Tag Archives: the Mall

Seven Helpful DC Apps

17 Sep

© Eli Duke on Creative Commons

Zipcar: The Zipcar app is super handy for those who use the service. Find and reserve available cars, update your reservation and honk the horn to find your car in a crowded parking lot.

Food Truck Tracker: Is your day incomplete until you eat food from a truck? Then this is the app for you. Find food near your current locale.

Happy Hours: So many happy hours, so little time. Get help with this handy app to find places to go and what they’re offering.

DC Metro Map: A great way to find out where you’re going without looking like a touron with the paper version of the map.

NextTrain DC Metro: This popular app tells you when the next train is coming, particularly helpful during non-rush hour times.

NPS National Mall: Use this app from the National Park Service to navigate the Mall while you get the lay of the land.

Spotcycle: Nothing’s worse than going to return your Capital Bikeshare bike only to find that the docking station is completely full. With this app, you can avoid that annoyance by checking space ahead of time.

Anyone Who’s Anyone: National Book Festival

13 Sep

One of the local events that marks fall for me is the National Book Festival when famous writers (some super duper famous and others only semi-well know) come to the Mall to talk about and read from their works. And this year it’s not one but TWO days, September 24 and 25. Yay reading!

This is the eleventh year of the festival, which is organized by the Library of Congress. Some of the better known names this year are Sarah Vowell, Toni Morrison, David McCullough, Michael Cunningham and Julianne Moore (apparently she “writes” children’s books). You can find a complete list here.

Each author gives a presentation and also does a book signing (not consecutively). There are multiple pavilions that are set up on the Mall (last year it was on the side closer to the Capitol).

If there is someone you absolutely have to hear speak, then I recommend arriving early, probably half way through the speaker before him/her. It does get to be standing room only (though people are always coming and going). Well over 100,000 people attend the event, but since it’s spread out throughout the day, the crowds are generally manageable. Same with the Metro—more crowded but not like when everyone is leaving an event at the same time.

In past years they’ve given out reusable tote bags, but don’t get too excited because, as you know, these are tight times and tote bags might not have been in the budget this year.

If you miss an author you really wanted to hear speak, not to worry! The Library of Congress posts all of the presentations to the website.

Note: George Mason University in conjunction with the City of Fairfax also has a book festival during this time (September 18-23) though with seemingly no connection to the National Book Festival. It’s called Fall for the Book and attracts some big names too (this year Stephen King and Amy Tan are speaking).

Survival Guide: July 4th on the National Mall

29 Jun

What better way to celebrate July 4th than by watching the fireworks from the National Mall. But be forewarned, it is no easy venture.

Transportation
Do not, under any circumstances drive. Take Metro but be aware, the Smithsonian station will be closed for most of the day for security reasons. It will reopen after the fireworks, but it will be a mess, so I’d plan on walking to a farther station. Other stations that are within walking distance include Federal Triangle, Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Capitol South, L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW, Archives-Navy Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Someone told me it’s advisable to come from the Federal Triangle and even Foggy Bottom direction because crowds tend to be less heavy. I really like this map.

Metrobus will provide free shuttle service between the L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon stations.

Free bicycle valet will be available from 2:00 p.m. until a half hour after the fireworks show. Locations are 15th Street between Independence Avenue and Jefferson Drive and the south side of the Lincoln Memorial on Daniel French Drive.

Note: The fireworks are launched from the Reflecting Pool and light up over the Washington Monument.

Crowds
Okay, it’s going to be really crowded. And to make things worse, there are security checkpoints to get into the Mall. So bring your patience. After the fireworks, you might want to go grab a drink somewhere until the mobs of people clear out a bit, though be prepared for bars and restaurants to be crowded too. Just go into this situation knowing that it will probably take you a couple hours to get home one way or another.

Schedule
When do people start arriving at the Mall? Earlier than you—as a presumably sane person—would ever consider. So you need to plan on being there at least several hours beforehand or else you’ll hate your life. Regardless, you will, at some point, feel like you’re being herded.

From about 8 p.m. to 9:30 the Capital Fourth Concert takes place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It’s free, you don’t need tickets and you can start piling in at 3. This year’s performers include Josh Groban, Little Richard and Steve Martin.

Earlier in the day, there’s a parade. It starts at 11:45 and will also be crowded so, if you’re interested, you’ll need to go early. Here’s a map of the parade route.

