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The Kennedy Center is a living memorial honoring President John Kennedy. The iconic Kennedy Center’s history began in 1958 as the National Cultural Center. It was a product of bi-partisan legislation signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, but as a strong supporter of the arts, President Kennedy became the driving force in raising the funds to complete the construction of the Center. He appointed his wife, Jacqueline and Mrs. Eisenhower as honorary co-chairwomen which I find fascinating since they were from different political parties but worked together on this important endeavor. Not something we see much of in today’s polarized political climate in the US. 

In January 1964, two months after President Kennedy was assassinated, Congress designated the National Cultural Center as a living memorial and renamed it: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Congress appropriated $23 million to fund it and fundraising continued with the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers. The volunteers worked earnestly across the country, raising money from private support and from nations around the world who respected President Kennedy and wanted to contribute to his legacy. Because the Center is a Federal Memorial, it continues to receive funding each year for the maintenance and operation of the facility but the artistic and educational programs are paid for through ticket sales and gifts from individuals, corporations and private foundations.

President Lyndon Johnson participated in the ground breaking ceremony in December 1964, and in keeping with its historic importance, he used the same gold-plated shovel which was also used in the ground breaking ceremonies for the Lincoln Memorial (1914) and the Jefferson Memorial (1938). The Kennedy Center officially opened in 1971 and the New York Times wrote a rave front page review which stated “The capital of this nation finally strode into the cultural age tonight with the spectacular opening of the $70 million [Kennedy Center]…a gigantic marble temple to music, dance, and drama on the Potomac’s edge.”

I always enjoy going to the Center and had the opportunity to attend several musicals including “Wicked”, “South Pacific” and “Book of Mormon.” I became a member for one year and appreciated their member benefits. As members, my daughter and I were able to watch a rehearsal of the National Orchestra. As a viola player, my daughter loved observing the behind the scenes of a professional orchestra.

Earlier this month,  I finally made it to one of the free performances at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. We arrived early enough to take the last free tour at 4:30 p.m. I particularly enjoyed seeing the contributions of artwork throughout the Center which had been generously donated by several foreign governments. Click here to see the book listing all the gorgeous gifts given to the Center.

The Millennium Stage offers free performances nightly from 6 to 7 pm. The Happy Hour at the Grand Foyer bar is from 5-6 p.m. Seating begins at 5:30 and you can take your drink/food with you to your seat. The monthly calendar usually comes out the last week of the previous month. Click here for a list of upcoming performances.

Tips for visiting The Kennedy Center:

  • If you’re 18-30, you can sign up for My Tix at kennedy-center.org/mytix which offers discounted and free tickets.
  • There’s a free shuttle between the Center and the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Departing every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 11:45 t0 midnight on Sunday, and 4:00 p.m. to end of last performance on Holidays.
  • If you want a good seat for the Millennium Stage performances, be in line shortly after 5 p.m.

Georgetown Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center

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We decided to take advantage of the record-breaking warm temperatures this winter and go on a hike to celebrate the last day of 2015.   At the top of Buzzard Rock

Located in the George Washington National Forest , just west of Shenandoah National Park, is the Buzzard Rock trailhead. It’s just outside Front Royal and the address is 3087-3189 Mountain Road/Route 629. Parking is limited (if it’s full, see the link at the end of this post for larger parking areas). The drive from Washington DC takes about an hour and a half.  The 1.5 mile trail is marked with white spray paint on either a tree or rock along the path. At the beginning, the terrain is rolling and  gentle with a sprinkling of small creeks and a campground area. As you approach the top, the hike becomes steeper and rockier.   Beautiful stream My daughter jumping across the stream
For all the biology enthusiasts: lots of lichen along the trail. My favorite is the blaze orange…  Looking out toward the Front Royal Fish Hatchery and Passage Creek.

Note the white marking on the tree on the right. Good thing there are marks because some areas become a bit rocky.   At Buzzard RockThe views are lovely, even in the winter. I’ll be back to see the scenery in spring and autumn…

A quick comment on hiking etiquette: Most hikers we saw, greeted us with a “hi” or “hey”. But almost all of them didn’t realize hikers coming down should yield to hikers going up. Also, hike quietly ~ there was one woman speaking loudly into her cell phone as she walked down the hill (not stopping for us as we were ascending) and her partner gave us an embarrassed shrug.

If you decide to go, you can get detailed information, maps and how many calories you burn on the hike: here.

