Five things you need to know about The Wharf, Washington
Washington Wharf
Washington, D.C.

Four things you need to know about The Wharf, Washington D.C.

Once a lacklustre, post-industrial area, Washington D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront has rediscovered its sparkle as the site of one of the city’s biggest regeneration projects in decades: The Wharf. The $2.5-billion overhaul of the area along the Potomac River on Maine Avenue brings with it a wave of independent restaurants and nightlife venues. Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC opened here in 2004 and is regarded by many publications, including Forbes Magazine, as having kick-started the change in the area’s fortunes. Here’s what you need to know about one of Washington D.C.’s hottest neighbourhoods

The Maine Avenue Fish Market

It was a hot spot once before

This isn’t the first time in history the Southwest Waterfront has been the place to be: this was the main commercial waterside hub in D.C. in the 1820s and 1830s. However, The Wharf is the first noteworthy development in Southwest D.C. in more than half a century. The regeneration has maintained the Maine Avenue Fish Market (pictured above), the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the USA. The market was established in 1805 – 17 years earlier than New York’s famed Fulton Fish Market. Today, only a few buildings remain that evoke the market’s 1920-30s heyday, and these include the Lunch Room, the Oyster Shucking and Fish Cleaning Shed.

Visitors at The Wharf

Big brands need not apply 

Selecting companies to go into the Wharf was an exacting process, with the developers keen to keep out global chain restaurants and massive corporate operations. John Asadoorian, the real estate dealer entrusted with scouting for businesses to join the project, aspired to bring in people with ‘vision’. As he says, he, “turned away the ones that wanted to come here just because they had a big name”. While you will, in fact, find some highly recognisable businesses here (e.g. Ben & Jerry’s), the majority of The Wharf’s food, drink and retail offerings are in the hands of local business (pictured above). These include Kaliwa, a Southeast Asian spot from Cathal Armstrong; and Potomac Distilling Company, an in-house rum distillery and two-story tavern that features three contemporary bars. The renowned D.C. bookstore Politics & Prose also has a branch here.

The Anthem concert hall exterior

You might bump into Bob Dylan

The Wharf’s evening music venues are a major draw for Washington locals. Most notable is the Anthem (pictured above): the 6,000-capacity concert hall, from the same owners as legendary D.C. venue 9:30 Club, with gigs by artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters and LCD Soundsystem. What makes the venue particularly ambitious is $3 million-worth of soundproofing to prevent disturbing the 501 surrounding units – especially the residents right above. Other live music venues in The Wharf include The Pearl Street Warehouse, on what is the area’s nightlife strip, which includes a 300-capacity room dedicated to Americana and bluegrass gigs; the 450-capacity Union Stage; and Kirwan’s Irish Pub.

A water taxi arrives at The Wharf

You can take a water taxi ride

A regional water taxi system (pictured above) connects waterfronts in D.C., Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland. Each boat carries up to 100 people and takes just 20 minutes to travel from Alexandria to The Wharf.

Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C.
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