National Harbor, Maryland

Maryland?  Yes.  I guess we all have to admit that when it came to the side of Maryland that borders our nation’s capital, not too many places got people in their cars to eagerly drive there on a Saturday morning.  OK, with the exception of Bethesda’s downtown, which will be the subject of another story.  But if you haven’t made the trek to the new National Harbor in Maryland, then you are really missing out.  The good thing is that it is very close to DC just past the Woodrow Wilson bridge (directions).  I’ve been there several times to like they say, “see what I see.”  Or more appropriately, to see what the camera sees.  And the camera sees a lot there.

One of the first sights that you’ll see once you get down to the waterside is the old Neptune sculptor that used to be at Haynes Point in DC.  This was not a popular move, but I think most people have gotten used to the statute’s new home.  Actually, it looks good there, even if a bit too old a sight compared with all the glitter around it.  You’ll also find a ton of great restaurants there (the interior photo above is from the Sauciety restaurant at The Westin hotel), with prices for pretty much everyone.  OK, more for the fully employed than the marginally employed dreamer, but hey, they have to recoup some of that investment after all.  But do go there for events and to eat your heart out because when it comes to things to see, you are somewhat limited to the marina and the main plaza area (where Neptune lies half-buried).

And what if you are a photographer?  Then the answer is YES.  We’re talking people, boats, lovers, sky, and lots of reflective glass.  Lots of colors, but do avoid those noon hours where the sun will fill your photos with glare and bright spots that you’ll never get out, not even with Photoshop.

Penn Quarters, DC

Chinatown

No question about it, Penn Quarters is an up-and-coming neighborhood in DC.  This place used to be a real dump about a decade ago, but its shady past is hard to imagine once you see the neighborhood in its present form.  One sad part of this new facelift was the fate of the old Chinatown.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still there, but it’s only a mere shadow of its old ethnic self.  What you will find these days are slick restaurants like Zaytinya, Jaleo, and Zola, coupled with some great beer joints and attractions like the Spy Museum.  All this has given the neighborhood a reputation as a good hang-out place where you can find great food, cheap beers, and a few attractions (Spy Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Verizon Center, and the Crime and Punishment Museum).

But not everything has changed with the times.  Need a good place to experience some pick-pocketing fun?  Well, this may be your place too, as the place seems to have more than its share of unsavory characters hanging around.  This is specially the case around both Metro exits (Gallery Place-Chinatown stop) and the Verizon Center.  Good place to practice your street-smarts moves.