Monday, July 28, 2014

Carlyle House’s rich history is preserved and shared with the public

The Carlyle House Historical Park is a museum located in Old Town Alexandra. This museum is a former home, built and owned by John Carlyle, who was a British merchant and one of the original settlers who was instrumental in Alexandria's establishment.

This grand house has an interesting history due to its uniqueness in architecture for the region during that era. It was truly innovative for its time, having been built entirely of stone modeled after European homes of distinction in Scotland which reflected John Carlyle's heritage.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Photos on Friday: The Natural Bridge

This trip is a bit off the beaten path from DC and Northern Virginia, but it is too beautiful of a place not to write about. 

Ever since I've moved to Virginia (close to 10 years now), I've always wanted to travel downstate to visit The Natural Bridge. Finally, this month the opportunity arose and we made a stop to see the beautiful handiwork of Mother Nature during our travel downstate. We only were able to stay a couple of hours, but it was well worth it.

The Natural Bridge, Virginia
Visitors walk underneath the Natural Bridge. There is an active road that crosses the top, but driving over it, you'd never know what was below.

Natural Bridge in Virginia - The Lost River
This is the Lost River, which is located on a pathway beyond the Natural Bridge. The source of this water is unknown. 
The Natural Bridge can make a good day (or more likely better as) an overnight trip. There is also plenty to see and do along I-81 if you're looking to make a weekend out of it. You'll pass towns, such as Staunton and Strasburg, and Charlottesville or Luray Caverns aren't too far out of the way, to name a few ideas.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Visit to Burnside Farms - Summer of Sunflowers in Haymarket, Va.

Last month I wrote about Burnside Farms' upcoming Summer of Sunflowers. The time has arrived. I was reading on their Facebook page this week would be a good one to stop by so made the trip out to Haymarket, Va.

Beautiful day out on the farm and the sunflowers were gorgeous! Lots of different varieties were in bloom and the bees were steadily at work (as an aside Burnside makes really good honey...)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Experience 18th century farm life at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm, located in McLean, Va., is a living history museum that highlights Northern Virginia farm life in the 18th century ─ the year 1771 to be exact. Unlike many of the grand homes in the area that have been restored and opened to the public, this museum portrays Colonial family life on a low-income farm, so it is a different perspective.

After paying admission, visitors can pass through the gatehouse shop and enter the grounds. You begin your walk through a path surrounded by woods and nature. Hard to believe the hustle and bustle of modern-day is very close by, when walking to the farm area, you do feel as if you are transported back in time, rather than being just a few miles from the Beltway.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

A walking tour is a great way to explore Old Town Alexandria

When visiting a destination, one of the best ways to really get to know a city is
to take advantage of a walking tour in lieu of a bus tour. Hitting the pavement really gives a unique opportunity to see landmarks up close and really get a feel of history through firsthand experience.

Alexandria, Va., a wonderful historical city located just outside of Washington D.C., offers a number of tours. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Photos on Friday: Space Shuttle Discovery and Shuttle Enterprise nose to nose

In 2012 I was thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to go to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum in Chantilly (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) on the day Space Shuttle Discovery arrived to be moved into the museum.

The first day, on its final voyage, the shuttle had arrived atop a modified Boeing 747.

The following day the transfer ceremony took place as NASA charged the Smithsonian with the care of Discovery. Shortly after this day, Enterprise made her way to New York's Intrepid Museum and Discovery took her place in the hangar. 

Here are a couple of images from that amazing day:

Shuttle Enterprise and Space Shuttle Discovery nose to nose
Space Shuttles Enterprise and Discovery come nose to nose in a historic moment in April 2012

Discovery crew members attended the ceremony and here was when the astronauts arrived on stage

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cultural and ethnic festivals in the Washington DC area (2014)

Summertime brings a number of local cultural events and ethnic festivals to the
Washington, D.C. Metro area. The diversity represented in the area is highlighted during the year through celebration. Here are a few of the upcoming events which will be taking place throughout the region over the next couple of months:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reviews: Pop's Old Fashioned Ice Cream, Old Town Alexandria

Whether you're young, or young at heart, if you are simply a fan of ice cream, Pop's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop is a great choice. The store is located down in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, about a block from the riverfront at 109 King St.

