Fort Washington National Park lies along the Potomac River in Maryland, opposite Virginia's Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon. From Mount Vernon Highway you have several scenic overlooks providing excellent views of the fort and the lighthouse across this relatively narrow neck of the river.
The original Fort Washington was completed in 1809 as the primary defensive position protecting the new national capitol. During the War of 1812, the fort was destroyed by its American garrison during the British advance on Washington to prevent its capture. Fort Washington was reconstructed in 1824 with extensive remodeling in the 1840s and 1890s.
The fort is a stone structure with excellent firing lanes down the Potomac River. It was turned over to the Department of the Interior in 1946 after the Army closed the garrison. The park grounds have hiking and bicycle paths and picnic areas.
The Fort Washington Light, located below the fort, was established in 1857. The current tower was constructed in 1882, and it stands 28 feet tall.
At Great Falls Park, the Potomac River tumbles over a series of steep rocks and drops nearly 80 feet in less than a mile through the narrow Mather Gorge. Great Falls Park was created around the Virginia side of the river, and it provides many opportunities to experience history and nature in a scenic 800-acre park 15 miles from Washington DC. The park has three viewing platforms with vantage points overlooking the falls, and the National Park Service operates a visitor center next to the falls.
the Patowmack Canal around the Potomac River, was built from 1785 until 1803. It consisted of a series of five locks, on the Virginia side of the river, that raised or lowered boats around the falls. George Washington was a strong proponent of the project as it was a way to expand American influence to the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. This was the first canal in the US to use locks. This one mile canal had five locks and was opened in 1785.
The canal construction centered around a town called Matildaville. This town was founded by Harry "Light Horse" Lee (Robert E. Lee's father) and it served as a home for many of the canal builders.
Entrance is $5.00 for a three-day vehicle pass, or $3 for an individual pass. The park has annual passes, and it accepts the National Parks/Interagency Pass which is good at most USDA Forest Service, National Parks Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management sites.
Access the park by exiting Interstate 495 (the Capital Beltway) at Georgetown Pike (Virginia Route 193) and head west 3 miles (4.5 km) to Old Dominion Drive. From there follow the signs north 1 mile (1.5 km) to the park entrance.
Meridian Hill Park is named so because it lies due north of the Prime Meridian that was once created running north from Jones point in Alexandria, and the White House. At one time it housed a mansion, later it was home to Columbia College--predecessor to the George Washington University--and it housed Union soldiers during the Civil War. Today it is a large neighborhood park that is well landscaped, yet quiet and peaceful. The park is surrounded by 16th, Euclid, 15th, and W Streets between Adams Morgan and the Shaw neighborhoods.
In Meridian Hill Park you will find a 13-pool cascade facing the distant Washington Monument, a large open field overlooking a waterfall, and monuments for President Buchanan, the author Dante, French hero Joan of Arc, and a defaced sculpture of "Serenity" dedicated to Lieutenant Commander William Henry Schuetze (USN).
President Buchanan was a relatively unsuccessful president. He is blamed for failing to prevent the Civil War as he declared secession illegal, but war to prevent secession was also illegal. He was also president during the financial panic of 1857 and the Utah War (also called "Buchanan's Blunder"). Buchanan is the only American president to never be married, and his niece Harriet Lane acted as first lady, and later funded this monument as well as one in Pennsylvania. The statue was dedicated in 1930 at a cost of $115,000.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was an Italian author who wrote the Divine Comedy. The statue was pesented on the 600th anniversary of Dante's death by an Italian-American newspaper publisher named Carlo Barsotti. This statue was dedicated at a cost of $50,000 in 1921.
The Joan of Arc statue is the only female equestrian statue in Washington DC. It was sponsored by the Society of French Women in Exile in New York in 1922. This is a copy of an identical statue by the same sculptor that stands in front of the cathedral at Rheims, France.
LCDR Schuetze, as best as I can tell was the navigator on the USS Iowa in 1898 during the Spanish American War. This ship's most historic engagement was taking part the destruction of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. This statue was created from a single block of marble at the bargain basement coast of $4,500 and was presented in 1925.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a hidden, and rarely visited park maintained by the George Washington Parkway branch of the National Park Service. It is about 90 acres and it's most (only) important landmark is the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. The Island covers about 90 acres of hardwoods and marshland and measures about 2/3 of a mile by 1/3 of a mile. The island has around four miles of trails including about a half mile of boardwalk over the swamps of the eastern side of the island.
