Why: Culture, cocktails and kickin' music -- all in one less-explored quadrant.
How Far: About 4 miles, and as much time as you've got to cruise.
Too many D.C. hipsters get stuck in a Northwest rut, save for the odd trip to Capitol Hill. Um . . . hello?! There is more to the city. Take Southwest, where a bevy of places are keeping in-the-know go-getters eating, shopping and dancing from morning till long after the sun sets.
Play hooky on a Friday and you can start your day at the USDA Farmers Market, where you'll find fresh fruit, flowers and fragrant spices (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Then, head underground: Beneath L'Enfant Plaza is a somewhat neglected mall that houses Reprint Bookstore, which specializes in black literature and is a usual stop for many an acclaimed author; Walter Mosley ("Little Scarlet") was there last week, for instance, and they've also hosted Alice Randall ("Pushkin and the Queen of Spades"). Across the way is Harper's, a hole-in-the-wall women's clothing store overflowing with threads suited to the season. It takes a discerning customer, but digging for the discounted goods is half the fun.
Not in the mood to wade through the racks? Get ideas for your next "Trading Spaces" adventure at the Washington Design Center, a warehouse-turned-studio that previously was open only to those "in the industry." Next, double-knot those walking shoes and head over to Millennium Arts Center for a photo exhibit that chronicles the Robert Mapplethorpe-Jesse Helms saga of 15 years ago. (Don't wait too long -- the building closes at the end of August.) And for a hint of more ancient history, ramble down Wheat Row, where the brick 1790s houses are some of the few that survived the quadrant's urban renewal.
You'll want to end your day at the Water Street strip, where you'll find eats and entertainment to suit many a fancy. New addition Cantina Marina's got Cajun food and sizzling music, and Jenny's Asian Fusion has a back bar where you can let your mind drift as you gaze across the Washington Channel. Want a souvenir? Before heading home, browse the Maine Avenue Fish Market: A super-fresh filet is way more satisfying than, say, a cheapo Washington Monument pencil sharpener.
Road Trip maps are available online at www.washingtonpost.com/roadtrip, as are addresses and hours of operation (be sure to check before you go). Have an idea for a trip? E-mail email@example.com.