Down a Garden Path

Tavish in the garden

A public garden for every season!  Top left:  Spring’s peak azalea bloom at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Top right: Summertime Lily Fest at Kenilworth Aquatic Park & Gardens in Washington, DC. Bottom left: Autumn splendor in the Prairie at the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Bottom right: Winter at the Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce.

 

“In the marvelous month of May when all the buds were bursting,
then in my heart did love arise . . . .” — Heinrich Heine

 

Tavish at River Farm

Tavish at River Farm, home to the American Horticultural Society and–you guessed it–some pretty spiffy gardens!

April showers bring May flowers, and what better time to head into the garden? If not your own, then how about one of the hundreds of botanical gardens and arboreta throughout the country? Truth be told, public gardens are there for you year-round providing a feast for the senses, a tonic for the soul . . . and a great place to go for a long walk with your intrepid pup!

To celebrate public gardens, we’re providing a stroll down a virtual garden path, starting with a horticultural grande dame and then continuing on to a public garden for each of the four seasons, “hand-picked” from Intrepid Pup’s travels over the past year.

Our first stop is River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia. The grounds were once among George Washington’s extensive land holdings, later given to his wife’s niece as a wedding present. Although the property has changed hands many times over the centuries, since 1973 the historic and picturesque 25 acres along the banks of the Potomac River have been the national headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. Leashed dogs are welcome, and during our visit to River Farm, Intrepid Pup Tavish strolled through the same gates as did 28 U.S. presidents! The circa 1819 northeast ceremonial gates to the White House were relocated here in the late 1930s after a renovation project. Tavish explored the meadow and gazed out over the river. He also sized up the largest Osage-orange tree in the United States; at nearly 200 years of age, the famous tree is believed to be a gift from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington. Finally, while we will neither confirm nor deny, it’s highly probable that Tavish photo-bombed some newlyweds’ formal pictures—the Estate House on the grounds is a popular wedding venue.

Onward to our seasonal picks . . .

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

These excursions register as a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter, because they’re as easy as a walk in the park!

Just get up and go.

 

 

Tavish at the U.S. National Arboretum

U.S. National Arboretum: Tavish stands sentinel in the Grove of State Trees (top) with the closest one being Vermont’s sugar maple. (Below) Giving a “stump speech” along the azalea walk.

SPRING
38°54′30.65″ N,  76°58′18.95″ W
U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Go for the azaleas, but stay (and plan your return trips) for everything else. Intrepid Pup has previously chronicled the National Arboretum’s iconic azalea bloom—a riot of color which traditionally reaches peak in late April/early May—but spring is many-splendored here. There are bulbs and flowering cherries. Dogwoods and lilacs. Herbs and bonsai trees.

Intrepid Pup Tavish is particularly a sucker for the 30-acre expanse that is the National Grove of State Trees. Because of the District of Columbia’s relatively temperate climes, almost all the official state trees thrive here, even though they were acquired directly from their representative states. Seemingly no trip to the arboretum is complete for Tavish without rolling around in the grove’s long, cool grass.

On our most recent visit, a section of the arboretum was temporarily cordoned off but for the best of reasons:  for the first time in nearly 70 years, a pair of bald eagles had built a nest! There were bird watchers galore craning to get a glimpse so instead we headed up onto the hillside paths that meander through the azalea collection. We took lots of photos, and Tavish’s aptitude for posing drew lots of bemused smiles and questions, not to mention people taking pictures of us taking pictures!

Tavish at Lilyfest

Like stepping into a real-life Monet canvas: Tavish at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens’ annual Lily Fest

SUMMER
38°54′45.50″N,  76°56′31.24″W
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Tell folks you’re heading into these sultry gardens in the middle of a humid Washington, DC summer, and people are bound to think you’re already suffering from heatstroke. But . . . the rewards are the magnificent lotus flowers and water lilies. Kenilworth is the only National Park Service site devoted to the cultivation of aquatic plants—you’ll want to read our earlier post about the site’s unique history.

The freshwater plants bloom in late June and July, and when they do, it’s like being immersed in a Claude Monet painting with sun-dappled greens and bursts of white and pale pink. But a word to the wise: go before the heat of the day, because as soon as the temperatures hit the high 80s/low 90s, the delicate blossoms shut until the next morning. Be sure to bring along plenty of water for you and your pup so you both don’t wilt!

