Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Great places to see Christmas light displays in the Washington DC area

All the fun holiday and Christmas activity in the region has already or is about to begin. Looking to find the brightest and beautiful Christmas and holiday light displays in the Washington D.C. region? If so, there are plenty of places to see some festive holiday lights this season.

Entering Bull Run Park

Here are some events taking place in the area:

Bull Run Festival of Lights

Bull Run Regional Park, out in western Fairfax County, kicks off its annual Festival of Lights and carnival usually around Thanksgiving time. The drive through the lights, which can be enjoyed while listening to the local radio station that plays holiday tunes, takes about 30 minutes from the beginning of the festival to the end. 

At the end of the ride, arrive at the carnival where you’ll find plenty of parking. On some of our earlier trips, the kids had fun coloring holiday sheets and roasting marshmallows over the fire. You’ll also find carnival rides, a photo-op with Santa, and camel rides, along with other standard carnival fare, but we’ve never taken part of these. The festival of lights usually ends the first week in the New Year. 

Tip: If you’re able to go during the week, the lines are much shorter and you get a break on the price too. Also dress warmly if you plan to say for the carnival!


Zoolights is a lot of fun. An annual tradition at the National Zoo, on our last visit we chose to go during the holiday break and, while it was a little chilly, there was enough to see and do to keep us moving around. Lots of lights and enough of the animals were awake to visit with. During the week between Christmas and New Year it’s likely to be a bit crowded (it was when we went), but is still a great time. Admission is free! Parking is not. The Metro is a good option, there are two stops on the Red Line that are relatively close to the zoo (Woodley Park Zoo-Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park). Also, there are some attractions that do cost a fee. Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes!

Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark

Meadowlark Botanical Garden’s annual Winter Walk of Lights begins in mid-November and ends in early January. Lit up in hundreds of thousands of LED lights and displays, wear comfortable shoes I’m told. I have heard great things about this event and it’s high on my list of places to visit.

Symphony of Lights Drive Through

This is one I’ve just learned about. This light festival, a 20-year tradition in Maryland’s Howard County, is a light festival consisting of approximately 300,000 lights, along with a laser light show, and 3D holiday video. Visitors drive through the lights and listen to holiday music as the lights twinkle to the beat. This is a fundraising event that benefits Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The hospital is located in Columbia, Md. The festival begins just before Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Day (open all holidays except New Year’s Eve). 

Annual Winter Festival of Lights at Watkins Park

This annual tradition in Prince George’s County kicks off on Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Day. This one is also a drive-through event for visitors to enjoy the lights in the comfort of their cars. The park advertises over 1 million twinkling lights and themed displays. Located in Upper Marlboro, Md., the park also collects canned foods and non-perishable items to donate to local food banks.

Other festivals in Maryland include The Winter Lights Festival in Gaithersburg, Md., Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Dowell, Md. (check the website for dates) and the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park (Montgomery County), Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (right off the Beltway), and Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park.

New for this year is Light Up the Wharf at D.C.'s newest spot for dining, entertainment, and more. The site isn't very descriptive but there will be a lighted Christmas tree other displays. 

Update Nov. 15, 2018: I just saw a mention on the local news about the One Million Lights Festival, which is one I wasn't familiar with. Information can be found on the official website.

Do you know of any other beautiful, tacky, or just plain old cool, light displays? If so, let me know in the comments section.

Have a wonderful holiday season full of light! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Photos on Friday: Autumn sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

With October quickly slipping away, I realized we hadn't made our annual fall trip to the Shenandoah National Park. In recent years, we've been heading to the park more often during the summer months to see the butterflies and wildlife, however, we like to at least try to see the beautiful foliage at least once. We made what is likely to be our last trip of the year to the park last weekend. Decided the day before to make it an early day and get out there before sunrise.

We just about made it to Mary's Rock Tunnel (just past mile marker 32) when we began to see glimpses of daylight, which was perfect since I was hoping to stop at the overlooks between here and mile marker 36 for the day's trip. Here are some photos we captured in that stretch of Skyline Drive.

