Friday, January 30, 2015

Photos on Friday: U.S. Army Golden Knights show in Manassas (2012)

In 2012 we attended the Wings, Wheels & Warriors Air Show and one of the (many terrific) performers that day was the U.S. Army Golden Knights. I wrote about the team in 2012 on Digital Journal after seeing the show and had corresponded with an Army spokesperson to learn more about the team's history and mission

(Fun fact: Some of the individuals who have jumped with the team include 41st President George H.W. Bush, Chuck Norris, Geraldo Rivera and Bill Murray).  

Today's Photos on Friday flashes back to the Golden Knight's performance in Manassas, Virginia on May 12, 2012.

For more information on upcoming airshows in 2015 - please see my recent post highlighting local shows this year: 2015 air shows and events in the Washington DC region

U.S. Army Golden Knights sailing towards the ground in May 2012

U.S. Army Golden Knight Specialist Trey Martin
C-31A Friendship, the team's jump plane

Soldiers greet the audience after the Golden Knights' performance at the Wings, Wheels & Warriors show in Manassas, Va.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Annual Chocolate Lovers Festival in Fairfax County to take place in February

It's that time of year again. As January comes to a close and everyone gets revved up for the month of flowers and chocolate, Fairfax County gears up for its annual Chocolate Lovers Festival.

Image credit: Bianca Moraes on Flickr

Now in its 24th year, the Chocolate Lovers Festival takes place in Old Town Fairfax usually takes place the first weekend in February. This year's event will be held on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. It looks to be a very family and kid-friendly event. I haven't been to this one yet as I just learned of it recently (I vaguely remember hearing about it when I first moved here, but it fell off my radar).

According to the official website, some events are free, others do have a fee.

Features of the weekend include:

  • A free shuttle called "The Chocolate Express" will run visitors between event locations from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and Bake Sale (8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday) at Fire Station 3 4081 University Dr. $7 for adults, $4 for children ages 4-10 (a child under 3 is free with paying adult).
  • Taste of Chocolate  Various chocolate items for sale from various vendors. Admission to this event is free, but to taste samples, you must purchase Pogs. Old Town Hall, 3999 University Dr.
  • Chocolate Challenge and Silent Auction (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday). See local chocolate artisans at work and then join in the judging. Adults $1, children under 18 free. Nutrition Kitchen, 3950 University Dr. (please note there are no strollers allowed, but there is designated "stroller parking" )
  • Chocolate and a Movie On Saturday night, between 7 and 9 p.m. the (what else?) classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory will be shown. There will also be a Golden Ticket winner who will win a mini iPad. Admission $5 per person (includes Golden Ticket)                                 

Some of the events are the same for both days (times may vary), but others are specially scheduled for either Saturday or Sunday. For a full list of events see the event page. Looks like there are a lot of cool educational things going on over this weekend too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Interesting facts about the Smithsonian Castle

The Smithsonian Institution Building, perhaps more commonly known as "The Castle", is a striking building located on the National Mall. You really can't miss it, it's a beautiful building.

Built on the mall between 1847 and 1855, throughout the centuries, the building has served the Smithsonian Institute in many capacities, including an exhibit hall up until the 1960s. Today the building is primarily used for administrative purposes and to house the Smithsonian Information Center.

Interesting facts about the Smithsonian Castle:
  • The Smithsonian Institute was developed thanks to a gift of $500,000 from James Smithson
  • The Castle was chartered by Congress in 1846
  • James Renwick Jr., a famous architect, designed the Castle building
  • The building was constructed from red sandstone from Seneca Creek, Md.
  • Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian lived in the Castle with his family. A statue of Henry stands in front of the building.
  • Originally the Castle stood alone, but over time government buildings and other museums were built around it
  • A devastating fire destroyed a large portion of the Castle in 1865. 
  • The crypt of James Smithson is located near the Castle's north entrance (I have to go find this, I did not know this until writing this post).
  • In 1977 the Smithsonian Institution Building was designated as a National Historic Landmark

The Smithsonian Institution Building is located at 1000 Jefferson Dr., SW right on the National Mall. You can't miss it if you take the Metro (Orange Line) and get off at the Smithsonian station. The Castle is open daily, except Christmas Day.

If you're visiting, most of the attractions you'll want to see are also located at this stop. When emerging from the Metro station, you can see many of the famous landmarks and other museums from this position.

Additional sources consulted:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photos on Friday: National Museum of American History

Today's Photos on Friday peeks in at some highlights of the National Museum of American History. This museum is pretty diverse with numerous interesting exhibits. Even after multiple visits, there are still some sections I want to explore a little more. I'm always finding something I hadn't seen before.

Additionally, during the last few years the museum has had ongoing renovations going on. For instance, the Pop Culture section has been under construction for some time and it looks like it will be renamed and expanded. I inquired about it earlier this year during a visit and it sounded like some pretty cool changes are coming soon. Once the west wing renovations are complete, it appears as if it will be a very different looking museum (this paragraph updated June 2017).

In the meantime, here are some examples of exhibits that are housed by the National Museum of American History. Another neat exhibit is the National Numismatic Collection.

18th Century Gunboat Philadelphia was pulled out of New York's Lake Champlain in the 1930s. This boat, commanded by Benedict Arnold, was sunk in 1776. Today visitors can see it (and related artifacts) at the National Museum of American History.

Classic instruments

Oscar the Grouch is always a favorite with the kids!

Displayed in the exhibit "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" are a number of items, including games and other household items featuring a presidential theme.

Original "Dumbo" seat from Walt Disney World's Fantasy Land ride

Monday, January 19, 2015

Visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial

Today is the day the United States honors and celebrates the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. in his commitment to civil rights and social change. Born in 1929, throughout his lifetime he was an advocate of non-violence. 

King's birthday is actually January 15, however, in the United States, the third Monday of January is the designated day to commemorate him. Many events have been taking place downtown this weekend to honor, remember his work and work towards a better future.

In August 2011 the newest memorial on the National Mall was opened and dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. The memorial sits on four acres and has various sections.

Visitors can enter/exit the site through the "mountain"
Throughout the memorial site you'll find numerous inspirational quotes by King said during his lifetime. The centerpiece of the memorial is the statue of King which overlooks the Tidal Basin. 

I took this photo of the MLK Memorial during the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival.
The phrase you see here on the monument itself in the above photos, you'll no longer see. These words were removed in 2013 after controversy emerged due to the way it was paraphrased, with poet Maya Angelou saying it made King look "arrogant".  King's original words, spoken in 1968, were,
"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." (CNN)
Originally, the phrase was going to be replaced, but it was determined in order to keep the integrity of the memorial's structure intact, the phrase would be removed. The work was completed in the summer of 2013. This is how the memorial looks today:

Every year (and I couldn't find exact official stats), but an estimated one million people come to visit the site and remember the work of King. Anytime I visit, there is usually a crowd. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located at 1964 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.