So let's say you're an out-of-towner who's here for the Inauguration, staying in the hood on somebody's couch or at a friend's place. What do you do?
For eats, 14th Street and Park Road are your places to go - 14th and Irving alone has Pete's New Haven Style apizza, Panda Express, Potbelly, Five Guys (a great DC burger chain), CommonWealth, a gastro-pub, and more. Up 14th there's The Heights, good for brunch, and Nori, a sushi joint. On Park Road just east of 14th, try El Rinconcito II, a great Salvadorean place, or some tasty fast food at Pollo Campero, a Latin American fast food chain, or Julia's Empanadas. There's also a Giant grocery store on Park Road. On 11th at Lamont, Columbia Heights Coffee is great, and 11th and Park has Red Rocks Pizza. Just down 11th at Kenyon is Wonderland, the neighborhood watering hole. There's also a Starbucks on 14th between Kenyon and Irving.
The Mount Pleasant neighborhood, a block or so west of 16th along Mt. Pleasant Street, has more, including pizza, American food, and lots of tasty Latin American.
Which brings us to drinks. Wonderland is the focal point of the neighborhood, tons of people go there and they have DJs upstairs sometimes and pretty good bar food. The Heights and Red Rocks have booze too, but are more restaurants. CommonWealth is, as noted, a pub, and farther north at 14th and Spring is the Red Derby, a great bar with lots of beer, but only in cans - cheaper that way - you'll probably want to take a cab there and back. The neighborhood is also within easy stumbling or cabbing distance of the U Street bar and restaurant strip (along U Street from about 16th to 9th) and Adams Morgan, also a big bar and restaurant strip (Columbia Road and 18th Street is the epicenter). Mount Pleasant has a few spots too, including The Raven, a cool and cheap dive.
As for transportation, say hello to your feet. They come in handy in DC, and might be useful if traffic really is as bad as people say. Also, cabs are relatively inexpensive. The Columbia Heights Metro is at 14th and Irving, and that can take you pretty much anywhere. There's also buses that go down 16th, 14th, 11th, and Georgia, which make easy trips downtown. And if you go farther west, you can catch buses like the 42, which goes from the corner of Columbia Road & 16th to Adams Morgan to Dupont Circle.
When it comes to shopping, there isn't much in the neighborhood. There's a few small places on 14th, the Target and Best Buy, and Simply Soles shoe store. and Mt. Pleasant has a lot of quirky little places - dollar stores, etc. You will find crazy stuff there. As for actual shopping, U Street is a good spot, with lots of boutiques, vintage stores, and cool design and furniture stuff. Adams Morgan has a similar mix.
As for sights, there's nice architecture along 16th Street, and Meridian Hill Park, between 15th and 16th south of Euclid, is very impressive during the day (can be a little sketchy at night). The view from 13th and Clifton south is impressive too, you can see the whole city from the crest of the hill. And the Nevin Kelly art gallery is having an open house on Saturday.
So there you go! Any out-of-towners checking on things to do here have any questions?