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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. After a brief six year sojourn, he’s back! You can see Jeff’s previous columns here.

Ed. Note: Thanks to commenters for clarifying public transit options – “Montgomery County Ride-On Bus 301 stops at Glenstone except on early morning trips before Glenstone is open.”

Glenstone is worth the journey (roughly 30 minutes from downtown D.C.) if you want to experience Smithsonian-level art and architecture, in a spectacular natural setting, at Smithsonian prices (free).  You must plan far in advance (visiting days are Thursday through Sunday, and tickets for July will be released on May 1st at 10:00 A.M. … I recommend logging on shortly thereafter), but it’s well worth it.  The art collection includes recognizable works from many of the most prominent contemporary artists – Warhol, Basquiat, Rothko, Jenny Holzer, Pollack, Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, LeWitt, Ellsworth Kelly, Duchamp, De Kooning, Oldenburg, Hirst, Kusama, Bourgeois, Calder, Haring, and on and on – but also features some really interesting pieces from relatively obscure artists.  And the art collection is far from the only highlight, as the grounds, the staff, and in particular several dramatic outdoor works of art make any visit memorable and distinguishable from any other art viewing experience. Read More

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. Jeff previously wrote about the Lake Barcroft Community

This month’s Blurbs from the Burbs is courtesy of my wife Reina: Just down the road from the home of the man who built our country is a home designed by one who built for our country. George Washington might have established our lives as Americans, but Frank Lloyd Wright understood how Americans wanted to live.

Pass Mount Vernon on Richmond Highway in Alexandria to get to the Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright home dating back to 1940. The house was originally located in Falls Church and was later moved to the site of Woodlawn, the plantation of Washington’s niece and nephew.

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The home is a must-see, not for its spectacular nature like Wright’s Falling Water house, but for its livability and genius as a place that all modern folks (with shopping trips to Ikea and even Design Within Reach) are trying to emulate. The house revels in dual purpose, from the planter outside the kitchen window at arm’s length to grab herbs while cooking, to the compressed carport meant to highlight the vastness of the open living room.

The Pope-Leighey House was not built by someone rich — Mr. Pope was forced to borrow $8,000 from his employer, because the bank felt that a Wright house was too risky. And the house contains only two bedrooms plus a den, but therein lies its appeal. The Pope-Leighey House is especially worth a visit if you want to see how things used to be built for Americans; and then compare it to how we live now.

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. Jeff previously wrote about the Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden.

One of the coolest neighborhoods near D.C. that few people seem to know about is Lake Barcroft, in Falls Church.  Starting around 1950, the insular-but-welcoming Lake Barcroft community developed around a gorgeous man-made lake, which had previously been used as a reservoir.  As such, the community has two unique features: a huge collection of stunning mid-century architectural gems, and a gigantic private lake useable only by Lake Barcroft residents.  Most of the homes for sale are fairly affordable, especially those that are not directly adjacent to (but always within minutes walking of) the lake.  For fans of mid-century homes, it’s worth a trip just to drive around the lake and see houses the likes of which you’ll rarely find anywhere else in the D.C. metro area.  And for folks who are willing to accept a slightly longer commute in exchange for the feel of year-round lakeside resort community living, it’s an amazing place to live.

More photos after the jump. Read More

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. Jeff previously wrote about the best ethnic food in the area.

Roses are now in full bloom at the spectacular Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden in Arlington.  The garden features over 100 varieties of roses of every hue, and definitely is worth a trip out to the burbs!  And if you make the trip, be sure to check out the Named Stones in nearby Bluemont Park.

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman.  Jeff previously wrote about Public Art in Bluemont Park.

In my first Blurbs from the Burbs post, I noted that I’d been pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of ethnic food available in Arlington and Falls Church. Now that I’ve had a chance to sample even more top-notch local restaurants, I thought I’d share more details on a few places that are worth the trip on the Orange Line. I note that in no way does this list claim to be comprehensive, as I’ve only lived in the area for a few months now. For example, I’ve yet to try any of the purportedly stellar Korean restaurants in the area. Here are my favorites as of today:

Hong Kong Palace

Hong Kong Palace is easily the best Chinese food I’ve tried in the D.C. area. The cooking is Szechuan style, and the flavors and quality are closely comparable to foodie favorite Peter Chang’s China Cafe near Richmond (which, by the way, I also highly recommend). Note that if you are averse to spicy food, or prefer your Chinese food covered in sticky-sweet sauces per the typical Americanized Chinese, HKP is not for you. The fried chicken with dried chili peppers is a must-try. I also recommend, as appetizers, the dan dan noodles and chengdu zhong dumplings.

