Fridays at the Park

I enjoy walking over to Farragut Park for lunch a few times a week, and recently found out about Farragut Fridays. Every Friday during the summer, Golden Triangle BID hosts activities like table tennis competitions, movie screenings and pop-up events. They also create an outdoor office space, and provide cool chairs, tables and free Wi-Fi. 

They hosted a gardening pop-up event a few Fridays ago, and were giving out free plants and gardening tips. I got to take home a charming geranium for my mini outdoor garden.

Farragut Fridays runs through late September, so take a break from the office and have some fun at the park!

Echo of the Past

One time when I was driving on some unknown road that Waze had told me to take to avoid traffic, I drove past this really cool Art Deco sign for Glen Echo Park, followed shortly thereafter by a sign for the Clara Barton house.

I did a little digging afterward and found out that Glen Echo Park started as a Chautauqua retreat in the 1890s, and Clara Barton moved her home and the eventual headquarters for the American Red Cross there. After that retreat failed, it was turned into an amusement park that ran until the '60s. Relatively recently, parts of the park have been restored, including a working carousel. Now occupying the midway are galleries, a puppet theater, a children's theater, and other arts organizations. In the famed ballroom, dances are held. 

Altogether, it's a cool piece of history that has a second life today serving its community.

Gargoyles and Grotesques

I have been to the National Cathedral before, and I have marveled at the size of its interior, its great acoustics, and some of the great stained glass. Its history is interesting, in that the idea of it dates really far back, but the actual construction wasn't completed until, really, just a few years ago. And then, the earthquake happened, and it's under construction once again.

The last time I was at the cathedral, I walked in from the side of it, and i noticed these carvings in some of the columns that were really cool--depicting various Native American symbols and scenes. A few feet past that, I saw that there were tours of the gargoyles and grotesques (drainspout and non-drainspout carvings) on the outside of the building, which I admit to having not paid much attention to before.

So, on a typically sweltering summer Sunday morning, I followed around a guy who knew A LOT about this sort of thing, and it was very cool. It turns out that the artists who did this work were not really supervised all that much (nor were they sometimes even credited or recorded), so there is a lot of sort of goofiness, which I think is appropriate for America's cathedral. In the pictures below, I have some of my favorites that I could adequately capture with my phone's camera, including an awesome snake and a pretty cool gator. However, I could only see with binoculars (which you should scrounge up if you really want to do the tour right) the infamous Darth Vader gargoyle, as well as some other pretty strange ones. It was neat to see that the building on the outside was just as interesting as the building on the inside.

Hidden Architectural Gem

Despite being in the heart of DC, the National Building Museum has the feeling of being off the beaten path. If you are looking for a low-key place to spend an afternoon, and appreciate architecture and design, you will enjoy this museum. 

When I entered the building, I was greeted by the impressive Great Hall and beautiful columns. The building was built in the late 1800s and was originally designed to house the Pension Bureau and to provide a space for social and political events. The building is still used today as an event space, and I hope I get the chance to attend a formal reception or concert there some day.

Visitors can enjoy the Great Hall, gift shop and cafe free of charge, and exhibition tickets are a nominal fee. The museum runs several exhibitions at a time. My favorites were HOT TO COLD: an odyssey of architectural adaptation and Investigating Where We Live: D.C. Now & Next.

The gift shop is one of the best in DC, and has a great selection of art and architecture books and quirky kitchen items. I’m pretty sure I spent over an hour just looking at all the cool gift shop merchandise.

I can’t wait to return to the museum in a few weeks to spend the day at the BEACH.

The Yards Near the Yard

I've been to Nationals Park several times, but I do what most fans do: I walk straight from the Metro station to the ballpark. I don't even hit The Fairgrounds on the way, though it has tempted me a couple of times. Along the fencing protecting an about-to-be-developed property, I've seen advertisements for The Yards, which I've never really paid attention to. 

However, the other day--well before a Nationals game started--I found myself in the area and decided to explore a bit, and I'm glad I did. The Yards is a nascent neighborhood with a bunch of good dining and shopping options that will no doubt get better. I do have to highlight two places.

First is Ice Cream Jubilee, which was recently named best in Washington by Washingtonian magazine. I have a major weakness for ice cream, so I was already in. That the place features some very wacky and cool flavors makes me a fan. I tried caramel popcorn, but was seriously tempted by Snickerdoodle. The place was a little crowded, but no wonder: I can see how this place won best in town.

The second place was where I enjoyed my ice cream, the nearby Yards Park. There is obviously more to the place than a fountain, but I am a sucker for a fountain, so that's what I snapped. Below the fountain there's a wading pool that kids were enjoying. There are also great views of the river and plenty of places nearby to sit and just relax. During the summer, they have concerts every Friday night, which is pretty cool. It is a great public space, and one that I hope to return to soon--perhaps even when the Nats aren't playing.

 

Golf in DC?

I am a big fan of both miniature golf and regular golf, but I assumed that if I wanted to do either after moving to DC, I would have to head to the suburbs. 

I was pleasantly surprised then when I learned that I could do both, and in the middle of the Potomac. 

