Walking Washington DC  by Barbara J. Saffir

Walking Washington D.C. Guide Book

by Barbara J. Saffir (Wilderness Press)
Walking Washington DC  by Barbara J. Saffir
Welcome to your kinetic capital. Washington, D.C., is every American’s—and every freedom lover’s—home away from home. To feel more at home, please lace up your most comfortable walking shoes (it makes a huge difference); open your eyes, your heart, and your mind; and have a ball discovering or rediscovering the District, which keeps growing and getting better. Just since I arrived in the mid-1980s, Washington has transformed. It used to be a staid, government-centric “company town” with a monolithic beige, white, and gray cityscape; many crime-plagued neighborhoods; and only a handful of yummy restaurants. Now it’s a diverse, high-tech foodie’s paradise, with more eye-popping neighborhoods and safer streets.

© 2016 Barbara J Saffir/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Walking Washington D.C." Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 30.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 30.

Architecture and embassy buffs thrive here. This partially uphill walk along 16th Street— D.C.’s most important north–south numbered street—rises from “the Land Down Under” (the contemporary-style Embassy of Australia) to a trio of heavenly churches. It also passes several vintage embassies and other international hubs, one of America’s most unusual buildings, a bastion of science, a renowned publisher’s childhood mansion, and a park with a view.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.3
Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, when tightly wound Washington was the farthest thing from cool, Adams Morgan was arguably its hippest hangout. Adams Morgan is still cool— even after rocketing rents and renaissance shooed away some of its hipsters and their art and nightlife. It’s just more settled now, if not more mature.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.3
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Washington, D.C., is America’s Mecca. And Capitol Hill is at the bull’s eye. Not only does democracy thrive there, but it’s also drop-dead gorgeous. Even jaded Washingtonians seldom tire of its eye-candy icons: the stately white Capitol dome, the palatial Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court’s classical “Temple of Justice.”
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.6
LBJ had a hideaway. When the Vietnam War and other travails of the presidency tightened their grip, he escaped to Columbia Island for its placid Potomac River views. While the man-made island is no secret today, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove there remains serene and perhaps even more scenic since his namesake park was created to honor him.
, DC - Hiking,Road Biking,Trail Running,Walking - Trail Length: 4.5
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What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but what happens in D.C. might spread around the globe at the speed of sound. Savvy locals have learned not to blab newsy tidbits in public where journalists and others can overhear. Of course, no one would utter a word without the First Amendment’s protections, which include freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Here’s a little trek to some of the institutions that help protect those rights, some news outlets, and some spots that are just plain fun. After all, “pursuit of happiness” is one of our coolest constitutional guarantees. Start at the Federal Triangle Metro station’s exit on the west side of 12th Street NW. Step off the escalator and turn left to walk through the barrel-vaulted breezeway of the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters. This curvaceous masterpiece opened in 1934 to house the headquarters of the United States Post Office Department. It’s one of several federal buildings that form the Federal Triangle.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2
“Dateline: Washington.” That’s splattered across newspapers from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. D.C. makes news. D.C. covers news. Even in this digital news age, with many newspapers folding, the capital is still arguably the biggest newshounds’ town. TV, print, radio, and online news bureaus are scattered across the city, sometimes right next door to the people and institutions they report on. Start at the Farragut West Metro station at 18th and I Streets NW. Turn right to walk east on I Street NW past Farragut Square park to 17th Street NW for the New York Times’ Washington Bureau on the left, in the buff-colored brick building topped with a modern tower. Although this and all the news bureaus are private, it’s neat to know where they are when you’re reading their Washington news stories.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.3
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If the National Mall is America’s Back Yard, Dupont Circle is D.C.’s town square—or town circle. It’s a hangout, home, workplace, and historic district flush with vintage embassies and other enviable architecture. Since there are too many embassies to pinpoint here (see Walks 8 and 11 for embassy treks), this focuses on cafés, shops, and other more public buildings on the streets that radiate off the circle.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.6
Sandwiched between the historic Eastern Market and the storied Marine Barracks is a half mile of hotties, hot spots, and a few ho-hums. Hot bars, hot restaurants, hot mammas, and hot papas (including Hill staffers, lawmakers, and Marines) are all found in the storefront town houses flanking foot-friendly Barracks Row.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.25
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Pack a lunch. There’s so much to see on this journey from Siberia (the Russian Embassy) to the Seine River (the French ambassador’s “palace” and a museum with a famous Seine painting). At least it’s virtually all downhill on Massachusetts Avenue NW, also called Embassy Row.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 3.6
It’s no Mount Everest. D.C.’s highest natural point is 409 feet, just a tad below Everest’s 29,028 feet, the world’s highest peak above sea level. But lest anyone rush too soon to explore this natural wonder off busy Wisconsin Avenue NW, begin instead in a ritzy residential corner of D.C. known as Forest Hills.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.3
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What an eyeful. This beautiful stroll, most of it along gardenlike Foxhall Road NW, rolls downhill past the homes of diplomats and other bigwigs. One of the honchos who used to live there was David Lloyd Kreeger, a former chairman of Government Employees Insurance Company. Luckily for art and architecture lovers, his modern-style mansion, about midway through this trek, is now a museum. The walk starts near American University (D.C. native Goldie Hawn’s alma mater), passes The George Washington University’s lesser-known Mount Vernon Campus (Boston Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach is a GW alum), and winds up at Georgetown University (President Bill Clinton is its most famous grad). The most private stop is the most historic: the building that now houses the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is where the U.S. Navy broke secret codes during World War II.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.7
