It has come to my attention that maybe, just maybe, there are other news organizations covering items of interest in the Washington, DC travel and tourism world besides this humble effort. In that vein, I’m launching my “Weekly Washington” feature to let you know of some of those relevant items.
Entries in Lafeyette Park (4)
OK, you are in Washington, DC, and want to go to a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service. Sure, there are plenty of churches listed in the telephone book. You can look there, but DC Like a Local, never a group of people to be shy about sounding off, has some suggestions for you.
1. The Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal): It’s the large mainly English gothic inspired cathedral located at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Ave., NW. You can catch any even numbered 30 series bus going from the monument area along Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in the direction of Georgetown, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day buses will be very infrequent. Have your hotel hail a cab. There is a parking garage, but, unless you want to arrive hours before, you will not find any parking nearby.
For Christmas Eve 6:00pm and 10:00pm
Festival Holy Eucharist on Christmas Eve. Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III and the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane preach and preside.
Passes are required for this service, and the advance allocation has been distributed. A limited number of passes will be available one hour before each service at Church House on the Cathedral’s west lawn.
For Christmas Day 9:00am
Televised nationally, Bishop John Bryson Chane preaches the Christmas sermon and Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III presides at the Eucharist. The Rev. Canon Carol L. Wade shares the Christmas story with children in a children’s sermon. The Cathedral website does not say whether tickets are required for this or not. You’d better call ahead and find out. Telephone number is (202) 537-6200.
Other Christmas services at the Cathedral include a Service of Carols by Candlelight on December 19th at 6:00pm and December 20th at 4:00pm.
2. St. Matthew’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic): 1725 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (off of Connecticut Ave., NW.); phone: (202) 347-3215
This is the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, DC, famous as the one in which John F. Kennedy’s funeral mass was held on November 25, 1963. The spot where his casket was placed is marked on the floor. It was on the steps of this Cathedral that John F. Kennedy Jr. saluted his father’s casket—a photo shown all over the world. It is a rather unprepossessing church from the outside but more ornate inside.
The Cathedral is sandwiched between buildings in DC’s business district and you really cannot see it until you just about are there. If you are staying in the Farragut Square area, you can just walk over to this one. Otherwise take the Metro red line to Farragut North, hang a right out of the Northeast Connecticut Ave & L Street exit. This is the exit closest to the very front of the train if you are headed in the direction of Shady Grove (or at the back of the train if you are headed in the direction of Glenmont), and just walk up Connecticut Ave., NW, and hang another right on Rhode Island, Ave., NW. Once you make the right on Rhode Island, you will see the large red brick cathedral on the left.
St. Matthew’s is doing its Festival of Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 13, at 7:30pm with Christmas caroling to follow.
On December 24th midnight mass begins with a prelude at 11:00pm followed by the mass at midnight. The Archbishop of Washington, the Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl will preside.
On Christmas Day the Cathedral will open at 8:00am. There are masses at 8:30am, 10:00am and 11:30am in English and one at 1:00pm in Spanish. There are a variety of priests listed as the celebrants, but the Archbishop will not be one of them because he will be at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (details below).
3. Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic): This church, and not St. Mathew’s Cathedral, is the largest Roman Catholic church in Washington, DC. In fact, it is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. The Shrine is located at 400 Michigan Ave., NE. You can reach the Shrine by taking Metro to the Brookland/Catholic University Station on the Red Line; the Basilica is about a 10 minute walk from the station down Michigan Avenue, NE. The church is often visited by tourists as a destination in itself and is renowned for its mosaics and Greek style architecture. Telephone number is 202-526-8300.
On December 24th there is a children’s mass with pageant at 5:00pm with the Choir of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. At 10:00pm there are Choral Meditations on the Nativity and at 10:30pm the evening service—which will be broadcast by the Eternal World Television Network.
On December 25th there are masses in English at 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:30am, 12:00noon and 4:30pm. There is a mass in Spanish at 2:30pm. The Archbishop of Washington, Most Reverend Donald Wuerl is the celebrant & homilist at the noon mass.
If you go to the Shrine by taxi, be sure to arrange for a taxi to pick you up after the mass because it is difficult to hail a cab in the area normally—and it will be even more difficult on Christmas Eve and Day.
If you don’t want any of these large places and want something on a bit more human scale, try
4. St. John’s Lafayette Park (“The Church of the Presidents”) (Episcopal): At the corner of 16th and H Streets, NW, just opposite the North Side of the White House (Metro: McPherson Square). The North Side is the one with the flat side of the White House directly on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Phone is 202-347-8766.
St. John’s was designed by Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe was also one of the many architects of the US Capitol and was responsible for The Capitol’s rebuilding after it was burned in the War of 1812. The Parish House behind the church was, at one time, the British Legation. The church has traditionally been the scene of a service before each inauguration attended by the new president; pew 54 is reserved for the President. President Obama sometimes worships at St. John’s with his family.
The Lessons and Carols is scheduled for December 20th at 11:00am. There is no midnight service on Christmas Eve, but there is a Holy Eucharist on December 25th at 11:00am.
By the way, don’t expect to see President Obama. He’s rumored to be going to Hawaii for a vacation with his family during the holidays.
Because DC Like a Local got a lot of requests for alternatives for other denominations, you can find a follow up to this piece.
Merry Christmas to all of you and Happy Chanukah to me (I'm Jewish)!
Sure, Halloween was fun as a kid. But whether you've managed to ditch them with a babysitter, or you are just unencumbered with little ones, you're going to want to experience the ghosts and ghouls of Washington, DC in your own way. Yesterday's post covered lots of great ideas, but let's be frank here. If you throw on a sheet, call yourself a ghost, and walk down East Capitol Street and don't have a kid or two in tow, at best you're going to get a few weird looks.