We timed our visit with the park’s annual Lily Fest cultural event in mid July. As bands played, we wandered the boardwalks. The lotus flowers towered over us, and dragonflies zoomed by in their herky-jerky version of floral connect-the-dots. A pretty surreal way to enjoy this urban oasis!

 

Nichols Arboretum

(Top) At the Arb’s Washington Heights entrance with the Urban Environmental Education Center in the background. (Bottom) A warm autumn afternoon along the Huron River.

AUTUMN
42°16’50.07″N,  83°43’36.55″W
Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free admission; leash required

Affectionately known as “the Arb,” Nichols Arboretum is managed by the University of Michigan, its undeniable main draw since 1927 being its world-famous peonies. When they peak in late May/early June, there can be as many as 10,000 flowers in 270 varieties—the largest collection in North America. Sadly, we missed this spectacle by about five months, but we discovered that the Arb is beautiful in October, too. We visited on a weekday afternoon when university classes were in session and didn’t have too much difficulty finding free parking near the Washington Heights entrance. Team Tavish had been on the road and visiting with relatives for a couple of days, so this stopover was a chance for Tavish to really stretch his legs and burn off some energy. We passed the dormant peony beds and a whimsical Faerie Garden, heading gently downhill. The trail entered woodland and then skirted the Huron River. Tavish dipped his paws in and was fixated on a large crayfish chilling out in the shallows. Reluctantly Tavish left the river’s edge only to be equally fascinated by the open Prairie section that followed. The tall grasses had turned golden with autumn, and it was hard to believe we were so close to a bustling college campus. We circled back through the shaded Hawthorn Valley, ultimately covering about three miles.

Tavish at Virginia State Arboretum

Tavish exploring the State Arboretum of Virginia.

WINTER
39° 3’51.72″N,  78° 3’51.67″W
Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia, Boyce, Virginia
Free admission; leash required within 200 yards of parking areas and/or any of the public buildings

The University of Virginia manages this 172-acre arboretum as part of the larger, 712-acre Blandy Experimental Farm. Located in the northern Shenandoah Valley, the arboretum is only 60 miles west of the nation’s capital but feels a world away for as little as it resembles metro Washington’s urban sprawl. The gardens originated in 1927 but weren’t dubbed the State Arboretum until 1986.

Four walking loop trails originate from the main parking lot and range in length from 0.75 to 2 miles. Longer still is a 7.5-mile bridle trail that winds throughout Blandy. Unlike many public gardens, dogs are allowed off leash throughout most of the site, provided that they don’t disrupt wildlife or the plantings. Additional caveats are that your dog must be under immediate voice control and be put on a leash when within 200 yards of the parking areas or any of the public buildings. As a dog-friendly locale, pet waste stations are provided.

We visited on a sunny February afternoon just ahead of a stormy cold front. Nothing was in bloom, but the vast grounds still exuded a stark and vaguely haunting beauty. We encountered a few other hearty walkers and dogs as we made our way around. Birds scrabbled over winter berries, and evidence of deer was in abundance. In addition to manicured landscapes were test plots where various studies were underway, including research to create a more disease-resistant chestnut tree. The highlight for Tavish was the open landscape flanking the Wilkins Lane Loop Drive. The scrub grasses—bleached and brittle from winter—put Tavish on high alert, and he bounded in, picking up on scents of upland game that only his nose could.

Intrepid Pup Bracketology: 2015 Edition

Pounceball
The treats came out, and the picks are in! For the fourth year running, Intrepid Pup Tavish has engaged in his own special brand of March Random(ad)ness to select who he thinks will be top dog in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. On the all-important “Selection Sunday,” Team Tavish happened to be out of the country, so the mantle of responsibility for facilitating Tavish’s picks fell to extended family members. They had inquired whether there was any special technique required. Um, not really. As we’ve noted in past years, Tavish is consistently inconsistent. But so long as he’s motivated (read: has treats) and is presented with clear choices, Tavish is swift and decisive. Our stand-ins reported that there was much excited barking and that our 18-year-old cat Hobbes assumed his traditional role as impartial observer, emitting a low rumble if the proceedings came too close to invading his personal space.

Wait no longer, Pup fans, behold the picks:

Intrepid Pup's 2015 picks

How do your picks stack up to the Intrepid Pup’s? Click on the bracket above for a larger, printable PDF version. Enjoy the madness!

