Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and LBJ Memorial Grove

Yesterday was the 101st birthday of the National Parks!  Based on my explorations so far, I have to say that they are looking pretty good for their age.   In honor of their birthday, I will be filling my weekend with National Parks visits, but first, here is a visit I made last week!

The National Park service has so many sites to see in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area that sometimes it is just easiest to combine trips together!  This blog will feature both Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac.

Over the course of the summer, I saw two venues at Wolf Trap, the Filene Center and the Barns.  The Filene Center is a big outdoor amphitheater, and the Barns is literally the inside of a barn.  I preferred the Filene Center since it was outdoors, and you can even sit on the lawn, although that still requires a paying ticket.  It also has tiered seating versus everyone being on the same level, which makes the view much better.  The Barns is much more intimate and indoors in setting and probably seats 200 people.  Before one show, we tried to go for a walk in the woods, but the options are limited.  However, there is a nice walk from the parking lot to the Filene.

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The path from the parking lot to the Filene Center

Did you know that Wolf Trap is the only national park dedicated solely to the performing arts?  Wolf Trap features many different kinds of events, and I had the opportunity to experience quite a few this summer including Chick Corea Elektric Band & Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (Jazz and bluegrass), Pilobolus Maximus (Modern dance and movement), and The Juniper Tree & Bastianello (Opera double bill).  There were also pop artists, children’s shows, and more throughout the summer.  There is really something for everyone at Wolf Trap.

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While Wolf Trap in and of itself is pretty cool, one of my favorite parts is stopping for a meal before getting to Wolf Trap.  The fast-food-casual Vietnamese restaurant Roll Play is seriously awesome, serving up delicious and cheap spring rolls and unique sodas.  It is worth a visit if you are in Tysons Corner, and it is walking distance from the Greensboro and Tysons Corner metro (Silver Line).

Getting to and from Wolf Trap really does require a car, unless you attend a Friday or Saturday performance.  My friend Lindsay picked me up from the Spring Hill metro (Silver line) for my first visit, but I had to Uber home since the metro closed far earlier than the Sunday night show we attended.  Wolf Trap does have a stop with the Fairfax Connector bus, but it is $5 each way.  You can only access this bus from West Falls Church (Orange), and shows can run later than the metro making it not as useful some days.  It’s $3.85 in non-peak fare to go to either stop, but getting from the stop to Wolf Trap is just hard and a little expensive.  Luckily, parking is free if you have a car!

If you do choose to take a car to Wolf Trap, the LBJ Memorial Grove is an easy place to stop off and have a picnic before going to a show.  Located in Washington, D.C. but on the border with Virginia, the LBJ Memorial Grove is a small city park with a walking trail and a few picnic tables.  Since it is located on the Potomac, it is a great park to stop by and visit on your way to a site in Virginia.  Due to its location, there were many people dropping in kayaks from this park, and there is plenty of free parking.  Like many of the sites in D.C., this is yet another park where you can look out and see the Washington Monument.

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The sign says that LBJ enjoyed sitting here and thinking.

I hope you enjoyed learning about these two parks!  I wish I had more pictures from Wolf Trap, but my last blog entitled Theodore Roosevelt Island had a ton of pictures if you are just here for the scenery.

I am not sure what the next few weeks blogs will hold yet.  Next week, I will be taking you to two D.C. memorials, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality House.  Otherwise, we are experiencing a cool summer in D.C., and this weekend the highs are only in the low 80s and high 70s!  We have discussed going to Harper’s Ferry or Great Falls, but nothing is firm yet.  However, I plan to have fun!

Feel free to post comments or questions below, and thanks for reading!

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Theodore Roosevelt Island

Did you know that you can plan an island getaway without ever leaving D.C.?  It’s not your standard trip, but the Theodore Roosevelt Island feels like a peaceful oasis compared to the rest of the District.  The island was turned into a memorial in the 1930s, and it’s a very cool site to visit in the District!

I made my first visit to Roosevelt Island with my partner in crime, Cacia.  Her sister came to town, and Cacia was more than a little determined to make sure her sister saw as much of D.C. as possible.  On a Friday evening that was D.C. humid, there were very few people here.  However, this let us take in the full memorial.

