Best of Spring 2015 – Washington, DC

Now that winter is over, and the trees are in bloom, I am excited for Spring and eager to share my 2015 list of The Best of Spring – Washington, DC .

Cherry Blossoms – Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on the Washington, DC region to revel in the beauty of Cherry Blossom trees and the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.  The current forecast for peak bloom, according to the National Park Service, is April 11-14. Make a plan to see them in person before they are gone!

Cherry Blossoms at the Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms at the Washington Monument

Washington Nationals baseball – The local team made a huge winter splash by signing 2013 Cy Young Award winning pitcher (American League, 2103) Max Scherzer. With current stars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper also leading the team, big things are expected from the Washington Nationals in 2015. We may never again openly say “World Series or Bust” but the expectations are certainly high for the Nats this year. Opening Day is April 6th. Check out the schedule and get your tickets. Play Ball!  http://atmlb.com/1FFMLHy

Nationals Opening Day 2015
Waterfront Dining – DC has an abundance of great waterfront views. Why not take advantage and enjoy it with your favorite meal or beverage. Find out more here: http://dcmetroplus.com/dining-category/incredible-waterfront-dining-in-dc/

Bicycle and running paths – Washington, DC and the surrounding neighborhoods are adorned with hundreds of miles of beautiful trails. Whether you walk, bike or run, find your favorite path and enjoy. http://bikewashington.org/trails/

National Zoo – Everyone knows that bears hibernate for winter, but come spring there is no place better to see lions, tigers, bears, and of course pandas, than at the National Zoo. Admission is free (parking extra). Metro accessible.  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/

Panda at Washington National Zoo

Great Falls and assorted hiking trails – In city adorned by brilliant man-made monuments, we often forget the wonder that Mother Nature created, with Great Falls being among the very best in the area. If you’ve never hiked the Billy Goat Trail, or have not done so in a very long time, you owe it to yourself to get out there this spring. http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Billy_Goat_A_8872.asp. For more hiking trails http://dc.about.com/od/hiking/a/BestHiking.htm

Annapolis, Middleburg, Skyline Drive and more – There are many places to visit within an hour or so drive of DC. Whether it’s the quaint towns of Middleburg and Annapolis or the hiking trails and spectacular views of Skyline Drive (http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm) there is so much to see and do near Washington. Baltimore and the famed Inner Harbor is only an hour away http://baltimore.org/about-baltimore/inner-harbor (* plan accordingly for weekend and rush-hour traffic).  Photo below was taken in the Virginia countryside – part of the Shenandoah Mountains.

View from a moto ride 8.31.14

Celebrate Planet Earth – Celebrate the earth, music, and life in general, with a huge Earth Day concert. Earth Day on the Mall on April 18th with a mega-sized free concert, featuring No Doubt (w/ Gwen Stefani), Fall Out Boy, Mary J. Blige, Train, Usher, etc. http://bit.ly/1FdAxXQ

This is just a small sample of the wonderful outdoor activities available in and around our Nation’s Capitol.  So get outside and enjoy the Best of Spring – Washington, DC style!

*All photos were taken by Steve from 4Staff.

The Best of Spring – Washington, DC

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gif...

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gift from Japan in 1965, adorn the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Washington Monument is visible in the distance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here comes the sun! After what seems like the never-ending winter, everybody must be ultra-ready for Spring.

To quote/paraphrase George Harrison and The Beatles,

It’s been a long, cold lonely winter…
It feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

Here Comes the Sun” – written by George Harrison from the Beatles‘ 1969 album Abbey Road.

Now that winter is over, and the trees are in bloom, I am excited for Spring and eager to share my updated list of The Best of Spring -Washington, DC .

