My Top 10 FemaleSoloTrek Articles in 2023 as measured by my FemaleSoloTrek readers’ clicks focused on Washington DC places, gardens, dog-worthy venues, and small towns. My dog Parker is not surprised that any articles that include his adventures will be a favorite with my readers. Two of my posts on my international trips (Copenhagen and Sicily) also ranked in the Top 10.
This research shows you don’t have to clock thousands of miles to benefit from solo treks. Eight of my Top 10 articles were about my local adventures. I never stop looking for new places to explore in Washington, DC, plus the nearby towns in Maryland and Virginia. And if you are a dog owner, you know that your BFF (Best Furry Friends) will even be excited to tour a parking lot if there is a dog mural as is the case in Del Ray, Virginia (ranked #6 in my Top 10).
You can travel as near as a new neighborhood in your city and as far as the opposite end of the earth. The most important thing that you should pack is a state of wonder. If we “open our hearts and eyes,” to quote author Pico Iyer, we can learn so much about our world:
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.”Pico Iyer
I hope you will start the new year with a renewed zest to look, listen, and feel deeply. Happy 2024!
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Washington DC’s 2023 Christmas Activities
Washington DC’s Christmas activities will make anyone feel festive, regardless of whether you are a shopper, theatergoer, walker, or ice skater.
Here is my list of the Top 13 Holiday Things to Do in the nation’s capital.
- Georgetown GLOW
- DC Holiday Lights
- Hillwood Mansion
- Ford’s Theatre (A Christmas Carol)
- Downtown Christmas Market
- Capitol Christmas Tree
- U.S. Botanical Garden
- Canadian Embassy Christmas Tree
- Capitol Hill Neighborhood
- National Christmas Tree
- Christmas “Markt”
- Willard Hotel Caroling
- Kennedy Center
Holiday magic abounds for visitors as well as residents.
Pink-Blooming Saucer Magnolia Trees in DC
Each spring before the cherry blossoms peak, Washingtonians race to see the giant cup-shaped pink blooming saucer magnolia trees at the Smithsonian. There are two rows of pink-blooming saucer magnolia trees (also known as tulip magnolia trees) that line the main brick walkway around the manicured gardens at the Parterre at the Enid A. Haupt (EP) Garden. When in full bloom, the saucer magnolia trees provide a pink canopy above your head. Dart down before you walk into a fragrant tree branch.
This is Washingtonians’ secret garden, a 4-acre botanical retreat that features formal gardens and numerous specimens from the Smithsonian Gardens’ Tree Collection. Since the EP Garden opened to the public on May 21, 1987, it has been a destination for gardeners and the flower-loving public.
Embassy Row: Formerly DC’s Millionaires’ Row
Embassy Row astounds visitors and residents alike when they first see the palatial mansions that line several blocks on Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington DC. It is one of the most exclusive DC neighborhoods. You’ll see both residences where the ambassador lives as well as chanceries (embassy offices) on Embassy Row.
Gilded Age millionaires, such as miner-turned-millionaire Thomas Walsh, built the “Palaces of Massachusetts Avenue” to flaunt their wealth. These turn-of-the-century residences now serve as the embassies for many nations, including Brazil, Great Britain, Haiti, Latvia, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.
Foreign countries began snapping up the properties after the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the ensuing Depression put a dent in family fortunes. Millionaires’ Row turned into Massachusetts Avenue’s famed Embassy Row.
U.S. National Arboretum’s Azalea Collection
Picture a dirt pathway lined by giant azaleas and rhododendron bushes at the U.S. National Arboretum’s Azalea Collection. The 446-acre Arboretum is located in Washington DC. Walk past a Monet canvas of red, pink, salmon, lavender, and white puff flowers. Under your feet lay a carpet of silky petals that floated in the breeze before their descent. Take a virtual walk during peak blossom.
The air is perfumed by the rich moldy dirt. It may be the most glorious place to experience spring in Washington DC after the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. The earliest peak azalea bloom date reported in the last decade was April 15; the latest was May 4. Depending on whether the temperatures heat up in March, the azaleas may dress up in the frocks like girls in their Easter dresses. This is the case in spring 2023.
