As one of Washington, D.C.’s premier late-night neighborhoods, Adams Morgan features myriad live music options, all-night diners and bars. Though the area is notorious for its nightlife, Adams Morgan is more than a mere late-night hotspot. Featuring a rich cultural and historical background, Adams Morgan exudes a vibrant energy reflected in the variety of cultures highlighted by its coffee houses, restaurants and vintage stores.
Located in Northwest D.C., just a few blocks north of Dupont Circle roughly between Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street, the area is hilly and dotted with lush greenery and tree cover. Most of the bars and shops line 18th Street, while houses, apartments and public parks are situated to the east and west of this main artery.
The neighborhood’s title, Adams Morgan, reflects the area’s identity as a cultural meeting point. When the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the neighborhood’s formerly all-black school, Thomas P. Morgan Elementary, and formerly all-white school, John Quincy Adams Elementary, were merged and integrated, christening the area Adams Morgan, according to The Washington Post.
Today, Adams Morgan is home to plenty of coffeeshops, bars and quirky vintage depots that may appeal to students wishing for an edgier alternative to Georgetown.
The coffeeshop Tryst reflects the energy and diversity of the District itself. Inside, couches are scattered among small and large diner-like wooden tables, and a bar lines the left side of the venue. Open from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Tryst is the perfect place to sit down for a coffee, grab a late brunch on a Sunday or listen to live music during happy hour.
The ambience is lively, with people continuously entering to seat themselves for a bite or drink. Some can be seen working or studying on their laptops on the large and comfortable couches, while others around them are chatting with friends and family.
The Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe expresses the neighborhood’s amalgamation of culture through music. The right side of the restaurant has an indie coffee shop vibe, catering to those who want to grab a frothy latte, expand their record collection or study outside the confines of a room in Lauinger Library. The left side features a restaurant and bar immersed in music from local artists.
In addition to its cafe, bar and restaurant, Songbyrd is also home to The Byrd House. Located in the funky basement of Songbyrd, it hosts a variety of international, national and local talent from DJs to live performers.
Tickets to performances vary in price from free to $20. Songbyrd also throws a number of recurring events, such as Open Mic Night every first and third Thursday of the month and “Vinyl and Vinyasa Yoga” the first Saturday each month.
Songbyrd’s dedication to physical music forms is also found in its vintage “Voice-O-Graph” recording booth, which allows customers to record anything from music to comedy directly onto a 45 RPM vinyl.
A more recent attraction in the neighborhood is the LINE, a hip boutique hotel featuring three restaurants, two bars and one coffee shop. Housed inside the neoclassical First Church of Christ, The LINE also hosts local pop-up events, silent auctions, free movie screenings and monthly self-care sessions.
At the entrance, visitors are greeted by the full-service radio room, which “features over 30 local hosts and shows with dynamic programming that spans across art and culture, food and drink, and music,” according to the hotel’s website. Accessible by the Metro’s Red line, the LINE is perfect for studying in its modern lounge or treating yourself to a nice dinner.
Additionally, the neighborhood is deeply invested in the tradition of social justice and cultural change. The Potter’s House, a bookstore and coffee shop, was founded in 1960 and is run by the Church of the Savior, an independent Christian faith community.
The Potter’s House has been a historic welcoming space for marginalized groups, holding Spanish language nights and publishing catalogs covering Latinx crafts and art to engage with political and economic refugees from Central America who settled nearby. The Potter’s House continues to provide a space where neighbors, friends or strangers can all come together to challenge one another, ask questions, create movements and engender social change.
In addition to bars, cafes and bookstores, Adams Morgan is home to Meeps, a clothing store with funky displays and music, and Smash Records, a record shop that also sells vintage and indie designer clothing. Founded in 1984 in Georgetown, Smash Records moved to Adams Morgan in 2006 and specializes in punk and alternative rock CDs and LPs; the ragtag feel of the shop makes it worth a visit even for those who are not interested in purchasing punk records.
Adams Morgan, with its countercultural aesthetics and late-night energy, is a break from the stuffier atmosphere of other regions of the District. Students should visit this vibrant neighborhood for its multi-dimension social spaces like the live-music-bar-cafe Songbyrd, bookstore-coffee-shop-activist-church The Potter’s House and record-shop-vintage-clothing-store Smash Records.
Adams Morgan can be reached by a 15-minute walk from Dupont Circle, where the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle runs daily, or by the nearby Woodley Park Metro stop.