If you enjoy and seek the ambiance of an old-time ice cream parlor, Pop's fits the bill.  

Not only is the shop reflective of a time long gone by, but the on-premises made ice cream tastes good too. On occasion, you can even see employees making the ice cream.

Pop's has the standard flavors and then some variety of unique flavors. I've been looking for a peanut butter ice cream flavor that rivals the one I had in Walt Disney World several years ago. Never been able to find anything remotely close. Well...Pop's had it! 

The other flavors the family tried were all good too, and the kids were already planning the flavors they were going to order on the next time around in Alexandria. The sprinkled cones were a big hit.

We'd first stumbled upon Pop's sometime around 2008-09, and any time we are in Old Town, we typically pay another visit.

The entire family gives Pop's Old-Fashioned Ice Cream a big thumbs up. A terrific spot to stop off and indulge in a cone or a cup!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Photos on Friday: Hummingbird moth at Mount Vernon

Starting this week every Friday (or most Fridays) I will post an image taken somewhere in Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia, it might be a landmark, event, nature or other random photo. 

Mount Vernon, the home of General George and Martha Washington, has beautiful gardens with many flying critters fluttering about, however, this image was actually taken outside of the gift shop when I was leaving the property. I wasn't sure what this critter was, as I'd never seen one before, but after doing some Web searching, I believe it to be a hummingbird moth.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Air shows and events in the Washington DC metro area in 2014

In the DC area there are a lot of air shows that happen throughout the year. Some annual air shows have already passed, but there is still much more to come this 2014 season. From classic to military, many of these shows will highlight and showcase a variety of aircraft.

Vintage aircraft at a Northern Virginia Air show
Here's what's going on in the DC area this summer and fall:

Flying Circus Air Show

Every Sunday, the Flying Circus Air Show delights audiences with its air show from May through October. See vintage aircraft, parachute jumpers and "barnstorming".  The Flying Circus also offers special events each season. Coming up is a Wings & Wheels Car show taking place on July 13, 2014, and Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 the Flying Circus offers its annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. The weekly shows are fun for all ages and check their calendar for any other special events happening this season. The 2014 season runs through Oct. 26. The Flying Circus is located in Bealeton, Va.

Virginia Air Show and Air Show Week

This year's Virginia Air Show and Air Show Week runs from Sept. 8 to Sept 13. Taking place at the Front Royal-Warren County Airport, about 90 minutes from the District, this show offers events in the days leading up to the show (these I've not attended, but have attended the air show itself). According to the website, this year's features include military aircraft, hot air balloons, a gyro
Gyrocopter in 2012 at the Front Royal show
copter, barnstorming, air acrobatics, antique autos and more. The website  describes "many surprises are planned this year". The show itself is on Sept. 13 and runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. As an aside, the Flying Circus is also featured at this show.


Baltimore is hosting the "Star Spangled Spectacular" this year Sept. 10–16, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. National Anthem. There will be lots of events during the celebration, but also an air show on Sat., Sept. 13 and Sun., Sept 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. The Blue Angels will be making an appearance during these days.

Dulles Day Plane Pull

Every year the Dulles Day Plane Pull takes place in September. This Special Olympics fundraiser features teams of 25 people pulling a 164,000+ pound Airbus 12 at the fastest rate. There is also live music, a car show, aircraft display and other family fun. This year's event takes place on Sept. 20. See the official website for more details.

Leesburg Air Show

Now in its 5th year, the Leesburg Air Show takes place at the Leesburg Executive Airport. The show features demonstrations, exhibitions, acrobatics, aviation displays and much more, including a car show. The event takes place on Sept. 27.

Culpeper Air Fest

The annual Culpeper Air Fest is scheduled for Oct 11. Taking place in Brandy Station, Va. at the Culpeper Regional Airport, the day's fun includes several events such as air acrobatics, aircraft displays, airplane rides, wing-walking, games for the kids and much more. The gates open at 8 a.m.

