Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Hidden in the southeast part of D.C., the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are one of the most unique experiences I have had while living here.  My DC partner in crime, Cacia, and I had been talking about making a trip here soon.  However, we moved our visit up when we discovered that the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival was on July 15 this year!  While the park was very crowded, it was a very worthwhile experience.

The closest metro stop is at Deanwood on the orange line, although for the Lotus Festival, a shuttle was provided from Minnesota Avenue.  You should not come to this park alone if you are taking public transportation, as the neighborhood has some safety issues.  There was some parking, but not nearly enough for the Festival.  We took the shuttle from Minnesota, but then walked to Deanwood and felt safe enough together.

The lotus flowers looked awesome and are best described in pictures.

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The never ending view of lotus flowers across the park.

To see the flowers, there are lots of walkways throughout the park.  While the park is not huge, it seems like the flowers go on forever.  While there were mostly the pink flowers, we found a few exceptions throughout the park.

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A yellow and pinkish flower

While the Festival is called the Lotus and Water Lily Festival, an employee at the gift shop told us that the event is scheduled around the lotus bloom, and the water lilies usually bloom in mid June, a bit earlier in the season.  We found this to be true as we walked through the park, but we still found a few water lilies.

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Little water lilies

Aside from the beautiful flowers, the Festival also has dance groups, vendors, and 2 food trucks to allow you to make this an all day experience.  While the aquatic park is probably beautiful at other times of the year, I would highly recommend attending the festival!  There were so many activities and seeing the bloom was an awesome experience.

This park has another large perk- it is dog friendly!  What could be more fun than bringing your dog to an aquatic garden?!  The Anacostia Riverwalk trail is directly next to this park, and the trail goes on for many miles and was particularly nice near the park.  Unfortunately, the area’s crime rate spills over on this beautiful trail so be careful.

I really enjoyed my trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and you should check it out too on your next visit to the District!  Next week I am looking forward to sharing my trip to Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.  Make sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates as I continue my National Parks adventure!

The National Mall (Daylight)

While many of the monuments in D.C. are called out as individual sites, I have perfected the art of seeing as many memorials as possible on my walks on the Mall after work.  The National Parks site calls out Constitution Gardens, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial.  There are plenty of monuments to see, and I hope as a resident of D.C. that I can give you some insider secrets.

I spend a lot of Fridays roaming the National Mall after work, and I love it on Friday nights as the sunset comes on.  What I have noticed over time is that most people do not get too far past the Lincoln Memorial, which is a real shame, because the Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my personal favorite!  I take the following route when I walk, utilizing the Foggy Bottom Metro Station (Blue, Orange, Silver), although many people start towards the mall from the Smithsonian or Federal Triangle stations.

1. Albert Einstein Memorial
The Albert Einstein Memorial is one of my personal favorites, even though it is actually just before the National Mall.  People treat poor Mr. Einstein as a jungle gym, and he is also popular for drunk photo ops.  However, I love stopping to see him!

2. Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
A very simple Memorial honoring soldiers from Vietnam.  It can be hard to read the names at sunset, but it’s incredible how many names are on this memorial.  While the wall is the main part of the Memorial that most people visit, be sure to stop at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Three Servicemen Memorial as you head back towards the Lincoln Memorial.

3. Lincoln Memorial
The one that everyone has to see and for a good reason.  Once you see Mr. Lincoln and read his quotes, I recommend heading to the back of the Memorial to look out towards Arlington Cemetery.  It’s much quieter on this side.

4.  Reflecting Pool

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While it was still in the high 80s, the crowds are usually down on Friday evenings after 6 PM on a hot day, allowing you to take some great photos.

5. Korean War Veterans Memorial
This Memorial, in my opinion, is hands down the most moving one for me.  I always find myself on the bench reflecting on this Memorial.  It’s not to be missed and often has veterans visiting the site.