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Supreme Court DC

Attending a session at the Supreme Court of the United States is an impressive experience. I was thrilled to listen to the attorneys arguing their case but was especially awed by the Justices. Those men and women are wicked smart which is comforting to witness since, as one of our three branches of government, their decisions affect all citizens of the United States.

It’s not easy to get tickets for the popular cases (those highlighted in the media) but it’s worth making the attempt to get in. I recommend getting in line early for the “hot” cases. If you’re interested in attending a court session, seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. A line forms in the morning on the plaza in front of the building.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., limited seats are given out for the entire argument. If you don’t get tickets for that day, the police officers will start a “three-minute line,” which allows visitors to observe the Court in session for a brief period of time from the back of the courtroom. To find out if the Court is in session (Oct-April), click here for the schedule.

The Supreme Court building is located at 1 First Street, NE (between East Capitol St & Maryland Ave) and is open to the public Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding federal holidays. If the court isn’t in session, you can still visit a Courtroom Lecture, Visitors’ Film and Exhibitions.

Supreme Court

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Kayak DC on the water

Blue skies, calm waters and a great day to kayak on the Potomac River. The local company Boating in DC has three locations and we chose Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown. Easy to get to and the staff are super friendly/helpful.

The views along the river are wonderful and include the lovely Kennedy Center, Georgetown waterfront, Roosevelt Island, Washington Monument & Lincoln monuments. For $15/hour, we rented our single kayaks and made our along the Potomac for a relaxing time on the water…

Kayaking
Leaving the dock

Kayaking under the bridge
Under the Key Bridge

Kayak too much fun

Kayaking

Kayaking

Kayak in front of boat club
Kayaking along the Potomac

We’ve always been fans of kayaking especially in the islands. Here’s an old photo from our Guam days…

Kayaking on Cocos Island, Guam
Kayaking off Cocos Island, Guam

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DC Sunrise
US Capitol Building

As an early morning person, I love walking around cities before most people are up. Today, I took complete advantage of John’s jet-lag and the fact he was still mentally seven time zones ahead of DC. By 6:30 am, we were walking The Mall with our very happy dog, Maya. Other people were out and about early, mostly joggers, walkers and a whole lot of police. Not sure what was happening later in the day but they were definitely preparing for something big.

DC National Gallery
The National Art Gallery

DC Birds in flight
Birds in flight at the National Art Gallery

DC Benches
Benches waiting to be filled

DC Washington Monument early morning
Early morning light on the Washington Monument

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Jefferson Monument from the top of the Washington Monument

A view of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial from the top of the Washington Monument in Washington DC.

The memorial is in the style of the Pantheon of Rome (neoclassical architecture). It’s located at the Tidal Basin and a walk to the monument is a must when the Cherry Blossoms are blooming (usually in early April). The construction of the memorial was approved by an Act of Congress in 1934 but the site and the style caused controversy which delayed the building for several years. Several of the Japanese flowering cherry trees were removed which caused considerable criticism from the public. Additional criticism came from The Commission of Fine Arts who deemed the pantheon design a direct competition to the Lincoln Memorial. President Roosevelt gave the final permission on the pantheon style and he laid the cornerstone of the Memorial on November 15, 1939.

As the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was also a statesman, architect, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, adviser of the Constitution and founder of the University of Virginia. Speaking of UVA, it’s on the list of college visits with my daughter this fall ~ along with what seems like every high school student in Virginia.

The bronze, 19 ft tall statue of Jefferson looks toward the White House. My personal favorite part of the memorial are the five Jefferson quotations on the interior of the building illustrating the principles to which he dedicated his life.

If you visit The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, it is located on the south bank of the Tidal Basin. It’s open daily from 8:00 am until 11:45 pm every day except Christmas Day. No fees for visiting and the closest metro stop is Smithsonian.

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It’d be YEARS since I’ve seen the DC fireworks in person. We braved the mobs of people and checked out the show. We didn’t go to the National Mall but watched from a lawn overlooking the city so we avoided the complete crush that I’m sure was at the Memorials. We couldn’t have picked a better view and, besides the main fireworks, we were afforded a glimpse of multiple firework displays in the distance and on the horizon.

The weather was perfect ~ cool but not cold, low humidity and clear skies.

Fort Myer WA monument capitol helicoptor
Looking out to the Washington Monument and Capitol Building (notice the helicopter flying low)

Fort Myer Fireworks III

Fort Myer Fireworks II

Fort Myer Fireworks
It was a spectacular display of fireworks. They even had one part which spelled out USA.

We’re already planning next year’s adventure ~ we might even brave the crowds and see the fireworks from the Lincoln Memorial!

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