Adventures, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital, The District, Throwback Thursday

We Love Throwback Thursday: 03/27/14

Pennsylvania Ave. with snow (estimated: 1913-18)

Whoever said DC hardly gets snow needs to take a long look at the Library of Congress archives because there seem to be plenty of photos, like the above shot of Pennsylvania Avenue dated somewhere between 1913-18, showing the white stuff all over our fair city. And I’m not gonna lie, they look to be handling the snow a tad bit better than we do currently. With this photo’s snow a distant memory and I’m hoping it puts some distance between us and the cold weather and, in that vein, this week’s reincarnated posts focus on moving into spring.

  1. You know that know-it-all guy who swears DC was built on a swamp? Yeh, well, he’s wrong. DC Mythbusting: Built On A Swamp?
  2. It’s time (hopefully) to get your gardens ready for the season, so soak up some super useful tips from Meredith Shepard of Love & Carrots.
  3. Maps! Maps! Maps!  We’ve amassed a great collection of DC maps that will be useful for navigation and for decorating your walls.
  4. Ok, we complain about tourists, but deep down we truly love them (cough) and want them to love our city, so pass on DC Mythbusting: Tourist Tips and be sure they have a good time.
  5. If we’re gonna rip on tourists, then we’ve got to rip on ourselves and our Breakdown of the “Sh*t DC Says Video” does just that. You have to laugh at yourself sometimes.
Essential DC, Life in the Capital, The District, Tourism

It’s Tourist Season: Share the Love

All photos by the author

A couple years ago the Social Chair and I were sitting at a bar when the couple next to us asked us a question. They said they’d overheard our conversation with the bartender and were looking for a restaurant recommendation, since they were visiting from out of town and wanted to try something other than their usual haunts. We got to talking about where they were from (“Outside Toronto”), and we mentioned that we were leaving in a week to go visit family and friends both in and outside Toronto. It was at this point in a conversation with a Canadian that I would usually get to play my trump card, since my sister lives in a town even most Ontario natives haven’t heard of. But when we told them the name of the town (West Montrose), they got a little wide-eyed. And then they asked, “which house?”

It turned out that these strangers, from “Outside Toronto,” had almost bought that very house, and after they didn’t buy it their friends did. Their friends, in fact, were the couple who sold the house to my sister and brother-in-law (and since my sister’s family is moving to The Hague, it’s for sale again). In this city you never know who you might meet.

Judging by what I’ve seen on Twitter, and a stale rant that has been making the rounds again (which I won’t dignify by linking here), tourist season has fallen hard on some of you (the fact that it arrives at the same time as allergy season also doesn’t help, I’m sure). But I ask your patience as I make this heartfelt plea: please be nice to tourists.

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The Features

Virginia Tourism, NPS, “Art” and Advertising Money

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

You may have noticed the sculpture of the word “LOVE” erected in Dupont Circle last week. While it was billed as an art installation, it was actually part of an ad blitz done for the Virginia Tourism campaign, and the Park Service isn’t happy at all about being lied to.  According to Lydia DePillis from the City Paper, the installation was removed with prejudice Friday.

Virginia Tourism took down their blog posting on the takeover, but the press release remains online.

What would an ad like that cost, though? I know you can’t buy ad space in Dupont Circle, as it’s Park Service land and they don’t permit advertising on public land, even in DC, but I did some talking to media buyers today, and came up with some numbers.

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The Daily Feed

And the Cherry Blossoms Cometh…


Hard to believe it, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival is right around the corner! The official festival celebration is from March 26 through April 10 this year.

Just announced this morning by National Park Service Chief Horticulturist Rob DeFeo, the optimal bloom time for the blossoms will be March 29 – April 3, right in the middle of the Festival. The average peak bloom date is April 4 with varying lengths; last year was a short window due to the heavy snows that blanketed the area in February protracted heat wave in March 2010.

