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Anyone Who’s Anyone: DC-focused film festival

8 Feb

No plans this weekend? Well then might I suggest the fourth annual Our City Film Festival, which features DC-focused films. What a great way to learn about DC!

Film topics include the transformation of a vacant lot in Columbia Heights into a community garden; the first African American rugby team;  and the Redskins when they used to be good. There are also some non-documentaries, like Babylon Central. Each film has a trailer link on the website, so you can see which ones tickle your fancy ahead of time.

The event starts with an opening party this Saturday night at R.F.D. (tickets are $12) and the film festival is all day Sunday at The Goethe Institute on 7th Street (Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop on the Red line).

Most of the films are shorts, but a few are full length. They’ll be presented in five screen blocks, and each block costs $10. All proceeds go to the non-profit organization Yachad, which invests in housing improvements for DC residents in need.

This year’s special guests are the DC Cupcakes sisters. If you’re planning on going, I recommend buying tickets online just in case they sell out.

Anyone Who’s Anyone: Arlington Planetarium

28 Dec

Arlington’s Planetarium needs your help! It’s budget recently got cut by 60 percent by the Arlington County School Board. If $402,000 isn’t raised by June, the doors that have been open for over 40 years could shut FOREVER. But not all hope is lost! A non-profit organization, Save the Arlington Planetarium, has been established and has currently raised about $135,000.

Never been to the planetarium? Tomorrow is a perfect time to go as “Night at the Planetarium, Part 3!” is being presented. Three shows will be featured from 4 – 9 p.m.

Donations are requested at $10/person and $20/family. Children younger than 9 are free. And donations are tax-deductable, so don’t be a cheapskate.

The planetarium is several blocks from the Virginia Square Metro (Orange Line). There’s a parking lot, but it could fill up so I’d give yourself extra time just in case.

Anyone Who’s Anyone: Restaurant Week

21 Dec

Twice a year DC has a Restaurant Week, when gourmet restaurants all around the city offer fixed-priced meals. It’s a chance to try out new restaurants, which are much pricier during the rest of the year. Dates for this winter’s restaurant week have just been announced: January 17-23, 2011. Lunch is a prix-fixe 3-course meal priced at $20.11 and dinner is also a prix-fixe 3-course meal and costs $35.11. Not too shabby!

When should you make reservations for Restaurant Week? NOW! They fill up amazingly quickly even with nearly 200 restaurants participating.

During Restaurant Week it’s important to be prepared for sloooow service. Restaurants will be busy and servers will be annoyed.

Want to know what will be on the menu? I suspect the DC Foodies blog to post menus any time now. It’s especially important for vegetarians (like me) or picky eaters to know what will be on the menu ahead of time.

Anyone who’s anyone: Polar Bear Plunge

13 Dec

Joe Flacco, starting quarterback for the Ravens. © Special Olympics Maryland

I know what you’re thinking: January is just around the corner and I’d really like to take a dip in the Chesapeake Bay. Well, you’re in luck! The 15th annual Polar Bear Plunge is being held on Saturday, January 29. In its history, over 55,000 masochists have participated. And it’s not just a plunge—which takes all of 10 seconds—but rather an all-day event with a festival before and after as well as live entertainment and a polar bear pageant.

The event takes place at Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County (about an hour’s drive from DC). Each registrant must raise at least $50, and the money goes to support Maryland’s Special Olympics. There are prizes for those who raise a lot of money, as well as a coveted prize for best costume. You and your friends can also register as a team. And you might find yourself plunging with some celebrities: Past plungers have included Ravens and Orioles players as well as the cast of Hot Tub Time Machine.

In the past parking has been an issue, but if you don’t get a space in the lottery for parking at Sandy Point, not to worry as there will be a shuttle running from several other parking lots.

In the last 14 years, this event has raised $16.1 million dollars for Special Olympic athletes. It’s a good cause, a well-organized event and something you can brag about to your coworkers. I actually wasn’t planning on signing up, but I think I’ve actually convinced myself to after writing this post. Hope to see you there!

No plans this weekend? Check out Baltimore’s dollar days

3 Dec

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is by far the city's biggest tourist attraction. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo

Oh, Baltimore. The largest city in Maryland that inspired a television show about drugs and crime. But Baltimore has many redeeming qualities … like museums! And this weekend’s a particularly great time to check them out because it’s a dollar days weekend.

Participants include the National Museum of Dentistry (which I’ve heard is surprisingly interesting), the Flag House and Star Spangled Banner Museum, the awesome Maryland Science Center (though I imagine it will be super crowded) and the Contemporary Art Museum (which is actually free this weekend). (While the National Aquarium is participating, I can’t advocate going there until they get rid of their dolphin show.)