What pooch wouldn’t want to sniff the tulips and investigate the vegetable garden at dog-friendly Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia? Certainly, my Golden Retriever Parker gave a “paw’s up” to accompany me on a beautiful spring weekend to tour the home of former President Thomas Jefferson. As the website advises, “Visit now for beautiful blooms.”
Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see for any tourist visiting the city. It costs $22 for one adult to buy the Grounds Pass plus your dog’s admission is free. You can roam all over the estate, visit the cemetery, and sit on the benches. In addition, your pass includes two free 45-minute tours on “Gardens” and “Slavery at Monticello.” They are offered multiple times a day.
Del Ray’s Street Art: Self-Guided Tour
If you missed Del Ray’s Art on the Avenue festival, don’t worry. Year-round, visitors as well as locals can enjoy the vibrant murals documenting this Virginia neighborhood’s history. I mapped out a self-guided Del Ray’s street art tour that runs 12 blocks down the center of town and features nine murals.
Located just two miles from the historic Old Town Alexandria, Del Ray offers an entirely different vibe. I didn’t run into any tour guides dressed up as Martha Washington or see any cobblestone streets. The neighborhood’s mantra is “where Main Street still exists.” I might add ” . . . still thrives.” Declaring Mount Vernon Avenue as the neighborhood’s Main Street, Del Ray features independent shops, local chefs, non-franchise coffee shops, and dogs galore.
Top 10 Dog-Worthy Places To Visit In Annapolis
Are you a dog owner looking for a destination that combines history, charm, and beautiful scenery plus special places to visit with your pooch? Look no further than dog-friendly Annapolis, Maryland. This picturesque city is located on the Chesapeake Bay. Come enjoy its vibrant culture and historic architecture.
I visited with my Golden Retriever dog (Parker). Here are 10 things to do in Annapolis, Maryland that will make your visit with your dog unforgettable.
Wonderful Copenhagen – Antoni Jensen Special Exhibit
Danish poster artist Ib Antoni Jensen created advertising campaigns in the 1960s that made America (and the world) fall in love with Denmark. You can discover Wonderful Copenhagen at the special Antoni Jensen exhibition at the Museum of Copenhagen. Stroll through multiple rooms to see oversized posters and memorabilia.
Jensen’s advertising campaigns presented wonderful Copenhagen as the ideal location to vacation fashionably in Denmark. You’ll also understand the artist in the context of the world and the time he lived in. But he disappeared from view after his untimely death.
Sicily’s Ancient Greek Ruins
Sicily defies categorization because it is not just an Italian region or Mediterranean island or former home of the Mafia. Your astonishment will bubble up and erupt just like Mt. Etna’s lava. Prepare to be awestruck visiting Sicily’s ancient Greek ruins.
From my first moment looking out my airplane window at the ghostly images of buildings, roads, and sea, I felt a shiver. I would be traveling back in time for the next nine days to discover Sicily—known as the Crossroads of Civilization.
I had chosen Exodus Travels’ Treasures of Sicily tour because I wanted to see ancient Greek and Roman ruins, Baroque cathedrals and villages, and Europe’s biggest active volcano.
I would be a treasure seeker just like the scores of conquerors who sailed to Sicily to plunder its riches. Tiziano Tomasella, my exuberant tour leader, preferred to call them “visitors,” because none permanently ruled the island. He said the Arabs “visited” the longest—200 years.
Idyllic Ferry Ride To See Historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse In North Carolina
No trip to North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks is complete without taking an idyllic ferry ride to see the Historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse (see a video on Instagram) on the National Seashore. A National Park Service (NPS) beach, it features 343 shoreline miles and 12,063 marine water acres. It should be the #1 family attraction to see. I visited with my daughter, son-in-law, and our family’s three retrievers (Perry, Teedie, and Parker) in August.
You cannot drive to see the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. It’s the southernmost lighthouse on the Crystal Coast along the Outer Banks and is only accessible by private boat or authorized ferry service.
Island Ferry Express is the NPS concessionaire that offers the only public ferry service to Cape Lookout. Even though an adult ticket costs $22 and $15 for a child, there is no better investment for a fun beach vacation.