In Southwest, along the Washington Channel, the mile-long complex known as The Wharf presents the best of Washington DC in one shiny package. Composed of apartment and condo buildings, shopping, dining, entertainment, and office spaces, it’s a brand-new development that opened in 2017. The Wharf is located in the middle of everything: just a few blocks’ walk, a short metro ride, or even a water taxi can get you to the museums and monuments along the National Mall, transportation hubs like Union Station, the I-395 highway, and other points around the city.
A pedestrian-friendly neighborhood designed with plenty of breathing room and greenspaces, The Wharf’s developers met or exceeded the highest standards of eco-sustainability in their designs, which included green roofs and floating wildlife habitats. Attention was paid to the important history of the Southwest and Waterfront neighborhoods, and the nearly two dozen upscale restaurants seamlessly blend a globe’s worth of flavor. Venues for live music, watersports, shopping, art, and theater guarantee there is literally something to do here that will satisfy everyone.
It’s no wonder why this small stretch of urban waterfront has become one of the most sought-after addresses in Washinton DC. Residents skew young, professional, diverse, and upwardly mobile. Apartment buildings in The Wharf offer a range of options for nearly every budget, from tiny studios to multi-bedroom penthouses with terraces. Yet, all are tricked out with high-end amenities like glass-bottomed pools, Technogym-equipped fitness centers, rooftops with breathtaking views, and food delivery from the fine restaurants downstairs — which makes it quite easy to picture yourself living here.
Located within the Southwest quadrant, next to the Waterfront neighborhood, the 25-acre expanse known as The Wharf is bordered by I-395 and the Francis Case Memorial Bridge to the north, M Street SW to the south and east, and the Washington Channel to the west.
Its location, right by the I-395 and I-695 highways, makes it easily accessible by car. Two public parking garages can be found on Maine Avenue.
There is a dedicated bike path around The Wharf, as well as a bike lane on 4th Street SW by the Waterfront Metro. The other Metro station closest to the neighborhood is at L’Enfant Plaza; there’s actually a free shuttle bus that runs from The Wharf Marina to L’Enfant Plaza and the National Mall in 10-minute increments. Other mass transportation options include WMATA MetroBus Route 52 and The DC Circulator, which goes from Eastern Market to L’Enfant Plaza. You can even take a Water Taxi for a more scenic way to get where you’re going. Boats regularly depart from The Wharf Marine bound for Alexandria, Georgetown, and the National Harbor.
In the mood for something delicious? Look no further than The Wharf restaurants found along the waterfront and within its three hotels: The Intercontinental Washington DC – The Wharf, Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf, and Hyatt House Washington DC/The Wharf.
The menu at Moon Rabbit DC is personal for Chef Kevin Tien. He infuses lobster and crab into the homey flavors of the gold rice congee he enjoyed growing up. His adolescence in Louisiana is reflected in another dish that incorporates red beans and gumbo. Chicken and waffles, a brunchtime fave, comes with a spicy chili maple sauce that is positively addictive.
Officina, the newest offering from Nicholas Stefanelli, of Michelin-starred Masseria fame, presents three levels of deliciousness: A ground floor Italian market, a Mezzanine level coffee bar and elegant Trattoria, and a rooftop-level bar called Terrazza. The outdoor setting is a lovely place to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail like the Sgroppino made with vodka, strawberry sorbet, fresh mint, and Prosecco — it pairs nicely with the waterfront views.
Del Mar celebrates seafood with Spanish flavors. Think shrimp cocktail with orange and horseradish aioli, grilled wild Calamari, and peach gazpacho. There’s an entire menu devoted to paellas.
La Vie DC features fine Mediterranean pastas and risottos on its dinner menu, but you have to save room for dessert. For the adventurous, there’s a delectable Baked Alaska that comes wrapped in cotton candy. More familiar delights include Tiramisu.
Kaliwa blends Filipino, Thai, and Korean flavors with delicious results. Try the vinegary chicken adobo or the crunchy pork lumpia rolls. The lofty dining room, outfitted with rattan lanterns, is a visual delight.
Of course, you’re here to be by the water, and so it seems obvious to indulge in some fresh bi-valves at Rappahannock Oyster Bar, which is located in a historic shed by the Municipal Fish Market.
Also by the Municipal Fish Market, you’ll find Thrasher’s Rum Distillery, which has a fun Polynesian-style Tiki Bar where you can enjoy large pours right on the water.