  • Cherry Blossoms – The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual celebration that showcases the gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital. www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.   This year’s peak blossom season is later than normal, due to an unusually long winter.  The current forecast for peak bloom is April 11-13 (Friday to Sunday this week), so make a plan to get out  and  see them in person before they are gone!
  • National Zoo – Everyone knows that bears hibernate and the birds fly south for winter, but come spring there is no place better to see lions, tigers, bears and more than at the National Zoo.  Best of all, you may get lucky enough to see the baby panda, Bao Bao.  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/default.cfm#BaoBao
  •  Annapolis, Middleburg, Skyline Drive and more – There are many places to visit within an hour or so drive of DC.  Whether it’s the quaint towns of Middleburg and Annapolis or the hiking trails and spectacular views of Skyline Drive, including several waterfalls http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm, there is so much to see and do near Washington.  Even Baltimore and the famed Inner Harbor is less than an hour away http://baltimore.org/about-baltimore/inner-harbor  (* plan accordingly for weekend and rush-hour traffic)

Get out and enjoy the Spring.  After a very long winter, we all deserve it!

How I stopped being SAD – My personal cure for the winter blues (Part 2)

Well, it happened again. Yesterday, the government imposed a “snow shutdown” for the 4th day this year.  Is it any wonder that I spent part of my winter working in sunny Florida? 

If you are anywhere north of Florida, you have likely been through one of the worst winters in several years.  In my “neck of the woods”, the Washington, DC metro area, this year’s polar vortex has still created an unusually cold and snowy winter.  Due to snow, there were isolated days of government closures from November through March.  I feel cold just thinking about all that snow!  

If you read my previous blog about My Personal Cure for the Winter Blues, you may have noticed that it was entitled “Part 1″.  That portion of my grand experiment was spending two weeks in January working in Florida.  After returning to DC for two weeks in early February, I came back to Florida for Part 2 of my experiment.  The latter visit lasted an additional two and a half weeks.

The last thing I would want to do is brag about my ability to “work from home” when I made my winter home warm and sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.  It seems almost cruel, and perhaps even stupid to tell this to friends, clients and co-workers who have been freezing their tushes off this winter.  My sincere apology if it seems like I am bragging.  I’m just fortunate (and thankful!). For starters, I’m single with no family ties, so it was easy for me just leave winter behind and take my work to a warmer climate.  Knowing how much I abhor winter, my business partner graciously cooperated with me and allowed me to work this plan without complaint. Thank you, Mark Roush!

I understand that most people are not in a position to emulate my plan.  However, if you have the type of job that lets you work remotely, and you crave sunshine and warmth as much as I do, I urge you to form a similar plan for next winter.  Until then, sit back and relax.  Spring is almost here!

Image

Ft. Lauderdale 2014 (the yacht is definitely not mine.  I am not part of the “new rich”)

At this point, I would like to thank Tim Ferris, author of the best-selling 4 Hour Work Week (The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich) for providing me with the idea and motivation to work this plan. Don’t let the book’s title fool you.  I am certainly not part of the “New Rich”. I am just a “regular Joe”, and my workday was always full day, similar to an office day back home.  However, as noted in Part 1 of my story, my ability to enjoy the warmth of South Florida (in my spare time), made this nearly 5 wonderful weeks of winter.   

*As of this writing,  I’m back in Washington, DC, working hard and patiently waiting for Spring to arrive.

Spring in Washington, DC – Top Things to Do

Adorned with an abundance of blooming flowers and lush trees, stately homes and magnificent monuments, Washington, DC is so amazingly beautiful in the spring, that my words cannot do it justice.  However, eloquence aside, here are a few ways to appreciate Washington, DC in the Spring of 2013.

