Capitol Hill sightseers should add the neighborhood of Barracks Row to their itinerary, right alongside the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress. This residential spot is home to a famous military base and a thriving restaurant and shopping scene. Plan a day around a meal, and a stroll through Barracks Row's lovely historic streets. Here are eight must-do activities while you're in this lovely neighborhood, from shopping for used books to catching a show.
If you’re visiting during D.C.’s spring or summer season, don’t miss the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks. From May 4 through August 31, the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band and U.S. Marine marching units perform every single Friday from 8:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. This tradition has been going strong since 1957. It’s free to attend, but reservations are suggested.
Barracks Row gets its name from the Marine Barracks Washington at 8th and I Streets in Southeast D.C., the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. Thomas Jefferson selected this location for the first post for the Marine Corps in order to protect the Navy Yard and U.S. Capitol, according to the Barracks Row Main Street commercial district. The neighborhood grew up around the base to include restaurants like oyster houses and markets. If you want to explore the base itself, tours of the Marine Barracks Washington are available on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Head to the Main Gate of Marine Barracks Washington, and there is no need to make an appointment.
For a more casual tour of the neighborhood, there's Cultural Tourism DC's self-guided neighborhood heritage trail of Barracks Row. The 90-minute walking tour involves navigating to 16 poster-size signs placed around the neighborhood, from 8th Street to the residential neighborhood to Eastern Market. You'll see historic points like John Philip Sousa's birthplace and the home of the first female White House correspondent, Emily Edson Briggs. Head here to download the trail map.
Go Out to Eat in This Restaurant-Packed Neighborhood
Part of Barracks Row’s claim to fame is its array of restaurants. Due to its national food media acclaim, the no-reservations spot Rose’s Luxury draws lines around the block for its creative menu of lychee salads and pasta dishes. You could also splurge at Rose’s Luxury’s fine-dining restaurant Pineapples & Pearls.
Families will love the pizza and miniburgers at Matchbox and the homemade pop-tarts at Ted’s Bulletin. Meanwhile, Belga Café's fancy waffles make this restaurant a favorite for brunch. Its sister restaurant The Betsy is great for rooftop drinks. Then there is the Garrison, with its constantly-changing menu stocked with seasonal ingredients. See a list of all the restaurants in the neighborhood here.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
If you have room after hitting the restaurants of Barracks Row for lunch or dinner or even a snack, don’t miss the stellar desserts in this neighborhood. The Barracks Row location of District Doughnut whips up doughnuts in options like milk chocolate glazed, salted dulce de leche, and pumpkin spice latte creme brûlée. For an icy treat, Pitango sells gelato and sorbet in gourmet flavors like star anise, blackberry, banana, cardamon, kiwi, and black tea. Pitango is located right near Barracks Row at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
It's down the street from Barracks Row, but historic Eastern Market is the heart and soul of this part of town. Located at 225 7th St SE, Washingtonians head here for fresh produce, meat, and prepared goods, along with handmade arts and crafts. Vendors congregate inside and outside this historic building, which was completed in 1873 and designed by esteemed local architect Adolph Cluss. The market was a destination for shoppers ever since then. A fire in 2007 caused $20 million worth of damage, but today, the renovated Eastern Market is a landmark for the neighborhood.
Shop Local at Boutique Stores
Besides Eastern Market, there are only-in-Barracks Row brick-and-mortar stores that are fun to explore for souvenir shopping. Home chefs will fall in love with the gourmet kitchenware store Hill's Kitchen, housed in a historic townhouse packed with cookbooks, Staub cookware, D.C.-shaped cookie cutters, cooking gadgets, and specialty foods. The shop has even hosted cooking classes in the past. If board games are more your speed, local store Labyrinth sells all sorts of games, from puzzles to card games to brainteasers to mazes. Capitol Hill Books is another neighborhood classic—it's been in business since 1991, and it's known for shelves piled to the ceiling with used books. Comb through three floors, because there's truly a book here for everyone.
See a Film or Concert in a Historic Theatre
A circa-1909 vaudeville theatre lives on in Barracks Row as a space for second-run films and live performances. The Miracle Theatre, in the main drag of the neighborhood, has been reborn as a spot to watch film classics like North By Northwest and new films like Crazy Rich Asians or as a venue for indie musicians. It originally opened as the Meader Theater, screening silent, westerns and foreign films throughout its original lifespan. Today, the National Community Church owns the historic building with the hope of keeping it alive it as a community destination.
Check Out Artwork From Local Artists
This eclectic neighborhood is home to a thriving arts community too. See their work at Barracks Row galleries and art spaces. Hill Center is located in the Old Naval Hospital’s historic space, offering educational programs and classes for all ages. The center is also outfitted with gallery space—there are six different exhibition spaces within the Civil War-era building, and all artwork is available for purchase. Another gallery space is The Fridge DC. Find everything here from sticker art to shows with performance artists or slam poets.