Cultural Experience | Washington DC

Discovering DC: Adams Morgan Day

A little bit of countries, a little bit of Rock & Roll: this DC festival has it all.

 By Courtney Guth, University of Maryland

Quick Question: where can you find a meditation tent, a tibetan market, and pineapple smoothies served in real pineapples all within just a few blocks? Why, Adams Morgan Day, of course. For those wondering who Adams Morgan is and whether or not he is related to the fabled alcoholic pirate Captain Morgan, the answer is unfortunately no. Adams Morgan is the name of  a diverse and quirky neighborhood in DC. Its name comes from the combination of two old elementary schools in the area named after Thomas P. Morgan and John Quincy Adams. Now that you’ve had your history lesson for the day it’s on to the holiday!

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Courtney, Culture, and Creativity! A lovely afternoon in Adams Morgan

Held annually on the second Sunday in September and originating in 1978, Adams Morgan Day is a festival celebrating the broad cultures of the neighborhood and local artists. On one corner you may see a group of musicians pounding out some great African rhythms on drums; while on the next corner, there are Buddhist monks offering flyers on meditation. There’s a lineup of indie bands as well, drawing the DC music crowd. The area is also made up of several charming bars, but that’s another post for another time.

So how did I discover Adams Morgan Day? Well, since I’ve been interning in DC for the past eight months, I’ve made it my mission to make the most of our nation’s capital, especially once I turned 21. Now that doesn’t exactly mean wild nights out on the town every weekend, but rather taking in all that DC has to offer and perhaps a few drinks along the way. My summer explorations involved everything from outdoor film festivals to a private tour of the Capitol building. In order to continually stay in the know about what’s going on in DC, I’ve begun to follow a few twitter accounts about DC happenings. I soon noticed that several were posting about Adams Morgan Day, so I had to investigate further.

Once I got the details, I convinced one of my friends to put away the books for the afternoon and come into DC with me. Sometimes a study break involves a snack and Facebook refresh…sometimes it involves immersing yourself in another culture. To each her own, right? We made our way to the College Park metro station, which is very close to my university and makes DC easily accessible. It only took about 45-50 min (darn that weekend track work) to get to Adams Morgan. As we made our way from the metro station to the neighborhood, we could almost immediately tell when we arrived.

The long stretch of white tents certainly helped, but the pungent spices and ethnic music really drew us in. We spent the afternoon strolling through the streets admiring the works of local artists and craftsmen. At each end of the stretch of tents were main stages filled with performers playing live music; however, I wasn’t enough of a hipster to know who any of the performers were. Aside from the strolling, we also did a little bit of bar hopping trying everything from a refreshing raspberry mojito to savory sangria. One of my favorite parts was standing on the balcony of the bar taking in the sights of the whole street. Looking far enough into the distance, I could even see the Washington monument. There also great free activities like crafts and a free photo booth with hilarious props:

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Free photo booths are the best kind

While I didn’t purchase anything from any of the merchants, it was fun just to spend an afternoon away from my pile textbooks looking at all of the quirky crafts and creations for sale. Window shopping at the mall can be fun, but nothing quite compares to exploring a market of cultured goods.

Adams Morgan hails itself as a culturally diverse neighborhood, and it certainly lives up to that label. When groups are able to come together for a big festival like this, it really provides a sense of community, even for those who don’t live in the community and may be just visiting. Sure Adams Morgan Day can’t quite compare to the outside plazas of Europe, like London’s Leicester Square or Rome’s Piazza Navona, but for one day, it’s the closest cultural hub that we have in DC.

Courtney Guth

University of Maryland | 31 stories

Courtney Guth is a senior English major at the University of Maryland College Park actively seeking an answer to the age-old question, “so what are you going to do with that?” Her answer currently involves working in communications and development for a small non-profit in Washington, D.C. If she’s not exploring the nation’s capital, she’s probably watching an old movie, attempting to cook, or losing her voice at a Maryland Terrapins’ game. She believes the adage that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page” but why just read when you can write?


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