 

Sergeant Stubby Wearing Military Medals

A decorated World War I veteran and Georgetown University’s living mascot, Sergeant Stubby was truly an intrepid pup. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cut to the chase, and you’ll see that in Tavish’s world, Georgetown will be the 2015 champs. While it remains to be seen whether the team can go the distance, there’s no denying a great canine connection. Even though they’re known as the Hoyas, among the school’s earliest mascots was one heck of a tenacious bull terrier named Stubby. In 1917 this stray pup was rescued by Private J. Robert Conroy and smuggled aboard a ship bound for France to accompany the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division. Stubby ultimately saw action in 17 engagements throughout World War I. After nearly dying in a poison gas attack, he was so sensitized to the smell that he would warn troops of its presence. Also uncanny was his ability to find wounded American soldiers in enemy trenches; he would hone in on voices speaking English and then stand guard and bark to alert the medics. He buoyed morale by visiting troops in the hospital and even knew how to salute! General Pershing presented Stubby with a medal for heroism, and the dog went on to meet Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.

HoyasDog

Tavish sizes up the Hoyas bulldog emblem near the Georgetown University campus.

When Private Conroy returned from the war and eventually enrolled at Georgetown to study law, it went without saying that the much-decorated Stubby would go with him. The dog’s celebrity status made him a shoe-in as Georgetown’s living mascot. With Stubby’s passing in 1926, the New York Times ran a half-page obituary. Stubby’s taxidermied remains were ultimately donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where they are currently on view as part of The Price of Freedom exhibition at the National Museum of American History.

Over the years, Georgetown had other live dogs as mascots, including a terrier named Hoya, a Great Dane named Butch and a series of bulldogs. Today the bulldog mascot “Jack” remains, but it’s a student in a dog costume.

GO HOYAS!

Retail Hound

Tavish at Orvis

Dogs Welcome: The sign is right at dog’s-eye level! Tavish can’t read, but fortunately he didn’t need to. He spotted the water bowl just inside the doorway instead.

While adventures at national parks and historical sites are the usual fodder for IntrepidPup.com, this time we’re exchanging the woodland trail for a little detour down Main Street and an adventure of a different kind:  shopping. Yep, the retail jungle.

It’s de rigueur to bring your pet to places where you’ll be shopping for them (think: pet boutiques, PetSmart®, Petco®, etc.). But, honestly, where can you go when you happen to be out shopping with your pet? For a variety of perfectly justifiable reasons—usually having to do with local ordinances or health codes—many businesses don’t allow Fido or Fluffy unless they’re assistance animals, so it’s unrealistic to expect every commercial establishment to welcome your furry friend with open arms.

When traveling with Tavish, leaving him unattended isn’t an option, so we’ve mastered the drill of taking turns going into stores while one of us remains outside with him. And that’s okay. Seriously. We’ve ended up having some wonderful conversations with folks over the years by virtue of waiting outside a shop with the Intrepid Pup. But when there are exceptions to the rule and we can bring him inside? Those tend to be memorable win-wins.

Here’s our roundup of six favorite dog-friendly re(tail)ers from the road this past year:

 

Dogging the (Retail) Details

42°17’49.82″N, 83°52’12.60″W
Motawi Tileworks,
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks, Ann Arbor, MI

Tavish got the royal treatment at the tileworks. They even snapped a photo of him for Motawi’s Facebook feed!

Fact: We’ve been fans of Motawi Tileworks for years and have quite a few of the company’s signature art tiles in our home. Nawal Motawi started the business in her garage in 1992, and today it’s a tour-de-force in interior design. Carried in more than 350 showrooms and museum shops nationally, Motawi tiles have been featured in Huffington Post and will appear in a 2015 episode of PBS’s acclaimed “Craft in America” series. So when our travels took us through eastern Michigan last autumn there was no way we weren’t going to visit the Motawi factory. It’s in an unassuming industrial park a little ways from downtown Ann Arbor. With Tavish along for our Midwest road trip, we parked in the lot and figured one of us would walk Tavish around the grounds while the other reconnoitered inside.

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks

Motawi’s “Boneyard”: Tavish was a little disappointed there weren’t real bones here, but the humans were excited! It’s actually the firm’s seconds room, where tiles with slight imperfections can be found at reduced cost.

