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The Definitive DC Guide to Pokemon Go

Before you read this, you should know that I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of friends and go on a lot of dates and definitely have a healthy, brimming social calendar.

You should not assume that I send unsolicited screenshots of my Pokemon Go “squad” to those who choose to associate with me, or that said squad includes an 1128 CP Wigglytuff, or that I have spent actual dollars on Pokeballs, Lucky Eggs, Incense, and three backpack upgrades. In fact, I don’t even know what these things are. What are these things?

But if only for the conceit of this guide, let’s imagine that I do, in fact, have a capable grasp of the stochastic splendor that is Pokemon Go. Let’s imagine that I trekked to the base of the Washington Monument yesterday for the first time since high school solely to raid a nest of Jigglypuffs and evolve one into an 1128 CP Wigglytuff.

Washington, DC is a farmland for Pokemon Go players, with Dratinis and Charmanders just waiting to be plucked from their homes and forced into a red-and-white ball with a circumference of about three inches. And with this guide, you too can become a Pokemaster. You too can start prefacing words with “Poke” and talk about “nests” and “spawn points” in a completely un-ironic fashion. Read on!

Location, location, location

Say it with me, everyone: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

FDR is the holy grail of Pokestops in DC. Whether you’ve just begun assembling your squad, or whether you’ve managed to advance even beyond an 1128 CP Wigglytuff, FDR is your flagship. There are multiple clusters of Pokestops along this stretch of the Tidal Basin, and they almost always have lures—those pink petals of goodness that bring the Pokemon to you. At any given moment, of course, there are lures all across DC. But FDR seems to consistently attract the greatest variety of Pokemon, from Pikachu, Chansey, Electabuzz, Primeape and Scyther to hometown heroes such as Pidgey.

Wigglytuff, always ready for battle.

FDR showcases perhaps the loveliest element of the game. The park attracts scores of Pokemon Go players each evening, many of them chatty and helpful to those who may not yet have the pleasure of owning an 1128 CP Wigglytuff. It’s difficult to leave without having made at least one new friend. I like to think FDR himself would be proud of these raw snapshots of camaraderie, once he got past the fact that grown adults now linger in the shadow of his first inaugural address chiefly to squeal: “It’s a Mankey!”

The only downside of FDR is the prevalence of Shellders, a purple, clam-like Pokemon whose terrifying, lifeless eyes emerge from what looks to be a black orbit of death. For those of you who haven’t yet been to FDR, I know what you’re thinking: But I haven’t even seen a Shellder yet! I need one! I understand that, but here’s what’s going to happen: You’re going to go to FDR, with clear eyes and a full heart. You’re going to see your first Shellder. You’re going to rejoice, “Yay! A Shellder!” And then 30 minutes, 60 Shellders later, you’re going to whisper to yourself, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”

There are other fruitful pockets across the city, but they are often specific to one kind of Pokemon. The Georgetown waterfront is replete with Growlithes, which evolve into Arcanine, a majestic and awe-inspiring Pokemon if there ever were one. Taking over a gym with an Arcanine feels like what I imagine North West experiences every time she wakes up—an overwhelming joy checked only by a latent fear of the young, limitless nature of your power.

Finally, Pikachu appears daily at the corner of New Hampshire and O Streets in Dupont. Check out Pokevision.com, which I do not look at during work hours, to see when.

Baby’s first gym

You’ve assembled your squad, which, if you’re lucky, includes an 1128 CP Wigglytuff, and you’re ready for a gym.

There are gyms scattered throughout the city with somewhat predictable levels of difficulty. Gyms located at iconic DC spots such as the White House, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial are tough to take over, if only because so many players are jockeying for their team at the same time, hoping to eventually text their mother a screenshot with the message, “Look! I took over the White House gym!” and receive the response, “This is why you don’t have a boyfriend.”

I recommend training at the Dupont Circle gym, which, though always active, rarely has leaders that can take down an 1128 CP Wigglytuff. And once you’ve taken over a few gyms for your team, and the allure has worn off, I recommend this power move: Eviscerate the lineup at the Georgetown waterfront gym—consistently one of the toughest in the city—and replace it with a 10 CP Magikarp, statistically and obviously the most useless creature in the game. As one brilliant player in the DC/MD/VA Pokemon Facebook group observed, “It’s not about taking control. It’s about sending a message.”

Tackling the existential questions

Because DC is a hotbed for good Pokemon and good players, it’s likely you’ll get down on yourself at some point. You’ll say, “Why does username Mewgirl03 have an 1128 CP Wigglytuff, and I don’t?”

It’s a tough but fair question. At the same time, it’s important to remember that Pokemon Go does not define your self-worth.

It’s important to remember this in such moments as when hordes of people dash past you, because they heard that there was a Raichu by the Fala statue. It’s important to remember this when your heart lifts and you race alongside them, because you don’t have a Raichu, and as wonderful as an 1128 CP Wigglytuff is, it can’t sustain you forever. It’s important to remember this when some people catch the Raichu and high-five their friends, their world made resplendent, while you stare at your screen, no Raichu in sight. Was it something you did? Something you said? No, it wasn’t. Later you will realize that they had Incense running, and you didn’t.

So you pick up the pieces, you learn from it, and you move on. Because that’s what Pokemon Go is: a path to discovering your very best self. As Herman Cain so aptly quoted from Pokemon: The Movie 2000 when he dropped out of the 2012 presidential race, “It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me….Just look inside and you will find just what you can do.”

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Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.