Rewrite: huge trim, especially of PADC history; consolidate neighborhood info; move listing specific info to appropriate sections
The East End, just north of of the National Mall is the center of tourism in the city, home to the lion's share of the city's museums and event venues, and full of restaurants, bars, and large hotels. Its heart beats through the ceremonial stretch of Pennsylvania Ave, which runs through the Penn Quarter from the White House to the Capitol Building (as you might expect, this road has nice views).
The old Downtown area in the Penn Quarter is dominated by the Pennsylvania Ave stretch, the city's number two staging ground for races, large festivals, and parades. Downtown's cultural life is centered in Penn Quarter. It has more musuems and theaters, in addition to the Verizon Center, than any other single neighborhood.
There once was a thriving Chinatown neighborhood between 5th and 8th St NW, and I and G St NW. It was a very compact area that had many Asian-owned shops and restaurants as well as Asian residents. In the past few decades, Chinatown began to decline as its residents moved to the suburbs. Some shops and restaurants remained and quite recently more have opened on and just steps away from H Street, again infusing H Street with more of an Asian flavor. But those expecting something like New York's Chinatown will be sorely disappointed.
Judiciary Square, located to the east of Penn Quarter, is a government precinct that is home to the United States District Court building, the D.C. Superior Court building, and a few government office buildings. Awaiting development is the former Convention Center site between 9th and 11th streets, H Street and New York Avenue. It will be developed with rental apartments and condominiums, small retail shops, office buildings, and two major public spaces. Northeast of this site facing Mount Vernon Square is the new Washington Convention Center, which opened in 2004.
Museums: Penn Quarter is home to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum (at 8th and F streets), the International Spy Museum (at 9th and F streets), the National Building Museum (on F between 3rd and 5th streets), the Newseum (on Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street), the Koshland Science Museum (at 6th and E streets), the National Crime and Punishment Museum (on 7th Street between E and F streets), the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Harman Center for the Arts (on F Street at 6th street and on 7th Street at E Street), Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (on D Street at 7th Street), Ford's Theatre (on 10th Street between E and F streets) and Flashpoint (on G Street between 9th and 10th streets). Only a couple of blocks west are the National Museum of Women in the Arts (at New York Avenue and 13th Street), and the Warner and National theatres (east and west of 13th Street on Pennsylvania Avenue).
The National Building Museum, at the northen end of this government precinct, is housed in the former Pension Building, which was designed by General Montgomery C. Meigs and built in the late 1880s. The Pension Building boasts a huge Great Hall around which are office and exhibit areas off the balconies that look down on this monumental atrium, with its massive columns. The Great Hall is available to rent and has been used over the decades for major special events including Presidential inaugural balls.
Art galleries: At one time, Penn Quarter also had numerous art galleries and artist studios, a few of which remain along with several art exhibition spaces such as the Edison Place Gallery (8th and G streets), Goethe-Institut (7th and I streets), 505 Ninth Street, 901 E Street, and 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Parks: The Navy Memorial in Market Square Park, Indiana Plaza, and John Marshall Park,
Architecture: Penn Quarter is distinguished from the rest of downtown by the number of smaller-scale 19th century buildings and facades that have been restored and integrated into the new developments from 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, to Gallery Row and the Clara Barton/Lafayette development (at 7th and D streets), to Carroll Square (at F and 10th streets), and the 800 block of F Street.
Verizon Center: Bridging Penn Quarter and Chinatown is the Verizon Center; the arena takes up the block between F and G, 7th and 6th streets. In the early 1990s, when Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Abe Pollin arrived by limousine to inspect a vacant urban renewal site at 7th and F streets, scouting for a new arena site, he was told not to get out of the vehicle. The site's immediate neighborhood appeared somewhat deserted and dangerous. (Unbeknownst to most, it had a low rate of crime, given few people other than artists who had studios in the neighborhood, went there, especially after dark.)
Abe Polin saw a future in the neighborhood, had a sense of commitment to the city, and decided that this was the place to build his new arena. The Verizon Center (then the MCI Center) opened in December 1997, and since then, the neighborhood had its second spurt or development, experiencing a remarkable turnaround as developers built a significant number of residential and office buildings, with shops and restaurants continuing to open both in Penn Quarter and Chinatown.
Misc: Penn Quarter neighborhood had begun to take shape with the opening in 1990-1991 of the Shakespeare Theater, Jaleo (Jose Andres' first restaurant), and several high-end residential buildings in addition to a number of office buildings and art galleries that had earlier existed there.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is located across F Street from the National Building Museum.
The Ronald Reagan Building south of Freedom Plaza, which frames both the Navy Memorial and the historic 8th Street axis between the National Archives and the Old Patent Office Building; and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, added to The Plan under the guidance of Senator Patrick Daniel Moynihan (D, NY), and the seocnd largest federal office building in the region after the Pentagon.
Both the Reagan Building and the Old Post Office Building, a block to the east, include food courts.
Hotels, office buildings, residences, retail, and arts. In 1996 Congress created the Pennsylvania Avenue National Park from the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalks and parks.
Pennsylvania Ave and the Penn Quarter is be the bridge connecting the Mall and its museums to the rest of the city center.
The National Archives between 7th and 9th streets, which houses the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as well as Magna Carta and other historic documents
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, no longer open for tours.