6. D.C. War Memorial (World War I)
This one is so small that it is easy to miss!  Keep an eye out.

7. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
This Memorial is really interesting, as a large-stone Mr. King looks out over the Tidal Basin.  The quotes are wonderful, and it’s a very unique site.  Coming from the D.C. War Memorial, you will approach from the back of the Memorial.  Be sure to look at it as you start down the Tidal Basin as well.

8. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
This Memorial is my personal favorite, particularly during Cherry Blossom season!  The water falls and walls are beautiful, the quotes are fantastic, and it does not see nearly as much foot traffic as the other Memorials.

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This is a great photo op if you bring your dog along! (Hudson has many a selfie here!)

9. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
As you need to take a long walk to the Jefferson Memorial or a tour bus, many people skip this beautiful Memorial.  I usually stop and take a little break here, looking out over the Tidal Basin and enjoying the breeze.  It’s well worth the walk!  At this point, you have walked 3.2 miles if you started at the Foggy Bottom metro.  Good job!  You have a 1.3 mile walk ahead of you to the Washington Monument.

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10. Washington Monument
Two days after I moved to D.C., the elevator in the Washington Monument was closed indefinitely, making this Monument far less interesting to me.  However, during the Cherry Blossom kite flying Festival, it is the place to be!  It is also the starting point for many a protest. Pro Tip:  The best view of this Monument is from far away!  Pro Tip #2:  You can get all of the Memorial cancellation stamps at the Visitors Center for your National Mall passport!

11. World War II Memorial
This monument is huge and really cannot be summarized in pictures or words.  Be sure to visit in the summer, as this one is drained in the cold months.

12. Constitution Gardens
Constitution Gardens is essentially a giant pond, but you can see baby ducklings in June!  In your overall quest to see the monuments, you have finished another 1.4 miles!

Plenty of events take place on the National Mall throughout the year.  I came down every few days during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and I loved the Smithsonian Folk-life Festival, which was circus themed this year.

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On my walk back to the Metro, I love to stop at Captain Cookie and the Milkman, which specializes in ice cream and cookies at all hours of the day.  Almost every snack is under $5 (My personal favorite being the ice cream cookie sandwich for $4)!  What could be more perfect after a long day on the Mall?

Thanks for reading my blog, and please subscribe for more National Park adventures!  I still need to see the National Mall by night (A whole different experience according to some), and I will be sure to post when I do!

Next week I will not have a blog post because I will be spending some time in Sarasota (Vacation) and Naples (Conference), Florida!  I am hoping to see some of the National Park areas in southern Florida during my visit.

Have questions about my walking tour?  Post in the comments below!

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Within Arlington Cemetery, at the top of a very large hill, exists the Arlington House and Robert E. Lee Memorial.  If you are looking to visit this site, you need to arrive before August of 2017, as the house section is about to close indefinitely!  The house has a few rooms to look at, a small museum for Robert E. Lee and his family, a gift shop, and a small garden.

To get here, get off of the Blue line at Arlington Cemetery, and keep walking toward the large stone staircases and walls you can see directly in front of you.  Make a right, follow the sidewalk to the top of the hill.  You will go up a few hundred steps, about .3 miles, and the Memorial is at the top of the hill.  It is not the easiest thing to find, and we did not see any markers to point you in the correct direction.

Pro-Tip:  As of last fall, Arlington Cemetery stopped being dog-friendly.  You’ll have to leave your favorite companion at home for this one!

I did not take any pictures of this site, but it’s similar to going through a house in Colonial Williamsburg.  It was two floors, and we saw about 7 rooms.  The house stays cool so it’s great on a hot day.  The museum is a small 5-10 minute excursion as well, focusing on the history of the family.  The Lee family fell behind on taxes, and the government took their property, now home to the cemetery.  The site has some great historical information and was worth the trek up many steps.

Around 5:00 PM, all flags are taken down in the park.  We watched this ceremony, which was a nice touch.  The view is also great from the House, and you look out over D.C.

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You can also see L’Enfant’s tomb

Thanks for reading my blog!  I’m enjoying my National Parks adventure in the DMV area so far, and I am looking forward to continuing writing more.  You can subscribe for more information or ask comments in the questions below!

