Tuesday, June 26, 2018

12 fun facts about Theodore Roosevelt Island

President Theodore Roosevelt, who served from 1901 to 1909, was a staunch advocate of conservatism. It seems fitting the memorial established to honor him in the nation’s capital is represented by the very land he worked so hard to preserve.

Want to learn more? Here are some fun facts you may not have known about this presidential memorial.

12 fun facts about Theodore Roosevelt Island

1. Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the Potomac River between Washington D.C. and Virginia. It is comprised of 91 acres and is situated between Virginia’s city of Arlington and the District’s Georgetown locations.

2. The island was home to the Nacotchtank Native American tribe in 1668. They called the island Analostan and used the island for fishing.

3. It was once known as "Mason's Island" after the land was acquired by the Mason family in 1724. John Mason, the grandson of Founding Father George Mason, built a manor house on the highpoint of the island.

4. When the Mason's owned it, this tract of land was a prominent farm, but had been abandoned in the early 1830s. John Mason and family had to leave the island due to unhealthy conditions caused by local development. For the next century, the island changed hands many times.

5. In the early 1930s, the island was purchased by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association. Landscape Architects began to transform the neglected land into a beautiful memorial with the intention to honor our 26th president.

6. The Olmstead Brothers firm was hired by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1932. The plans were formed around the concept of building a living memorial to President Roosevelt with ideas of including an architectural monument as well.

7. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an organization started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (5th cousin to Theodore), performed the work involved with clearing the island of all non-native vegetation and populating it with 20,000 native trees and shrubs. 

When WWII broke out in the late 1930s, work was temporarily halted. It would later be halted again after a highway bridge was planned in the mid-20th century which would cover part of the southern portion island, obstructing plans for the statue portion of the memorial. Congress ultimately approved funding in 1960 and work continued shifting this portion of the memorial to the northern part of the island.

8. The statue depicting President Roosevelt stands 17 feet tall and is made of bronze. 

Four 21-feet-tall granite tablets surround the statue containing quotations pulled from Roosevelt’s writings.

Two pools with fountains are also placed in this vicinity. This portion of the memorial was designed by an architect named Eric Gugler and a sculptor by the name of Paul Manship and it was brought to fruition between 1963 and 1967.

9. The natural preserve portion of the island is made up of 88 acres and represents three major ecological zones: swamp, tidal marsh and upland forest.

10. You can walk the trails placed on the island, it’s about 1.5 to 2 miles, and it will take you through the natural habitat of the island. It’s a great place for birding! (You may spot other critters too).

11. John Mason had a ferry boat where Georgetown residents would land and then use a causeway to get to Virginia. Dolley Madison used this route to escape the British burning of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812.  

12. The causeway was built in 1805 and stood in place until 1979 when it was replaced by the current footbridge visitors use to enter and exit the island.

The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is run by the National Park Service and is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It is accessible from the Virginia side on the northbound side of the George Washington Parkway. There is parking and you’ll cross a footbridge to enter this living memorial.   

(Note: According to NPS website, there are currently no working restrooms or portable toilets on the island. I recommend checking before you go. When I was there, the men's section was definitely closed).

Additional sources: Signage posted at the island and first-hand experience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Great places to walk your dog in Washington, DC

If you are living in or visiting Washington D.C. and are accompanied by your favorite furry companion, you'll be pleased to know the region is generally a dog-friendly area. Many hotels, and even some restaurants, will permit your dog to join you. The city hosts a number of dog parks and, if you prefer a more traditional walk without direct interaction with other dogs, there are many other great places to bring Fido in and about the District.

Image credit: Pixabay

Dog parks

Your fur baby will need to be walked and there are many excellent places in D.C. you can bring your dog. You can stay within the city, or explore areas to go for a walk in the surrounding areas, lots of choice in the region. Many dog parks are located right in Washington D.C. These parks are designated specifically for pets and provide baggies and trash cans to accommodate the "pooper scooper" laws which are strictly adhered to in the region. Some areas you can explore are the Glover Dog Park located on 42nd and W Street, S Street Dog Park at 17th and S Sts, NW, Congressional Cemetery on E Street St SE (membership only but they do offer $10 day passes according to the website), Langdon Dog Park at 2901 20th St. NE and Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, located at East Capitol and 11th St.

