else to say. It's a trade off really. You have the best nightlife in the city adjacent to you and you get to live in a neighborhood that's almost a century old. I'll take the benefits of the city any day over some damn car. And the public transportation is fine.

Public Transportation: The Columbia Heights Metro station is less than 5 minutes walking distance from Mt. Pleasant. The 42 bus takes you through Adams Morgan, Kalorama, Dupont, K street, Metro Center and more. The 16th street bus line goes from the southernmost edge of the city into Silver Spring. That line is right next door. The Woodley Park red line stop is a 15 minute walk. Dupont is a 15 minute walk. Where do you work? The only major economic zone that's a real pain to get to is Capitol Hill.

Gentrification: Mt.P is a nice combination of aging hipsters, young professionals and primarily Latin people. The Latin culture is awesome and I wouldn't trade it in for anything. The Latin festival is great and where the hell else can you get decent El Salvadoran food? Now, the Columbia Heights monstrosity a few blocks away will destroy this place within 5 years. More traffic, more yuppies, more chain stores, more Rosslyn style luxury apartment living. So, get here and enjoy it while you can. And become active in the ANC, maybe we can stop this impending blandification and keep our neighborhood interesting.

Crime: Not really. It's the city and shit goes down. You'll have your car broken in to I'm sure of it. But that happens everywhere in D.C. and likely in Tacoma Park as well. It's city living. If you don't like it, Loudoun County is nice this time of year! I've been here for years and have never felt unsafe. There are almost no murders and those that happen are usually drug related. Check this site out for more info on D.C. crime. Now with google maps! The minor stick ups, bar brawls, and wallet snatching of Adams Morgan distort the crime situation here. Mt. P is much safer than the stats lead you to believe.

Night life: You know already. Mt. P is has good, not great night life and that's the way we like it. If you don't, then just walk 5 minutes to Adams Morgan. The biggest benefit to living in Mt. P is that it's just a hop skip and a jump from the bars home. That makes bringing home the ladies and gentlemen much easier than taking the red line for 45 minutes or more.

Tacoma Park is cool, don't get me wrong. But I don't think it's what you want.

Say, I may be relocating in the next few weeks, if you want, I've got a great apt for not too much. E-mail me if you're interested and good luck in D.C.
posted by willie11 at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sweet Jesus there are a lot of typos in that comment. It must come from living in Mt. P, where we have Alfa Omega insurance company and one of the lesser coffee shops sells expresow.
posted by willie11 at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2007

Takoma to Farragut North by Metro is less than 20 minutes train time.

Driving from Takoma to BWI is pretty easy and quick, there's very little traffic if you're going in the morning so whatever Google Maps says should be close to right. Public transit to BWI isn't great from anywhere.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:10 PM on October 16, 2007

Arlington is a place of many moods. (Warning, I am terribly prejudiced, because I love my neighborhood so very much, so try before you buy.)

North Arlington is residential, sort of older, very moneyed and pretty pleased with itself. Families, retirees, upper-middle class and up. Probably not for you.

Clarendon/Ballston has tons of new condos, and lots of gentrification. Clarendon has some good restaurants (some chains, some local), lots of bars, metro access, and lots of people in their 20s sharing the condos. If you like to party w/frat-astic people, move to Clarendon or even Ballston. (In comparison, Mt. P is decidedly cooler, but you also have to deal with the PITA of the service level in the city)

Rosslyn is older apartments turning into condos and office buildings. Good b/c it's on the blue line, bad b/c it's sort of annoying for amenities. But you can walk to Clarendon, Ballston and Georgetown & not have to deal with the late night barfing and peeing on the sidewalk. So there's that. [True story - a friend of mine who lived in Georgetown had to threaten a bunch of G-town students who would not stop peeing on his doorstep with an axe. But I digress.]

South Arlington tends to be a little cheaper (that being relative), more houses and older apts/condos. Lots of El Salvadorians, ethnic restaurants & groceries, and a little more run-down/funky (we're on the cusp of gentrification - we just got a yoga studio, which is the beginning of the end). People who live in S. Arl like to think they are generally more liberal, are more comfortable living with people that don't look like them, and are stronger community builders, and the gentrification of Arlington is sucking the life out of it. No direct metro, but excellent bus support, into DC and around NoVA.

Shirlington is south of South Arlington, and has a brand new set of condos, a theater, a spanking new library, and a lot of pretty good restaurants [mostly American food, some chains, some local - I think Mexican/Italian is as ethnic as it gets]. Some bus support, but it's better to have a car. I think it also skews pretty young. Across from a nice bike/hike trail and a mac daddy dog park. there is also the weeniebeanie, which some people consider an attraction unto itself, and a day laborer pavillion, which some are not happy about.

I moved to Arlington b/c of its old rep of being a place that supports arts (it does have public money and good programs for that), and the old music scene (Teenbeat Records, and lotsa punk bands, the Galaxy Hut). That went to hell in the 90s, but I stay b/c of the community in my neighborhood, the arts support, the politics, commitment to affordable housing [yes, it's not what it could be, but at least they're trying], and sustainable development ideals. Plus, it's five minutes from town, and I can walk to two grocery stores, a 24 hour diner, a public library, a movie theater and about 4 bars.
posted by beezy at 2:55 PM on October 17, 2007

Oh - and parking? Anywhere that's within a decent trip to the city - either sucks or will suck in a short period of time. Make sure you either can get a space in a garage, or driveway if you decide on Clarendon, Ballston and probably Rosslyn.

I think Shirlington apts come with a lot, as does most of South Arlington, but prepare for the suckage to come with the condos. We don't have parking restrictions yet, but we will soon....
posted by beezy at 3:35 PM on October 17, 2007

Thanks so much all for the great insight into DC neighborhoods. I managed to find an awesome sublet for the time being - in a few months I can either sign a lease or move, so it's good to have this sense of the different areas...
posted by lunasol at 8:16 PM on October 17, 2007

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