Travels Through Our Own Backyard

Whenever Jeff and I travel—whether it be a weekend trip to a nearby destination, a week-long vacation around the U.S. or abroad, or our upcoming RTW trip—we always devote some time to figuring out what it is we want to do at our destination. Skimming guidebooks and scanning websites, we make lists of attractions that interest us and take notes of restaurants others are raving about. Lord knows we don’t want to visit a place and miss the best spots.

Funny then, isn’t it, that you can live in a town for years and still never see some of it’s most worthwhile attractions.

Jeff and I live in one of the most touristed cities in America. (Trust me, having worked at the Smithsonian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I am well-versed on “tourist season” in D.C. I try to have patience. Really, I do. But for the love of Pete, could you please move to the right side of the escalator if you don’t plan to walk!)

We’ve been here for multiple years (4.5 years – Jeff; 3.5 years – Theresa), and there are still plenty of things we haven’t done. But I don’t think Jeff and I are alone in this. I’d wager that the majority of us rarely take the time to be tourists in our own backyards.

For Jeff and I, the start date of our RTW trip will be the end date of our life in D.C. We won’t be returning here. Where we’ll end up, we don’t know, except that it won’t be here. As we prepare to say hello to the world, we must say goodbye to the only place that we, as a married couple, have called home. To make the most of it, we’ve compiled a list of things to do before we go. In between trips to the REI, we’ll be squeezing in as much as we can.

  1. Ascend the Washington Monument. The first few years we lived in the area, security concerns closed the Washington Monument. Restoration work kept it closed even longer, but it has since re-opened, so it’s time for us to go check out the view.
  2. Make a few more trips to Eastern Market. I love markets of any sorts. You can be sure that I’ll be checking them out in cities around the world. Eastern Market is the best in D.C., and wandering the food, craft, and flea market booths is a great way to pass a weekend morning.
  3. Tour the Smithsonian museums that we have yet to visit. I’m ashamed to admit that even as an employee of this venerable institution, I have yet to make it to all the museums (African American Art, Postal Museum), and others I have just made rather cursory visits to (Freer & Sackler, Hirshhorn). I will correct this before we depart.
  4. See the Supreme Court in session. This is a bit hard for us to do, since it’s in session on weekdays, but I think we can manage to squeeze in one visit. If not, we should at least take a tour.
  5. Enjoy Kenilworth Gardens. These aquatic gardens have been on my list for a while but I haven’t yet made it there.
  6. Rent a pedal boat and paddle around the Tidal Basin when the cherry blossoms are in bloom for a prime view of the beauty.
  7. Attend a Nationals game at the new stadium. It’s set to open this season, and it will be one more stadium Jeff can cross off his list.
  8. Explore the National Archives and Library of Congress. I think Jeff and I have both been to these at one time or another but not recently. I think they’ve both been improved since we last set foot inside.
  9. Check out the National Building Museum. I’ve meant to do this forever but never have.
  10. Make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It’s the largest Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere, and is supposed to be quite visually stunning.
  11. Take part in a protest. How is it possible that we’ve lived in D.C. this many years and have yet to protest anything?

What have we missed? If there’s a D.C. spot that you think we might not have made it to but absolutely must, let us know. And what about you? What backyard spots have you yet to visit?

14 Replies to “Travels Through Our Own Backyard”

  1. The National Building Museum is very interesting. It’s not jam packed with information, so there is no sensory overload, and yet the exhibits and information are in-depth and yet easy to comprehend. I spent a while meandering through there (I believe with Mark, when I checked into work only to spend most of the day checking things out with him, before returning to clock out for the day). I probably spent more time in there than most (but that’s the architect in me) and really loved the post-Katrina New Orleans exhibit of satellite photos and still frame photography. They have good temporary exhibits also.

