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Once a maze of red-brick warehouses, government buildings, and public works facilities, NoMa’s fortunes were closely tied to the rail lines at Union Station, which sits at the neighborhood’s southern edge. But in the years following World War II, as train travel declined and the US government passed legislation favoring the nation’s highway system over its rail network, NoMa’s businesses moved to the suburbs, its warehouses closed up shop, and its once-thriving commercial blocks grew all but deserted. Fittingly, it was the railway’s return in 2004 that put NoMa back on the map when the new WMATA Red Line Metro Station opened at New York Avenue. And the development seemingly hasn’t stopped since. Today, the roughly 2-mile wide neighborhood has become one of DC’s most creative scenes, with brand new apartment towers in NoMa sitting side-by-side beautifully rehabilitated historic buildings, which beckon creatives, foodies, and lots and lots of young professionals.
NoMa is short for “North of Massachusetts Avenue,” where the neighborhood begins, right at Union Station. Another important landmark can be found on 5th Street NE, along its northern perimeter, a global village of commerce and culture known as Union Market. A gourmand’s delight, it’s home to some of the city’s best restaurants and features indoor and outdoor food markets which present a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and spices that are well worth exploring several times a week.
The landscape is filled with new ground-up construction projects, boasting rooftop pools with prime Capitol views, as well as historic spaces, like the National Press Building, which now houses luxury apartments in NoMa. NPR and XM Radio are headquartered here, and Angelika Film Center, which showcases indie films, recently added a pop-up theater. Colorful murals and public art installations provide Instagrammable moments at nearly every turn, and its many art galleries, performance venues, beer gardens, and breweries guarantee the good times will continue long after the sun sets because once you get here, you simply won’t want to leave.
NoMa begins on Massachusetts Avenue at Union Station, extending as far north as T Street NE. Its western borders are 2nd Street NE, North Capitol Street, and New York Avenue. Gallaudet University and the rail yard leading into Union Station are its eastern boundaries. This area of town has a dense, urban feel, and sidewalks are kept in good condition.
The term NoMa encompasses pieces of several smaller neighborhoods along New York Avenue and the H Street NE Corridor, including Sursum Corda, Eckington, and Near Northeast.
Metro Bus Routes 80, 90, 92, H2, H4, D8, and P6 all criss-cross the neighborhood. At this time, the DC Circulator does not travel to NoMa. However, you can catch one of several Circulator buses at Union Station bound for Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, and Rosslyn.
The Red Line of the WMATA Metro Rail system makes stops at Union Station and at New York Avenue — just take note, this station has been renamed and is now known as NoMa-Gallaudet University.
The first of three planned streetcar lines in DC begins at Union Station and extends along Benning Road and the H Street NE Corridor in the Near Northeast section of NoMa. Service is free; check the DC Streetcar website for schedules. Additional streetcar lines in Anacostia and Georgia Avenue remain under construction.
Union Station is the headquarters for Amtrak, where riders can board dozens of trains each day departing for destinations along the East Coast, Midwest, and South. In addition, the MARC and VRE commuter trains lines service the station, and regional bus lines, such as Bolt, Greyhound, Peter Pan, Megabus, and Best Bus lines, have departure points here or along the side streets.
In keeping with the commercial history of the neighborhood, most of NoMa’s parking lots can be found on 1st Street NE around Union Station.
Bicyclists will find a dedicated bike lane extending north from Union Station on 1st Street NE. Union Station is also the starting point of The Metropolitan Branch Trail, an eight-mile path that follows old B&O rail tracks extending from the city into Maryland, terminating in Silver Spring.
Hungry? You’ve come to the right place. There are several award-winning restaurants in NoMa, ranging from eateries in Union Market to beautiful spaces carved out of reclaimed buildings.
You might actually forget you’re in Downtown DC when you step inside Masseria. This beautiful ode to the Italian countryside earned a Michelin star for its culinary delights and is set in rustic environs that include an open-air courtyard. Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s tasting menu features dreamy dishes like cannoli stuffed with foie gras and a hearty lobster stew.
2Fifty’s wood-smoked meats can be found within Union Market — just pull up a chair and dig into the brisket sandwich made with Wagyu meat or some St. Louis style pork ribs. Creative sides include a Central American red bean salad, fried plantains, and grilled pineapples.
We like the industrial vibe at St. Anselm Tavern. Exposed brick walls, a checkerboard floor, and pendant fixtures make a nice backdrop for chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s big flavors, which include a skirt steak with a tomato vinaigrette and buttermilk biscuits with pimento cheese. The cocktail list has all the classics as well as drinks that riff on old favorites: try the Tequila Cocktail, made with blue agave tequila and Mezcal, and finished with lime, orange, and a hint of nutmeg.