This was taken a few minutes after we arrived. That white spot next to the tree we believe is Venus after checking Google Sky. It was shining very brightly that morning.

We were the second car to arrive, within minutes several other cars pulled up to enjoy what looked like was going to be a spectacular show.
And here comes the sun! At this point we had moved a bit further south.
A few minutes later

Peaceful morning in the mountains. We parked in a lot across the street at one of the gaps and stood on a rock wall to watch the rest of the sun rise. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

15 interesting facts about the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Beautifully situated in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception attracts thousands of people each day. The National Shrine is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America. 

Interested to learn more? 

15 interesting facts about the National Shrine

1. In 1913 a national shrine was approved by Pope Pius X to be built in the United States. The cornerstone for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was laid in 1920. The Crypt Church was completed in 1926 and the rest of the Crypt Level was finished in 1931.

2. The Church is Romanesque-Byzantine style and is made entirely of stone, brick, tile and mortar. There are no steel structural beams, framework or columns found in this building. It was believed the Romanesque-Byzantine style fit in well with the other architecture found in Washington, D.C. 

3. Several architects were involved with this major project. From the 1919-36 construction, they were: Maginnis and Walsh of Boston, with associate Frederick V. Murphy, Professor of Architecture at CUA, Timothy F. Walsh of Massachusetts, and Frederick Vernon Murphy. Post-WWII, the architects from 1954-59 were, Maginnis and Walsh and Kennedy of Boston, Charles D. Maginnis of Massachusetts, and Eugene F. Kennedy, Jr., also of Massachusetts.

4. The first Mass was held in 1924, on Easter Sunday.

5. Construction for the National Shrine was ongoing but was temporarily put on hold during the Depression and World War II. Build for the Great Upper Church superstructure resumed in 1954 and was completed in 1959. Its dedication took place on November 20 of that year.

6. Pope John Paul II was the first reigning Pope to visit the National Shrine; this took place in 1979. He would later elevate the National Shrine to the status of minor basilica in 1990. Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008. He gave a rare bestowal of “a Golden Rose for Our Mother Mary”. This is an honor that dates back to the 11th century.

7. Every year about 1 million people visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to attend Mass, tour the church, or visit one of its many beautiful chapels. 

8. There are over 70 individual chapels to be found within the Basilica’s walls.

9. The National Shrine is more than 200 feet above sea level. Its exterior is 459 feet long, 240 feet wide, and the Great Dome’s diameter is 108 feet.

10. Seating capacity of the Basilica’s Upper Church is 3,500 people with a total capacity of about 6,000 people.

11. In addition to being the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America, did you know the National Shrine is also listed in the top 10 largest Roman Catholic Churches in the world?

12. The Great Dome features five Marian symbols: Fleur de lis, Cedar of Lebanon, Tower of Ivory, Star of the Sea, Intertwining Monograms of A and M (Ave and Maria).

13. The Knights Tower is 329 feet tall and has a 56-bell carillon

14. Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, the National Shrine’s founder, is buried in the Founder’s Chapel, located in the Crypt Level. He is the only person buried in the Shrine.

15. The Basilica is often referred to as “America’s Church”.

If you are Catholic or of another religion, this is a wonderful place to visit with its spirituality, no matter your beliefs. Several Masses and Confessions are held daily in the Basilica. However, even if you aren’t religious, the amazing architecture and artwork found in and out of the National Shrine are simply amazing; the interior is stunning. You can self-tour or take a guided one.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located at 400 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20017. Parking is free and relatively easy to access. To take the Metro, use the Red line (Brookland/CUA station); it is a .04 mile walk according to Google Maps.


Visit to the Basilica
Links from the National Shrine websites, here and here [PDF]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Interesting DC tours: U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Did you know you can take a tour of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing during your visit to Washington, D.C. and see how money is made? Perhaps one of the lesser-known tours, it’s a really cool one if you get the chance to do it. 