Tourists don’t typically flock to Friendship Heights, but they might if they knew about its disparate trove of treasures. They can buy a bauble or a beaded evening gown and then saunter down a tree-lined road to sample the capital’s slowly disappearing history: D.C.’s original boundary markers and a Civil War fort. Most of Washington’s boundary stones are still around, but they’re typically inaccessible and are slowly disintegrating in the rain, snow, and pollution. But this stone is easy to ogle in a public park. Practically across the street is Fort Bayard. Although no visible remnants remain of this Civil War fort, it’s still a green oasis with towering persimmon trees and chirping birds—and it makes one heck of a sledding hill. A whole ring of similar forts once circled the city, modeled after European fortifications of the 17th and 18th centuries. Washington had one lone fort when the Civil War commenced in the spring of 1861. By the war’s end four years later, that number had skyrocketed to 68. These days there are more than 68 shops and restaurants around the junction of Wisconsin and Western Avenues.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.5
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Camelot lives. With its storybook row houses and mansions, narrow streets, and brick sidewalks, the historic district of Georgetown seems as magical now as it was when John F. Kennedy and his glamorous colleagues gravitated there in the 1950s. Now D.C.’s oldest neighborhood is home to 21st-century jet-setters, such as Secretary of State John Kerry, Washington Nationals part-owner Mark Lerner, and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
Sure, size matters. But a Renoir is a Renoir whether it’s large or small. And the same holds for Georgetown’s exquisite gardens, from pocket-size gems behind skinny row houses to magnum masterpieces at lavish mansions. A few of the gardens take to the public stage each spring at Georgetown’s Garden Tour.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.3
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New money, old money, little money. Everyone flocks to Georgetown. The main difference is that some can afford to stay longer and exploit more of its many riches. But the best thing about Georgetown is free: its gorgeous, walkable streets. The entire neighborhood of Georgetown, with its Federal-style brick row houses and mash-up of mansions, became a protected historic district in 1950.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.5
After decades of decay and crime following race riots in 1968, H Street is hot again. Especially at night. More than two dozen bars, cafés, music venues, and other businesses have sprung up the past few years, many of them clustered between 11th and 14th Streets NE. Also called the Atlas District, this strip was named by Forbes magazine in 2014 as one of America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods. H Street’s hot factor could spiral even higher after D.C.’s new delay-plagued streetcar line opens. It’s scheduled for 2016.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 1.5
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This is a 1 - 3 mile pleasant walk. Washington’s world-famous cherry blossoms seem downright drab next to the lesser-known, big and brazen lotus flowers at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. Each summer these pink and white beauties—with flowers up to a whopping 10 inches in diameter—light up 2 to 3 acres of ponds. The flowers’ stalks can reach 6 feet tall, and their umbrella-like leaves can stretch more than 2 feet wide. Kenilworth is the largest public lotus garden in the nation, experts say. Historically known for its water lilies, these days Kenilworth’s jaw-dropping lotuses grab center stage. This former commercial aquatic garden was acquired by the federal government in 1938. As the only national park established to propagate and display water plants, Kenilworth grows more than 35 varieties of tropical and hardy water lilies and several varieties of lotuses. They thrive in 45 ponds and several display pools in the 8.5-acre historic aquatic garden ensconced in a 75-acre wetland.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 3
Millions of visitors. That’s what you get when you cross “free” with some of the most educational, inspirational, and enjoyable museums on the planet. Sometimes it seems like all the roughly 28 million annual visitors pile into the 12 main museums flanking the grassy rectangle known as the National Mall all at once. But not to worry. Even during tourist season, museum hopping can be fun with a little planning. First, scout out the Smithsonian’s and the National Gallery of Art’s websites (si.edu and nga.gov) to choose the must-sees for your clan, including the current rotating exhibits, lectures, concerts, planetarium shows, and exclusive wingdings like kiddie sleepovers and the summer Folklife Festival. Then make a beeline to your favorites when the doors fling open.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 3
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War or peace? This loop delivers both—and it tosses in the CIA’s original home and some impressive headquarters. The Federal Reserve, the Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies live near the Mall’s famous war and peace icons. President Lincoln’s Parthenonlike memorial rules the National Mall. A massive marble Lincoln sits atop a throne at the head of the Mall in tribute to our hero who won the Civil War and ended slavery. Along each side of the Mall are moving memorials to the men and women who fought other conflicts to keep America and its allies free. This trek also features our Revolutionary War roots: the White House–esque headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Peace resides at the Organization of American States’ compound and at the Congressionally chartered U.S. Institute of Peace.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
Everyone loves pandas. The National Zoo’s übercute cub, Bao Bao, even scored a birthday tweet from First Lady Michelle Obama. Although the Giant Panda “palace” is enough of a reason to trek to the zoo, 1,800 other cute critters also reside within the 163-acre oasis. After schlepping around the animals’ hillside homes, it’s only a short walk past fashionable human homes and hotels to one of the city’s most elaborate houses of God—the Washington National Cathedral, which is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world. Along the way are the Swiss ambassador’s ultra-edgy residence and a newly public garden by the Post cereal heir’s former mansion.
, DC - Walking - Trail Length: 2
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