While you’re in Baltimore, I suggest making a day of it and going to the Inner Harbor for lunch. It’s very touristy and you’ll probably have to wait to get seated, but the Inner Harbor is a nice place to spend time nonetheless. You could also drive by Charm City Cakes or, if you’re like my best friend, loiter outside until someone eventually comes out.

Driving from DC to Baltimore will take about an hour. Once you get there, be aware of your surroundings because there are definitely some less safe neighborhoods. And like most cities, plan on paying for parking and anticipate some traffic.

Anyone Who’s Anyone: Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

30 Nov

Cherry Blossoms! Get excited.

The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin won’t bloom until the end of March. So why am I talking about it now? Because the annual Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk, which will be held April 3, 2011, is so popular that there’s a lottery system to participate. And that lottery starts tomorrow!

This will be the 39th year that the race has taken place. The event attracts athletes of all abilities, including international stars, and coincides with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The route will give you more than your fill of cherry trees. There’s a lottery system because the National Park Service limits the number of racers to 15,000. In 2009, before the lottery was implemented, spots filled up in less than three hours!

Not a runner? Consider volunteering! It’s a great way to experience the event while exerting minimal energy. Also, it’s worth noting that if you volunteer one year, you’re guaranteed a spot in the following year’s race.

The lottery closes on Friday, December 10, and the list of those selected will be available on December 14. There are separate lotteries for the Ten Mile Run and the 5K Run-Walk. And plan on taking Metro (Smithsonian stop, Orange Line) to get to the event, driving and parking will NOT be possible.

DC holiday events

21 Nov

Ice! at the National Harbor.

The holidays are all about traditions and now that you live in DC, it’s time to start creating some new ones.

Downtown DC Holiday Market: Located right across from the Verizon Center (and the Chinatown Metro station on the Red Line) and in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery, this holiday market—essentially a craft fair—is a great place to get original gifts. It’s open December 3 – 23, from noon to 8. I personally don’t think this market is big enough to justify a special trip, but it would be a lovely addition to an evening out to dinner or before or after a Verizon Center event.

Ice!: This indoor winter wonderland is put on by the Gaylord National hotel near its location at the National Harbor. It’s basically a bunch of amazing ice sculptures and you walk through and look at them and take pictures while wearing an awesome blue parka. AND last year they had two ice slides, so hopefully that will be a repeat. While this event is mostly for children, I went with my boyfriend and we had a great time; I’d just recommend going late to avoid the intense crowds of kiddies. This year’s theme is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I’m not sure I’ll be going again this year simply because it’s a bit expensive: at least $24 for an adult. Open through January 9, I’d definitely recommend going at least one time.

ZooLights: This evening event at the National Zoo, which displays light sculptures on the grounds, is basically mandatory for people with kids. But this year it’s even better because it’s FREE! So if you’re ever going to go, this is the year. You will have to pay $15 for parking ($8 if you’re a member) unless you don’t mind walking a few blocks—in that case you might be able to find street parking. ZooLights starts December 3 and runs through January 1.

The Nutcracker: The Kennedy Center never gets old to me. The tall ceilings and huge windows always make me feel fancy. And this is taken up a notch once the holiday decorations are displayed. The Kennedy Center hosts a performance of The Nutcracker annually, and this year it will be performed by The Joffrey Ballet from November 24 – 28. Tickets range between $45 and $180. And I’d keep an eye out for potential discount tickets on Goldstar.com.

National Christmas Tree: Well, I didn’t win tickets to this year’s tree lighting, but I’m not going to stay bitter because I still really enjoying seeing the National Christmas Tree. The National Menorah is also on the Ellipse.

U.S. Botanic Garden: Oh man, do kids love their trains. The Botanic Gardens, located on the Mall near the Capitol, is usually a peaceful and quiet place to explore. During the holiday season, on the other hand, it’s another matter. There’s a line to get in to see the train exhibit and once you’re in you shuffle around through the narrow corridor. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it all that much, but if you went during an off-time, you might have better luck. The holiday exhibit is up November 25 – January 2.

Volunteer: Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering at a soup kitchen, senior center or a kids’ holiday party. Don’t know where to start? Might I suggest Greater DC Cares. You can become a volunteer by doing a 10-minute volunteer orientation online. Then you just take a look at their calendar of volunteer opportunities and register for the events that interest you. And there’s always other people at these events that came by themselves, so it could be a great way to meet some new people.

Create Your Own: One of my favorite holiday events is my coworker’s post-holiday Gift Exchange Dinner. On a Sunday night a few weeks after Christmas, everyone gathers at a restaurant and brings the gifts they received but don’t like. Then it’s basically like a White Elephant Exchange except that the presents aren’t wrapped. It’s a fabulous time and it’s great to see some of the stuff people got (an oral irrigator was particularly memorable).

