Sunday, December 14, 2014

Market House in Fayetteville

Date of Visit: December 11, 2014

The reason we stopped in Fayetteville on our way to Florida was to look for a book for my 1940s collection at City Center Gallery & Books, but we ended up also enjoying walking around a little in downtown Fayetteville reading the history signs.  In particular, we enjoyed checking out the Market House.

At first we thought it was odd that the crosswalks over to the Market House in the middle of the Market Square roundabout did not match up with the ramp, but then we noticed it seems the whole lane right around the Market House has a yellow line so it actually is set up for walking in it from the crosswalk to where the ramp is.

It was a little cold for Mik, but he still enjoyed reading the plaques about the history of the Market House and how it stands on the site of where North Carolina adopted the Constitution. Despite how the photo below looks, he even was happy to do another Christmas Tree photo for the collage I'm working on of him and various Christmas trees this year.

Destination Info:
Market House
Market Square
Fayetteville, NC

Sunday, December 7, 2014

National Christmas Tree

Date of Visit: December 7, 2014

Today we decided to take advantage of it being a sunny day to visit the National Christmas Tree. Plus, Mom was in town this weekend; so going today allowed us to make it more of a family outing.

I remembered seeing it and all the little trees decorated for each state and territory back in 2007; so Mik was excited to see the different state trees and wanted to do pictures of us in front of the ones for the states we have lived in. Unfortunately, this year the trees have gone too high tech in our opinion; because they are just lights with some sort of Google coding program thing. Basically, they all look exactly the same during the day; but maybe they each have different light things going on at night?

The National Tree has never been all that much to see as it as always been pretty simply decorated. The train displays around it are still fun to watch. Plus, they have rather smooth pathways put over the grass to make going around the trees pretty easy unlike the Capitol Tree, which would actually have been more interesting if there had been a path to go through the grass easy with the wheelchair and get a closer look at it's decorations.
Well, earlier this week we thought the Capitol Christmas Tree wasn't worth a visit on it's own; but after seeing the way they did National Christmas Tree and more specifically the Christmas Pathway of Peace (i.e. state and territory trees) the Capitol Tree actually is more worth a visit than that (or at  least during the day). Bottom line is I struck out with two out of the three holiday things I planned to do with Mik and the bonus of the Capitol Christmas tree actually ends up in second. I could of said from the start the U.S. Botanic Garden's Season's Greetings would be the favorite; but from what I remembered the National Christmas Tree experience was at least up there in enjoyment. Things have sure changed over the years, especially this year going to the Google code thing for all the little trees. I guess nice to be promoting coding for girls; but so much for embracing diversity as it seems to somewhat promote the opposite with all the same looking trees at least during the day and seeming somewhat exclusionary.

Destination Info:
National Christmas Tree
President's Park (south of White House)
Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Capitol Christmas Tree 2014

Date of Visit: December 3, 2014

We didn't plan on visiting the Capitol Christmas Tree (i.e. the People's Christmas Tree) this year; but since it was right across the street when we visited the must-see Season's Greetings exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden, we decided why not do another Christmas tree photo to go with the Norwegian one from this past weekend and the National Christmas Tree, which is on our plan for next week.

It certainly is not worth a visit on it's own in our opinion; but it is right there if you're already going to the Botanic Garden. There is a ramp to get up to the grass area where the tree is; but the sidewalk part ends a little bit into the area. I didn't mind pushing Mik closer; but he didn't feel like an off road adventure; so we just did a picture from the where the sidewalk ends (and no I don't think he understands this is a Shel Silverstein reference...apparently Dad only read those to me as a kid).

Destination Info:

Capitol Christmas Tree
East Side of Capitol
Washington, DC

Season's Greenings 2014 at United States Botanic Garden

Date of Visit: December 3, 2014

Mik was a little leery about the Season's Greenings exhibit at the United States Botanic Garden being something he would love as I kind of lost my credibility from the Union Station outing the other day. However, I quickly gained it back as soon as we entered the Garden Court and he saw the Capitol Building model; and he now totally understood why I took him to Union Station first as it would have been way more ho hum if we visited after this even if their model train was running.