 

 

 

Long story short, the showroom manager caught sight of us through the picture window and beckoned us all in. “Oh, we’re absolutely dog-friendly,” she said, and then added somewhat cryptically: “People are going to be really excited.” With that, she disappeared down a hallway, and moments later, several employees piled out of the back to come fuss over Tavish!

This ended up as a classic example of how being dog-friendly can make good retail sense. Because Team Tavish didn’t have to split up, we were able to browse at a more leisurely pace. What could easily have been a hurried 15-minute stopover turned into a great, nearly hour-long customer experience! Motawi staffers got their dog fix, and we purchased several new tiles as mementos of our visit.

Tavish at Reiner's

“Say, do you guys know where they keep the treats?” Tavish befriends the menagerie at Reiner’s.

43°15’17.49″N, 79° 4’16.79″W
Reiner’s
, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Last year our travels took us across the border to Ontario, Canada, and we spent an afternoon in charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. While eating a light lunch on the outdoor patio of café Taste, the window display of the shop next door caught our attention: finely crafted leather ottomans in the shapes of hippos, rhinos, bears, bulldogs and more! It turned out to be a newly opened flagship store for Reiner’s. Established by German immigrant Reiner Henneveld in 1967, the company has remained in the family all these years, and the pieces are handmade some 90 miles west in Kitchener. The two saleswomen (the store manager and a new trainee) eagerly welcomed Tavish, shared a bit about the company’s history and showed us the various animals. Before long, we’d decided a moose ottoman would not only make a good Canadian souvenir but also a nice addition for our living room. Better yet, we were able to select the leather and have the piece custom made. It was shipped to us about six weeks later—a nice reminder of our dog-friendly shopping experience!

Saks Fifth Avenue

Tavish was particularly fascinated by the woman setting up her Cartier station. Treats? Are those treats?

40°45’28.95″ N, 73°58’38.35″ W
Saks Fifth Avenue
, New York, New York

Cartier, Prada and Gucci, oh my! Although we’d read that Saks was dog-friendly, we were still dubious in approaching this grand dame of Fifth Avenue establishments. Really, a fancy department store? But the doorman assured us we weren’t mistaken, and so we were ushered into the opulence of the women’s accessories and fragrances departments. When presented with big echoing spaces, Tavish has a damning habit of barking a few times, and the glittering ground floor of Saks was no exception. He must think it’s a riot. We, however, were cringing and thinking the doorman would reappear at any moment to escort us out. Au contraire. Tavish’s excited barks turned out to be the siren song that summoned every boutique associate within hearing radius to come over and pet him. Charmed life, mon ami.

 

Tavish at Annapolis Pottery

Amid platters, vases and coffee mugs, Intrepid Pup found a selection of pet bowls, too!

38°58’42.20″ N, 76°29’24.00″ W
Annapolis Pottery,
Annapolis, Maryland

Head to historic Annapolis, Maryland, and an array of dog-friendly options await—from patio dining to taking in views of the Chesapeake Bay or strolling through the picturesque campus of the United States Naval Academy. But if ceramics are your thing, then don’t miss the Annapolis Pottery located on State Circle in the shadow of the Maryland State House. Much to our delight, it’s dog-friendly! For more than 40 years the shop has carried functional and decorative ware hand crafted by talented potters working onsite, as well as sourced from ceramic artists around the country. There’s a dizzying array of forms in colorful glazes, and your well-behaved pup’s visit just might be rewarded with a complimentary dog biscuit or two!  Bonus: the well-stocked Paws pet boutique is just a few doors away.

Orvis_inside

Scanning the retail horizon at Orvis. Adventuresome and outdoorsy…hey, that appeals to me, too!

The Orvis Company, Inc.
(67 retail locations and 11 outlets in the U.S.)

Since the founding of Orvis in 1856 in Vermont, the company has become the oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operated fly-fishing business in America. The company’s retail locations both in the U.S. and in the U.K. sport rugged yet stylish outerwear and clothing, fly fishing equipment, and gear for hunting upland birds. It just so happens they have a pretty extensive selection of dog beds, collars and travel gear, too.

