Although my daily work commute is quite long, one of the unique perks of living in D.C. this summer is having my car, Lilly. I’ve survived quite well for the past three years Lilly-less. The Metro is reliable enough, and Uber is everyone’s best friend for breaking the Georgetown bubble. However, Lilly has allowed me and my friends to venture to new places that the Metro can’t get to and that Uber would prove too expensive to reach.
These past few weekends, I visited Georgetown’s cousins, National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria. Georgetown, Old Town and National Harbor share some similar qualities; all are situated along the Potomac, with great shopping and plenty of restaurants. Old Town has the more historic feel with the lack of tourists and the free trolley while National Harbor is more hip and fun with its giant Ferris wheel and the Peeps candy store in the center. Georgetown is the perfect balance of the two with both history and youth, but as we all know too well, it is swarming with tourists on any given weekend.
While Old Town is Metro-accessible on the blue line, National Harbor requires a car (cue Lilly). The drive is pretty scenic in comparison to my daily work commute, and you have to drive over the bay and the Potomac, which has great Instagram post potential if you’re not the driver. National Harbor has a huge convention center, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which is a fantastic start to a day out. The combined hotel and convention center is only one of four of its kind in the world, so it’s definitely worth taking a walk through, and it also serves as a nice break from the summer heat. The inside looks like a small town rather than a hotel with restaurants, indoor awnings, bars and even shops.
Elsewhere at National Harbor is The Capital Wheel, a large (and obnoxiously expensive) Ferris wheel. To be completely honest, you can’t even see downtown D.C. from the top, so you’re better off just going to the top of the Washington Monument for free. I might be a little salty and biased because I couldn’t pass for a 12-year-old and get the reduced children’s price. Near The Capital Wheel is the main square, which is lined with some great shops and restaurants. For those who are really shopaholics, Tanger Outlets are only a few blocks away.
On the other side of the Potomac lies Old Town Alexandria. I highly recommend taking advantage of the free trolley from the Metro and riding it all the way to the water. Similar to National Harbor, there are tons of shops and restaurants at the water, but there are more boats here since people can dock them. The whole area has a historic flair with its cobblestone streets, but it also has a Southern feeling to it as well with enough Lilly Pulitzer and Southern Tide to make you question whether you’re still even close to D.C.
About half of the shops at Old Town are small boutiques, so you can find some really unique goods. The ones that are chains, although the same as the ones in Georgetown, are stocked a little bit differently, so they’re definitely worth a look. Old Town also has a lot of antique shops, including one dedicated to old bottles and glassware and another with 19 different rooms, each with a different theme. Surprisingly, both have a nice mixture of affordable and “maybe in a lifetime” goods, so you can furnish your house or apartment or find your family nice gifts beyond the usual Georgetown University Bookstore finds.
Even if you don’t want to leave the confines of the Georgetown bubble, there is more to M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. For a slight reprieve, buy some cupcakes from Baked and Wired and then sit in the garden at the Old Stone House. If you’re closer to Burleith, then I highly recommend Book Hill Park. Macaroon Bee has its original location not too far away on Wisconsin Avenue, so you can make a quick trip there before relaxing in the park. Either place will give you a nice escape from the tourists and show you a different side of Georgetown.
Christina Wing is a rising senior in the McDonough School of Business. Living like a Local appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com.
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