Where: Barracks Row and Eastern Market.

Why: Art, food and friendly faces in one of D.C.'s historic neighborhoods.

How Far: About 15 blocks, or an hour's walk (not counting stops).

Quick -- what do you think of when you hear "Capitol Hill"? Neighborly goodwill? Artistic expression? Come on, be honest -- isn't it more like partisan bickering and conservative suits? (Yes, even on the Democrats.) Although the Capitol dome may be the Hill's most talked-about landmark, the rest of the neighborhood definitely is not politics as usual.

Only a few blocks from the seat of democracy thrives a community with a strong sense of history, quirky boutiques and galleries, watering holes packed with locals -- and more parking than you might think.

In the past five years, more than 40 businesses have popped up along Barracks Row -- named for the oldest Marine Corps post -- which stretches along Eighth Street SE from Pennsylvania Avenue to I Street). Across from the military complex, Hoopla Traders features work by a different artist each month for Second Saturday -- when a number of shops stay open late and offer wine, snacks, music and more. Avid knitters, or those who want to try the now-hip hobby, should explore the multicolored skeins at Stitch DC's cheery studio. Continue down Eighth, and you'll spy shops and restaurants aplenty -- many with an international flavor, be it Mexican crafts at Alvear Studio or Belgian food at Belga Cafe.

From Eighth Street, swing around to Eastern Market -- a Hill hot spot and meeting place for more than a century. Join locals and architecture buffs this Saturday at 10 a.m. for festivities honoring the building's designer, Adolf Cluss, with tours and an exhibit of art featuring the historic structure. Every day but Monday, the Market's South Hall -- in operation since 1873 -- hosts vendors selling fresh pasta, meat and fish, cheese, baked goods, produce and more. Outside the main building on the weekends, you'll find farmers, artists and craftspeople selling their wares, as well as an eclectic array of flea market finds (savvy scavengers take note: Sunday boasts the best selection). So get ready to wheel and deal with all the flair of your favorite politician.

Jennifer M. Lipner

The place for citified knitters: Stitch DC.