How to get tickets

During the busy spring and summer months, you’ll need to get to get tickets ahead of time (same day distribution). They are on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be obtained at the ticket booth located at Raoul Wallenburg Place, just outside of the Bureau. The booth opens at 8 a.m. and closes after the day’s tickets have been distributed. The first tour is at 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.

In the fall and winter months, which is September to February, tours are offered between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and tickets are not required and you can head to the 14th St SW entrance for entry (check the Bureau’s website for exact dates/hours). In the event of inclement weather, delayed opening or early closure by the federal government, this does affect the facility’s tours.

Additionally, if you contact your Senator or Representative, you can also reserve tickets through their office. Contact your local Congressperson for details.

What to do

The entrance to the visitor’s center is located at 301 14th St SW. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early. You’ll need to line up when your tour time is called. When your time slot is called, you’ll go through security. The usual items are prohibited like you’d find at the airport or other secured area. No food or drink is allowed inside. 

Gift shop
You are allowed to bring your camera and are free to use it in the visitor’s center and gift shop, but taking photos or videos of any kind are strictly prohibited during the tour itself. Don’t be tempted to take a quick photo with your cell, you will be escorted out of the facility. Also, if you have little ones, you can bring your stroller with you but not on the tour.

After you are finished going through security, you’ll be inside the Visitor’s Center. There are some exhibits to look at and some displays on the wall to read which highlight the history of U.S. currency. You’ll have a few minutes to take a look around before you head into the next section to watch a short video.

What you’ll see

The tour takes place above the production floor and you'll go through the different sections, seeing how the denominations of U.S. money are made each step of the way. 
  • See literally millions of dollars at once
  • Hear the whirring of the machines and watch the currency go through each process of the printing
  • Learn about the measures added into money to prevent counterfeiting 

The tour itself is about 45 minutes, so give yourself approximately an hour for the experience. After the tour, there is a gift shop you can peruse before you exit. You'll exit on Raoul Wallenburg Place facing the Tidal Basin.

Other things you should know

Tours are not offered on weekends, federal holidays, and is closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  In 2018, some of the process will be altered with construction going on. Check at the ticket booth or the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing website for the most up-to-date information.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Where to find Halloween and fall fun in the D.C. area

Hard to believe it’s already mid-October. That means the fall festivals, corn mazes, ghost tours, and other seasonal fun events are already in full swing. It also means Halloween is right around the corner. 

Looking for something to do with the kids? Maybe some old-fashioned fun? Perhaps something a little ghoulish? Here are some ideas of the many things there are to do in the D.C. area for Halloween celebrating.

Boo at the Zoo

A perennial classic in the District, the National Zoo’s “Boo at the Zoo” event takes place one weekend every year. Featuring over 40 treat stations, pumpkin carving demos, “scary-oke”, and other entertainment. Kids get all sorts of goodies at the treat stations, but the zoo hasn’t forgotten the adults. They are offered food and craft beer tastings. Check the zoo’s website for dates, times, entertainment, and admission prices for the current year.

District Wharf

Having made its debut in D.C. during fall 2017, the District Wharf opened with new restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and one-stop family night out. It looks as if they’ll be offering various special events throughout the year. In 2017, “Pumpkin Palooza” is being held. See the headless horseman, enjoy pumpkin-themed activities, such as pumpkin bowling, pumpkin pie-eating contest, pets’ costume contest, live music, and more. It’s too early to say whether or not this will be an annual event, but chances are there will be some family-friendly event offered. Check the Wharf’s website to see what’s on their schedule. 

(Update Oct. 2018: I don't see this event on the current calendar. Maybe next year?)

Trick-or-Treat at Mount Vernon

A newer tradition at Mount Vernon is trick or treating with other “spook-tacular” activities. The kids can wear their costumes (there is a contest for best George and Martha costumes with prizes), participate in a parade around the mansion and go trick-or-treating. Other fun includes a wagon ride, special scavenger hunt, and crafts. Additionally, visitors can enjoy 18th-century entertainment and watch demonstrations highlighting life in Colonial days. See Mount Vernon's website for current dates and times.  

