With all the international work I have been doing this summer, I’ve been careful not to ignore the vibrant cities surrounding me. My friends who live in this area talk highly of the art, food, museums, and culture in Arlington and Washington DC, so I came to Arlington with a long list of recommendations. The best part about living in this area is that half of my friends and many family members reside in or close to Arlington and DC, so there has never been a shortage of people willing to accompany me on my quests to find the best brunch spot, park, or coffee shop.
Speaking of best coffee shops, my pick for this category is not unique. Compass Coffee is a very popular chain that has locations in both Arlington and DC, and the rustic ambience and unbeatable caramel lattes have easily made the coffee shop a frequent pre-work stop for me. In terms of brunch, I attended Ruthie’s All Day in Arlington for a friend’s birthday, and I was beyond impressed with the quaint 1950’s-style family diner with superb breakfast cocktails and pimento cheese breakfast sandwiches. I highly anticipated some quality Italian restaurants in the area, since this is my dinner genre of choice, and I have not been disappointed. My two favorite Italian spots have been Mazzaro's in Arlington and Maggiano’s Little Italy in Tysons Corner. Mazzaro’s had the best penne alla vodka that I’ve had in years, not to mention an amazing tiramisu. Maggiano’s specialty was ravioli; however, for $5 extra at Maggiano’s you can take home an additional sizable entree to refrigerate and heat up for a later meal, and my “bonus” chicken alfredo was a highlight of my following week. Both restaurants have intimate, elegant atmospheres and I will definitely be returning before I leave Arlington in August.
One of the best nights I’ve had so far during my time here was at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC for an NGA Night. Every month, the Gallery hosts National Gallery of Arts Nights (NGA Nights) between 6 and 9pm where the museum has a theme and provides live music, food, drinks, and activities associated with that theme. When my friends and I went, there was a French theme, so we enjoyed live symphony music and wine on a decorated patio outside the museum before heading inside to make collages and look at some of the museum’s exhibits. There was no way we could check out all of the exhibits in a couple hours, so I have vowed to return since the museum is so beautiful and vast in size and in the content of its galleries and exhibits.
However, the most remarkable evening occurred at the Kennedy Center in DC where I went to see The John William’s 90th Birthday Symphony Event. Some of my family members who live in the area acquired some tickets unexpectedly through a friend and invited me to come along. As a huge fan of the soundtracks in Harry Potter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and the countless other movie scores composed by John Williams, I did not hesitate to join. The symphony was simply phenomenal, with a large screen showing sequences of the countless films that boast John William scores. I couldn't believe that Jaws, Home Alone, Schindler’s List, and ET were amongst his creations, and seeing famous movie clips come to life on a screen in time to a live symphony was extraordinary. John Williams himself was in attendance, along with several of his distinguished friends who came to sing his praises. Renowned movie director, Steven Speilberg, gave a moving speech about his long-term friendship and collaboration with WIlliams who brought a new layer of emotion and meaning to his film creations with music. Additionally, Daisy Ridley who played Rey in Star Wars also gave a deeply complimentary speech about WIlliams and the role he played in the making of the Star Wars films. At the end, Williams himself got up onto stage and conducted Darth Vader’s theme and I joined the longest standing ovation that I have ever witnessed. As a symphony-lover and film fan, this event was one I will never forget, and the gorgeous architecture and design of the Kennedy Center only enhanced this memorable night.
As an avid runner, I am always looking for scenic trails to enjoy in the summer. My favorite running spot recently has been Great Falls National Park, about a half hour from Arlington. This park has several trails that run through forests and along streams and waterfalls for more miles than I can count. I have run up to 7 miles on these trails and have yet to find where they end. Additionally, there are beautiful overlooks in the middle of the park that offer fantastic views of the massive waterfalls that Great Falls is named for. There are food trucks, bike paths, and picnic areas near the overlooks, and the park is always full of people. Travelers come from all over the world to enjoy Great Falls Park, and I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful nature center so nearby this summer.
I still have a month left to explore all the spots that this region of Virginia has to offer, and I cannot wait to continue packing the post-work hours with fun and adventure.