Fort Ward

Fort Ward is a historic park in the city of Alexandria, Virginia. It was originally built to help defend Washington DC during the American Civil War. Today the park is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. It has well preserved earth works, trails (paved and unpaved), and a small museum. There is a single lane road that makes a loop around the park with plenty of places to stop. There are picnic areas, tennis courts, public restrooms, a playground, wooded areas and open fields.

img_6659On our first trip we stopped in for a peak at the museum. It’s small with the usuial civil war era relics such as guns, uniforms and medical tools. We took a nice walk through the earthworks which are shady and not expansive. We took some time to fly our kite on a level field near the parking lot, and we took a drive around the loop road which skirts the perimeter. On an average day the park is not crowded and parking is easy. You have a number of lots to choose from.

The fort is also used for special events. They regularly hold civil war and revolutionary war reenactments and have summer camps or other historically related events. Our second img_6692visit was the day before presidents day and the fort was holding a revolutionary war festival with troop encampments and a battle reenactment. This was fantastic.The reenactors really know their stuff. They go through incredible lengths to replicate authentic uniforms, gear and activities. They are easy to talk with and happy to answer questions.Watching the battle is amazing and informative. It’s also loud, so bring ear plugs. Both sides use realistic tactics from the war as the tide of soldiers ebbs and flows in an attempt to command the battlefield. For this event it was difficult to park inside the park, but there was plenty of street parking on Braddock road to accommodate the modest crowd.

The park is open during daylight hours

Directions:

 From 395 exit at King street and head South East to Braddock road. Take a right on Braddock and Fort Ward will be about a mile on your right.

From Old Town Alexandria head west on Braddock road, passing by the metro station. The fort will be about three miles on your right, shortly after you pass the intersection with King Street.

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Rock Creek Park

Urban parklands provide us a space for wonderful afternoon get aways, sorely needed exercise and fresh air. They are best savored on an early autumn Sunday, somewhere not too far from home. Any modern city should have something nestled somewhere within its midst. New York has Central, Vancouver has Stanley,  Tokyo has Ueno, and DC has Rock Creek.

Rock Creek Park, established by congress in 1890, is located in North Central DC, and stretches north from The National Zoo to the tip of Washington’s diamond shaped border with Maryland. It is managed by the National Park Service and is a wonderful hilly, forested area for hiking, biking, jogging, horse back riding and picnicking. The park has no admission fees. Several roads pass through the park, most notably Beach Drive, which follows the creek along its entire length. Check out the map to plan a visit.

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Inside Peirce Mill

There are a number of interesting historic sites in and around the park. We visited Pierce Mill: a gorgeously preserved, four-level stone building that dates back to the 1820’s. The sturdy, blue-grey cobbled exterior makes for nice photos, but the greater treasure is the inside where you can see the meticulously restored gears, the grain elevator, the hoppers, and grinding stones. The mill is a testament to preindustrial ingenuity, an incredable refining machine powered by water.

Processed with Snapseed.In a city like Washington, filled with more sites than anyone can fit into even a lengthy tourist itinerary, the attraction to Rock Creek Park is probably more for locals looking to escape the crowds and get back to nature. The scenery is pleasant, and typical of the low country forests that once covered this mid-atlantic region.  It is easily accessible by car and with plenty of free parking. Even on a gorgous Sunday afternoon in September, there were plenty of open parking spaces along the drives.

If taking Metro, the park can be easily reached from a number of stations. We got off at Cleveland Park station and walked down Porter St. for about ten minutes until we got to the park. Then we followed the trails north for a leasurly three hours, including a picnic lunch. Leaving the park from the north east, we crossed over into Maryland, and got on Metro again at Silver Springs. That was about a six mile hike.