What to bring
A blanket, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, LOTS of water, plenty of food, a camera and your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer (the port-o-potty situation is not ideal). Alcohol isn’t allowed and coolers and bags are looked through at security, so if you’re planning on bringing it anyway, you better be stealthy.

If it rains
You better pray that that doesn’t happen because if it does, everyone runs for cover in all the local museums and its jam packed. The rain date is July 5.

Insider’s Tip from Sports Editor Rachel
You can also get a great view of the fireworks from some spots in Virginia along the Potomac. While you won’t be able to hear the music, it is a great vantage point for the fireworks. More importantly, the crowd is much less intense! Parks along the GW Parkway are set up to accommodate viewers. Things may change every year, but previous spots to seek out have included the Netherlands Carillon, Lady Bird Johnson Park and Gravelly Point. The Netherlands Carillon also has an afternoon bell concert if you want to show up early. But the great thing about watching from Virginia is that you can show up later in the afternoon to get a spot. And after the fireworks, you’ll beat the DC traffic back onto the roads.

The four quadrants of DC

16 Feb

DC is divided into four quadrants with the Capitol Building’s rotunda as the center. The dividing streets are North Capitol, East Capitol, South Capitol and the National Mall. Therefore, the Mall is basically split down the middle: The Smithsonian Castle, Air and Space Museum and Lincoln Memorial are in southwest DC, while the Natural History Museum and American History Museum are in northwest DC. (Here’s a map of the Mall that I just discovered that newbies might find interesting.)

Street and number addresses start out at the Capitol so there are many identical addresses. That’s why it’s VERY important to note the quadrant, otherwise, you could be looking for a building on K Street SE, for example, when you are really meant to be on K Street NE. This would be a BIG error.

Streets running north and south are numbered (1st, 2nd, etc.) and streets running east-west are letters (interestingly, there’s no J).

The quadrants aren’t identical sizes and they never were. At one time it was an almost perfect square but now—see that big chunk out of southwest?—that’s Arlington and Alexandria, which the district eventually gave back to Virginia.

Northwest
Northwest is the largest of the quadrants, covering over a third of the city. Its neighborhoods include Federal Triangle, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, Adams Morgan and Georgetown, among others.  This quadrant is typically what people think of when they think “DC.”

Southwest
Southwest is the smallest quadrant and is really just a sliver of the city. Therefore, it’s not often mentioned, and many people don’t realize that half the Mall is actually in the quadrant.  Southwest is dominated by the waterfront area (which is an up-and-coming residential area) as well as the Bolling Air Force Base and Anacostia Naval Station. Check out this local blog to learn more about this quadrant.

Northeast
Northeast’s neighborhoods include Pleasant Hill, Fort Totten and much of Capitol Hill, among others. The National Arboretum (Love!) and Gallaudet University (a well-known school for the deaf) are also found in Northeast.

Southeast
Southeast is bisected by the Anacostia River. The quadrant is known for high crime rates. The part west of the river includes the Library of Congress and Eastern Market, but when traveling east of the river you’ll want to be aware of your surroundings. Though that’s always a good idea, no matter where in the city you find yourself.

Friends You Haven’t Met: Ultimate Frisbee

14 Dec

© Patrick Everson

Ultimate Frisbee: Not just for college campuses anymore. The sport is popular among DCers and therefore a super-fantastic way to meet people in the area. My boyfriend has met most of his current friends through Frisbee, and a lot of his teammates have met their significant others through Frisbee as well (teams are co-ed). Don’t worry if you’ve never played before, there are teams for all levels of skill and competitiveness.

The main meetup is a pickup game Saturdays at 1pm on the Mall by the American Indian Museum. You can RSVP at Meetup.com but most people just show up. This is a great way to get started; you can meet other people who might need more players on their competitive teams, which will have practices and competitions on other local fields. If you go to the Saturday pickup game, you’ll want to bring light and dark shirts, so you can switch sides and even teams out as needed. If you don’t know the rules, just take some time to watch what’s going on and then get out there and try your best. The other players are very friendly and approachable, so don’t feel intimidated to show up by yourself.

Of course the sport is more popular during nicer weather, but die-hards play all year long. The spirit of the game is very important; meetup groups don’t keep score and there aren’t any referees during tournaments—honesty is the name of the game. To find out more information, I suggest checking out the Washington Area Frisbee Club (WAFC – pronounced waf-C).

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