There’s two things you should know about me. I love the outdoors and I love food. It’s the reason why I’ve called Atlanta home for the past three years. Okay, not the only reason, but you get the point. There’s plenty of reasons why I love Atlanta and those three years can simply be summed up by miles and miles of hiking, biking, running and brunching. Atlanta may be a lot of things, but boring it not one of them. Let me paint a quick picture for you.
The city boasts numerous amounts of green spaces and parks such as Piedmont Park (dubbed the “Central Park of the South”) and Stone Mountain Park, known for its trails and attractions, while recently making national headlines with the development of its “glorified sidewalk,” the Atlanta Beltline. Not only is Atlanta just a short drive to Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains, it also hosts the largest 10K road race in the WORLD. If running, hiking and camping aren’t your thing, in just a few hours you can retreat to the beaches of Savannah, Georgia, where you might even explore a haunted house or two.
But, I can’t stop there. I can’t not mention the nationally renowned chefs and restaurateurs that have made “the A” home.
Outdoors, plus, food, equals a match made in heaven.
So, when my family made the decision to move to Washington, D.C., you can imagine my angst. At first glance, D.C., doesn’t have much to offer except politics, the television show Scandal, real life scandals, and general uncertainty about statehood versus being the District of Columbia.
Basically, Washington, D.C. and I had nothing in common.
But, while the city doesn’t flaunt itself as the place for people who love the outdoors, I very quickly realized that while it may have a lot of secrets, the biggest just might be it’s the perfect place if you love the outdoors.
I’m not an easy person to impress, but with just a few weeks under my belt, I’m already enjoying the current and future opportunities to get outside and play.
So, just what IS the big deal??
It’s hard to miss the stations of red bikes sprinkled across the city. From southern Maryland to Northern Virginia, the Capital Bike Share system is one of the most convenient ways to commute and explore the city. For as little as $2 a ride, bikes are easy to pick up and drop off at your destination, or if you like, you can rent a bike for the entire day. The bike share’s website and other mobile apps make it relatively easy to find a station near you for a no-fuss way to get from here to there.
Although finding housing in Washington, D.C. can prove to be quite the challenge, thanks to companies like Walk Score, it’s easier than ever to determine whether or not a neighborhood is pedestrian friendly, and ultimately a good fit for your lifestyle. The higher the score, the less you need to rely on having a car. (FYI, if you’re living in Washington, DC proper, you may simply forfeit having a car at all. Finding and paying for parking can be brutal). If you’re like me and take every opportunity to get outdoors (even if it’s just to buy groceries), walk scores are a super convenient way to determine whether or not a neighborhood is walkable or bikeable.
The Running Scene [& Scenery]
Like any running fanatic, when I travel, I unconsciously scope out good running routes and paths. Like, “Hm! This would be a good bridge to run” or “Huh. I wonder how long it would take me to run up this hill.” Before we officially relocated, we spent a week exploring the area and my spidey senses were on full alert to size up how my running life would play out in this new city. Just a few miles into our drive from the airport to our first stop via the George Washington Parkway, tons of runners and cyclists were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather as they ran along the Mount Vernon Trail. In fact, The Trust for Public Land’s Park Score Index ranks Washington, D.C. as having the third best system of parks in the country (based on acreage, facilities and investment, and access). Atlanta is ranked 51.
Mountains or Beach? You choose.
If you could live near the mountains or the beach, which would you choose? Tough one, right? Well, if live in Washington, DC, it’s a decision you won’t be forced to make. One-fourth of the Appalachian Trail runs through Virginia, and Virginia Beach is just a few hours away. You can literally have the best of both worlds, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for.
Get Your Row On…
I’ve always been intrigued with rowing and row clubs, and there’s plenty of it to go around. You can find both in Washington, D.C., Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia with training and programs for novice and advanced rowers, alike. I’m already thinking about spring.
…Or Hit The Slopes
But, I’m also thinking about snow. Learning to ski, has also been on my bucket list and I’m committed to hit the slopes this winter. If you are short on time, you can be skiing the fresh pow in around 90 minutes. If you have a little bit more time on your hands, head to one of the more popular resorts, like Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Hailed as one of the largest resorts in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s just 4 ½ short hours from the nation’s capital.
As a home grown Southerner, Atlanta will always hold a special place in my heart. But, I’m looking forward to the opportunities and adventures that living in Washington, D.C. will bring. Look for more of my adventures in the weeks to come, as I dive head first into making the District home.
This is a sponsored post by REI, but all opinions are my own. REI partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its retail locations and products. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time.
Toni Carey is the founder of Keeping Balanced, a place where women can learn how to keep it all together, while living their best life possible. When she's not writing, you can find her running or practicing yoga in and around Washington, D.C.