City Swimming Holes

Navy Yard splash pool DC

July 1, 2014, Washington, DC: It’s still early, but the temperature in the city is pushing 90. In the southeast neighborhood of Navy Yard, campers in bathing suits rush down a sloped lawn into the water. Parents lather sunscreen on their children, leave their flip flops on the edge, and step in themselves. Even before a mid-morning snack, kids in tiny sunhats and rashguards have filled the splash pool by the Anacostia River.

Georgetown Waterfront Park

Mid-afternoon. The heat of the day. A family visiting Washington discovers the fountain by the Potomac River on Georgetown’s waterfront. All morning they’ve been asking themselves why they opted to visit this swampy city at the height of summer, but now the children run free in soaked t-shirts and shorts. An ice cream truck on the corner repeats its tune, and this trip to the nation’s capital seems like a good idea after all.


Early evening in downtown Washington. Businessmen and women leave the office and fill in the gaps between tourists lining the fountain in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. They take off their summer flats or closed-toed shoes, roll up their slacks, and dip their feet in. Through graceful arcs of water, they gaze at the grand columns of the National Archives across the street. They take a breath, put the day behind them, imagine Europe. They zone out for a bit, some longer than others, before thinking about what’s for dinner and retreating into the city’s neighborhoods with hours of sunlight still ahead.

There’s a swimming hole on the slopes of Mt. Tam in the shadow of tall, dark trees on the outskirts of Muir Woods. The hole is alarmingly deep and the water is ice cold even after a long sweaty hike higher on the mountain. It’ll take your breath away every time.

If You Go…
National Gallery of Art (

Georgetown Waterfront Park (
Yards Park (

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A Warm Welcome to Ballpark Boathouse

Ballpark Boathouse, July 2013, Washington, DC

July 20, 2013, Washington, DC: DC’s first kayak rental facility on the Anacostia River opened today and needless to say, I am so excited. The dock is tucked right there in the shadow of Nationals Park and it’s called Ballpark Boathouse. Seriously. These are a few of my favorite things. As I paddled back into the dock this afternoon, I could hear a test run of the National Anthem beginning over the loudspeakers in preparation for this evening’s ballgame. Immediately, all of us there began excitedly brainstorming about enjoying night games on the water. When I lived in San Francisco, I thought McCovey Cove just outside the ballpark was one of the coolest spots in the city, and now we have someplace similar to paddle in DC.

Not only does Ballpark Boathouse combine some of my favorite elements of DC life, it’s also the result of a year of hard work by many, including Neighborhood Nomad David Garber. About a year and a half ago, David contributed to the blog to share why he loves where he lives, and we can now count Ballpark Boathouse as one more reason to spend time in Navy Yard. It’s been uplifting to see this neighborhood adjacent to my own developing in recent years and I’ll certainly be taking advantage of someplace to paddle closer to home.

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Ballpark Boathouse, July 2013, Washington, DC

Welcome Home Nationals

Nationals Park, April 3, 2012, Washington, DC

April 4, 2013, Washington, DC: Shortly after landing in Washington from spring training, Nationals phenom Bryce Harper announced his arrival to the nearly 200,000 people who follow him on Twitter. “DC, I’m home!!” the 20-year old reported with apparent glee, judging from the multiple exclamation marks and hashtags #NatsFamily and #DCLove that followed his declaration. Within the week, he’d also asked his fans for restaurant suggestions, a barbershop recommendation, and the whereabouts of late night donuts. Oh, and he hit two homeruns out of the park on Opening Day.

Harper’s new teammate Denard Span is likewise embracing Washington, the city of his birth. In his first week in town, the only player with Washington, DC listed on the roster caught the NCAA tournament at the Verizon Center and made a stop into the Library of Congress. Ryan Mattheus took in a Wizards game with his family. Pitcher Gio Gonazalez dined at Dupont’s Lauriol Plaza and Georgetown’s Filomena before hitting a solo homer Wednesday night.

Yes, this week the city’s best season officially arrived. Not in the form of cherry blossoms or tourists crowding the Metro or Easter eggs on the White House lawn, but in the form of a freezing cold night game like Wednesday’s, rooting on the ballplayers who love Washington from a seat in right field. The city’s best season has arrived because the Nationals are back in town and they seem as happy to see the city as the city is to see them. Because they are first and foremost here with a job to do, and because this year they might do it better than any other team in baseball. But also because they’re not just “here for work” like countless professionals who come and go within the Beltway. The Washington Nationals are here to settle in and become a true part of this city as the weather grows warm.

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Nationals Park, April 3, 2012, Washington, DC

Canal Park’s Opening Weekend

Canal Park, Washington, DC, November 17, 2012November 17, 2012, Washington, DC: Something significant happened today in the Washington neighborhood of Navy Yard — something we’d all been waiting for. Today was the day the children arrived. They came to skate at Canal Park during its opening weekend, scurrying around the icy surface. They slipped and slid and infused new life into a neighborhood that up until now has been too quiet and empty on weekend mornings. Until now, we’d believed in the promise of the neighborhood but had not yet seen much of it come to fruition. Today was one of the first days outside of baseball season that we witnessed people coming to Navy Yard to enjoy the neighborhood in its present form.

Navy Yard, after all, isn’t a neighborhood most of us talk about in the present tense. It’s a neighborhood that generates lots of conversation about the past and future, but a place whose present has been stalled and nondescript. Vacant lots and construction sites mark spaces that were once something to someone and promise to become something new sometime soon.

Today’s scene at Canal Park changes the conversation. It has us talking about Navy Yard in the here and now of the offseason, five months before another ballgame at Nationals Park.

Canal Park, Washington, DC, November 17, 2012

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The Navy Yard Reshena Knew

Former Arthur Capper senior home, Southeast, Washington, DC, Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Dupree

This is one in a series featuring our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

August 15, 2012, Washington, DC: So often our neighborhoods are the settings for wonderful stories. They are places where we come to appreciate simple things like the comforts of home and the traditions of families, the value of community and the rhythms of our hometowns. But our neighborhoods are also complex landscapes that evoke a whole host of emotions. They are the first places we grapple with tough subjects. They are places from which we can learn a great deal.

I recently met a woman named Reshena Johnson who spoke eloquently about the complexities of our relationships to our hometowns. Reshena is the development and operations coordinator for New Community for Children in the Shaw-Howard neighborhood of Washington, and she’s also a native of the city. Though I’ve written about the Navy Yard neighborhood in which Reshena grew up, she’s the first person I met who grew up there “Before” there was an “After.” The last residents of Reshena’s old community moved out in 2005 and the last of those buildings was demolished in 2007, the neighborhood leveled and built up again from scratch.

When I asked Reshena if she’d like to share her story, she responded quickly in the affirmative. “I would love for you to share my story on your blog,” she said. “My story is very similar to many of the people I knew growing up, but they haven’t had a forum to tell the story. I think this presents a great opportunity to be their voice.”

Read Reshena’s story after the jump.

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Neighborhood Nomad: David of Navy Yard

Boilermaker Shops, Navy Yard, Washington, DC, February 2012

This is one in a series of reader interviews about the places and spaces people call home. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomad.

March 5, 2012, Washington, DC: There are neighbors who love where they live and then there are neighbors who love it enough to roll up their sleeves and get things done. David Garber is among the latter. In his fast-growing Washington neighborhood known as Navy Yard, Garber can be found installing signs reminding neighbors to clean up after their dogs, advocating for a new school, or encouraging members of his community to frequent local businesses during construction.

What does Garber love about Navy Yard? What drives him to participate? Read on for an interview with David Garber of Navy Yard.

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