The Fourth of July just screams “summer”, doesn’t it?! If you’re a teacher or a student, the month of June is a whirlwind of the end of school, adjusting to your new schedule for the next few months, and starting to enjoy some summer activities. By the time you celebrate the 4th of July, it almost seems like the countdown to Back to School has started again! Lucky for my students, they don’t start school until September 8. I, however, will be busy from mid-August until their arrival. 😉 In any case, the 4th of July feels like a monumental occasion — big celebrations and the recognition of a “halfway” point to summer!
Me and my Mom
Like Mattie, I sometimes think of the 4th of July along the same lines as New Years. There is such anticipation surrounding the holiday that you sometimes feel you are supposed to have crazy exciting plans, when in reality, you just need your favorite people and maybe one little activity, like fireworks watching, to make your day fun and festive. 🙂 My family doesn’t have any huge 4th of July traditions besides spending time together, so this year, my mom, my youngest brother, and one of his friends came to visit me in DC for the weekend!
Jake (on the left) just turned sixteen but he makes me look about six years old. 😉 His friend Dylan, on my right, is the same age as him…he has just always towered over his friends. Ha! They are fun to spend time with because they love to “go on adventures” and try new things! They arrived in DC with my mom on Friday afternoon and after picking me up at my apartment, we headed downtown to check into our hotel. I only live six miles from DC, but I’m not set up to host 3 house guests for the weekend. Plus, staying in the city is so much fun, especially for visitors — they really get to experience the feeling of the city when they are staying right in the middle of it!
We stayed at the Doubletree Hilton, so complimentary warm cookies were available to us when we checked in. The concierge had a little drawer behind the desk that was heated to keep the cookies warm! I was amazed. My mom and I decided if we were the concierge, we would definitely eat all of the warm cookies. 🙂
On Friday night, we headed to Georgetown to shop and eat dinner. Our hotel was about a mile down the road, but instead of walking, we decided to rent bikes from Capital Bikeshare and pedal over! Jake and I rode these bikes last summer when we were in town, but we used them for entertainment, so we rode from the area where we parked our car around the city and back to our starting point. The idea behind these bikes is that you rent a bike, ride to your destination, and put it back in the bike rack in that area. It’s $8 for 24 hours and the first 30 minutes are free! So if you aren’t going very far and can get there in less than 30 minutes, you can ride for free. That’s what we did on our way to dinner! There is an app that you can download to your phone that tells you where the nearest bike rack is, how many bikes are available to be rented, and how many spots are available for you to return your bike to. We had to pay attention to these details because we were taking and returning four bikes at a time! It was a great way to travel from Point A to Point B. Much more relaxing than walking. 🙂
I’m pretty terrible at making dinner reservations and I decide that I want to go to dinner when I’m starving, so that usually makes for an interesting experience. I wanted to try a new-to-me Mexican restaurant and Jake requested Italian food, but my mom walked into an American saloon called J. Paul’s and they were able to seat us right away, so that’s where we ended up eating! It had a lot of great reviews and almost every table was full, so that’s always a sign of a good menu and atmosphere. I’ve been incorporating lots of healthy foods into my diet since I am training for a race right now, but I could not be stopped when complimentary soft pretzels were delivered to our table. #oops
After our dinner, we shopped on M Street for a bit and tried to ignore the fact that it was sprinkling rain. I almost think that’s worse than “real” rain sometimes because it’s just falling out of the sky, slowly, and annoying you with every drop. Or maybe that’s just me. 😉 Jake bought some new clothes and I got new running gear. I love that he loves to shop! And then he and his friend decided they wanted to go on an adventure on the bikes and I wouldn’t let them go without me so we all headed back to the bike rack. Of course, Jake and Dylan decided on a route after looking quickly at a map and they flew off into the distance, so my mom and I took our time biking to The National Mall where we promised the crazy guys we would meet up with them!
My mom and I rode past The Lincoln Memorial and feared for our lives in a traffic circle…as if those things aren’t confusing enough to DRIVE through, they are even worse on a bike! We made our way over to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial because that’s not one that you can see from the main area that everyone knows as “The Mall”. Right before we left to go meet up with Jake and Dylan, some fireworks started to go off down near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Pre-4th of July festivities!