  • Washington Nationals baseball – I’ll admit it, I’m biased.  I love baseball.  To me, and to many baseball fans, nothing quite says “Spring” like the start of baseball season. The Nationals had their best season in 2012, making their first trip to the playoffs.  With a healthy team, and a few keys additions, much is expected for our local team this year.  Check out the schedule and get your Natitude on.  www.nationals.com
  • Bicycle and running paths – Washington, DC and the surrounding neighborhoods are adorned with hundreds of miles of beautiful trails.  Whether you walk, bike or run, find your favorite route and enjoy exercising in the great outdoors. http://bikewashington.org/trails/
  • National Zoo – Hibernation season is over for animals and humans alike. There is no place better to see lions, tigers, bears and more than at the National Zoo.  Best of all, the National Zoo remains free, and is also metro accessible.  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/
  • Outdoor cafes – DC has an abundance of choices for outdoor dining and libations.  Eat, Drink & Enjoy!  http://dc.about.com/od/restaurants/a/Diningoutdoors.htm
  • Gold Cup – With hundreds of tent parties and thousands of people all fancily dressed (giant hats are a major part of the unwritten female dress code), who would have thought that steeplechase races could be so much fun?!?!  This Spring’s Gold Cup is on Saturday May 4th.  It is located about an hour drive outside of Washington in The Plains, VA http://www.vagoldcup.com/
  •  Earth Day on the Mall – Join the eco-friendly movement on April 22nd. http://www.earthday.org/2013/

Saving the best for last, any “DC Spring” list would be incomplete without mentioning the fabulous Cherry Blossoms.  A photographers dream, and a romantic’s rationalization for spring fever, each year the Cherry Blossoms bring a flood of tourists and locals to gaze in splendid wonder at their marvelous beauty.

Bursting Blossoms

  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival – The Festival runs March 20th through April 14th.  Festivities include fireworks at the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival on April 6th.  The annual Cherry Blossom parade on April 13th is followed by the Japanese Cultural Street Festival.

     The colder than average March and chilly start to April slowed the emergence of Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms.  Peak bloom was revised to April 6-10, with a more realistic expectation of April 8-11.  It’s  a VERY short peak window, so hurry and see them before they are gone!

    Visit http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/ to keep up to date on peak bloom days and other festival events. 

    * While it was not my intent to recycle old posts, this post is an update of last year’s Spring blog.  For a review of that “Top 10” list, please visit:

    https://theguyfrom4staff.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/top-10-things-to-love-about-washington-dc-in-the-spring

Meet-up, Greet-up, Get up and Go!

So far I have written two blogs about “things to do” in Washington, DC, – one for Spring and the other for Summer.  I’m pretty sure you can count on me to add another in the Fall.  Until then, I’d like to add helpful hints for people looking for something to do any time of year. 

Meetup.com is a place where you can find things to do all year long.  “Meetup” is an online social  portal that facilitates offline gatherings, by allowing members to join groups of common interest.

A few interesting statistics:  Nearly 9,000 people have signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group (don’t worry, I promise they won’t all be there on the hike you join) and the DC Tech Meetup Group consists of over 5,000 members. The 20’s and 30’s Going Out Group has a whopping total of almost 15,000 members!

In the DC metro area, there are thousands of local Meetup groups to satisfy a wide array of interests.  They are available for bikers (bicycles and motorcycles) and hikers, runners and photographers, just to name a few.

If you think that Meetup is only for single people, you’d be wrong.  There are mom groups, dad groups and single parent groups.   There are groups for the the gen-x and gen-y’s and baby-boomers too.  There is a Meetup group for whatever appeals to you. 

If you would like to take a look at meetups in the Washington, DC area follow the link – http://www.meetup.com/cities/us/dc/washington/.

Below are photos that I took while attending two recent photography meetup events.  With the help from some friendly meetup photogrpahers (thanks Vincent, Chris and Subra!) I was able to get a great night-time photo of the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis (night photos are very difficult to capture if you do not use the proper settings) .  The second photo is of two friendly and diverse “characters” that I met while doing a meetup photo shoot in Dupont Circle.  They were not part of the group, but seemingly, they enjoyed posing for me.

As always, your comments are welcome. 

Until my next Blog…enjoy the rest of your summer!  Steve, aka theguyfrom4Staff  http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevestrauss4staff

 

Top 10 things to love about Washington, DC in the Spring

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gif...