Fall festivals at historic properties

Many of the area'
s historic properties offer family fun during October. I invite you to check out my post highlighting some of the perennial events you can find in the region. Celebrate the season and learn some history in the process!

Family fun on the local farms

Northern Virginia has many farms that convert their fields to fall family fun. Each farm offers something a little different but some of the attractions include pumpkin picking, hay rides, giant slides, corn mazes, and much more. I’ve explored several the farms (this post goes into far more detail about family fun on the local farms) but I know there are others and that’s without even looking into Maryland.

Looking for something else? Maybe a ghost tour? I have a post that outlines all sorts of cool events highlighting numerous family fun events (and some freakishly-scary stuff!)

See what's planned across the region. Additionally, the Fairfax County Park Authority offers numerous fall family fun events throughout the county (many of these events require registration).  

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Photos on Friday: Scouting out nature in Shenandoah National Park

Over the summer we took a few trips out to the beautiful Shenandoah National Park to do some hiking and try to scout out nature. Most of the time, we stay close to Skyline Drive, stopping at the overlooks and/or taking some short excursions. Today's photos on Friday highlights some of what we saw.

In the past, we've reserved these trips for the fall foliage, but last year discovered the summer beauty of the park. I was stunned by the number of butterflies. Literally dozens in one small area and this was throughout the park. Amazing!

Up until this summer, I'd only seen an owl in the wild, just once and that was during a 5:30 a.m. walk in the dark hours in my suburban neighborhood. However, this summer we were lucky enough to see three!

And, finally, this year I really (and I mean really!) wanted to see a bear. Last year I caught a glimpse of a big one as it ran away and didn't see his face. My wish was fulfilled on two separate trips. In July, we had the good fortune to see a bear high in a tree. On the second trip we spotted another bear in a tree and upon leaving Big Meadows we spotted one almost right on the side of the road, so we pulled over.

Had to scurry away from this guy, this photo is a zoom from across a road. 

This one has a story to it (you can read here). Moral of that story though, don't get too close. Even though the black bears in this region don't aggressively go after humans, you still need to be cautious. We didn't expect the bear to turn and come closer to us but that's what happened. A bear's huff is pretty scary. We had attended a ranger talk last year where we learned how to act in a bear encounter and I quietly got away and crossed the street.

In this bear photo we are at a distance. This fella is way up in a tree and more afraid of us than we are of him. He heard us, ran to the tree, and scampered up.

Friday, September 8, 2017

10 fun facts about ‘Foamhenge’ at Cox Farms

The year 2017 marked the first of Foamhenge’s new home at Cox Farms in Northern Virginia. You might be asking yourself at this point, what in the world is Foamhenge? 

If you haven't heard of it and are wondering, it’s a unique piece of art which is a life-sized foam reproduction of the historic Stonehenge in England. 

Foamhenge in Natural Bridge Virginia

Where did it come from? Who created it? How did it end up at Cox Farms? If you're still wondering, read on.

10 fun facts about Foamhenge

1. Foamhenge was built in 2004 by Rockbridge County-based artist Mark Cline of Enchanted Castle Studios. For more than a decade he maintained the unmarked, yet very popular, site which was located in Natural Bridge, Virginia.

2. Cline originally designed and built Foamhenge as an April Fool’s Day stunt. Cline has told the media he never thought it would last more than a year. Instead, it lasted for 12. And it wasn’t dismantled out of lack of interest either (the attraction gained a sort of a cult following over the years), it was a forced removal which took place in late August 2016.

3. The pieces that makeup Foamhenge are made of beaded foam and weigh approximately 420 pounds.

facts about Foamhenge
Some pieces of Foamhenge

4. Foamhenge was built by a small group of men and took six weeks to build. Cline was meticulous to ensure Foamhenge was an exact replica of Stonehenge, doing research to see that it was astronomically correct. 