Shenandoah National Park

After a long week in the concrete jungle swamp known as Washington, D.C., I was so excited to finally make a return trip to Shenandoah National Park!  I visited Shenandoah in elementary school with my parents, and we drove down part of Skyline Drive.  Now with a 10 pound Pomeranian Poodle in tow, we decided to meet up in the park for a weekend trip.

While I drive, I don’t have a car in the city.  I took Amtrak from Union Station to Culpeper, VA, which is about an hour away from Shenandoah.  There are no rental car places so I did need to be picked up, but the actual park is only 75 miles from D.C.  If you are coming from D.C., Sperryville just outside of the park has some limited food options, and we found a GREAT cafe called Before & After to stop at for lunch.

After lunch, we started up to the park to check in.  We stayed in a pet-friendly room at Skyland, and the view was spectacular.  We had a view right over the mountain and overlooking Luray.  It was great to be centrally located in the park, and I immensely enjoyed leaving technology behind for the weekend. You can stay in rustic rooms, cabins, or camp within the property.  Eating can be a challenge, as the rooms do not have any way to cook, but we managed to make it work for the weekend.

After getting settled into the room, we began our first hike at the Hawksbill Gap Loop.  This trail takes you to the highest point in the park at 4,051 feet, and it’s an easy to moderate 2.9 mile hike.  The views are phenomenal, and we were happy to be the only people at the top.

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Hudson and I posing at the Hawksbill summit.  Little dogs can do big things!

Can you believe those little dog legs made it all of the way to the top?  Hudson was such a trooper on our trip!  You can see behind me that there is a compass in the wall at the peak.  The compass labels and points the direction towards the other peaks in the park.  It was very fun to know exactly what we were looking at.  The Hawksbill loop was my favorite hike we did this weekend thanks to the great views from the top.

The next day, we set out to hike the Rose River Trail.  This trail was a little different, as the final viewing points were two waterfalls, not a peak.  This 3.7 mile hike only has an elevation change of 908 feet, but with slippery rocks and some mud, it remained a little more than easy.  We really enjoyed this hike because you are allowed to enter the water, and Hudson enjoyed wandering near the little waterfalls.  The first large waterfall you pass is the Rose River Falls

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Rose River Falls

There were also a few butterflies by the Rose River Falls, which made me very happy.  These falls are about 1/3 of the way through the loop hike.  At the near end of the hike, you come to Dark Hollow Falls.  While the Dark Hollow Falls are taller, since they are accessible via a fire road, they are more crowded.

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Dark Hollow Falls

While I was ready to keep hiking, my parents were done with the wilderness after this hike.  We spent some time at the Big Meadows Wayside, which was a store and casual restaurant, and we enjoyed some ice cream as a treat after this hike.  We later walked the 2 mile round trip path from the store to the campground so I could check out campsites I would like to try in the future.  (I have never camped so we will see if I manage to pull this off this summer!)  In doing this, we found out that this is one of the big places to stop and watch the sunset!  We didn’t get any pictures that do the sunset justice, but it was beautiful.

In the morning, I decided to finish off my trip with a solo hike on the Stony Man Loop, which went a little awry when I got mixed up and ended up on the Little Stony Man trail somehow instead.  The trail head for the Stony Man Loop starts in Skyland, making it a great quick hike for a first or last day.

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View from the Stony Man Loop Trail

By some miracle, I did have enough cell reception to call and get picked up at the other trail head.  I wouldn’t recommend packing a hike in when you are trying to catch a train, but it all worked out in the end!  The views were worth it!

While it was sad to head back down the mountain to the Amtrak station, my parents, Hudson, and I had a great weekend trip to Shenandoah.  With a $25 entrance fee, my National Parks pass proved it’s worth again.  After spending $20 to enter Assateague Island last month and $25 here, I am at $45/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.

Even a little dog like Hudson can have fun hiking and swimming in the Shenandoah National Park.  While I wish the trip could have been longer, we will have to return soon.

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