The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Public Spaces

Give thanks for DC's great amenities

We spend a lot of time here thinking about ways to make Washington greater, which makes us good at finding fault. It's important every now and then to celebrate what we do have, and the hard-working public servants who make it all possible.

Photo by Lawrence OP on Flickr,

Everyone has their own things they love about the city and the surrounding area, things we don't appreciate enough. Here's a quick list of my personal under-appreciated amenities.

National Aquarium. DC's branch of the National Aquarium (NADC) may be the ugly stepsister to the larger and more glamorous National Aquarium in Baltimore (NIB), but it is a perfect place to bring young kids whose attention span is well suited to the limited number of exhibits and compact floor plan and for DC residents who don't want to spend the time and money on a big trip to Baltimore.

A few years ago the aquarium brought in new curators who did a great job redecorating the space, updating the exhibit labels, and giving the exhibits a coherent theme. With more visitors, this facility could generate enough revenue to move to a more attractive location.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.
Public libraries. I don't know what it is but I find libraries relaxing. DC has a wonderful new branch in Shaw. The Montgomery County libraries are excellent. Even the homeless people in DC's downtown ML King branch seem to be using the building as a refuge to get clean and refreshed and access books and computers.

Rec centers. Sure, we don't have a backyard with a swingset and room for soccer goals but our son has half a dozen parks he can walk to or ride his bike to, where there are ballfields, basketball courts, swings, and slides. And there are plenty of opportunities to meet neighbors and make new friends.

Aquatic facilities. Turkey Thicket, Takoma, and the fancy new Wilson Aquatic Center are all places where I can go and get exhausted after just a few laps and there are appropriate places for kids to play and get comfortable in the water, maybe take swim lessons and get exercise and have fun. In the summer the options increase as the outdoor pools open their doors.

Photo by thumeco on Flickr.
National Arboretum. Totally underappreciated and beautiful.

Bike paths and trails. Northern Virginia really has enviable bike trails within easy reach of area residents. DC's system of lanes and trails is also something to be grateful for, especially the recent expansion that has opened up cycling as a commuting option for many residents.

There's lots to be grateful for. What are you thankful for this holiday?

Steven Glazerman is an economist who studies education policy and specializes in teacher labor markets. He has lived in the DC area off and on since 1987 and settled in the U Street neighborhood in 2001. He is a Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, but any of his views expressed here are his own and do not represent Mathematica. 


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WMATA...despite its foibles

by Jeff on Nov 25, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

Agreed with Jeff. As much as people complain about single-tracking, safety, governance, employees, fares, and so forth, we are lucky to be complaining about those things. Metrorail gets people into and across the city to work and play every day and we are lucky to have such an extensive network.

We could have MARTA, after all. Or less.

by EJ on Nov 25, 2010 10:57 pm • linkreport

The old rowhouses. Eastern Market. Metro. The absence of freeways and of skyscrapers in parking lots.

And, right now, the spectacular, and new, redness of the tree the city planted in front of my house two years ago.

by davidj on Nov 26, 2010 12:00 am • linkreport

Can we please remove that last comment?

(And, I'll add that DC's got some incredible, and hugely-underappreciated architecture. Among the fall foliage, Capitol Hill is easily one of the most the most visually-appealing urban neighborhoods that I've ever seen, which is made more remarkable by the fact that normal folk can live there too.)

by andrew on Nov 26, 2010 12:47 am • linkreport

Steven, you greatly understated the excellence of DC-area libraries. Fairfax County's library system is at least as good as Montgomery's, and I've found most of the other public libraries (Loudoun, Arlington, Alexandria, Prince George's, and Prince William) quite useful. (I haven't tried DC's or any others I may have missed. But all the ones I've mentioned allow Greater Washington residents to check out materials.) There's also GMU's phenomenal collection, which public-library patrons can borrow with appropriate forms. (I imagine other colleges and universities may provide similar opportunities.) Finally, if you need to read a book that somehow fails to show up in any of these dozen or so systems, you can always stop by the Library of Congress, which has nearly everything. You can't check anything out, but you can read materials in the public reading rooms or the collections' rooms. And I've even stopped by NIH's National Library of Medicine to read from a few medical journals. In short, we may have the very best public access to published material in the country, or even the world!

by jeffq on Nov 26, 2010 2:57 am • linkreport

The Arboretum and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Also, for reasons that are hard to understand, a region that is more strongly supportive of smart growth and TOD than almost any other nationally.

by jnb on Nov 26, 2010 9:01 am • linkreport

As a former resident of LA, I'm grateful for being able to ride my bike to work - and my route is through the U.S. Capitol grounds. Amazing way to start one's day.

by Scott Kratz on Nov 26, 2010 9:28 am • linkreport

I have removed the offensive comment andrew is referring to.

by David Alpert on Nov 26, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

How can we forget the best museums in the country and most of them are free.

by elon on Nov 26, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

Montgomery County's parks. Rock Creek, Sligo Creek, the Northwest Branch, Wheaton Regional, Brookside Gardens - I spend many, many hours a year in these parks and always feel refreshed afterwards. Same for the DC part of Rock Creek Park.

The 70 and S buses, for always being there (eventually) late at night after the Metro stops running.

by Lindemann on Nov 26, 2010 6:06 pm • linkreport

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