WHAT IS IT? 100 acre Potomac River island that serves as a memorial to our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.
BEAUTY (5/10) Many D.C.-area sites advertise themselves as an “urban oasis.” Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of the few that delivers. You enter a different world when you cross the footbridge and step foot on the island. Trees engulf you, remove the traffic sounds and limit your sight lines. The dirt and boardwalk trails sing an undeniable siren song, “explore me, explore me.”
Openings in the tree line haphazardly appear allowing fleeting views of the city to the east. But these vistas don't reveal Washington's stalwart landmarks; they only show you boathouses, the river and Georgetown to the north. Here you have escaped the madness. Even D.C. denizens have left their ambitions, pretensions and hypocrisies at home. They just smile, jog and meander, perhaps transporting themselves away from their capital city home.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (2/10) The island has been set aside for public enjoyment and outdoor recreation since 1967 as a tribute to our most notable conservationist president. Would Teddy have enjoyed his time on his island? He probably would have liked his 15-foot tall statue likeness but wouldn't have come back much; there's not enough game.
CROWDS (8/10) TR Island was packed with a diverse and happy crowd: joggers with their dogs, relaxed fishermen, university students, bicyclers, families, kids in strollers, professional photographers and countless everyday people smiling and enjoying the beautiful day.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5) Roosevelt Island supposedly lives in Washington, D.C. The island is only reachable via a footbridge located near Rosslyn, Va. Good luck getting to that footbridge. The bridge's parking lot is accessible ONLY IF YOU ARE TRAVELING NORTHWARD on the George Washington MEM PKWY in the half-mile long stretch between the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge (I-66) and the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge.
Getting to that stretch of the GW PKWY is harder than it sounds if you are coming from Virginia. We have tried multiple times. The GW serpentines at alarming rates and before you know it you're at the Beltway. The simplest approach is actually from Washington, D.C. Take the I-66 TR Bridge across the Potomac, get in the right hand lane and stay in the right hand lane. Exit off I-66 and onto the GW. The parking lot is the next right hand turn.
We let out a huge sigh of relief after finding a parking spot in the crowded lot. WE MADE IT! You could also take the D.C. Metro's (subway) orange and blue lines to Rosslyn and walk the short distance to the Site.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (1/5) No bookstore and no Visitor Center. The park map indicates that the Site's only bathroom facilities are on the southern end of the island; an icon that frustratingly eluded Michael's keen eyes during our stay.
COSTS (4/5) Your island adventure costs nothing.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) No Rangers. You are on your own.
TOURS/CLASSES (1/10) Surrounding Teddy's larger-than-life statue are four large white granite monoliths upon which are emblazoned Teddy's anachronistic macho paeans to “The State,” “Nature,” “Manhood” and “Youth.” It is safe to say that these monoliths won't make the monkeys evolve.
These quotes are the extent of TR Island's educational offerings. The island is about relaxation, exercise and exploration; the Site never pretends to be a learning tool.
FUN (5/10) It is a fitting geographical quirk that you have to leave D.C. to get to one of the city's most relaxing sites. Michael biked through the Site's parking lot dozens of times while at University but he never crossed the footbridge. Now he knows what he missed and is sort of sad. This could have been his happy place.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (4/10) Should TR Island be at the top of your D.C.-area tourist destinations? No. Is it one of the best D.C. presidential memorials? Yes. It is a fitting tribute and encapsulates the exceedingly imposing aura of our beloved conservationist president. Don't skip the Smithsonian to come here but don't miss out on this tranquil place if you live in the city.
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