Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Natural Places in the DC Area To Take Your Out-of-Town Visitors

If you're like us, you've got company coming for Thanksgiving. Some ideas on where to take your guests, for Thanksgiving or at any other time of the year:

Great Falls has always been our default guest-taking spot. There's really nothing like it in the DC area. The views of the falls are great from either side, though the Washington City Paper dubbed Cow Hoof Rock, on the Virginia side, as the best view of the Potomac last year. You have a choice of gentle trails (like the C&O Canal towpath in MD or the Swamp Trail in VA), or rugged trails (like the Billy Goat Trail in MD), for your guests to choose from. $5 admission.

Several Natural Capital readers said they take their guests to the National Arboretum. There's so much to choose from -- everything from very natural-looking and un-manicured Fern Valley, to an indoor bonsai exhibit with trees that have been maintained for hundreds of years. Plus the old Capital columns arranged to look like a Greek temple are a treat for architecture and history buffs.  The grounds are open every day from 8 to 5, but the bonsai exhibit is closed on Thanksgiving Day and open on other days only from 10 to 4, so plan accordingly. Free.

If you're going to be down on the Mall, make a detour from all the museums to the US Botanic Garden. Even if you just pop in for a few minutes to see the orchid exhibit, your guests will be impressed. Plus, starting on Thanksgiving, they have a toy train that goes through landscapes and buildings made of sticks, seeds, and other plant-based materials, along with a giant Christmas tree and lots of poinsettias. Free.

Thanksgiving bonus: Take 'em to Turkey Run. Not just for the name -- though that's while we suggest it -- but because it's a pretty spot on the Potomac, where you'll have to climb hills. And we suspect you'll have a few extra calories you'll be wanting to work off this weekend. Free.