This year’s Festival boasts nearly 400 free events and performances surrounding traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit; in celebration of the 99th anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees. The Blossom Kite Festival, always a great event held on the National Mall, has moved to the first Saturday of the festival, March 27.

For the first time in 15 years, the popular Sakura Matsuri Japanese culture street festival on April 9 will charge an admission fee of $5.


Getaways: Centralia, Pa., is one smokin’ hot town

Photos by Erin McCann

What was it Joni Mitchell sang? “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”? Let’s just say that it took growing up and moving away from Central Pennsylvania for me to realize the true greatness of the place. Amish quilts and baked goods? Rolling hillsides? Whatever. What I’m talking about is the sort of tourist spot that only my homeland can create: an abandoned mining town that’s been on fire for nearly 50 years.

In 1962, Centralia was a small town just like any other, populated by miners and the descendants of miners. There were streets and houses and bars and churches and people. Today? Today there are streets. The houses and bars and churches and people are gone. In their place you’ll find the oppressive smell of sulfur, and steam spews from the ground constantly. It’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland that serves as a symbol of stubbornness, conspiracy and the decay of the American dream.

And it’s three and a half hours from D.C.

(And when you’re done, there’s beer.)

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The Daily Feed

How badly do you miss Tai Shan?

Photo courtesy of
‘Treats You Have Treats For Me? (2 of 3)’
courtesy of ‘Daniel.Techie{TaiShan~4Ever} @′

Enough to pay $5,000 plus airfare to go visit him? That well-known panda-lobbying organization The Friends of the National Zoo is organizing a 10-day trip this fall to China, one that will include a stop at the Bifengxia Wildlife Preserve, home to our beloved Tai Shan. Sure, there’s lots of culture and dining and education and blah blah blah mixed in, but we know what it’s really all about: checking up on Butterstick to make sure he hasn’t been brainwashed by the communists.

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The Features, Tourism

Tourism: Union Station

Photo courtesy of
‘Color Photo – Arriving at Union Station’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Despite the history, the sculptures, the uniqueness, it’s still kind of hard to wax poetic about Union Station. You see, when Union Station was built, residents lauded the civic project for finally bringing an impressive and worthy gateway for visitors into the nation’s capital. But today, people run in and out of Union Station faster than… well, faster than a speeding train.

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Dupont Circle, History, The Features, Tourism

Mystery Mansion in Dupont: The Heurich House

Photo courtesy of
‘Hidden Bronze Lion’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Tucked away in plain view, the Heurich House is the most intact late-Victorian home in the country. Right in the middle of the action in Dupont Circle – on a corner you have probably walked by at least a dozen times – you are absolutely transported back in time – easily envisioning the family who lived there enjoying a meal in the German beer tavern-styled breakfast room and needle pointing doll clothes and tapestries in the ladies’ retreat room. The furniture, furnishings, wall and ceiling canvas paintings, and even the gas and electric lighting are all original to the house.

The Heurich House museum was home to Christian Heurich, who was regarded as the patriarch of the American brewing industry. After moving to America from Germany in 1872 at the age of 30, he purchased an old, declining brewery and within 10 years, became the largest and most successful brewer in the nation’s capital.

Nicknamed the “Brewmaster’s Castle,” the Heurich House sounds more like a Brickskellar’s with a spiral tower, but the initial disappointment you’ll have to get over first is: they don’t serve any beer. A more fitting nickname for the mansion might be “Fireproof Fortress.” Continue reading

Entertainment, Essential DC, Life in the Capital, The Great Outdoors, Tourism

Tourism: Hillwood Museum and Gardens

Photo courtesy of
‘Hillwood Museum’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

Hidden up in Van Ness, Hillwood Museum and Gardens is a few acres of green, colorful, luxe heaven. The tagline for the museum is “where fabulous lives” and I think that is the best possible way to sum up the place.