While we’re *pretty* sure that Tavish couldn’t read the “DOGS WELCOME” decal right at dog height on the door, he did see the water bowl just inside the doorway and made a beeline for it. We hadn’t visited an Orvis store in years (there wasn’t one near where we used to live), so Tavish pulling us in was a homecoming of sorts. We got reacquainted with the brand while the sales associate got acquainted with Tavish, lavishing him with a couple of dog treats that “magically” appeared from behind the counter. Hey, whadya know, it ultimately resulted in our purchase of three men’s shirts and a sweater. Retail therapy? Sure, but here’s another thing to feel good about: Orvis is a socially responsible company, donating 5% of its pre-tax profits annually in support of environmental initiatives, community projects and canine well-being. Orvis also runs a cover dog contest for its biannual “Dog Book” catalog and since 2009 has specifically raised over $1 million for canine cancer research grants. Two paws up.

Tavish at Torpedo Factory Art Center

So many studios! Tavish takes in the view from the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s main concourse.

38°48’17.57″ N, 77° 2’23.19″ W
Torpedo Factory Art Center
, Alexandria, Virginia

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was among the early paragons of the adaptive reuse/working studio movement. In 1974, the founding artists took over a dilapidated, former munitions factory on the Alexandria, Virginia, waterfront, converting the cavernous industrial space into a hive of creativity. More than 40 years later, it’s still going strong:  home to 82 artist studios, six galleries, two workshops and an art school. Explore all three floors and you’ll discover jewelry, ceramics, fiber art, sculpture, fine art photography and works on paper and canvas to fit any budget. Each studio is part workspace and part retail, meaning you have surprising access to converse directly with the artists, ask questions and gain insight into their artistic processes; many accept commissions. What might come as even more of a surprise are the studio dogs.

Tavish with Opie in Studio 16

When studio dog Opie (right) is in residence in Studio 16, he’s as big a hit as owner Lisa Schumaier’s whimsical creations in papier-mâché and raku.

Indeed, many generations of artistic muse in canine form have accompanied their owners to the Torpedo Factory and made the studios their homes away from home. Peer past the gate by the counter in Studio 226 and you might just catch a glimpse of Lab mix Donut contentedly lounging in the sun. Look closely, and you’re just as sure to spy Rocky the chihuahua curled up in Studio 214 or dachshund Chester sitting patiently in Studio 321. And it’s because of these resident pups that yours is welcome at the Torpedo Factory, too. So grab a leash and soak up an art scene like no other!

Game On! Intrepid Pup Bracketology: The 2014 Edition

Tavish with a ball

This Intrepid Pup Bracketology is serious business!

Yep, it’s that time of year again when Intrepid Pup Tavish goes out on the proverbial limb and makes his predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If Tavish’s consistently inconsistent bracketology prowess is news to you, we unabashedly refer you to our 2012 and 2013 editions where his highly entertaining (and completely unbiased!) process is explained and even shown in action. To briefly recap, though, Tavish does not watch endless hours of game footage. Nor does he use some mathematician’s code-based matrix. 

Nope, Tavish relies entirely on his gut.

And this year, his gut had lots of itty bitty pieces of spinach-flavored, shamrock-shaped homemade dog treats that somebody baked him for St. Patrick’s Day.

So what did his gut say?  Let’s just cut to the chase:

 

2014brackets

Click the image to open a larger PDF version

 

Three years into this whole Intrepid Pup Bracketology escapade, we’ve finally fine-tuned the methodology to where Tavish can make his 68 picks in about 40 minutes–considerably less time than it takes Greg Gumbel and crew on CBS’s Selection Sunday.

Every year, Tavish’s gut reminds us that it’s very fickle indeed. He always seems to conjur up an early Cinderella to beat Duke (Way to go, Mercer!) and certainly champions his share of underdogs (Here’s lookin’ at you, 12-seed Stephen F. Austin, wherever you are). But just when you think you see a pattern emerging with teams with dog mascots (Go, UConn Huskies! Rock on, Gonzaga Bulldogs!), Tavish gets all conventional and advances some very solid teams (That’d be YOU, Creighton). Only very rarely does he hesitate, but there was a brief instant of introspection (or maybe just inattention?) before deciding the fate of his Dayton/St. Louis final in favor of the Billikens.

After Intrepid Pup buzzed through his choices for this year, one member of Team Tavish looked over his completed brackets and remarked disbelievingly, “Sheesh, there sure aren’t going to be many people with these picks!” That, friends, is the point. There won’t be many any people whose brackets look like this. And Tavish still has the same 9.2 quintillion-to-1 odds of winning the Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Delightful, isn’t it? Welcome to the madness of March. How do your brackets stack up?