Continues after the jump. Read More

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman.

Bluemont Park is worth a visit during a Spring venture into Arlington.  The park features a frisbee golf course, an amazing train-themed playground, a gorgeous stream, a vintage train caboose, and my favorite, this inventive public art installation from J.W. Mahoney.  If you are in the area, see if you can locate all of the engraved stones … some are more obvious than others.  Be sure to also check out adjacent Bon Air Park, which features a spectacular rose garden.

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Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by new Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman.

Following seven years in Columbia Heights, and 15 years in total of urban living, a variety of altogether unexceptional factors (desire for more space, stellar public schools and amenities, immediate proximity to nature, better commute for my wife, an interest in no longer being awaken by drunk revelers at 2:00 A.M.) triumphed over my initial reluctance to move to the western half of Arlington. The urban snob in me at first rebelled: after years of carless living in edgy, gentrifying neighborhoods in three different cities, would I be able to survive without the constant reinvention of the urban fabric, the diverse and quirky neighborhood fixtures, and the street-level energy to sustain me? Admittedly, some part of me feared transforming from the “cool, in-the-know city guy” so central to my self-concept into “minivan-driving Dockers-wearing suburban golfer guy.” Happily, I’ve learned that, if you look carefully, Arlington is not without its own idiosyncratic quirks, and I plan to periodically chronicle them here. In this introductory post, I’ll summarize what has surprised me about Arlington so far, and what I miss most about D.C. Future posts will more narrowly focus on smaller discoveries from my adventures in Arlington and Falls Church.

Happy Surprises:

(1) Between the options available to me in Arlington and adjacent Falls Church (I live near the border), I can eat just as well as in D.C., only a lot cheaper. True, Arlington has few if any offerings that can match the higher end of the D.C food scene. But the area makes up for what it lacks in expensive and stylish restaurants with its abundance of really stellar cheap eats, in particular, ethnic food. I’ve already found a regular Chinese spot (Hong Kong Palace), Vietnamese spot (Four Sisters), pizza place (Pupatella — basically, a way more awesome Redrocks) and Mexican / El Salvadoran (La Union) that in my mind trump any in their category in D.C. Arlington and Falls Church are also reputed to be chock full of burger, kebob, Peruvian chicken, Chinese, Thai/Laotian and Vietnamese places that I am eager to try. I am, however, still on the hunt for solid Indian, Sushi, and Italian options. I’ll chronicle some of my favorites in more detail in future posts.

(2) The film buff in me is rejoicing. Going to the movies in D.C. was always a bit of a nightmare. For such a cultured city, D.C. is strangely lacking in convenient movie theaters. You can brave an hour-long line at the Uptown, circle for hours before finding parking in Georgetown, or arrive 30 minutes early after fighting downtown crowds to secure a decent seat for a new release at E Street or Chinatown. Compare that to Arlington, where I can watch a classic film while drinking a few beers at the Cinema Draft House, reserve a sweet leather recliner and skip the previews at Courthouse Plaza, or catch a great independent film in Shirlington. Plus, Ballston provides yet another option for new releases.

(3) Trails, trails, trails. Because my prior familiarity with Arlington centered on Crystal City and Clarendon, I never really associated this area with natural splendor, or anything remotely resembling that. But it seems like I can’t go anywhere in Arlington without falling ass-backwards into an awesome trail or park. You can use those trails to bike virtually anywhere, and all without a hungover hipster nearly mowing you down in his car, or a delinquent kid throwing stones at you. Or you can walk endlessly, and find all manner of interesting wildlife and natural treasures. I look forward to more exploration of the Arlington trail network in better weather.

Continues after the jump. Read More

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