  2. When we lived in Maryland when I was a kid I think we went to the Air and Space Museum, The American History Museum, and the Natural History Museum about 100 times each (people would come to visit and those were the only places they wanted to go) so we never saw a lot of the other museums either. One place I visited that I thought was interesting though was the FBI building (museum?). They give a really interesting tour. Also, I don’t know if you’re considering a side trip to Baltimore (or if you’ve already seen all this stuff) but if you haven’t, you should really visit the National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor there 🙂

  3. I live in Colorado Springs, another destination for lots of tourists. Of course, like many travel destinations, the places the tourists seek out are not necessarily the places we locals go. They visit the Air Force Academy, take the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak, visit the Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, NORAD, on and on. Because I grew up here, I’ve experienced most of these at least once.

    However, my children had not. So last summer we began to experience the Springs like tourists do. We traipsed around with our cameras and Colorado baseball caps, ate in the cafeterias of various Visitor Centers, and went into lots of gift shops. Guess what? It was actually really fun! The kids loved it. They couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken them to all the tourist traps before.

    I guess there is a reason that certain spots attract tourists. Partly good marketing. The other part good touristy fun.

  4. Ohh, Garden of the Gods. We had a great time scrambling around there in April 2006. Colorado Springs is so pretty. I envy you the views.

    On my quest to be a tourist in our hometown, I’m trying to get Jeff to do the White House tour, but he’s flat out refusing. I think having to shake W’s hand last time he was there gave him such bad memories that I don’t have a shot. Oh well, guess I’ll have to go alone.

  5. I did the White House tour as a little girl and kept hoping that I would get to see Ronald Reagan. Those were the days when I was still young enough to think that the president was a wonderful and great human being no matter what. I didn’t see him of course, but the White House is just as interesting regardless of who’s living in it at the time–just think of all the great people who have lived there, even if some of there weren’t so great 🙂

  6. Move to San Francisco! That’s the next stop on my 13-moves-in-six-years journey!

    And I completely know what you mean, I’m leaving NYC in three weeks and am trying to cram in everything I’ve yet to do in the past 2.5 years. It’s exhausting! Although, living in Manhattan, my plan more entails food and bars more than anything else!

  7. 1. I assume Jeff had the option to skip the White House trip, so he only has himself to blame for shaking W’s hand.
    2. I’m not much of a tourist, and this extends to my hometown. I’ve probably done most everything of interest in the area besides The Falls of the Ohio and, surprisingly, a Bourbon Tour. I think making tourist to-see lists is quite lame, which probably explains why I never did study abroad.
    3. Instead of saying “I need to see this and this,” I’d much rather just get on the bike and see what is up the road. If I don’t come across anything interesting, I still get to be outdoors and relax. Yup, I think relaxation is the key. While I don’t find museums, galleries, and the such relaxing, I’m always up for a park, flea market/yard sale, farmer’s market, sporting event, or canoe trip.
    4. I just tried to make a Louisville to-do list before I leave in the summer of 2011ish, and I included the two listed above and little else. Now my “bikes rides to complete” list is much longer. I guess it’s different strokes for different folks.

  8. just the other day, your Mom, my Mom and myself found ourselves way out Brownsboro Road and I commented that there are so many places in Louisville that I’ve never been to or don’t venture to very often.

    Thanks for the list. It will also help with the planning of our DC trip.

  9. When Rice baseball won the World Series, they went to the White House and met W. Being that Rice is a Texas school coupled with the fact that baseball players tend to be pretty conservative good ol’ boys, I think Jeff might have been the only one on the team who didn’t find this awesome.

    But at least he was respectful and didn’t wear flip-flops. (Remember that flap?)

  10. We recently moved away from Chicago where my Hubby and I had lived our entire married life. I wish we’d had more notice (instead of two weeks) so that we could do all those things we’d been meaning to do but never got around to. Would have been cool.

    Now that we’re in Los Angeles I’m determined not to let that happen again and we’re starting our list now. Once we find jobs that is… most of these things cost money…

    Let us know how your discoveries go!

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