Saturday morning started off bright and early with a 7 mile long run. This was my view 5 blocks into the run. 🙂 On the agenda for the day were a parade, an outdoor food festival, and fireworks. It was fun to see the parade preparations early in the morning while I was running! I didn’t make it very far before the clouds started to roll in. Rain started to fall and everyone did a great job ignoring it. Then at mile 3.5, it started to really POUR. Luckily, food trucks were also preparing for the craziness of the day, so I stopped at one and asked for a plastic bag for my phone. I figured since I was already wet and I now had a way to keep my phone dry, if I called it quits and headed back to the hotel, I was going to be wet anyways, so I might as well keep running…right?! What would you have done?! I got some crazy looks, but I also saw some crazy things: ponchos, sharing umbrellas, bags on heads…tourists can’t be held back by a little rain! I intended to get back to my hotel right as I hit 7 miles, but I got a little distracted/lost/Siri lied to me and I ended at 7.48. So I ran around the little driveway in front of my hotel until my GPS said 7.5. Because I can’t end on an “odd” number. If people thought I was weird before…
4th of July outfit looked like this and 4th of July plans were rewritten to include hotel brunch and shopping because, hello, indoors. 🙂
We LOVE Arundel Mills Mall so we left the city for the afternoon to drive north into Maryland to our favorite shopping spot. My mom won a bit of money at the casino there, I found these adorable J. Crew shorts for $19, and Jake and Dylan ate Moe’s and shopped their little hearts out. Then they convinced me to go indoor rock climbing. A great time was had by all. 😉
Dylan created quite a spectacle in Bass Pro Shops (where the climbing wall was) because he has ridiculous upper body strength and he was able to climb all the way to the very top of one very hard section of the wall! He is not in the above picture, but that’s the height he got to. He and Jake love indoor rock climbing in Pittsburgh, so they have skills. Ha!
My mom was designated cheerleader and photographer and while she got some really cool pictures of the boys, she got this lame picture of me on the bottom of the wall…let it be known this was the beginning of my climb and I really did make it to the top of my wall and ring the bell even though this looks lame! #detailsmatter
On this day, I was smarter, and I made dinner reservations for us at Matchbox in Chinatown so that we would have plenty of time to eat and walk down to The National Mall for fireworks. I figured a holiday might make the restaurants slightly busier! I have only ever eaten brunch at Matchbox so I was excited to try their pizza for dinner.
I was so excited that you could order your pizza in halves. Then I could try more than one kind! Matchbox is known for their burgers and pizza, so Jake and Dylan both ordered burgers and I got pizza. My mom decided to be different and order rigatoni. 😉 I had half a “Fire + Smoke” pizza which has roasted red peppers, onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic purée, smoked gouda, and fresh basil. It was spicy but so good! The other half of my pizza was “Veggie” so it had roasted garlic, pesto, oven-dried tomatoes, artichokes, pecorino romano and mozzarella. Two very different flavors, but both equally delicious! We left with just enough time to walk towards fireworks. Last year, the weather was much nicer and The Mall wasn’t under as much construction as it is now, so I feel like it was easier to find a place to watch. This year, we arrived just in time for fireworks and it was already pretty crowded so it took a few minutes of bobbing and weaving to find the perfect spot in the crowd!
Washington Monument + Fireworks
My favorite kind of firework!
The Big Finale
When the show was over, my mom and I spotted a bench and decided to relax and people watch while the crowds cleared out. We were close enough to our hotel to walk and everyone else was rushing towards the Metro, so we figured with nowhere to be, what better thing to do than sit and chat? Jake and Dylan were too good for this downtime, so they ventured to Shake Shack to get milkshakes. 🙂
I kept their sugar high up by taking them to Baked and Wired for coffee and cupcakes on Sunday morning! I like this place so much that I have actually never been to Georgetown Cupcake. I know, the horror. The line at that place is just always so long and Baked and Wired is four blocks away, so why wait?! Ha! Plus, I’ve heard that Baked and Wired sells bigger cupcakes. More sugar for me! We spent the rest of the day in Arlington (where I’m moving next month) apartment hunting, eating lunch, and of course, shopping. Do you see a theme here? 😉 We know what we like!
I hope you had a great Independence Day Weekend with your family and friends! We are so lucky to live in a place where freedom and celebrations are so happily shared.
– What are your 4th of July traditions?
– Do you have younger siblings?