Tag Archives: National Parks

An Understated Tribute to Sacrifice: the Women’s Titanic Memorial

D.C. is home to dozens of memorials, many bursting with grandeur and stateliness.  But some of the most poignant moments that our city offers are found in the lesser-known memorials that are more off the beaten path.

One of these is the Women’s Titanic Memorial, located along the southwest waterfront at approximately 4th and P SW.  It was erected by the female survivors of the sinking of the Titanic, to pay tribute to the men who lost their lives in order to save women and children.

The monument is comprised of a figure wrapped in a billowing shroud, with arms up and out (not unlike Kate Winslet’s iconic pose in the movie “Titanic.”)  The inscription notes that the statue is erected by the “Women of America,” and movingly, the back reads “To the young and the old/the rich and the poor/the ignorant and the learned/all who gave their lives nobly/to save women and children.”  Almost all of the 1,514 people who lost their lives in the ship’s sinking were men (1,352 altogether).

Originally located at the southern end of Rock Creek Park, it was funded and built by the Women’s Titanic Memorial Association in 1931.  It was moved to its current location in 1968 to make way for the Kennedy Center, and is one of dozens of memorials across the world to pay tribute to those killed in the disaster of the Titanic.

One of the best things about this memorial is its location.  It is located at the end of the waterfront pathway—technically the Southwest Waterfront Park—which ends just as Fort McNair begins.  It is a quiet, contemplative spot, framed by rows of trees planted when the waterfront was at its heyday as a bustling commercial center.  And the view is across an arm of the Potomac of the green and lovely Hains Point.

Although it was a British liner, the Titanic was carrying many emigrants seeking to call America their new home.  And thus, while a quiet tribute, the Titanic Memorial fits in well with the ethos of our historic city, one that honors and remembers those who helped our nation become what it is today.

To visit:  A 10-minute walk from the Waterfront metro stop, or the red line of the Circulator stops nearby.

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Journey to the Stars at Your Neighborhood Planetarium

Think planetariums are just for third grade field trips or die-hard fans of Contact?  Think again, because the Rock Creek Park Planetarium offers you a tour of your local constellations at the only planetarium in our country’s entire National Park System.

There are a handful of planetariums in Washington, DC, the most notable being that in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.  But seeing as how Air and Space is America’s second-most visited museum, avoid the busloads of crowds and hit this more hidden treasure.  In addition to the Air and Space Museum, there are two other planetariums in the DC-metro area that offer public shows:  the endangered Arlington County Government Planetarium near the Courthouse Metro, and the Montgomery College Planetarium.

The Rock Creek Park Planetarium is self-described as an “astronomy laboratory.”  While less heavy on the astrophysics than some planetariums, some pretty solid science and space posters litter the walls, and a mock-up of our solar system greats those waiting in line before the show begins.   Public presentations are Wednesdays at 4pm and weekends at 1pm and 4pm, with the latter being the most advanced (see full schedule here).  The humble shows tend to be very DC-centric, in that you learn to observe the night sky in our area, rather than hi-tech pilgrimages to far-away places like Alpha Centauri and black holes like Air and Space purports to offer.  Expect to learn how to identify common constellations such as Orion, Taurus, and Cassiopeia, and tricks for navigation like finding the North Star, the Pleiades, and the different planets that rise every season.  When the projection switches from a view of the DC night sky looks today to how it looked 50-100 years ago, you sure will be depressed by the effects light pollution!

One of the joys of Rock Creek’s Planetarium is its idiosyncratic shows led by rangers who just ooze the delight of science.  The ranger in charge when I visited was extremely excited that most of the attendees were girls, a fact that was not lost on this XX chromosome science fair finalist.  Every ranger’s presentation is assisted by Seymour the projector, who is cute and finicky.  And, all shows are heavy on the public participation.

Not only did I learn about critical astronomical navigation skills while at the Rock Creek Park Planetarium, I also learned pretty neat facts.  For example, did you know that the Milky Way revolves around our galaxy’s black hole, and that the whole revolution takes 250 million years?  I didn’t think you did.  And that’s the kind of key factoid you’ll take away from your visit to this stellar (haha?) planetarium.

To visit:  5200 Glover Road NW, Washington, DC 20015.  (202) 895-6070.  Tickets are free and can be picked up a half-hour before the show.  Accessible by the E2 and E3 buses from Friendship Heights and Fort Totten, but will be a bit of a walk.  A car is your quickest navigational gizmo.

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Wolf Trap is Where it’s At

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

On Friday night I went to see Riverdance at Wolf Trap.  Riverdance is such a funny thing: a hugely famous, commercialized Irish dancing company that tours around the country, performing mostly Irish dances, but throwing in there the Russian, the Spanish, and the American!  (Also, a little Chicagoan told me that the founder is actually from the Windy City, and the Irish brogue he boasts may indeed be a bluff!)  But you know what, it may not be so completely authentic, but it sure is entertaining…Watching those men and women dance about on legs that looks like springs in those elaborate costumes to those bouncin’ beats…It just will get you.  Let me tell you.

Did you know Wolf Trap is a national park?  I can’t get over how cool that is!  According to its website, it was donated to the US as America’s National Park for the Performing Arts in 1966.  How lucky we are to have such a treasure.  It is so gorgeous and calming, all nestled in the woods…Even on the lawn, as far from the stage as you can get, you feel pretty up-close-and intimate (compared to those oh-so-far-away lawn seats at Summerfest I used to go to…).  And the class acts they bring!  There is truly something for everyone.  Coming up next they have:

June 10: Jimmy Cliff   June 16: John Butler Trio   June 17: Sheryl Crow   June 18: CATS   June 27: Gordon Lightfoot

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg!  Check out their full summer schedule here.

To make it a cheap date: buy lawn seats and pack a picnic (BYOB, people), hop on the Orange Line Metro to West Falls Church and finally the Falls Church shuttle to Wolf Trap.  America’s National Park for the Performing Arts is a-waitin’ for you.

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