East Potomac Park is on the same island in the middle of the Potomac as the Jefferson Memorial, but on the eastern side of it, across I-395. It houses three different courses, a driving range, and miniature golf. The park also has a public swimming pool and, for the runners, Ohio Drive goes around the entire island, so it's a great place to exercise and see some great views of the DC waterfront and of the planes landing at the airport.

So far, I have only taken in the driving range and miniature golf. The driving range is pretty good and very large, with two levels and great views. The miniature golf course does not feature windmills or clowns or pirates; what it does have is a wide range of holes from easy to very challenging. It also is under the shade of some very large trees, which makes for a nice respite from the summer sun. 

I also just have to show you the two holes I got holes-in-one on. 

The only trouble with East Potomac Park is also a selling point: it's isolated, so it is difficult to get to by public transportation: there are Metro stops like L'Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian across the river, but then it's a decent length walk, so if you're interested in going, a cab or an Uber might be the way to go if you really need to swing those clubs.

The 14 Reasons 14th St. is So Cool Now

When I first started coming to DC, 14th St. was not a place to go to; there wasn't much there, and what was there was not very attractive. Now, 14th St. (NW, specifically between N and V streets) is a great place to go to, for the following reasons:

  1. Bakehouse: I had a bacon cheddar scone here once that I still think about. Also, I heard they make their own butter, which is pretty cool.
  2. Barcelona: Tapas and great wine are on the menu here, but really it's the outdoor space that's the real draw.
  3. Black Cat: DC's venue for alternative and independent music; it was really the only thing on 14th St. twenty years ago, so they obviously knew what they were doing.
  4. Garden District: You just might miss this beer garden when you walk by, as there's no sign and it's pretty tiny. It's a great place though to hang out, watch people, and enjoy a drink and some pretzels.
  5. Ghibellina: They have other stuff here, but the pizza is the draw; they give you scissors to cut out your own slices.
  6. Kapnos: For all you Top Chef fans, this is owned by Mike Isabella and its chef is George from the most recent season. Great Greek food.
  7. Le Diplomate: having run through a great many of Stephen Starr's restaurants in Philadelphia, I'm glad he has at least one outpost here with a wonderful recreation of a Parisian brasserie.
  8. Lupo Verde: This place is almost always jam-packed, and for good reason: great, creative Italian food.
  9. Miss Pixie's: Vintage furniture and decor; I picked up a strange end table here that is banged up but has lots of character, just like this store.
  10. Peregrine Espresso: Coffee snobs unite! Very good espresso and coffee with Counter Culture beans.
  11. Piola:  I like pizza, OK? "Famosi per la pizza"--yes, indeed. They have great pizza.
  12. Studio Theatre: One of DC's best contemporary theater companies.
  13. Taylor: Another Philly reminder. Some guys from Philly decided DC needed some good hoagies, so they made their own. Sandwiches are named after Philly streets and places. They were so successful, that Taylor has become something of a chain, which I can't be happier about, because that means their hoagies are always near.
  14. 2 Birds, 1 Stone: High-quality, constantly changing, and entertaining cocktails.

And, that's not an exhaustive list: I still have places to try--do you have any recommendations?

The Two Parks that Surround the Zoo

Most of the time I spent in DC prior to moving here was in the Dupont Circle area of DC because that's where my friends live. I think I visited the zoo once, but didn't really remember it that well, and certainly didn't remember the neighborhoods that surround it.

When I decided to move here, I wanted something that still had vestiges of the suburbs that I had lived in my whole life: I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, went to college in the LA suburbs, went to grad school in Delaware (one big suburb, really), and lived and worked for the past ten years in the Philly suburbs. 

When I visited the area around the zoo, I knew I liked it, and I lucked out in finding a place that I liked too. This place happened to be basically right between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park, the two "parks" that surround the zoo.

ellingtonbridge.jpg

Both neighborhoods are pretty similar, in that they have a small retail and restaurant core and Metro stations. They are also filled with tree cover, which is great on the hot DC days we tend to have. This is the view from the Duke Ellington bridge, which connects Woodley Park to Adams Morgan:

OK, that's technically Rock Creek Park and technically another park that surrounds the zoo, but you get the point: there are trees! And there are trees all along the main drag of Woodley and Cleveland Parks, Connecticut Avenue:

uptown.jpg

Woodley Park's advantage over Cleveland Park is its proximity to both Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle: both great areas are enjoyable walks away. However, Cleveland Park has this:

The Uptown Theater, a class movie house that shows first-run movies. It's very nice to have a movie theater in walking distance, and one that has such a cool marquee.

Both neighborhoods though have good restaurants and bars, most of which have outdoor seating. Some of my favorites include:

However, I haven't explored everything, so if you have suggestions for these areas, let me know!

Two Strangers Move to DC...

This serves as the first of many posts devoted to discovering the District from the perspective of two people who are (relatively) new to town: me, Greg Weight, President of the Washington Internship Institute, and Rebecca Montalvo, our Admissions Coordinator. 

I started visiting Washington, DC on a regular basis when I first started graduate school at the University of Delaware about twenty years ago. In that time, DC has changed quite a bit; also, living in DC is very different than coming here for a few days.

So, Rebecca and I are going to record our thoughts and impressions of places and experiences in DC as we discover them as new residents; if you have suggestions for us to try out, please leave them in the comments.