5. The foam was delivered from Winchester, Va. to Rockbridge County by tractor-trailer – it reportedly took four trips!

6. Over the years many people traveling through Virginia stopped at the Natural Bridge exit in search of seeing Foamhenge in person, myself included (I learned about it almost a decade into my Virginia residency. I made a stop to see it six months after I first heard about it. At the time, I didn't know it, but Foamhenge was literally in its last days at its original home).

7. Despite no advertising, signage or anything indicating the big foam pillars stood just off the roadside, up a hill and behind some trees, Foamhenge ended up being featured on The Discovery Channel, Smithsonian Channel, TBS and MSNBC (and the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip too). Not bad for something that was originally a gag! Turned out Foamhenge was really good for local tourism. 

At the old location, a short walk up the hill to Foamhenge

8. A Merlin statue stood at the original site watching over Foamhenge. 

9. Foamhenge was moved in late 2016 as the property it sat on was designated to become part of the new Natural Bridge State Park, which also had formerly been privately owned. Officials gave the reason that Foamhenge did not “fit” with Virginia’s state parks’ mission.

10. After many interested parties from various places in the United States expressed interest in acquiring the unique landmark, Cline ultimately decided to send it to Cox Farms. Cox has since moved it to its property in Northern Virginia.

Foamhenge and Merlin

There you have it – 10 fun facts about Foamhenge. If you want to see Foamhenge in person, you can see it at Cox Farms, which is located in western Fairfax County. Cox Farms is a popular destination for locals and tourists, especially known for its’ phenomenal fall festival and Fields of Fear. Foamhenge made its debut at its new home on September 16, 2017. It's available for visitors limited time frames during the winter, spring and summer (check the link above) but is included with admission to their fall festival.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

16 fun facts about the John F. Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a vast cultural center which is wholly dedicated to the performing arts. A highly visible building as you drive over the Potomac River on any one of the bridges from Virginia into the District, the center is one of D.C.’s top venues to see performing arts.

front view of the Kennedy Center
Partial view of the front exterior of the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center welcomes millions of people each year to enjoy a show, learn something new or to simply explore the building and what it has to offer. Want to know more?

16 facts about the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

1. The Kennedy Center is located on 17 acres and was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone.

One side of the rooftop terrace at the Kennedy Center

2. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation (the National Cultural Center Act) in 1958 to establish a building dedicated to the performing arts. A few months prior to his death, President John F. Kennedy had signed legislation to expand the newly designated cultural center which increased the number of trustees and extended the time for raising private funds. The Eisenhower Theater, which sits 1,164 people, is named in President Eisenhower’s honor.

3. The newly-designated center was renamed as a national living memorial to President John F. Kennedy following his 1963 assassination. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill on January 23, 1964. 

4. At the groundbreaking ceremony in December 1964, President Johnson used the same gold-plated shovel used for the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.

5. Opening night for the John F. Kennedy Center was on Sept. 8, 1971. The world premiere that evening was Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” and was performed at the Opera House.

6. The Hall of States showcases a bright display of 50 flags, each representing one of the states. They are hung along the ceiling in the order they entered the union. U.S. territories and District of Columbia flags are also displayed.

view of the Hall of States, Kennedy Center, Washington DC
Hall of States

7. The Hall of Nations also displays flags. In this grand hall, you can see flags from all of the countries with which the United States maintains diplomatic relations.

Inside of the Kennedy Center Washington DC
Hall of Nations

8. An impressive 630 feet long, 40 feet wide Grand Foyer showcases 16 Orrefors crystal chandeliers. Each chandelier weighs one ton.

9. President Kennedy is honored by a bust made by Robert Berks; it weighs a whopping 3,000 pounds.

10. The center’s Concert Hall has more than 2,400 seats.

11. The Opera House at the center, with its more than 2,300 seats, is illuminated by Lobmeyr chandelier, a gift from Austria. Its diameter is 50 feet and has almost 2,000 light bulbs!

12. Free performances can be found at the center’s Millennium Stage at 6 p.m. every day. A variety of art forms can be seen, including but not limited to dance, comedy, improv and various types of music.