Wunder Garten is an outdoor beer garden on First Street NE that takes inspiration from the beer halls of Germany. It has a fantastic selection of European brews, plus you can enjoy trivia nights, “yappy hours,” and live music in the tropical plant-filled setting. Juicy burgers and empanadas are available from its resident food trucks.
Two words: pistachio croissant. Pluma by Bluebird Bakery makes a variety of morning buns, cookies, cakes, and other treats, but the flaky, pistachio-filled sweetbread is hands down our favorite. Wash it down with an espresso drink, a dirty chai, or a fresh-squeezed juice.
You might remember Sweet Science Coffee in its former life as a pop-up café in Adams Morgan. Owner Sandra Walter’s warmly inviting vibe, and not to mention her house roasts and cold brews, gained many followers, and she opened her first shop on N Street NE in 2020.
Food shopping in NoMa begins at Union Market. You’ll find everything from smoked fish to fresh sausages and even kombuchas here. Be sure to visit the Latin American market La Cosecha, which has coffees sourced from Panama, Salvadorean street food, Mexican agua frescas, and more.
Grocery stores in NoMa include a Harris Teeter, a Streets Market, a Giant Food, and a Whole Foods Market.
Other shopping outlets include home goods stores like Zona E, District Cutlery, and Anna Kemper Design. There’s a Lululemon Athletica and a Byrdland Records. You can browse the bookshelves at Politics and Prose or take home a beautiful piece of Venezuelan jewelry at Art Tepuy, to name a few.
Around the neighborhood, the Uline Arena on M Street NE, where the Beatles played their first North American concert, has new life as an REI flagship store.
Before it was known as NoMa, this neighborhood was called Swampoodle, a rowdy, flood plain on the fringe of the city where many Irish, Greek, and other immigrants lived. In the late 1800s, the construction of the massive red brick US Government Printing office at North Capitol and H Streets NE signaled the beginning of its industrial transformation. Soon ice factories, meat packing plants, and operations for coal and utility companies could be found here, as well as warehouses for the Woodward & Lothrop department store, all due to their proximity to the rail lines.
Speaking of rail lines, before Union Station opened, DC had a rat’s nest of competing railways: There was one station for the B&O Railway located at New Jersey Avenue and another station located on what is known today as the National Mall, which served three lines: Baltimore & Potomac Railroad, Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and Southern Railways. In 1907, Congress voted to consolidate these operations into one unified building north of the Capitol, which came to be known as Union Station. Designed by Daniel Burham, who was also responsible for NYC’s Flatiron Building, it is one of the largest granite buildings in the world and made to accommodate large crowds. Union Station’s notable features included a “Presidential Suite” where government officials meet visiting dignitaries and a vaulted ceiling Main Hall, which underwent a multi-million restoration in 2016. Just look up; now you can really see its gorgeous Classical design elements and allegorical sculptures, which incorporate lots of gold leaf and white marble. Free, self-guided tours of Union Station and the Columbus Circle fountain are available on the DC By Foot website.
Union Station is also the departure point for several city tours operated by Old Town Trolley, DC Ducks, Bike and Roll, Monuments by Moonlight, CitySights DC, and Big Bus Tours. These tours range from 90 minutes to full-day and evening adventures of the city’s monuments and landmarks.
Within NoMa, you can take a NoMa Mural Tour for a fascinating look at the neighborhood’s ever-changing public art installations created by local as well as internationally acclaimed artists like Mr. Brainwash and Yoko Ono. Tours depart from Union Market in the afternoons from Thursday - Saturday. The folks at Union Market even created a magazine about the area’s many murals; you can download it from their website.
Once the city’s largest open-air food market, known first as Centre Market, then Union Terminal Market, today’s Union Market has dozens of indoor and outdoor food vendors and is anchored by the Latin American marketplace called La Cosecha. You can enjoy a Michelin-starred meal here, listen to live music, shop for fresh bread, meats, and produce and even pick up kitchen supplies at one of the on-site indie retailers.
NoMa’s greenspaces include the New York Avenue Playground, which also features a basketball court and a football field.
The aptly-named Swampoodle Dog Park has an interesting, three-tiered play structure that kids of all ages will enjoy. It also has a dog run.
Alethia Tanner Park is named after a freed slave who lived in the neighborhood and founded DC’s first school for black children. It has a dog park, an expansive lawn, a playground, and nicely landscaped areas, which connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
And the lush 99-acre campus of Gallaudet University, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is the perfect spot to enjoy a book or, given the foodie bent of this neighborhood, peruse a recipe or two.
NoMa is home to two institutions of higher learning, Georgetown University Law Center, a graduate school, and Gallaudet University, which is the nation’s premier college for deaf students. And while many collegiates choose to live in this dynamic neighborhood, young professionals of all stripes will be enchanted by its charming architecture, global cuisine, and artsy vibe.
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