Roam the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks for free through mid-March!
Monday – Roam the enchanting gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. The grounds don’t open to the public until 2pm, but you can play at nearby Montrose Park or grab a bite to eat on M Street beforehand. I promise, it’s worth waiting for the afternoon visit. And admission is free to both — there’s never an entry fee at Montrose, and Dumbarton waives it from November 1 – mid-March.
Tuesday – Locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures on a tour of The Mansion on O Street. The Dupont Circle landmark is a mansion, museum, restaurant, vintage store, and hotel all in one. And visitors are welcome to explore it all. Open daily 11am – 4pm. Self-guided tours start at $15. Purchase tickets in advance online.
Wednesday – Go from Point A to Point B with Arts on the Horizon at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. This world premiere, nonverbal production that explores different modes of transportation in new and exciting ways is inspired by the America on the Move exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Recommended for ages 2-5, showtimes are 10am and 11:30am, and tickets are $9.
Thursday – Jump the morning away at Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield, Va. This bouncy nirvana hosts Kid Flight sessions for children 46″ tall & under from 10am – 12pm Monday through Friday for $10/hour (includes accompanying adult).
Friday – Celebrate the reopening of the Renwick Gallery! Enjoy live music, book signings, and building tours throughout the day. Explore the opening exhibition WONDER, complete a scavenger hunt that explores the installations, and take home a souvenir print of the Renwick. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.
Note: Right now, only the gardens are open to visitors, daily 9am – 5pm; the indoors spaces are closed due to Covid.
It’s not often that I read lists revealing “hidden treasures” in DC and actually learn something I didn’t previously know. And I’m not saying that in a yay-me-I-know-everything kind of way. I mean, think about what I do, this blog. I make it my business, literally, to keep up with these things. Plus, I have lived in DC for a Really. Long. Time. Much longer than the average transient-inclined Washingtonian, so I’ve been around. On top of that, I simply enjoy discovering new places and adventures around the area. For me, it’s fun and keeps life interesting.
So back in October, when Thrillist published a round-up of 13 DC Secrets You Had No Idea Existed provided by the Prince of Petworth, I was psyched (and super impressed). There actually were several spots listed that I wasn’t aware of until I read the piece. I quickly checked off five of the thirteen as “been there, done that” and recognized a couple of others even though I hadn’t yet experienced them. But the remaining six had me intrigued — and, admittedly, feeling like I might be losing my edge. A reality check like that is good thing, though, since it’s often just the motivation needed to get on it. Not to mention, the prospect of going to some new, cool places is always exciting.
Hence, I am making it my business, both personally and professionally, to uncover those “secrets” that evaded me for so long and have vowed to visit the rest of the 13. This mission has actually been in progress since reading that Thrillist article, but I’m only now starting to post about my findings. And it’s lucky #13 on the list, The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, that is kicking off the series.
The “Oasis of Peace” in Brookland consists of the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the centerpiece of the Monastery, beautifully manicured grounds immediately surrounding it, and a lovely garden area adjacent to that. The Rosary Portico, long concrete open air passageways, run along the perimeter of the inner grounds, the inside walls adorned with Christian symbols and ceramic plaques bearing the Angelic Greeting in nearly 200 ancient and modern languages. Between the portico and the Church, there are a few statues as well as a greenhouse and a little fish pond, all very pleasant to stroll among.
And here I feel compelled to note that I’m in no way trying to push any kind of religious agenda. In fact, I’m Jewish, and a mildly practicing one, at that. But I do appreciate a beautiful, interesting, peaceful place, and the Franciscan Monastery is that and then some.
We first visited in the fall and enjoyed touring the grounds around the Church, but the gates to the garden were locked for some reason, and we weren’t sure about going inside. So, on the recent unseasonably awesome 60-degree day, I took Sasha and a friend with me to explore some more.
On the south side of the portico are gates that lead to the garden. Stairs and a ramp lead down to a gorgeous area where there is a grotto commemorating the agony of Christ, a replica of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and other religious shrines, all within a lovely plant and tree-filled area. I did have to remind Sasha and Celina that it was a very special place for many people and that the “caves” were not places for them to chase each other. It’s easy to see how the sights are exciting to them, and they loved the garden, too. If it’s that pretty in the winter, I can only imagine how gorgeous it is in the spring when the flowers (lots of roses, apparently) are in bloom.
Along with wandering the grounds outside, we popped into the Church, too. Tours are available, but we just walked around on our own, taking in the spectacular architecture and design of the cathedral.
Photos don’t begin to do this place justice. You’ll just have to go experience it for yourself.
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is located at 1400 Quincy Street NE in the Brookland neighborhood of DC. Monastery hours are 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday, 9am – 6pm on Saturday, and 8am – 5pm on Sunday. Garden hours are 9am – 4:45pm daily. Guided Garden Tours take place every Saturday during the summer at 11am and 12pm. Admission is free.
*If you’re looking for a bite to eat before or after visiting, I highly recommend Brookland’s Finest located at 12th & Jackson Streets NE. Delicious food, great vibe, and very kid-friendly.
Roam free at Dumbarton Oaks gardens — there’s no entry fee right now!
Monday – Hit the playground at Wheaton Regional Park. Two levels of slides, climbing nets, monkey bars, swings, and more fun features will appeal to all ages and abilities. Pack lunch to eat at nearby picnic tables under the lofty trees. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Tuesday – Spend the morning at the National Building Museum, where the Book of the Month program will take place in the Building Zone. Readings of Digger Dozer Dumper by Hope Vestergaard will begin at 10:30am & 11:30am. Get there early for play time, as entry is on the hour ($3/person). Afterwards, stay to romp in the Great Hall or the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit upstairs ($8/adult, $5/child). Museum hours are 10am – 5pm. Exhibit admission for members is free.
Wednesday – Roam the enchanting gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. The grounds don’t open to the public until 2pm, but you can play at nearby Montrose Park or grab a bite to eat on M Street beforehand. I promise, it’s worth waiting for the afternoon visit. And admission is free to both — there’s never an entry fee at Montrose, and Dumbarton waives it from November 1 – March 14.
Thursday – Check out your local library. Drop in for story time, sing-a-longs, art & crafts, and other activities, or just go to browse for books. See this post from the early KFDC days for a little background and quick links to libraries around the area.
Friday – Learn about the history of flight at the College Park Aviation Museum. It’s a perfect place for young visitors with eye-popping displays and hands-on fun. They can view early airplanes up close, dress up like aviators, create flight-inspired art, and more. Keep an eye on the runway right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows — you might see planes take off and land at the College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operating airport in the world! Open daily 10am – 5pm. Admission is $4/adults, $2/children, free for ages 2 and under.
Roses are red (and pink and white and yellow and peach) at the USBG
The US Botanic Garden is hardly a secret to us locals, but it’s easy to get caught up in the wonderful indoor galleries and forget about the beautiful areas outside. The National Garden right next to the conservatory and Bartholdi Park just across Independence Avenue deserve some time, too, if not their own visit all together. And right now is a great time to go, when roses, peonies, irises, and many more are in full bloom.
It really is fantastic to see and smell the gorgeous flowers, the delicate swirls of petals, their intoxicating bouquets, the array of colors and varieties. Stroll down paths that wind through the flora or enjoy it all from the comfort of a seating area. Bring along a bite for a picnic lunch or snack (there are several tables and benches in pretty areas). And have a camera ready — perfect photo ops abound!
The U.S. Botanic Garden is located at 100 Maryland Avenue SW. The National Garden is open 10am – 7pm daily, and Bartholdi Park is open dawn to dusk. Admission to both are free.