13. Other performance spaces in the Kennedy Center include the Family Theater (324 seats), Terrace Theatre (490 seats), Theater Lab (388 seats), the North and South Plazas and the Terrace Gallery.
14. Visitors are able to roam the River and Roof Terraces and take in the views of the city and of Northern Virginia. Highlights include the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Washington National Cathedral, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Boats, kayakers and other water travelers can be watched going up and down the Potomac River.

View of NW DC and to the left is Virginia

15. Along the River Terrace’s marble walls, you can read engraved quotes by President Kennedy that was said with emphasis on the arts in American culture.

16. The Kennedy Center is currently undergoing a massive renovation. Its first renovation since its build, the Kennedy Center will see three pavilions: A Welcome Pavilion, Skylight Pavilion, and a River Pavillion. The new spaces will add studios, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, lecture hall and other spaces dedicated to education. There will also be a large outdoor wall for video presentations, along with a cafĂ©. 

Existing cafe inside of the Kennedy Center
As a long-established and highly acclaimed center for the performing arts, over 3 million people visit the John F. Kennedy Center each year. Visitors are welcome to the center to visit and free tours are offered daily.

Personal observation
Brochure and booklet picked up at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Kennedy Center website  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 facts about the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove

Did you know there is a living memorial dedicated to President Lyndon B. Johnson in the District? I had first heard there was a memorial about a year or two ago but just stumbled upon it earlier this summer. 

The site is right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. but it is also a hidden gem as it’s not well-advertised and, while it's noted on roadside signs, once entering the location, I found signage to be vague. 

Want to know more? Read on.

10 facts about the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove

1. Plans for the memorial were started in 1973, shortly after the President’s death. Money for the site was raised by the LBJ Grove Memorial Committee which totaled over $2 million in donations from people all over the U.S. The memorial site was chosen by Lady Bird Johnson.

Path leading up to the memorial

2. Located on Columbia Island, which has since been renamed Lady Bird Johnson Park, the memorial is a serene place sandwiched in between busy roadways, the Boundary Channel and has views of the beautiful Potomac River.  Mrs. Johnson chose this site because she and the President would often stop here as it was a favorite place to relax and reflect.

3. Two parts make up the memorial. The first consists of paths and pine trees and its center is a large granite monolith. Surrounding this section of the memorial are four quotes from LBJ carved into stone on the ground. The second part of the memorial is a grass meadow made up of various trees, flowers and other foliage.

4. The memorial was designed by landscape architect Meade Palmer. The granite was sculpted by Harold Vogel. Mrs. Johnson worked closely with these designers during the process.

5. The granite monolith is 19 feet tall and was quarried in Texas, the home state of LBJ. 

6. There are 900 white pine trees that surround the memorial, except the side that faces the Potomac. Views of D.C. are clear, along with the Washington Monument. Other foliage that frames the memorial include dogwoods, azaleas and rhododendron.

7. The memorial grove opened on April 6, 1976. At the dedication ceremony on this date, Lady Bird Johnson said, 
“This strip of land will always be a special place for me... It appears at the moment when you come over a rise and look down into the Potomac Valley and see the capital spread out with its great monuments... The years never diminished the feeling of pride and elation we felt in those beautiful buildings that belong to all of us.” (courtesy of National Park Service
8. You can see the Pentagon across the way from the Columbia Island Marina, which is located on the island where this park is located.

9. Benches are placed in the grove for visitors to sit and also reflect. In the warmer months, you’ll see birds, butterflies, bees and squirrels, to name a few. 

Critter spotted at the memorial site

10. The site is open year-round during daylight hours and closes at dusk.

You can enter Lady Bird Park from the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It’s a little hard to find as once you see the sign directing you to the memorial, when you pull in, we did not see any markers leading us to the grove. You pull into the parking lot and the memorial is off to the right; the marina is straight ahead and then winds to the left of the channel. There are also restrooms and an eatery located next to the parking lot.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

10 fun facts about Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin

Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin is probably best known for the thousands of cherry blossom trees that dazzle the region every spring when they bloom. During this time visitors and locals alike flock to this pooled area of water to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Aside from the cherry blossoms, the Tidal Basin also is rich in history. Not to mention is a beautiful place to visit year round. Want to know more about the Tidal Basin? Read on for some more fun facts. 

