Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas in DC

"It's snowin' on the (pundits)....!"

Happy Black Friday!

I btw will not be frequenting any Targets, Wal-Marts, or God-forbid the Hell that is the Tysons Corner Galleria today.  But I have been thinking about things to suck up your time over the holidays, albeit better than dodging raging 'tweens between the Hollister's and Clair's as I try to get my hands on a Cinnamon Sugar pretzel.

I've been wanting to write this post for about two years.  Christmas is always a wonderful time but in DC it always seems particularly special.  There are many special places we all think of when we think of DC but as usual I want to talk about some of those out of the way treasures that are really better than the main special places we all hear about.

So because I enjoy being unexpected and a little off beat here are some of those out of the way joys in and around DC if you happen to visit this year or any other Christmas.

I.     A Ginormous Tree:

Georgetown in miniature
Most people coming to DC plan on going to the White House Christmas Tree.  If you just have to do it just plan on some difficulty.  Getting off the Metro near Lafayette Plaza or the Reagan Building will still leave you a 10-15 minute (often) cold walk.  Now you may be the type of person to enjoy the tee shirt salesmen and street musicians banging on pickle buckets along the way.  But for me the effort is not quite worth dealing with the throngs of people once you get there.  I do enjoy the little trains in the area and the tree displays from every state.  But make sure you bring change so the kiddies can throw it at the railroad cars for sport.

Hey let's filibuster holiday cheer!
Lazy Ryan says a better tree to see is the National Tree at the Capitol Building.  On the weekend you can probably just park on the street and walk right up.  Each year a tree from a different state is selected and decorated in the motif of that state.  Fortunately they have yet to pick a tree from my hometown as that would have to be decorated with an empty can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the fender of an old Dodge, and a piece of siding from a double wide! Adjacent to Congress is the United States Botanical Garden which always has a lovely Christmas display that you can enjoy in balmy warmth.  There are beautiful displays of poinsettias along models of all the famous Federal buildings.  There is also a wonderful holiday train set.  There is even a touch and smell herb room.  It's always astounding to me how much stinky smells can occupy a kid's attention.  Usually after several miles of walking a good 30 minutes of smelling is just what is needed for the kids while Ryan takes a rest!  And all of this comes at a great low price of exactly $Nothing!  Well, you should probably leave a donation, but it is cheap!

II.     Classy Entertainment:

If you have read this blog you know I love the Nutcracker.  The Washington Ballet offers a lovely interpretation at the Warner Theater each holiday season.  Septime Webre's version of the classic ballet puts a Washington colonial spin on the tale.  In Webre's version George Washington is the Nutcracker Prince, King George is the Mouse King, and Clara encounters beautiful sassy Cardinals, Frontiersmen, sexy Anacostia Indians, and of course lovely Cherry Blossoms along her journey through the Land of Sweets.  The Warner is a wonderful place to enjoy a show and this just always seems to set the season.  The costumes and settings are perfect and the company is first rate.  If you are lucky you will see Brooklyn Mack defy gravity as a Frontiersman in the Russian Suite and leap well beyond what you would think is humanly possible.  And did I say the Indians (substituting for Arabian) are HOT.  Oh yeah, I did but they are so go and enjoy.  All of it, not just the Indians, but they are HOT!  I gotta quit thinking about her!

III.     For the Lazy:

You know sometimes you don't want to walk all day and take three Metro trains just to see a poinsettia.   Or maybe it's just too damn cold outside to enjoy that real Douglas Fir fresh from the Oregon mountains.  If the warmth of a fake faux Christmas village is just your thing then you need to be at the Gaylord at National Harbor's Christmas on the Potomac.  The atmosphere inside really is enchanting and the nightly water and light shows with the Potomac in the background are beautiful.  For the dudes there is a sports bar so you won't miss that Massengill Extra Mild Des Moins Dirt Bowl between the Florida Gulf Coast State Honey Beavers and the Northern Montana Tech Porkers.  I think the kids said something about a Breakfast with Shrek and Santa but I was watching the cheerleaders on TV so I was ignoring them.

Fun but too damn cold!
Anyway across the street is Ice which, in a word, is breathtaking.  And by breathtaking I mean it's "cold as a witch's tit in an iron bra (as us guys used to say)."  At about +$30/pop it's also a bit pricey to be miserable in sub-zero temps though.  I prefer just walking the streets and seeing decorations and people watching.  We always meander down to the Peep Store.  Stop it!  I don't mean I go looking for Capital strippers!  No it's a Peep store, you know, the Easter styrofoam candy things.

Oh well, by the end of all of this we are hungry and National Harbor has one of my all-time favorite concepts - Nando's.  Ryan enjoys the spicy African chicken dishes, the hearty sides, and the soft serve ice cream; Shannon enjoys the warmth of a good South African Shiraz!  The girls just like it 'cause the guys in One Direction mentioned Nando's once in an interview.  But if you go I am sure you will come away saying Peri Peri!