For a sweet finish, head to Southwest Soda Pop Shop, a black-owned ice cream parlor that whips up scooped and soft-serve cones, Banana Splits, sundaes, milkshakes, and fresh squeezed lemonade.
There’s a festival atmosphere at the Municipal Fish Market, which is one of the oldest in the country. Also known as the Maine Avenue Fish Market, fishers still offload their freshest catches of crab, oysters, etc., here daily, making for some of the tastiest seafood you will ever hope to eat.
Other shops along The Wharf range from bookstores to clothing boutiques. Shop Made In DC celebrates The District’s many makers through thousands of locally made items. It’s where you can pick up a DC-themed mug or a print by an area artist, a piece of fine jewelry, or something for your home. Gift boxes and crafting kits are perfect for friends and loved ones — or yourself. A Beautiful Closet has something for everyone, from clothing at great prices to shoes, jewelry, books, outwear, and more. Politics & Prose carries a wide selection of books, but what it’s really known for are its events. In addition to hosting bestselling authors, it has popular book groups covering a variety of genres, educational classes, and even group trips. Patrick’s Fine Linens & Home Décor has one-of-a-kind furniture and chandeliers, but it also sells soft cashmere bathrobes, gold and silver jewelry, and bath salts, making it always worth a peek.
The Wharf’s two art galleries showcase original artwork from area artists Maggie O’Neill and Martha Spak, as well as more affordable prints and accessories.
For groceries in The Wharf (besides fish), there’s a Safeway on 4th Street SW right by the Metro.
DC Mayor Anthony Williams proposed redeveloping the area which would come to be known as The Wharf as early as 2003, but it wasn’t until 2014 that bulldozers officially broke ground. There are actually two phases to The Wharf’s development: Phase 1, which has been completed, features five buildings at a cost of $1 billion. By the end of 2022, Phase 2 is expected to be finished, and it will add another seven buildings at around the same cost. This phase will feature another hotel, this time from the elegant Pendry brand, as well as new condominiums and additional space for offices, restaurants, and retailers.
But The Wharf’s past is often just as interesting as its present. In the shadow of the Capitol, the area encompassing The Wharf, as well as the Waterfront neighborhood, were home to both the city’s richest as well its poorest population. After WWII, plans made in the name of “urban renewal” displaced tens of thousands of residents in order to construct Modernist federal office and apartment buildings near the water’s edge, which can be found today along 4th and 7th Streets SW, leading up to the National Mall.
Even further back in time, before the Civil War, the largest nonviolent slave escape took place at The Wharf. On April 15, 1848, seventy-seven men, women, and children boarded the Pearl in the hopes of sailing to freedom around the Chesapeake Bay, but the ship was captured and the slaves sent to plantations in the Deep South. The incident caused a national uproar and ultimately led to the outlaw of slavery in Washington, DC. Today the site of Pearl Street is where the ship was launched, and a small memorial stands at 7th Street SW.
A great way to take in The Wharf’s history, as well as its future, is with a walking tour by Washington Walks. Visit their website for dates and times.
If music is your thing, you’ve come to the right place. The Wharf has venues ranging from intimate speakeasies to 6,000-seat arenas. The Anthem, co-owned by DC’s own Dave Grohl, has featured everyone from Katie Couric to Kesha. For a more intimate setting, The Pearl Street Warehouse offers Americana, blues, and rock performances, along with dinner. Union Stage is another small venue that frequently features up-and-coming musicians and comedians.
In addition, The District Pier hosts a popular free summer concerts series. Just get there early to claim your spot. It’s also where you can take a morning yoga class or rent a motor-powered boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. City Cruises DC provides sightseeing cruises along the Potomac River that depart from The District Pier as well.
In The District Square, there’s a fire pit that has fun for every season. On weekends in the summer, you’ll find a vintage airstream trailer parked here that has all the fixings you need to make s’mores, including marshmallows. In the winter, it screens holiday film favorites like Elf and Home Alone.
One of the biggest names in the area, Arena Theater, has been engaging audiences with cutting-edge and immersive performances since the 1950s. It was the first US theater group to perform behind the Iron Curtain and the first to receive a Tony award for best Regional theater, and more than a dozen of its productions have gone on to Broadway.
The park at 7th Street has fountains are delightfully timed to LED lights. If you’re wondering what that strip of land is across the Washington Channel— it’s actually a man-made island called East Potomac Park, which has a golf course, swimming pool and playground. You can get there by taking a free Wharf Jitney.
There are no colleges or universities in The Wharf neighborhood of Washington DC.
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