Fun facts about the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

1. The Tidal Basin is a partially man-made body of water, it spans an area of approximately 107 acres and is about 10 feet deep. It lies between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel.

2. A devastating flood took place in 1881 which led to the construction of the Tidal Basin, which began in 1882. Completed in 1897, the area was designed to control the levels of the Potomac River to flush out the silt and sediment from the Washington Channel and to prevent flooding. The engineering involved with building the Tidal Basin created approximately 723 acres of new land and many of the memorials currently stand on that man-made land.

Photos taken from the top of the Washington Monument
Aerial view of a portion of the Tidal Basin (I'm inside the Washington Monument when I took this shot)

3. The basin’s original name was “Twining Lake” named after William Johnson Twining, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Washington DC's first Engineer Commissioner.

4. Did you know there was once a bona fide beach at the Tidal Basin? It was located near where the Jefferson Memorial stands today and lasted for less than a decade. However, during those years it was “the place” to be according to WETA’s history blog. The official opening came with huge fanfare in 1918 (people had been swimming in the area for a few years before this) and it came with all the things you’d see at any popular beach location, changing rooms, food vendors and other beach-y like amenities. 
Image credit: By National Photo Company Collection. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Tidal Basin Bathing Beach closed in 1925, never to reopen. One of the reasons for the closure was the fact the beach was segregated and funding for a second beach was cut by the Senate in February of 1925. This led to Congress permanently shuttering all beaches at the Tidal Basin. The buildings were demolished and carted away and the summer of 1925 the "shores" were reverted to being "the Tidal Basin". 

5. In modern day, a whopping 250 million gallons of water from the Potomac River comes into the Tidal Basin twice a day through the inlet gates. This water is also used to keep the water levels in the Lincoln Reflecting Pool consistent, that was a new addition in 2012 after the pool underwent an extensive renovation.

6. There is a 2.1-mile long footpath that goes around the Tidal Basin where pedestrians can stroll and enjoy the views. On this walk, you’ll see up close the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the George Mason Memorial (you’ll have to cross a street to see this one). Same with the John Paul Jones Memorial.  

Washington DC famous cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin
The 2015 cherry blossom peaks were stunning. Many people came to walk around the basin as is customary during this time of year.

7. While the monument is not on the basin's footpath, you’ll also get stunning views of the Washington Monument, which is able to be seen from pretty much any point of the National Mall.  Taking photos from the Tidal Basin you can get some nice reflection shots of the monument in the water.

Tidal basin reflections of monuments
Photo taken one morning at dawn

8. The famous Yoshino cherry blossom trees were a gift to the United States from Japan in 1912. They were given by Toyko's Mayor Yukio Ozaki. A total of 3,000 cherry trees were given and some of the original historic trees still remain. You can see the place where the first cherry tree planting took place on March 27, 1912. The busiest time of year in Washington is during the peak views - people flock here each spring to see the blossoms in their magnificence.

Cherry blossoms peak in Washington DC 2016
Another view of cherry blossom peaks (2016)

9. A 350+-year-old 10-foot granite lantern also can be seen. Another gift from Japan, dedicated in 1954, there is a twin in Japan which signifies Japanese-American friendship. It is lit annually during the cherry blossom festival. A Japanese Pagoda, also made of granite and a gift from Japan in 1957, is also located on the Tidal Basin.

10. Paddle boats are a popular attraction on the Tidal Basin, you can rent by the hour. The rides are seasonal. The boats hold two to four passengers and there are a couple of electronic ones so you don’t have to peddle (I believe those are part of the two passenger option).

Paddle boats on Washington DC's Tidal Basin

There you have it! Ten fun facts about Washington's Tidal Basin. If you haven't been to the Tidal Basin, it's a wonderful walk around if you have the time. Also, it offers some pretty views during sunrises and sunsets. 

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