IV.     More Free Stuff - Union Station:

Did I mention that I am a cheap Bastard!  Wait, any of you ladies contemplating coming to DC because I am so suave and sophisticated forget about that last statement.  As my aunt used to say "we're not cheap we are just close with our money!"

Anyway, have you noticed that other than an $80 ballet ticket and a $40 meal at Nando's all this stuff I've been talkin' about is free!  Kind of catch a theme here.

Well another place that is absolutely free is Union Station.  Of course it's just a train station and that lady over there in the black knee high boots with 5 inch heels is probably not free.  But Union Station is, in fact, quite spectacular and well worth a look.  We love the large Norwegian Village decorated for Christmas and the player piano in the main lobby.  Wait, actually I like the fact that the Norwegian Village takes my girls and Shannon's attention and now I can look at that life sized image of Sarah Palin they have for sale at the newsstand next door.  Wow, standing next to her it appears that her hips are just in the right location for me to nail her in front of the mirror if we were back at the Gaylord!  Oh God I would totally go all tea party to get a shot at that action!  I'd even let her complain about me "paling around with Riff Dog" while I was nailing her.  OH, baby; you know Ryan loves workin' it across party lines.  Oops Shannon is walking over.  "Hey dear look at this funny 'Cup of Joe' Stalin coffee mug, hilarious!"  I don't think it worked, she knows I was looking at Sarah's perfectly aerobacized cardboard ass!  Drat!

We better move along!  :(

Oh, if you want more free just across the river in Arlington is the community of Cherrydale and what may be the merriest tackiest Christmas display ever!  If you can make your way across the river and through the Sprout Run Parkway you will enjoy the lights on Quebec St.  They always do a wonderful job.   My favorite was back in 2011 when they did an Occupy Cherrydale Christmas Lights Extravaganza, the Elf protest was hilarious!  :)

V.     Outside the Beltway:

So if you are one of those Tea Baggers, I mean Partyers, and you just have to get outside the Beltway to see the "real" America there are some very quaint spots.  The best spot would be curled up alongside Ryan next to the fireplace and adjacent to his tree!

But if we don't cross paths here are some other outside-the-Beltway gems.

Mount Vernon - Mount Vernon is really a must see when you are in DC.  Really it is a beautiful majestic place any time of year, perched above the Potomac and now overlooking Alexandria.  The tour of the house and grounds is very interesting and not too long for the kiddies and the Visitors Center has some really interesting interactive exhibits to keep everyone happy.  For me I just love breathing in the aura of Virginia gentility and to understand how uncommon it was and is to have a man that led a lost cause to victory and then held so much power in his hands and yet had the true nobility to walk away.  Kind of like Ryan when he chooses to not flirt with the hot MILF's at his daughter's school!  OH and you have to check out George's Christmas Camel!  Food is real good in the Visitor's Center and the the Mount Vernon Inn is even better.

Hershey - Did you know the sweetest place in the world is just up the road about 1 hour?  Yep, and you guessed it they have cheap and free stuff as well!  That is what is so great about this place, it's like you are close to everything except for like Vegas which will take about 4 hours on a Southwest Air jet.

But really Hershey is much more festive at Christmas than Vegas and you won't lose as much money.  In fact the World of Chocolate is free and Hershey Park opens up Christmas decorated kiddie rides for a pretty affordable price.  There are also some really nice shows throughout the day in the park to get the Christmas spirit going.  At the end of the day the Hershey Grille is a great place to end your visit at the Sweetest Place on Earth.  On the way home take a drive through the Christmas Candy lane Lights.

Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights
Harpers Ferry - Located astride the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers and at the intersection of three states, Harpers Ferry has always been at the crossroads of history.  There are certainly many great attractions and restaurants in the area but most of all it's fun just to take in the Victorian charm, walk the brick streets, and see the old Civil War era buildings and decor.  As you do this you see the beauty of the rivers below the last peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains, forming the boundary of Virginia and West Virginia, as they end at the Potomac and give way to the Catoctin Mountains across into Maryland.  Above the town you see the spectacular peak of Maryland Heights that has famously overlooked this beautiful town.  Harpers Ferry is so much of a Gateway as it sits at the end of the Shenandoah Valley seemingly far from anything commercial and yet a short drive down Rt 9 into Leesburg and those outer x-urbs of Metro DC.

And just in case you were in fact looking for a Miracle on 34th Street you can actually go to 34th Street in Baltimore and see a wonderful display of lights.  I have to admit I have not visited there but I think I will soon as it was recommended to me by one of my dearest followers who has joined me on this blog in the past, thanks Moira!  :)

So good luck with those crowds if you simply must go shopping today but consider really getting into the true meaning of the season and just get out and breath some fresh Christmas spirit.  Nothing makes you feel more alive than to take in the the chilly fresh Appalachian holiday mountain air.

Hey I think that's Snowshoe at 0:45 in the video below.  It's one of the coolest ski resorts as the resort is at the top of the mountain and you ski down (opposite of the norm).  The little village at the top of the mountain is very quaint, cool, and unique.

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