- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

Five sights to impress visitors and locals alike

So family and friends have come from afar for the holidays, and they’re expecting you, the longtime Washington-area resident, to show them a good time.

But they’re not museum-going types, or maybe you just don’t want to take them to the monuments or the other usual tourist spots. If you’re looking for off-the-beaten track, quirky and mostly overlooked attractions, look no further. Impress your visitors with the five D.C. gems below, and they’ll not only have a fabulous time, but they’ll also think you’re the coolest, most in-the-know city slicker in town.

Warner Theatre’s Walk of Fame

Unknown even to many locals, the District’s own secret Hollywood features sidewalk signatures and handprints of some of the most famous faces to grace the theater’s stage: Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, Prince, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Tom Jones, Melissa Etheridge, Jon Stewart, Sting, Savion Glover and Dave Chappelle. It begins at the Warner’s box office on 13th Street Northwest, easily accessible via Metro’s 12th Street exit at the Metro Center stop, and wraps around the corner onto E Street. Your visitors will tell all their friends back home that cool, famous people come to Washington, too. Take that, Hollywood.

Pershing Park ice-skating rink

Just steps away from the Walk of Fame sits one of the city’s best-kept cold-weather secrets: Pershing Park and its winter ice-skating rink. The little park — named after World War I Gen. John Joseph Pershing and home to duck families in the warmer weather and lunching daytime workers all year — is a sunny oasis in a bustling downtown area. It is conveniently located along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest between 14th and 15th Streets, also near Metro’s 12th Street exit at Metro Center.

For $6.50 ($5.50 for children), your visitors can hit the ice for up to two hours and slide (or wobble) to the rink’s piped-in dance music, which features everything from pop to oldies. It’s less crowded than other area rinks and therefore perfect for beginners and children. When you’re ready for a break, grab a cup of hot chocolate at the snack bar. Holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (including New Year’s Day) all week long. Skate rental is available at $2.50 per pair. Call 202/737-6938 or visit www.pershingparkicerink.com for more details.

Old Post Office

Once you’ve put your walking shoes on again, stroll a few blocks to the Old Post Office, at 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, for an aerial panorama of the city guaranteed to delight your guests. This impressive building’s 315-foot-high clock tower features a view second only to the Washington Monument’s. You can take a free self-guided tour of the breathtaking 360-degree vista during regular hours (9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sunday). Knowledgeable National Park Service staffers are always on hand in the lobby and tower to answer questions.

The tower also houses the Congressional Bells, a bicentennial gift from Britain to Congress modeled after the bells in London’s Westminster Abbey. When you’re done, hop back in the glass elevator and grab a bite in the food court (everything from vegetarian Indian cuisine to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream). The site is mere steps away from the Federal Triangle Metro stop. Call 202/606-8691 for more information, or visit the Old Post Office online at www.oldpostofficedc .com and www.nps.gov/opot.

Hains Point, East Potomac Park

If the view from the clock tower isn’t enough, you’ll really impress your visitors with a visit to Hains Point at East Potomac Park.

Popular with runners, bikers and courting couples, Hains Point features a gargantuan five-part sculpture called “The Awakening.” J. Seward Johnson Jr.’s bearded giant rising from the earth will especially delight children as they hang off his massive fingers and lean on his colossal beard. If you’re lucky, you might witness a marriage proposal or get a sneak peak of a future star in training. The park is on Ohio Drive Southwest, and parking is available. Call the National Park Service at 202/426-6841 for more information and driving directions to the park.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

If everyone has had enough of the bustling city and is hankering for a bit of greenery, Mother Nature is closer than you think. The small island that all those Key Bridge and Interstate 66 commuters pass every day is actually a 91-acre nature preserve dedicated to the Roughrider president, who made conservation one of his top priorities.

The island, splat in the middle of the Potomac, is perfect for picnics and walks and is accessible via a clearly marked National Park Service exit just off the George Washington Parkway (or an access road adjacent to the Key Bridge if you’re coming from I-66 or downtown Arlington).

The serene spot is home to 2½ miles of trails, beautiful fountains and a 20-foot statue of the 26th president. After parking in a special lot, visitors walk across a footbridge to the island. Call 703/289-2500 or visit www.nps.gov/this for more information and driving directions.

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