The island was settled by local natives who apparently used it as a seasonal fishing village. Later it was owned by George Mason (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), then his son build a mansion here which became the center of the local social scene. Since about 1831 the island was mainly uninhabited other than a brief period of occupation by Union troops during the Civil War. Around 1906 the deserted mansion's remains were destroyed by fire, and the Washington Gas Light Company owned the island from 1913 to 1931. The island was purchased from Washington Gas Light Company by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1931. In 1932 Congress authorized the constriction of the memorial, though it was not completed until 1967.
You should park at the small parking area on the northbound lanes (actually heading west) of the George Washington Memorial Parkway next in Rosslyn, Virginia (but the Island itself is considered part of DC). From this parking lot with maybe 100 parking spaces, there is an arched concrete bridge leading over a small channel of the Potomac. After crossing the bridge to the island the trails become relatively level packed earth going in either direction. Also at the end of the bridge on the island is a National Park Service sign with maps of the island, maps of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and other information brochures. A quick turn to the right, then up the hill will lead you straight to the Monument. Trails run both directions from the base of the bridge.
By Metro, go Rosslyn on the Orange and Blue Lines, then its a 6-block walk.
What a great hidden monument. After 15 or 20 trips to this city and living here a few months, I didn't even know this memorial existed. When I finally did discover this hidden gem, it was completely by accident as I was scouting out some new running routes on this deserted park island in the Potomac.
I parked at the small parking area on the northbound lanes (actually heading west) of the George Washington Memorial Parkway next in Rosslyn, Virginia (but the Island itself is considered part of DC). From this parking lot with maybe 100 parking spaces, there is an arched concrete bridge leading over a small channel of the Potomac, and the bike trail along the south bank of the Potomac runs right through the parking lot. After crossing the bridge to the island the trails become relatively level packed earth going in either direction. At the end of the bridge is a National Park Service sign with maps of the island, maps of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and other information brochures. A quick turn to the right, then up the hill will lead you straight to the Monument.
The Theodore Roosevelt Monument's centerpiece is a large statue of a happy, waving President Roosevelt overlooking a circular plaza. On either side of the President are tall sandstone panels with some of his quotes on what are seen as his most important issues. To Teddy's right are panels about nature ("Conservations means development as much as it does protection") and manhood while to his left are panels about youth and the state ("if I must choose between righteousness and peace I choose righteousness"). and In summer the plaza has two fountains and is surrounded by water. In the winter these become two big stone bowls and a trough full of leaves. I did find it ironic that the Nature panel has the skyscrapers of Rosslyn as its backdrop.
The island was purchased from Washington Gas Light Company by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1931. In 1932 Congress authorized the constriction of the memorial, though it was not completed until 1967.
By Metro, go Rosslyn on the Orange and Blue Lines, then its a 6-block walk.
Judiciary Square is an area of downtown Washington DC between Union Station and Chinatown. The center of this district is a rectangular plaza, called Judiciary Square, and it is surrounded by numerous courts and government buildings. These include the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; the four buildings of the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse (which houses both the municipal court and the DC Court of Appeals); the E. Barrett Prettyman building, which houses United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and the United States Tax Court.
Also in the area are numerous other government buildings such as the FBI's Washington field office; the US Department of Labor; the headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Police; the Government Accountability Office; the Washington Metro transit system headquarters; the United States Army Corps of Engineers; the National Building Museum, also known as the Old Pension Building; DC city offices at One Judiciary Square; the city DMV; and the American Association of Retired Persons headquarters.
This area also has a few monuments and statues, including the first of several Lincoln Memorials in the city, an Albert Pike memorial (the only outdoor DC monument for a Confederate figure), and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall memorial.
I think my favorite landmarks in Judiciary Square are the Joseph James Darling Fountain and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Darling was a prominent 19th century lawyer in the city, and when he died, this statue was dedicated in his memory. What is the perfect statue for a lawyer? How about a nude girl and a small deer, both in bright gold?
