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Visit Washington, DC, on a Kick Scooter

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 4/14/2011 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  According to several websites, we had a three day window of time to see Washington, DC's cherry blossoms in full bloom, which we planned on doing while riding kick scooters. Luckily, we chose the second day (Monday, April 4th) and avoided missing one of the most fleeting flower shows in the United States.

Nation-wide, the weather was bad; overcast, cold, and windy. By the time we arrived in mid-afternoon, many petals littered the ground like white and pink confetti. Fortunately, at least 50% of the blossoms still remained intact for us to see. Better, upon our arrival, the sun miraculously appeared and the temperature rose to over 80 degrees, making high wind gusts bearable.

Map of the Little's kick scooting trip through Washington, DC.

Once at Washington's Union Station, we had only four hours to enjoy the cherry blossoms before dusk and hoped to continue sightseeing the following day. Unfortunately, the next day was marred by extremely strong winds, heavy rains, and plummeting temperatures that destroyed many of the remaining blossoms. Thankfully, we used our four hours wisely.

We learned from prior trips that planned kick scooter routes, rather than just noodling around, yielded the best sightseeing adventure. Our map (see below) for the day included scooting around the US Capital Building, cruising to the Smithsonian Institute, commuting over the high Tidal Basin Bridge, rolling down to the Tidal Basin (home of the East Potomac Park), then returning to Union Station in the evening. On the sidewalk, our trip included seven miles of urban trails where we were pushed or pulled by strong tail- and head-winds.

Approaching the back of the US Capital Building, Washington DC

From Union Station, we headed toward the US Capital Building with the intent of circling it. As you can see from the picture below, by mid-afternoon, when most escorted school trips were finished, we had the back of the US Capital Building grounds to ourselves! As youths, never did we dream that we'd return to the capital and its surrounds on kick scooters . . .

The back of the US Capital Building.

The distance around the US Capital Building is about a mile, which, on foot, might cause some people to skip seeing its back. The back, however, is just as spectacular as its front and well worth a visit. Best, during an extremely hot, muggy, Washington afternoon, that area is slightly cooler than the front because the capital casts its shadow on the surrounding ground.

Approaching the front of the US Capital Building.

The front of the capital is, of course, spectacular, especially on sunny days when it shines against a solid blue sky backdrop.

Riding on our kick scooters around the building's sidewalks allowed us to maximize our sightseeing, however, it wasn't all cruising. Its sidewalks are fringed by steps and are loaded with pedestrians. While in early April, the tourist load is low, we know from experience that by summer, this same area is crawling with people.

On sunny afternoons, a big problem with standing in front of the US Capital Building is that when you look away from it over the National Mall, you stare directly into the sun. Typical tourist pictures taken from this location with the capital as a backdrop usually features squinting people.

Obviously, I'm not about to show you my own squinting portraits and for the shot below, I forced my eyes open. Note that my streaming hair was caused by a heavy wind and not my kick scooting speed.

Karen Little on here kick scooter in front of the US Capital.

After we finished appreciating the US Capital Building, we headed to the Smithsonian Institute's "The Castle."

From a distance, the Smithsonian Institute's entrance arches beautifully frame the Washington Monument, which, if you squint, you can see below (it's to the right of the hanging lamp). The reason this scene doesn't photograph clearly on a bright afternoon is that the view looks into the sun.

On a dull day, you can actually get a better picture, but who wants dull days? Another problem trying to capture this iconic shot is the prevalence of pedestrians trying to do the same thing. Notice that the camera-bearing man to the right of the arch is patiently waiting for me to finish.

Front archway of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Continuing through the arch and around the corner of The Castle is an entrance to its stunning park, which is loaded with flowering trees during early April. This park also provides the prettiest gateway to the Tidal Basin.

Pathway leading to the park behind the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC

The park features nice, wide, scooter-friendly sidewalks, although during peak tourist periods, those sidewalks are filled with people. Still, if you plan your visit for early in the morning, or late afternoon, you almost always find sufficient room for yourself. In previous visits, my primary park activity was sketching. Today, the park's most popular activity is taking pictures.

The view below is heading out of the park, with The Castle to our backs.

The park behind The Castle of the Smithsonian Institute

The area between The Castle and the northeastern side of the East Potomac Park in the Tidal Basin is approximately one mile. Unlike the landscape in the National Mall, which is relatively flat, this hilly area is more challenging, especially with a strong tail- or head-wind present. At least half of the route goes up hill via the high Tidal Basin Bridge.

While we saw cherry trees throughout The National Mall, the Tidal Basin trees were a gift from Japan in 1912, with many planted along the edges of the East and West Potomac Park. Today, even the nearby Jefferson Memorial, which was built many years later, is surrounded by flowering trees.

In the East Potomac Park, we had our choice of kick scooting on one of three sidewalks: water-side and either of two road-side sidewalks. The water-side sidewalk, however, was severely caved in at several points, making it an impossible scoot. We stayed on the properly maintained, but less interesting street-side sidewalks.

Even though we reached the Tidal Basin in late afternoon, it was still filled with pedestrians and picnicking families. We walked our scooters at least half of the time to facilitate other people, including a large group of saffron-robed, sandal-wearing, ball-tossing monks.

Karen Little under a cherry tree in Washington DC's Tidal Basin.

As mentioned before, between the mainland and the Tidal Basin island is the Tidal Basin Bridge. Among many vistas, it overlooks boat harbors and the city's highly popular fresh sea food shops and restaurants. From what I could see, some of the more interesting places to stop for a snack, dinner, or dinner fixings are Jessie's Cooked Seafood, Captain White's Chesapeake Bay's Finest Fresh Fish (shrimp, lobster, fresh and frozen crabs), and Pruitt Seafood.

If you love the smell of seafood and the excitement of overlooking a popular destination, the Tidal Basin Bridge is the place to take it all in. To actually visit these restaurants during dining hours, consider walking to them because surrounding traffic is thick and parking is scarce.

View of fish markets from Washington's Tidal Basin Bridge.

After leaving the bridge, we returned via the same route. The photo below shows me re-entering the Smithsonian Institute's park from the back at around 6:30 PM. Notice that by early dusk, this park was largely vacant. We had its sidewalks and lovely scenery to ourselves.

Back entrance of the park behind The Castle in the Smithsonian Institute

No trip to Washington, DC, is complete without a personal trophy picture, which, in this case, is my husband, Phil, standing with his kick scooter and the US Capital Building behind him.

Phil Little and kick scooter in front of the US Capital Building in Washington, DC.

We continued our journey passed the National Gallery of Art, where we took pictures of ourselves in its reflective, glass "mini-Louvre" pyramids.

Karen and Phil Little byu the National Gallery of Art's pyramids in Washington, DC.

Then we continued to Louisiana Avenue and D Street where we saw The Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II and rang its low-pitched, meditative gong. This particular monument is our nation's apology to over 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent who had their property confiscated and were put into ten internment camps during the war.

The reflective pond in the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II

In summary, we could have never covered so much territory and enjoyed it so much had we not ridden our kick scooters, which is something you and your family should consider doing, too.

Covering seven miles sightseeing by foot, especially within four hours, would have worn us out. Instead, by the time we reached Union Station and had a snack at its wonderful, yet very reasonably priced Center Cafe Restaurant, we were fully relaxed. All that was left was a subway ride back to our hotel. Shortly after we reached our room, the big storm struck.

Questions? Ask Karen at Karen@littleviews.com

Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 4/14/2011. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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