Wednesday
Apr112012

Best Dates in the DC Area

There were times when I visited places in the DC area and I literally had to pinch myself. Is this really part of the DMV? So, for the next few weeks, in addition to my regular posts, I'll be posting a few of my favorite places to go on a date, in no particular order.  Some are in the city and others require a short drive to MD or VA. Take a break from email, twitter, facebook, and everything else. Make a little time to check them out. You can thank me later.   :)

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The National Arboretum

I was born in DC. My mom practically raised us in the museums. But a visit to the National Arboretum made me feel like I was 1,000 miles from DC. I just kept thinking, “How could I have never been here before?”

The National Arboretum is on the way to BWI airport. Just beyond the horns, fast food restaurants, and red lights of New York Avenue, 423 acres of pure beauty exists. There are thousands of plants, flowers, and trees, from azalea bushes to magnolia blossoms, to three hundred year-old bonsai trees.

Koi Pond - Photo from the National Arboretum websiteAfter you head to the visitor's center for a map and a list of current exhibits, one of the first stops you should make is to the pond filled with living art. Orange, black, gold, yellow, and white colors infuse the water as huge koi splash around and fight for food from the coin operated machines. I could stand there forever and watch all of the different colors collide or the faces of children and adults who stand there wide-eyed and amazed. (Bring your quarters - Feed the fish beginning in May.)

The bonsai and penjing exhibit is also fantastic. They are miniature landscapes that are breathtakingly life-like. You’ll find trees that have been “in training” since as early as 1625. Some trees resemble mini forests and mountain ranges, others look like shrunken pines and maples. A few almost invite you to curl up beside them with a good book or resemble the mountainside that you saw on your last vacation. All of them are regal examples of artistic talent, patience, and tradition.

The herb garden contains a collection of 800 plants and flowers that were historically used for seasoning, medicine, and as cures for ailments. The garden offers a huge sample of plants that were used by Africans, colonists, and Native Americans. Between the smells, blooms, and lessons in culture and history, the herb garden is a must see.

There are so many things to experience here along with a few surprises. The Arboretum is also home to the old Corinthian columns that were originally a part of the Capitol from 1828-1958. Between the reflecting pool and the sound of the cascading water, you’ll feel like you are among the ruins of Rome, instead of Washington, D.C.

Original Capitol Columns - Image is from the National Register of Historic Places.Admission is free. Most days, the park is open from 8–4:30 pm, but be sure to check the website for more info. There is a public tram that can take you around the park. There are also several places to drive to, picnic, or spend a quiet, romantic moment with your date. The park is also filled with endless streams, bridges, benches, ponds, prairies, trails, pagodas, and gardens. Full moon hikes are also available in May and June, although they fill up quickly. Check their website on May 1st to register for June dates.

Whatever you choose to see or do there, the National Arboretum is one of the best places in DC. And it’s free! You can’t really beat that.

Have any date spots that should be on the list? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

© Kristen Crockett

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