The first area you enter is the Garden Court and they have traffic controlled to go to the right to the Model Train exhibit in the East Gallery. The Garden Court is kind of set up as a miniature National Mall with several building models made of plant materials. Most you can see better when coming back around to the Garden Court before exiting; but the Supreme Court one is along the one way path into the Model Train exhibit.

This year's theme for the Model Train exhibit is the Seven Seas. Mik absolutely loved this area, which reminded him a little of the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson (one of his favorite museums ever as a miniature lover). He enjoyed looking at the various lighthouse models as well as the ships.

Mik choose the Block Island Southeast Lighthouse as his favorite model.

For the ship models his favorite was, of course, Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge.

The trains were okay. The whole Thomas the Train thing is little too on the kiddie side and the more realistic trains are up high and thus a little hard to really enjoy. However, we did find the dragon one to be a cool and surprising part of the exhibit.

Near the exit there is a tunnel to go through that has little displays like you're under the sea. They seem to represent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Mik was glad we decided on the manual chair today not only because he could really enjoy the exhibit and not worry about maneuvering around all the little kids; but also because he wouldn't have probably been too tall to do the tunnel part in it.

Before heading back to the Garden Court to see the rest of the D.C. landmark models we wandered through parts of the rest of the Botanic Garden including visiting the desert area where Mik declared he loves the fuzzy cacti the most; but as an Arizona boy he would never dare get anywhere near too close to any cacti no matter how snuggy they look.

We also visited the West Gallery where there is a large Christmas tree decorated, which includes some more miniature buildings and a train going around it. We didn't stay here long since a bunch of little kids were playing and having fun in here and Mik didn't like the loudness that resulted from that.

Final area to explore was the Garden Court where I had to show Mik the White House model to show him how ridiculous it was that he called the Capitol model the White House when we first entered the Botanic Garden. By the way he had kind of already realized was a very silly thing to have said as the Botanic Garden is right next to the Capitol and we were talking about it being ugly with the scaffolding before we entered the Botanic Garden and saw the model.

When we first got to the Botanic Garden he had wanted to do a photo in front of the Capitol model when we got around to the front of it before leaving. However, as we were about to do that I pointed out the Botanic Garden model and he decided that made more sense.

Destination Info:
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Holidays at Union Station: Norwegian Christmas Tree & Train Display

Date of Visit: November 28, 2014

As Mik's first holiday season living in the D.C. area, I told him we have to check out several things. The train display at Union Station is the one we decided to do first; because I the Botanic Gardens has more to see and seeing this one after would be kind of anticlimactic.

Unfortunately, despite the website saying the train display starts today it was not running, yet. You could look at the display; but still disappointing to not have the train to watch.

We did at least stop and see the Norwegian Christmas tree right outside the entrance and Mik was even a good sport about posing in front  of it for a holiday photo of him.

Overall slightly disappointing; but still a good outing; because Mik enjoyed a sweet cheese danish from Au Bon Pain.

Also, we discovered that Union Station is definitely a Metro stop to avoid when using the power chair, which thankfully was not the chair he decided to use today. Not that he hasn't run over my feet navigating the Metro before; but the awkward elevator from the Metro entrance into Union Station would guarantee my feet getting run over and/or him being totally unable to navigate out of the elevator. Basically it's one of the smallest Metro station elevators we have been in and on top of that you enter on one side and the exit door is on the adjacent wall. Thus, there is little room for turning and you cannot just do a back in or back out maneuver that you can do in small elevators with just one door.

Destination Info:

The Holidays at Union Station
50 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great Falls Park: Patowmack Canal and Visitor Center

Date of Visit: November 9, 2014

Today we visited Great Falls Park as a family as a fall colors outing. Fall colors wise it was disappointing as it was kind of too late for most of that for that area, which we did not expect because in our area of Alexandria this week it only just started to seem like it was really peaking. However, it was still good fall weather and a fun place to check out. Of course, getting some National Park stamps is always a plus, too

We did the part of the Patowmack Canal trail from the Visitor Center past the three overlooks. The first overlook is not accessible, but the other two are. The second one has a ramp next to the stairs and the third is on same level as trail.