So let's take a look at a few ideas for adults:
1. Georgetown: This is the traditional place to go for a wild and crazy time in Washington, DC. It will be, as always, a madhouse, especially as this year Halloween falls on a Saturday night. That can either be a selling point or a warning to you. If you're looking for thousands of people decked out in costumes, hopping from bar to bar, with crowds spilling off the sidewalks, than this is for you. If not, go nowhere near it Halloween night (or probably the 30th as well). Keep reading and we'll find something more your taste. Now, I wonder if my wife and kids will notice if I sneak off after they've gone asleep....
2. Embassy Row: If you're looking for a different feel than the packed masses in Georgetown, head over to Dupont Circle and check out the Embassies along Massachusetts Avenue. This is another DC tradition, with most (but not all) of the Embassy's handing out goodies. It's a fun way to get a little culture in before you take advantage of the area's many bars and clubs.
3. H Street: H Street NE is relatively new to the Halloween scene, but it promises to be a good time. They are embracing the Dia de los Muertos theme this year for the week of Halloween. Many of the bars and restaurants are offering specials the week prior, and will be building, I kid you not, shrines to the dead in front of there stores. It culminates in a Thriller on H Street party on Friday, the 30th, at 9 pm. Costume contests, drink specials, and, believe it or not, a haunted golf course, will be on tap for Halloween night. I'm hard pressed to list a "favorite" H ST bar, but let's just say that Palace of Wonders can be spooky any day of the year. More about H ST can be found on The Hill is Home's Halloween round-up.
4. Ghost Tours! - You knew it was coming!. Without shame I'll push my outfit, Ghost Tours DC. We'll be running tours in Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill at 8 pm on the 23rd, 24th, 30th and 31st. If you must, here are a few other ghost tours going on:
- Old Town Alexandria: Alexandria Colonial Tours offers a walking tour of Old Town that ends up in a grave yard! Spooky stuff. Its popular so I would recommend booking early.
- Lafayette Park: Washington Walks, an excellent local tour company that offers a variety of walking tours, features a Most Haunted Houses tour Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (seasonally). Lafayette Square across from the White House is probably the most ghost-intensive section of the city, and they cover a few of the ghosts of White House as well.
- Congressional Cemetery: Be sure to watch out for more discussion of this incredible place in the future, but for now I'd highly recommend their ghoulish Halloween tour they are giving on the 31st at 11 and 11:30 am. The Cemetery is easy to get to from the Blue and Orange Line. Exit at Potomac Avenue and walk up the Avenue to 18th St. The tours meet at the gatehouse on the corner.
This is just a few of the many offerings DC rolls out for Halloween. If you have any favorites I left out, leave them for others to see in the comments. And join DC Like a Local next week when we embark on a week of ghost stories set in your nation's capital.
You can be the greatest tour guide ever to stroll the streets of Washington, captivating teachers and students alike, imparting nuggets of wisdom that will last decades in young mind, and it will all fall apart upon the sighting of one rodent. No, I am not talking about DC's famous rats, which have been known to grow to the size of house cats and carry off small children. I speak instead of the common Grey Squirrel, which overshadows even the White House in fascination to many of my school groups. Truth be told, I've in the course of my life paid little attention to squirrels, until I became a Guide. After a year or two of being interrupted in the midst of what I thought was an insightful and witty interpretation of a fascinating bit of American History by the cry of "Look! A Squirrel!", I decided to take a look at what all the fuss is about.
While other squirrels dwell in the DC area (more on that later), it's the Eastern Grey Squirrel that dominates the local landscape. Perhaps because they're so common, I couldn't get my mind around the fascination with them. Certainly, for my west coast groups, this is an animal they would not see outside of zoos or perhaps small pockets of introduced species. But even my east coast groups went nuts over them, to the point of one teacher composing a particularly bad song about them titled, unfortunately enough, "Presidential Squirrel". A feat for which no atonement would ever suffice.
"Presidential Squirrel" is fitting in one (and only one) sense though: the area around the White House, and Lafayette Square in particular, is the mothership of the squirrel invasion. While I can confirm this anecdotally, empirical evidence backs me up. In the early 1980's the National Park Service commissioned a study of the area (pdf) and found that Lafayette Park had a greater density of Eastern Grey Squirrels than had ever been seen. Ever. Anywhere. That's right, in a couple blocks we had more squirrels per square foot than anywhere else in the world, up to 140 squirrels sighted. In fact, from those peak numbers, the Park Service has steadily working to reduce the number of squirrels in the area. It turns out this is way more squirrels than can be supported, and in addition to the damage they cause, the squirrels themselves suffer from inadequate shelter in winter months, as well as disease and fighting worsened by overcrowding.
So maybe it's not just the sighting of the squirrel, but their abundance, and even over-abundance, that delights our visitors. Looking at it with new eyes, they are everywhere, and exceedingly tame. Being urban animals, they have long since become accustomed to relying on humans for their food supply and have lost anything approaching a wariness to us. From being virtually extinct in Washington, their planned replacement has succeeded overwhelmingly. Now the concern is how to control them, not bringing them back.
And, in fact, one of the greatest challenges the Park Service faced in the 1980s in Lafayette Square were well meaning "feeders" that provided approximately 75 pounds of peanuts for the squirrels per week. This allowed the extraordinary population boom, and the resultant crashes, as too many animals attempted to live in too crowded a space. Getting the feeders to stop their well meaning activities was critical to allowing a sustainable population to thrive. All which we should remember as we walk about Washington, DC today. Don't feed the wild animals. Because one plump squirrel is cute, fifteen scrawny squirrels with scratch marks and tufts of hair missing are not.