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gift from Japan in 1965, adorn the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Washington Monument is visible in the distance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10. Outdoor cafes – Warm weather and outdoor dining…now that’s a combo meal!  Find out more here: http://dc.about.com/od/restaurants/a/Diningoutdoors.htm

 9. Bicycle and running paths – Washington, DC and the surrounding neighborhoods are adorned with hundreds of miles of beautiful trails.  Whether you walk, bike or run, find your favorite route and enjoy.  http://bikewashington.org/trails/ and http://www.commuterpage.com/biketrails.htm

8. National Zoo – Everyone knows that bears hibernate and the birds fly south for winter, but come spring there is no place better to see lions, tigers, bears and more than at the National Zoo.  Best of all, the National Zoo is run by the Smithsonian Museum and remains free (although parking is not).  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/

7. Tourists – You may ask, am I crazy…tourists???  Sure, some people are put-out by the overcrowded metro, and many are outraged when out-of-towners are not aware of the stand to stand to the right, pass on the left metro etiquette.  But let’s face it; tourists pump millions of dollars each year into the Washington metro area. The two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival alone brings in over $100 million in tourist dollars each year.  That’s a tremendous amount of money being pumped into our economy, and a boon for many local businesses.

6. Daylight Savings Time – I’m taking a little liberty with this one.  While DST is obviously not inherent to Washington, DC, it is something that we all enjoy once the short winter days end.  DC is well known to be a city of workaholics who put in long days at the office.  With extended daylight hours, it is ideal to be able to leave work and still have time to enjoy this beautiful city in the warmth of daylight.  One of my personal favorite things to after work is to go for a run on the Mall.  The monuments, while always special, seem all the more spectacular when adorned by the glow of sun-setting skies.

5. Great Falls – After the winter snow melts, the water rises high and flows free at Great Falls.  ….er, wait there really was no snow this winter, at least not here in DC.  However, Great Falls is still one of the area’s best attractions, and luckily for most “locals” is within a half hour drive of just about anybody who lives in the metro area.  In city adorned by incredible man-made monuments, we often forget the monuments that Mother Nature created, with Great Falls being among the very best in the area.  If you’ve never hiked the Billy Goat Trail, or have not done so in a very long time, you owe it to yourself to get out there this spring.  http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Billy_Goat_A_8872.asp

4. Annapolis, Middleburg, Skyline Drive and more – There are many places to visit within an hour or so drive of DC.  Whether it’s the quaint towns of Middleburg and Annapolis or the hiking trails and spectacular views of Skyline Drive, there is so much to see and do near Washington.  Sure, we can go there any time of year, but if traffic is any indication, it is the arrival of spring when most are reminded to take a short road trip.   If you are not “most”, consider yourself reminded.

3. Washington Nationals baseball – Washington, DC was without a baseball team from the time the Senators left town after the 1971 season until the Nationals played their inaugural season in 2005.  Having loomed in last place for the better part of their existence, the Washington Nationals seem to be on the brink of being a very good team in the very near future.  Opening Day is April 12th.  Check out the schedule and get your tickets, because nothing says spring like the start of baseball season.  Play Ball!  www.nationals.com

2. There’s always something happening – Springtime choices are plentiful.  Whether you plan something festive like Gold Cup in The Plains, VA www.vagoldcup.com, or celebrate Earth Day on the Mall www.earthday.org/mall, there’s something for everyone in the Washington, DC area.  Choices range from the ever popular outdoor kite festival www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/2011/07/15/blossom-kite-festival to indoor events such as the DC Film Fest www.filmfestdc.org.

#1 – Cherry Blossoms – Ahhhh, the Cherry Blossoms!  So beautiful, delicate and fleeting, they are meant to be treasured during a very short blooming period.  In 2012, Washington DC celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  It’s an annual celebration that showcases the gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital. www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.   This year’s peak bloom is earlier than normal March 20-23.  Photos from 3/20/12 can be found on my Pictures page.  Hurry up and  see them in person before they are gone!

So that’s my top 10.  I’m sure that a point can be made for many other ideas.  What are yours?