Nearby air shows

These are a few events in the area such as the Oct. 18 Wings & Wheels Festival in Stafford, Va. and the Wings and Wheels Expo in nearby Hagerstown, Md. on
Vintage cars
Vintage cars
Sept. 21 (this air show takes place about 90 minutes from Fairfax County, Va.)

Unfortunately, the Andrews Air Show has reportedly been canceled for 2014 and, far as I can tell, future plans are up in the air.

It's a bit early now for some of these shows, but it's never too soon to plan. 

Another great show takes place each year in Manassas, typically in May. At this time I cannot find any information for the 2015 show, but definitely one to keep in mind. Below the U.S. Army Parachute Team, performing at the Manassas show, glides through the skies.

U.S. Army Parachute Team "Golden Knights"

U.S. Army Parachute Team "Golden Knights"

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A history of the Old Post Office Tower building in Washington, DC

The Old Post Office is a beautiful piece of architecture that sits off the National Mall in Washington, D.C. A structure that has housed offices, eateries and shops throughout the decades, many visitors have passed through this vintage building each year, myself included. 

Birth of the Old Post Office Tower Building

The building was constructed by the U.S. Government between 1892 and 1899 and was the home of the Post Office until the early 1930s when the agency relocated. It was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, a well-known architect who co-designed the Georgia State Capitol and several other notable buildings in the United States. Currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is hard to believe this remarkable structure, which stands at 315 feet, was almost razed, not once, but twice. It is the third tallest building in the U.S. capital city.

Old Post Office building in downtown Washington in Federal Triangle

Deterioration of the building


Over its first few decades, the building had steadily declined. The Post Office moved out of the building in the early portion of the 1930s and the condition of the building worsened from there. Additionally, it seems at the time there was no desire to upkeep the building. The National Park Service (NPS) states in an informational flyer: 

"Locals considered the Old Post Office Tower unappealing due to changing tastes in architecture and the construction of distinctly different government buildings in the Federal Triangle area."

Previously slated to be demolished

The first consideration of demolition took place back in 1934, however, due to the repercussions of the Great Depression, the building was spared. The idea of dismantling the Old Post Office Building was revisited again in 1970. However, a strong advocate came from a woman by the name of Nancy Hanks who fought for its survival.

Old Post Office Building

Over the next several decades, the building was used by multiple government agencies for a variety of purposes. By the mid-1970s the Old Post Office building was in poor condition and the idea of demolition had already been revisited and approved by Congress in 1970. Hanks, then chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, fought against the razing of the Post Office, testifying to Congress, "Old buildings are like old friends", and provided additional testimony that stirred other people to join the mission to save the Old Post Office.

Old Post Office is saved


As a result of the campaign spearheaded by Hanks, the Old Post Office Tower was eventually placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was renovated. It also was subsequently rededicated by then-President Ronald Reagan, The Nancy Hanks Center. Since then visitors have been welcomed to tour the historic tower by taking elevators to the top. Once atop, visitors are treated to spectacular views and can also get a close up view of The Bells of Congress.

Bells of Congress were a Bicentennial gift from the Ditchley Foundation

Over the last 40 years, people also came to the building to eat, shop or listen to live entertainment. There were still some offices in the building as well as appearing to be used as storage, however, this is currently about to change.

The next chapter

If you're walking around downtown, you might notice some changes going on. As of May 1, 2014, the Old Post Office is temporarily closed and tours of the tower suspended. The souvenir shops and eateries are now gone as The Trump Organization has currently taken a long-term lease on the property and will be turning it into a luxury hotel. Once work is completed, NPS will resume tours of the tower. Last I read, this was anticipated to happen in 2016.

For more information on the Old Post Office Tower building and for the latest updates, visit the National Parks Service website. The ride to the top gives some spectacular views, I look forward to the tower's reopening. 

View from Old Post Office Tower in Washington DC
View from the top of the Old Post Office building

View from Old Post Office Tower in Washington DC
Views of Washington Monument and surrounding area