Recently named one of the “12 coolest neighborhoods around the world” by Forbes, Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard is quickly gaining recognition for its industrial roots, expansive outdoor spaces, and buzzy food scene. As a Navy Yard resident myself, I can attest to the all-around coolness of this hood, which I’ve called home for nearly three years. In that time, I’ve acquired some valuable insider knowledge to share with fellow Washingtonians and visitors alike. Check out the best things to do, sights to see, and restaurants to try to create your perfect day in Navy Yard.
With its sizable waterfront along the Anacostia River, Navy Yard is a welcome oasis from the relentless hustle and bustle of D.C. The neighborhood has an impressive place in U.S. history — it was once home to the nation’s largest naval shipbuilding facility. While those days are long gone, Navy Yard’s industrial roots remain on full display. Several of the facility’s original buildings are still standing alongside the many modern, mixed-use developments that have popped up in recent years. Located less than a mile from Capitol Hill, expect to see off-the-clock Hill staffers and interns enjoying some post-work drinks, families playing near the outdoor water features, and sports fans making their way to the ballpark.
Where to go
During baseball season, the streets of Navy Yard are overflowing with people decked out in their best red-and-blue attire. Washingtonians love their hometown team — and nothing feels more patriotic than catching a Nats game, sipping on some local craft beers, and snacking on a burger and fries (a Shake Shack outpost is conveniently located inside the stadium) as the Washington Monument stands off in the distance. It’s a truly perfect D.C. moment that must be experienced to be understood.
Is Navy Yard on track to become the District’s go-to sports destination? With the recent opening of Audi Field — home to soccer club D.C. United — all signs are pointing to yes. Cheer on the squad, including soccer superstar Wayne Rooney, who’s playing his first season with the club this year. The brand new facility also boasts a menu curated by hometown celebrity chef José Andrés, as well as top-notch views of D.C.’s landmarks.
“Rosé all day” takes on a whole new meaning at the Rosé Garden at Whaley’s. This outdoor patio is one of the best places to settle in with a bottle (or two) of pink bubbly and unwind after a long week. Pink umbrellas, white furniture, and lush landscaping come together to create the ultimate rosé-sipping experience. The Rosé Garden features 10 different rosés, in addition to frozen drinks, high balls, and beer. Be sure to order fresh oysters from Whaley’s for the full effect.
Few things in life are truly worthy of being called life-changing. Ice Cream Jubilee, however, has more than earned that description with its delectable and unique flavors like banana bourbon caramel, honey lemon lavender, and Thai iced tea (just to name a few). A true local favorite, you’ll be hard-pressed to find this spot without a line stretching out the front door, so be sure to show up early. You can also purchase ice cream by the pint because, well, when was that ever a bad idea?
What to do
Take advantage of Navy Yard’s prime waterfront location by spending some time on the river. Try your hand at paddleboarding, kayaking, and pedalboarding right out of The Yards Marina. These family-friendly activities are a great way to see the nation’s capital in a new light, while also getting in a little exercise. It’s a total win-win.
If you love watermelon, this event is for you. Some of the best restaurants in Navy Yard and throughout the District will be serving up watermelon-themed bites and drinks using watermelons grown on the rooftop of Up Top Acres, an urban farm located right in the neighborhood. The best part? All proceeds from the event will support local DC Central Kitchen, a community kitchen that fights hunger and poverty.
Where to shop
Looking to shop local? Steadfast Supply is where you want to go to find out what D.C.’s artisans and craftspeople are up to. The shop provides a platform for independent brands and designers from around the country — with a special spotlight on the District — to share their goods and their stories. The inventory is always changing, so you’ll be in for a surprise no matter when you stop by. From hand poured candles and eye-catching jewelry to woven blankets and sweet-smelling lotions, you’re bound to find something you can’t leave without.
Calling all runners: This locally owned store is basically your heaven on earth. If you’re in the market for some new running gear, Pacers is the place to be. Knowledgeable staff are at the ready to help you find the perfect pair of running shoes — ask to hop on the treadmill in the back to have your stride analyzed. You can also show off your District pride by picking up one of the popular workout shirts or tank tops emblazoned with the D.C. flag.
If you can only eat at one restaurant
There’s a noticeable shortage of solid pizza spots in the District, especially when compared to a place like New York City. But gems do exist — it’s just a matter of scoping them out. Fortunately for Navy Yard residents, one such gem recently joined the neighborhood. Oath Pizza uses certified humane and ethically-sourced ingredients to create their delicious pies, which are made with a crust that’s grilled and seared in avocado oil. Puzzled by what all of that means? Don’t be. All you need to know is that it’s some of the most delicious pizza you’ll ever have.
If you can only drink at one bar
Part restaurant, part café, and part cocktail bar, Slipstream is like a more grown-up version of the neighborhood dive (that isn’t quite so divey). People tend to congregate here, whether it’s to do some work with a single-origin roast in hand or to catch up with friends for happy hour (which runs from 4–7pm Monday to Friday). Slipstream is also a go-to brunch spot for many Navy Yard residents — be sure to order the banana bread and avocado toast.
How to get there
By metro: Take the Green Line to the Navy Yard/Ballpark stop.
By bike: Capital Bikeshare docking stations are located throughout Navy Yard.
By car: From I-695 heading west, take the exit toward M Street/Washington/Navy Yard. From I-695 heading east, take the exit toward So. Capitol St/Nationals Park.