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The memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.  There is a fountain to the right and a bridge to the left.  The large stones have quotes carved into them.  It’s really amazing in person.

The site is so peaceful, and we really enjoyed seeing the various aspects of the memorial and hanging out on a bench.  Based on this picture, you may assume that this is most of the island, but the island is very large and has plenty of trails.  While we did not explore any on our visit since I had to get back to work for an evening show, I did make note that the island is dog friendly!

The following weekend, the one and only Hudson dog came to town.  Hudson is a great adventurer, but he has seen so many places in D.C. that I always want him to take new walks.  Even with some humidity, we had so much fun walking Hudson!

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There are many paths to choose from, and we let Hudson take the lead!

The amazing thing about Roosevelt Island is how different the terrain is along each part of the trail.  The opening of the trail we took was very wooded, and there was lots of shade to protect us from the sun.  As there were quite a few people out walking their dogs, I was surprised to come across wildlife on the paths we were walking along.

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This little fawn, a sibling, and their mother all stood on the path right in front of us.  I managed to snap this picture as they scurried off of the trail.

As we continued around the island, we came into an area known as “the swamp.”  The swamp area was a little more humid and had a little less wildlife.  This part of the path was raised wooden planks, just like I had seen in the Everglades.  However, this path was in much better shape.  Even in the swamp area you could take a variety of different paths, and there were signs explaining different things one could see.  There were lots of cattails, and as the island meets the Potomac River, some interesting wildflowers grew along the sides.

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Little yellow and purple flowers around the edges of the island

Essentially, the beginning of the park is wooded, and the center of the island is a swamp.  As you cross around the island, you can see the Potomac River, and on a few sections of the northern tip, we could see over to Georgetown.

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A view of Georgetown from Roosevelt Island

As you can see from the photos, there are so many different areas to see on Roosevelt Island, and once it is not so humid, I could see myself wandering around here quite a bit in the fall.  This park was maintained very well, and we did pass one small area of bathrooms on the island part way down a path.  This was a really fun place to visit with my family, and it was the right speed for everyone.

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Hudson aced this selfie! (Usually he looks away)

I know what you are thinking- it must be a pain to get to an island in D.C.!  However, it’s shockingly easy to get to Roosevelt Island.  Leaving from Washington, D.C., you can take the blue, orange, or silver line to Rosslyn, and it is a short, safe, and easy walk over to the park.  Alternatively, there is quite a bit of free parking to utilize as well.  With such easy accessibility, there is no reason not to visit.

If you are making a trip to Washington, D.C., I encourage you to check out this unique little part of our nation’s Capitol!  If you are a stamp collector, the stamp is located at Arlington Cemetery, which is no longer dog friendly (Don’t worry- Hudson visited there before dogs were banned!).  Best of all, it’s 100% free to visit Roosevelt Island.  There is no entrance fee or parking fee.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to hydrate if you visit this park!  There were no running water fountains on our visit.

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Don’t forget to bring water for your furry friend!  We love using pop-up bowls for Hudson, and then he can drink on the go!

Thanks so much for reading my blog again this week!  This was one of my favorite sites we have visited so far, and I hope you have enjoyed it.  Be sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date on my latest posts.  I have been to Wolf Trap twice this week, and I am making another trip this weekend so I am hoping to post about that park next week.

The National Mall (Evening)

Previously, I published a post titled The National Mall (Daylight).  People swear it is an entirely different experience at night, and I have to agree that away from the crowds and under the starlight that you see a different angle of the Mall.

My first evening experience on the National Mall was on the 4th of July.  Cacia and I decided to brave the crowds to see the fireworks, which were truly an amazing experience.  Getting to the Jefferson Memorial, however, was not a picturesque experience due to multiple security checkpoints we had to pass through.  I have spent enough time on the National Mall to know basically every route to a memorial, and it took us 1.5 hours to get from Metro Center (Red line) to the memorial.  However, our timing was perfect, as this location was not terribly packed and full of mostly respectful people.  The payoff was gorgeous too.

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Our view of the 4th of July fireworks from the stairs of the Jefferson Memorial

While we figured this was a bucket list experience, we both agreed that we plan to come back and see the fireworks next year.  Our viewing area was spectacular, but we hope to try the Lincoln Memorial next year!

