Exploring Penn Quarter + Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I explored Penn Quarter and Chinatown, which is a unique little part of Washington D.C., tied into Gallery Place.

When visiting Chinatown, it’s quite a long walk from the National Mall, so it is probably best to ride the metro. There are several streets to walk down with signs featuring traditional Chinese characters, and there are shops for souvenirs and dozens of delicious restaurants. My favorite part of Chinatown was the prominent arch that bridges across a street. It is gorgeously crafted and painted.

Visiting Chinatown itself only takes an hour or two (not including dining in Chinatown), but there are other things in the area to visit. It’s also a really incredible spot to get lunch or dinner, of course. After walking around for I bit I stopped to eat dinner at the Tong Cheng Chinese restaurant, right next to the Chinatown arch. This was the real reason I visited Chinatown this particular evening — for the food! I ordered the vegetable lo mein and it was delicious. The plate was approx. $15 and the plate was huge, so I had enough for second and leftovers.

There are several museums in the area to visit — both museums that cost money and museums that are free. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is completely free and right next to the metro stop. The International Spy Museum is across the street from the Portrait Gallery and admission costs about $21.00.

A few blocks away from the metro stop is Ford’s Theater. Being a history nerd and growing up having heard of Ford’s Theater, I made the 10 minute walk to the theater. The theater is still active and puts on seasonal performances (click here to view current performances), but it is also open to tours as a national park service, which cost $3 for the Historic Tour and must be reserved in advance.

Across the street from the theater is the house where Lincoln died, which is also available to tours and is included in the ticket for the reserved Historic Tour of Ford’s Theater. I, unfortunately, arrived in Chinatown just after the theater closed for tours (5pm) so I was not able to go inside.

Nearby is the Capital One Arena, where basketball and hockey games take place for D.C. teams, as well as other entertainment activities like concerts. Also within walking distance is Madam Tussauds (admission $20), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters, a Hard Rock Cafe, and the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. There are plenty of other restaurants and places to visit that I won’t list here.

This is a really cool and unique part of Washington D.C. that many locals explore but maybe not tourists, so be sure to make a pit stop for some lunch and learn about the local history or art.


Thank you for reading! Have you ever visited Chinatown and Galley Place? What was your favorite place to visit, or which place sounds most interesting to you? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!




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