You drive up to the gates (yes, it is gated, they also recommend you have reservations to visit the grounds, though that is not required, we did not) and a guard lets you in. You drive up a windy, steep azalea-lined road, and are directed to the visitors center where you check in. The suggested donation is $12, and not particularly suggested, much more mandatory. But well worth it. After you are given a map and the lay of the land by guides, you’re set free to roam the house and the gardens.

There are many, many gardens to explore at Hillwood. There is the french parterre, the rose garden, a putting green, a Japanese-style garden, a lunar lawn, and a cutting garden. But I think it might be easier to show you, than tell you what those are like. Continue reading

Essential DC, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, The Features, Tourism

Tourism: National Zoo


Pandamania! by flickr user needlessspaces

The National Zoo was the second major DC tourism spot that I hit after I moved here. The first was the Washington Monument. Our Zoo is great – it’s my second favorite zoo I’ve ever been to (second only to the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. No I’m not joking, that zoo is phenomenal.) so when my parents came into town to visit, we decided to make the journey.

It sort of feels wrong, you know? Just walking right in without paying. Put aside the guilt and it’s actually a fabulous feeling. It allows people to come back and back again, and it seems like there are people who truly take advantage. As we were walking in a runner in full workout garb jogged past – what a great run! Aside from dodging all the bumbling people and strollers, you’d have incredibly entertaining scenery and quite a steep hill workout. Envious.

As you enter the zoo you’re faced with starting your zoo tour by heading down towards the pandas on the the Asia walk, or going down the entire hill and doing everything on the way back up. I don’t have an opinion either way. But I do recommend that you print out a map before you go – available on the zoo web site, you can save yourself money by printing it out on your own. Otherwise they charge for a take-with-you map. Fair, I think, since entry is free. So off you go to meet and greet all the animals. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

More Tourists, Not Much More Money


Tourist season is here: you can feel it on the sidewalk, on the Mall, around the Tidal Basin, and especially on the left sides of downtown Metro escalators. Washington Post reports that DC tourism is up, but that hasn’t necessarily translated to increased revenue for local retail and hospitality businesses. DC, after all, is Freebie Tourism Central: free monuments, museums, parks, even the zoo. Proximity day-trippers account for a large part of the influx of travelers: people driving in from nearby, not staying at hotels overnight, or opting to crash in local relatives’ guest rooms.
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Essential DC, Tourism

Tourism: United States Botanic Gardens

flowers at US Botanical Gardens

So the doldrums have hit. It’s cold. You’ve got on your scarf, your hat, your gloves, and soon we’ll upgrade and add in some ear muffs and your heaviest coat. It’s the perfect time to plan your winter escape to the United States Botanic Gardens. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (including holidays and weekends!) the conservatory is a large glassed-in garden-topia. You can get there a number of ways, but my lovely roommate and I took the metro to Federal Center and walked a quick few blocks to the West side front lawn of the Capitol.

The conservatory is split into different plant-type sections, for example, one for orchids and one for the desert, etc. (Wow, am I a botinast or what?) And then there’s a big huge rainforest in the middle stretching two or three stories high. It’s humid and somewhere around 78 degrees, kind of like a mild DC summer day. It’ll bring nostalgic flashbacks of those wonderful, warm days of yore. Short on cash? The US Botanic Gardens admission is free, like all the best things in DC.

So aside from the rainforest, and the desert, there is plenty more to see at the Botanic Gardens…

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Interviews, People, The District, The Hill, The Mall

Tourists Love DC: Diane from NYC

Di from NYC

Have you ever wondered what might be going through the mind of a tourist to our fair area? We see them all around every day, from all corners of the globe – wandering museums, walking the Mall, riding transit. So what if we took a moment to find out what it is they’re thinking as they visit what we see every day?

This is the first in a periodic series of interviews of tourists to our area. Call us curious, but I’m sure all of us at one time or another want to know what these out-of-towners really think about Washington, DC.

So let’s introduce a recent visitor. Meet Diane, from New York City. She actually was in town for the Cherry Blossom Festival; I had enjoyed talking with her then and felt she’d be a great start to this unique series here on WeLoveDC.

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