My roommate who had a Christmas tree and decorations recently moved out, and so in a few weeks I’m hosting an ornament-making party. I bought a bunch of crafts and my friends and I are going to sit around, eat snacks and do crafts.

The holiday season is a great opportunity for people new to the area to host a party. Invite the coworkers and neighbors that you’re friendly with, and start transitioning them to actual friends by inviting them to a shindig.

Six great DC events enewsletters

15 Nov

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is a fantastic venue to see events. © David Monack

People are always asking me how I found out about such and such event, book reading, presentation, etc., and the answer is: enewsletters! Here are some of my favorites.

1. National Geographic has an auditorium where they host a series of events called NG Live featuring primarily photographers and explorers. I’ve been to about five and always really enjoy them. Nat Geo is walking distance from the Farragut West (Orange Line) and Farragut North (Red Line) Metro stations, and there’s free parking underneath the building (and usually parking on the street). A lot of the events are offered on Goldstar.com for about half off.

2. Politics and Prose hosts a number of book readings, including some pretty big names. The space isn’t huge, so sometimes they’ll co-sponsor an event at a larger venue. If you do go to an event at the store, plan on getting there early otherwise it’ll be standing room only.

3. The Smithsonian Resident Associate Program offers a wide-variety of lectures. I’ve seen events about polar bears, memory and creativity here. They also offer courses, art classes and special tours. The events I’ve gone to have taken place at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, which is right on the Mall.

4. . There’s no shortage of music venues in DC, but I don’t think there’s any argument that the 9:30 Club is the absolute best. It’s the perfect size and often attracts bands that typically play much larger venues. Getting on their enews is a must!

5. . Sixth & I is a synagogue with a long and interesting history. Loads of events are held here, many to do with Judaism but lots of others too. I’ve seen author Elizabeth Gilbert speak here as well as Toni Morrison and photographer Annie Leibovitz. Seating is first come, first served, which means that for some events you need to get there a couple hours early to ensure a good seat. (Believe it or not: One time I was meeting a friend here, and he asked me where it was.)

6. Cultural Tourism in DC is a great resource when you’re looking for events or places to visit. I highly recommend perusing their site and signing up for the enewsletter.

Anyone who’s anyone: National Christmas Tree lighting

5 Nov

2009 National Christmas Tree lighting

Going to see the National Christmas tree is a popular tradition and a tourist attraction. The tree is planted on the Ellipse, the circular park located between the White House and the Mall. During the “Lighting Ceremony” –which is televised nationally–there’s lots of celebs and music before the president flips the switch. Last year Sheryl Crow, Jordin Sparks and Ray Lamontagne (whoever that is) performed and of course Santa made an appearance. (Performers for this year’s event haven’t been announced yet, but check here for updates.)

The 87th Lighting Ceremony isn’t happening until December 9 at 2 p.m., but the online lottery for tickets just started. The lottery will include 3,000 ticketed seats and 10,000 standing room tickets.  The lottery only stays open until this Sunday, November 7, so don’t delay!

And don’t forget about the National Chanukah Menorah next to the tree. The lighting ceremony is Wednesday, November 4 at 4 p.m. Request free tickets here.

If you aren’t lucky enough to get tickets, it’s definitely still worth going to see the tree and menorah when you’re feeling festive (and when you have the mental stamina to handle the crowds). There’s smaller decorated trees represening each of the states, territories and, of course, DC along with nightly musical performances by volunteer choirs and a large-scale model train.

Rally to Restore Sanity: I can’t wait!

29 Oct

Everything's set up for tomorrow!

I am super excited about tomorrow’s rally. At first, I wasn’t going to blog about it because I couldn’t figure out a way to connect it to the New to DC theme. BUT walking on the Mall today, I was inspired. I realized how special it is to live in DC and be able to be a part of events like this so easily. The inauguration is probably the best example–that was one of my favorite days since I’ve lived here. There were soooo many people, but everyone was kind and patient and there was a really positive energy in the air.

There are so many rallies/protests/marches going on all the time that there’s something for everyone. It can be tempting, I think, to skip these kinds of events when you know how much of a pain it is going to be–craziness on the Metro, hoards of people, lines at port-o-potties, etc. It’s so great though, to be able to participate in these events that I think we should go despite the inevitable headaches.

I’m planning on leaving between 8 and 9 tomorrow because–if all the people I saw on the Mall today are any indication–it’s going to be cr-a-zy. Tip: In addition to water and snacks, be sure to bring TP (just in case) and hand sanitizer. And DON’T forget your SmarTrip card–the lines at the machines are going to be ridic. See you there!