The Law Enforcement Memorial is a little more somber, as it recognized the nation's law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The monument is the centerpiece of Judiciary Square, and it contains the names of some 17,500 policemen who have died. It is flanked by four lions and eight lion cubs.
Rock Creek Park is Washington DC's largest natural area and is managed by the National Park Service. This park was founded in 1890 and consists of 1755 acres of woodlands, sports fields, trails, and a scenic steep-banked creek. Recent excavations have revealed that Native Americans had camp sites here that were used from 2500 BC to AD 1400. Rock Creek Park was home to several of the forts that formed the defensive ring around Washington DC during the Civil War, and these defensive lines were tested in 1864 in the Battle of Fort Stevens. Later the area that is now the park housed several mansions and mills along the creek.
Today the park is home to a wide variety of attractions and activities. Carter Barron Amphitheater offers concerts and Shakespearean theater during the summer. Rock Creek Park has a variety of paved bicycle paths, 30 picnic areas,15 soft-surface and 10 hard-surface tennis courts, 13 miles of dirt and gravel bridle trails, an 18-hole public course, the only planetarium in the national park system, and the Thompson Boat center that rents bicycles, kayaks, canoes, small sailboats and rowing shells. The park has coyote, fox, raccoons, owls, and deer.
Lincoln Park is a nice, quiet city park just about 10 blocks east of the Capitol Building. This park might be small, but it has more trees than just about any other city park in the city besides the Mall and Rock Creek Park. It is also full of kids, dogs, squirrels, and amateur photographers.
The biggest attraction here besides the open space and the nice neighborhood is the Lincoln Emancipation Monument. This statue of Lincoln freeing a slave was actually the first Lincoln Memorial in the city and was built with money donated by emancipated slaves soon after they learned of his assassination. A second monument stands just east of the Lincoln Monument; this one is a woman and children dancing, and is dedicated to a former teacher from the area. From Lincoln Park you can make out the statue of Freedom on the Capitol Building due west, and you can see the Washington Monument, which is surprisingly not perfectly aligned with the street axis like you'd expect.
The National Arboretum. The arboretum is a place you never hear about. Either people don't know it exists or have no idea where it is. I ran there recently in the winter and even though everything was pretty much dead the views were wonderful. You can tell that in the spring time it is a beautiful place to be. A really interesting thing to see here is the National Capitol Columns. These columns began their existence at the Capital in 1829. They were moved to the Arboretum basically because the dome didn't look right on top of them so they were replaced. No entrance fee and there's parking inside.
One of the more pleasant surprises about Washington, DC was the vast number of public parks and places to reflect. And not just the major areas like the National Mall; small, out of the way parks.
I guess for those that work in a high-stress like DC, a lot of parks and peaceful settings are good for the soul.
I loved the urban wetlands that are located just outside the entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian. I would have liked to have visited the museum itself, but was between meetings with legislative aides so the wetlands itself had to do.
There were several people enjoying the natural oasis; individuals drawn to nature. It is also amazing the caucophony of different birds and frogs. Even in the middle of a concrete jungle nature will abound if given the chance.
It was beautiful and peaceful, a wonderful place to reflect.
It'a not the world's best arboretum - in fact it wouldn't rate on my Top 50 - but still definitely worth the effort at certain times of the year. It probably gets few foreign visitors, and many locals come just to walk, exercise the dog or just relax on the grass. Don't expect anything as sophisticated as London's Kew Gardens or even the Beijing Botanical Gardens for size or Wow factor, and very few trees are labelled, but it is a very relaxing place with some interesting features. Unfortunately, those features probably detract from the focus on the trees: the azalea collection, the slightly weird collection of the former US Capitol Building columns (moved here in the 1950s, possibly after a yard sale) and the rather unimpressive Bonsai Garden. The folks at the USNA are at it again, with a Chinese Garden under construction. Is this a Botanical Garden or an Arboretum?
Access is not easy unless you are driving, and even then you can get caught out. The actual slip road (accesible only from the Northbound New York Avenue NE) is completely unmarked. If you miss it (it starts just yards after the Bladenburg Road junction) then take the next exit onto Dakota, keep on until the next big junction and turn left onto Bladensburg and cross New York (you cant turn left here). After about four blocks, turn left into R street and another entrance is at the end of the street.
Address: 3501 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, D. C. 20002-1958