Image credit: Pixabay

Mount Vernon Trail

Running along the George Washington Memorial Parkway is a terrific 18 mile stretch of pavement known as the Mount Vernon Trail. It begins in Washington D.C. and runs along the Potomac River down to Mount Vernon, which is George and Martha Washington's estate. The Mount Vernon Trail is an ideal place to walk your dog if you're looking to go for a nice stroll. This area is designated for pedestrians; bikers, walkers and joggers also utilize this area. It is a wide path and wonderful place to take your dog for a walk. Along your walk, you'll see many scenic places and pass several parks or trails you might want to take a detour to explore with your canine pal.

National Mall

The National Mall is another popular spot to take Fido for a walk. Sitting in the heart of Washington D.C. the National Mall offers many areas you can bring your pooch and get some good exercise. As you walk your best pal, you can take in the fantastic views in and around the Mall. Wander the open fields which surround the Washington Monument or stroll along the sidewalks located on the Mall's outskirts. There are many different paths you can take and you can always vary your routine if you choose to walk your dog down in the heart of D.C.

Alexandria, Virginia

If you cross the Potomac and venture into the nearby City of Alexandria, you'll find this is an extremely dog-friendly area, possibly one of the best in the area. Many of the restaurants even make provisions for dogs. 

As you walk along Alexandria's sidewalks with your pet it is common to come across several billboards outside restaurants designed to entice dog owners to stop in for a bite to eat with their furry friend during their walk. Some even have doggy menus and happy hours. This area has many historic landmarks and is such a beautiful city to explore, very quaint and an attractive place to walk. The fact it is so dog-friendly is a bonus.

Along the way, you'll likely encounter others, so abide by local laws by keeping your dog leashed (unless you are in a designated area) and remember to bring along your baggies as the D.C. metro region has strict "pooper scooper laws". You may receive a high fine if you ignore these rules. (Plus, it's just the polite thing to do!)

Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas/communities are, in my experience, pretty dog-friendly. There are many other places you can go to, especially if you venture outside city boundaries into Virginia or Maryland, but these are a few of the top dog-friendly spots located inside of the Beltway near the heart of the Capital city.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Oatlands gardens: Spring blooms 2018

Oatlands, located in Leesburg, is a beautiful historic property open to the public for tours. I try to visit at least once a year, depending on my schedule. I typically learn something new on each tour and it's fun to see Oatlands' remarkable gardens in different stages of seasonal blooms. 

On Friday, a friend was in town who had not yet toured Oatlands, and the weather was right (finally!), so off we went. With the rich blue sky and moderate temperature, it was a perfect day to stroll through Oatlands' fantastic gardens. 

The walled gardens date back to the early 1800s when George Carter planned the space to grow fruits, vegetables and decorative plants. Over the years, especially after the Civil War, the gardens fell into disrepair. In the early 1900s, William and Edit Corcoran Eustis, of Washington, D.C., purchased the property as a leisure estate and Edith took it upon herself to restore the gardens to the splendor that visitors see today. 

Mrs. Eustis had stated in 1923, "...the Oatlands garden was falling into ruins; bricks were crumbling, weeds crowding the flowers and yet the very moss-grown paths seemed to say, "We are still what we were."

Some of her additions included statues, boxwoods and a teahouse. 

Fast-forward to the 21st century and the garden is mostly ornamental, but there are some herbs (and signage indicated some vegetables) planted throughout the garden to honor its agricultural past.

These photos are only a sampling really, the garden is pretty extensive. Oatlands today does a fantastic job of upkeep and the gardens are really lovely.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

D.C. cherry blossoms have finally arrived! A view of late spring's 2018 peak

The cherry blossom peak is something I look forward to every year and it sure seemed like 2018 was taking forever. Due to this year's erratic weather patterns, the cherry blossom peak was pushed back from a mid-March forecast to the first week of April. And towards the end of last week, it finally arrived!
cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin 2018

So, I took my annual "play hooky" day on April 5th to go see the peak. I got off the Metro around 9:30 and headed straight down to the Tidal Basin. The blossom peak wasn't the fullest I've seen (but probably better than last year) and I found myself wondering if I'd waited another day or two if the rest of the trees would have been filled out as I saw numerous yet to open buds. The peak was declared to start on April 5 and run through the following week, weather permitting. While not the best weather day, it was a gorgeous sight!  

The morning was chilly and, for the most part, overcast during the hours I was there but as always, I enjoyed my walk around the Tidal Basin to see every angle. If you have the chance, there's still time to go see them, Washington Post said in an article this morning the blossoms could stay "photo-ready" through this weekend.