When my friend, Emily, came into town this week, it happened to coincide with the August full moon.  I thought this would be the perfect time to finish seeing the National Mall at night!

Since it was nighttime, we were not really looking to cover the whole National Mall (See my former post for that!), but we were trying to see the monuments with the most interesting lighting.  My personal favorite view is the view from the World War II Memorial, looking towards the Lincoln Memorial.

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The Wold War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the distance

The World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial were my favorites to see in the dark.  There are some amazing pictures online of the Lincoln Memorial in the nighttime, but it is really hard to get a great picture of it closer.  There are tons of people on the stairs taking pictures with flash, which makes it hard to even to get a good view.  If you really want a great view of the Lincoln Memorial and/or a great picture, a summer full moon may not be the best night.

However, if you go to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, you have a great view of that monument, and the Jefferson Memorial looks pretty from afar too.

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While I will agree that the National Mall in the evening is a great experience, I just love it so much more during the daytime!  I missed the trees and the green on the night walk.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog!  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them!  The one and only Hudson dog is here this weekend, and he had a great walk on Roosevelt Island, which I will post about next week!

On an unrelated note, my friend Emma (Mentioned in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve) just started her own Florida State Parks blog after being inspired by this blog.  If you want to check out her blog, featuring her adorable Cocker Spaniel hiking in Florida, check it out here!

Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve

I already know what you are thinking- Who takes a trip to Florida in July?  And to see the Everglades nonetheless?  Yes, I did in fact do this!  Thanks to a work trip, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Florida.  My friend from graduate school, Emma, and her soon-to-be husband Kevin crazily agreed to make this journey with me!

The number one tip I can give you is to take bug spray and plenty of sunscreen if you visit these parks in July.  It is hot, humid, and takes mosquito bites to a whole new level.  The idea of seeing swamps may seem to be crazy, but it is so cool!  We started out at the Shark Valley Visitors Center.  I felt like I was adventuring through the tropics.

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A flooded pathway in Everglades National Park

Since it was the summer, we found most paths to be completly flooded and not accessible.  Due to the heat, we walked down the tram path for about 1.5 miles and then turned around.  Many people used the path to bike through the National Park, which could be fun in the cooler months.

While on the tram path, we did find a really cool wooded walkway over a large part of the swamp.  While I was convinced the whole time that an alligator was going to jump out and eat me, that did not happen.  It was so cool to walk over the swamp, though!

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Kevin, Emma, and I crossing over the swamp on a walkway!

To get around the Everglades, you actually cross through many parts of the Big Cypress National Preserve.  The National Preserve has spots where you can observe wildlife.  We really did not see very much wildlife there, but we did see the only wildlife we needed to see.

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An alligator peering out under the walkway we were crossing over at the Ochopee Visitors Center.  It was cool to see one, and it was just far enough away for comfort.

As we started venturing back up to Naples so I could pick up my rental car and settle into my hotel for the conference, we stopped back in the Everglades to see the Gulf Coast.  It was great to see the coast in a non-beach setting, and there had been many dolphin and manatee sightings over the last few weeks.

While my experience in the Everglades mostly involved driving, there are many more activities and less heat in the winter.  It was still very cool to see such a different area, and it was interesting to learn that this actually is a flowing body of water, not just a big swamp.  If you collect the National Parks cancellation stamps, there are many to collect here.

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Five different cancellation stamps

With a $25 entrance fee for the Everglades, my National Parks pass proved it’s worth again.  After saving $20 to enter Assateague Island in May, $25 at Shenandoah in June, and another $25 here, I am at $70/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.

While these National Parks were very cool, there are so many amazing outdoor activities in Florida that should not be missed as well!  In addition to checking out Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, I had a ton of fun in the sand at Siesta Key (Sarasota), kayaking through Mangrove trees, and seeing sunsets in Naples.

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Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida

Thanks for reading my blog this week!  If you have any questions or comments, post them below in the comments section, and be sure to follow my blog to not miss any posts.  I am back in D.C. for a few weeks now, and I need to do some light hiking to get ready for my September trip to Utah!