The second overlook was a little hard for Mik to view the falls from due to the wood railings. On the north part there is an area that goes down from the main viewing area and by putting Mik several yards back from the railing and facing that way he could see the falls.

The third overlook was the best view for Mik, as part of the lower viewing area has a clear railing section similar to what we've seen at ballparks.

After the last overlook we decided to return to Visitor Center and car as Mik's feet were cold. We crossed over at the picnic area to take the Old Carriage Road trail back to the Visitor Center for some different scenery. (Yeah, we really need to get him some real winter boots, as that's twice this week he has been less adventurous due to cold feet and it's not even winter, yet).

Mik enjoyed the exhibits in the Visitor Center, especially the 3D model map of the falls area. There are also exhibits about the areas history including Native Americans, the American Revolution, and tourism.

Check out the Hiking part of the park's website here for good details on the wheelchair accessibility difficulty levels of the trails.

Destination Info:
Great Falls Park - part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway National Park Unit, also on Potomac Heritage Trail
9200 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA 22102

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Washington Monument

Date of Visit: November 4, 2014

For years we have been wanting to go up the Washington Monument again. First it was under renovation and then it had to be repaired after the 2011 earthquake. Now for months it has been reopened and we finally got settled in enough to make plans to go see it, which seems to require about a week to ten days in advance when you look at next available when reserving tickets online rather than getting them day of and risk having to wait a long for your tour time.

Our tour time was 11:30. They have benches and signs pointing which one to sit on as a line for your tour time. They only let people go in as people come out; so the tour time doesn't really mean when you will get in. For example, they didn't even start with the 11:30 ticket holders until 11:45. It isn't bad and they have a good system with the benches compared; but Mik wished he had worn warmer clothes, especially shoes, since it was windy and colder than he expected sitting up by the Monument.

To go in with a wheelchair one of the rangers has to unlock a gate so you go in the exit. The entrance looks accessible; but it is a security checkpoint, so they have you go in the exit to be screened by the end of the security.

Once done with security you get in line to go up the elevator. This is one of the coolest parts of the monument in our opinion, as the floor has interesting mosaics.

At the top there are windows looking out from the North, East, South, and West. However, they were too high for Mik to see from his wheelchair. We actually knew this was an issue as we did the tour back in 2006. However, that time they had this periscope thing and Mik was able to see some stuff. It wasn't perfect as the lens were somewhat scratched up; but it was more fun than just seeing the photos above the windows that show the view.

After you are done at the observation level those that can't do stairs wait for the elevator to return with a new group and then ride down to the museum level. This level has a few interesting displays mostly about the building and repair work of the monument. This level is where you get in line to ride the elevator back down.

The ride down is interesting if you can get close enough to the doors, as at two points the lights in the elevator darken and the lights in the shaft allow you to see some of the stones donated by various states and groups. Unfortunately, we got stuck dead in the middle of the elevator and couldn't really see them.

At the end we exited the same place we came in with the wheelchair. For most people, you then exit through a turnstile; but we had to get back through the locked gate. The park ranger wasn't paying attention and I was about to go out the turnstile to ask him to open the gate when a security guard brought it to his attention that we were waiting to get out. I get the security aspect of locking it and it was a minor inconvenience; but it is also the only fire exit and seems like that gate shouldn't have a lock during operating hours.

And, of course, we also stopped at the Washington Monument Bookstore for a National Park stamp. We just got the monument one, since we have the rest and didn't go to any other memorials/monuments today. Since Mik remembers hating the close quarters inside, he stayed outside; but actually there was only one other person in there and he could've gone through it easily if he had wanted to.

Overall not a bad outing; but Mik was rather disappointed. He doesn't really remember the other time we took him to the top of the monument; but I have been telling him about the periscope and he has been looking forward to doing it again for years. Not being able to enjoy the view even through a crappy periscope was a major disappointment for him.

Destination Info:
Washington Monument
2 15th St. NW
Washington, DC