P.s.  Several of you commented last year on how nice it was to see Tavish’s elusive housemate (Hobbes the cat) get in on the picks. We tried to rekindle that again this year, but Hobbes couldn’t have cared less. Picking brackets is for the dogs!  :)

National Howl-iday Scene, Part VI: President’s Park

Pathway of Peace 2013

Tavish beholds the National Christmas Tree from the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park. The national tree has been illuminated by GE since 1963–originally with thousands of incandescent bulbs and now entirely by eco-friendly LEDs. The lighting design changes each year.

Intrepid Pup Tavish has been in dogged pursuit of the best of the national howl-iday scene. In Christmases past and present, he’s sniffed out “Season’s Greenings” activities at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, yuletide preparations at The Biltmore, and much more (see the blog index for the others).  His next stop? The National Christmas Tree!

The tree lives year-round on the grounds of President’s Park, 82 acres maintained by the National Park Service and encompassing the White House itself. For much of the year visitors take little note of the evergreen on the Ellipse, but come December, it becomes the focal point of the park. Fitted with a mantel of LED lights, the tree is officially turned on by the President during a televised ceremony complete with a concert.

Tavish in President's Park with the 2012 National Menorah

Lighting of a national menorah was a tradition begun by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in nearby Lafayette Park. The 30-foot menorah was incorporated into the President’s Park festivities in 1987. Here’s Tavish in 2012 on the final night of Hanukkah.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with putting up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that President Calvin Coolidge lit a national tree outside for the benefit of the American people. For more than 90 years, the storied tradition of a national Christmas tree has continued. Early on, the ceremony took place either on the White House lawn or in nearby Lafayette Park, and various trees were designated as the “national community Christmas tree.” During WWII a national tree was decorated but never illuminated. When the ceremony permanently moved to its existing location on the Ellipse in 1954 to better accommodate crowds, the National Park Service began annually cutting and transporting a tree to the site. By the early 1970s, however, they returned to having a planted tree, and there have been 5 since. The long standing 1978-2011 tree was removed after irreparable storm damage. Its replacement lasted only a year before succumbing to transplant shock. The current National Christmas Tree—a 28-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce—was planted in October 2012.

Just as the trees have changed, so too has the pageantry at President’s Park evolved. Various elements have been added, such as a menorah (1987), a model railroad (1993), and Santa’s Workshop (2008); others have fallen by the wayside like the Yule Log (2012) and live reindeer. Performances by local choirs and musical groups occur nightly (except Mondays) following the initial tree lighting ceremony and continue all the way up until Christmas Eve. What has remained a constant since first introduced on the Ellipse in 1954 is the Pathway of Peace, a walkway lined by cut Fraser Firs to flank the National Christmas Tree each December. The Pathway now contains 56 tree representing all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each is decorated with distinctive ornaments handmade by schoolchildren and artisans from that region.

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansDogging the Details

38°53′41.57N,  77° 2′10.98W
The National Christmas Tree
, President’s Park, Washington, DC
Annually, early December to January 1 ( site is accessible 10 AM – 10 PM)

National Tree 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree with the White House in the background.

President’s Park ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being relatively easy to get to and for providing a unique experience once you’re there. If you’re coming with your dog, plan on doing some walking as you can’t bring your pup on the Metro system. Metered street parking is available, though, and we’ve found that it’s usually a little easier to find a space in the blocks west or north of the White House. Timing your visit for during the week or early in the evenings also helps.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the National Christmas Tree, and admission is free—no tickets or reservations are required. Be forewarned, however, that there are typically large crowds, which aren’t always every pup’s cup of tea. If your dog doesn’t like getting jostled or is otherwise prone to claustrophobia, simply forgo walking along the Pathway of Peace; you can still enjoy the tree lights from afar from various vantage points throughout the Ellipse. It’s also been our experience that visitors are so busy looking at the tree that they’re not necessarily looking down and may even be startled to see a pooch in their midst. For your and your dog’s comfort, we recommend visiting at an off-peak time. If you’re going at night, consider adding something reflective so your pet stands out and is visible to other passersby (Tavish’s Chilly Dog® jacket has reflective piping, and he sometimes wears his Nite Ize® SpotLit blinking LED collar light, too). Your best photo ops will come a bit away from the fray, where the Pathway leads south from the tree and opens up onto the Ellipse. With the tree and the White House as your backdrops in the middle distance, you also won’t be holding up throngs of foot traffic to get that perfect shot!