Here are some shots I'd taken along my journey around the Tidal Basin:

Cherry blossom peaks Tidal Basin 2018

Cherry blossom peaks Tidal Basin 2018

Cherry blossom peaks Tidal Basin 2018
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Cherry blossom peaks Tidal Basin 2018
Add caption

Cherry blossom peaks Tidal Basin 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

10 top picks for spring fun in Washington DC

Despite the fact winter is still in full swing in the Washington, D.C. region, spring is not too far off. I was surprised to find after the recent (albeit brief!) warm spell we recently had resulted in early spring flowers starting to show themselves. 

It got me thinking that spring really is around the corner. It is a wonderful time of year in the nation’s capital region with many interesting and fun things to do as the colder temperatures shift to (often much!) warmer ones.

10 great things to do during the spring in Washington D.C.

1. See the cherry blossoms

Hands down, the cherry blossoms are a top draw in Washington D.C. Not surprisingly, this one probably makes every list. Every year big crowds, including locals and visitors alike, head down to the Tidal Basin to marvel at the sea of beautiful pinks and whites. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, and the numerous events in the city coinciding with it, also makes for a fun time.

2. Visit National Harbor

A steadily growing area, the National Harbor is home to the relatively new MGM facility and the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, along with several shops, eateries and other fun things to see and do. Take a ride on the Capital Wheel or stroll along the Potomac River while you're there!

3. Attend a baseball Game

As spring kicks into full gear, this means it’s time for baseball! Come see the home team play at Nationals Park, a first-rate stadium. The last few years have proved to be exciting seasons. Along with the Nationals, its Class A Minor League affiliate, the Potomac Nationals (PNats) is another great option. Their ballpark is located just south of the District in Woodbridge, Va.

4. See a parade

Washington D.C. has several parades throughout the year, however, spring brings the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Cherry Blossom parade and the Memorial Day parade. Many of the city’s suburbs also host parades. 

5. Celebrate Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, numerous events take place in the D.C. area (here is a list from 2017). Additionally, there is Springfest Fairfax County which is a fun, family-friendly event. 

6. Take a river ride

Being the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers run through the D.C. region, this means there are numerous ways to enjoy these beautiful rivers through a scenic cruise or by renting a paddle boat, kayak or canoe.

7. Visit a historic property

Being many of America’s early settlers landed on the east coast, it’s no surprise many of the people who arrived called what is now known as the capital region home. Many of the homes built in the 18th century still exist, have been meticulously preserved by their caretakers and are also open to the public. 

Springtime is a wonderful time of year to visit because many of the grand homes in the area are located in such picturesque areas. Many properties also have restored gardens which are already in bloom and breathtakingly beautiful this time of year.

8. Take a moonlight tour

The memorials and monuments are beautiful anytime, however, night time is special, especially during the spring evenings. Hop a bus tour and see these sights under the moonlight. I've splurged and done this a couple of times. It's an evening to remember. If you don't want to take the trolley ride, you can self-guide and walk around the National Mall. We do this frequently throughout the year. 

9. Take a hike

Literally! There are several amazing places located in D.C. or within a 90-minute drive of the District. Check out Great Falls, Prince William Forest Park, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Rock Creek Park, Harper’s Ferry, and of course, Shenandoah National Park and it’s beautiful Skyline Drive that’ll get you to some terrific hiking spots.

Great Falls (Virginia - there is also a park on the Maryland side - I've not been there - yet)

10. Visit the District Wharf

Making its debut in Oct. 2107, the District Wharf appears to be a great place to hang out in the spring. Admittedly, I haven't been there yet but thought it a good one to add to the list. With water activities, music, food, entertainment and other specially scheduled events, there seems to be a lot to do and during the region’s spring season, it’s a great time to be outdoors.

These are just a handful of ideas of things to do in the spring in the capital region. Other events to look for include:

  • ShamrockFest  
  • Annapolis Film Festival 
  • Frying Pan Farm Park (springtime means babies on the farm!)
  • Sugarloaf Craft Festival (varies by month and location)


  • Holland in Haymarket (time frame depends on when the tulips bloom, usually sometime in April but can be early March) 
  • Historic Garden Week (April, Virginia) 

  • Passport DC  
  • DC Bike Ride 
  • Annual Flower Mart 
  • Dragonboat Festival (May but rain date has been in June)


Most people, while in the area, also visit D.C.’s National Mall and explore the memorials and monuments. What visit would be complete without them?