Thursday, April 24, 2008
Clearwater Nature Center
I've been a resident of Prince George's County for 14 years and of Accokeek for seven. My favorite places are those close to heart and home. They are all nature-oriented, with missions of maintaining the environment.
First is Clearwater Nature Center, in Cosca Regional Park in Clinton. My children have participated in many programs there, as well as outstanding summer camps. And it has an awesome playground!
Closer to home are Hard Bargain Farm (run by the Alice Ferguson Foundation) and National Colonial Farm (run by the Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park). Both are on Bryan Point Road and part of Piscataway national park.
Hard Bargain Farm is open to the public for special events such as the annual Spring Fest and Oktoberfest, concerts and plays in the woods and the annual Potomac watershed cleanup, all well worth the trip south.
National Colonial Farm, on 200 acres of riverfront land directly across the river from Mount Vernon (and just down the road from Hard Bargain Farm), is open year-round to the public and offers special programs throughout the year.
Fit and Fun Aerobics Class
I recently moved to Prince George's County, and having two small boys (2 and 3), I quickly found many activities for young children but could not find any kind of fitness facility that accommodated my children. One day while visiting old Greenbelt, I happened to pick up one of the recreation guides for winter. Having been a collegiate cheerleader, I was eager to find something that was challenging enough (or so I thought). I quickly enrolled in a Fit 'N' Fun aerobics class that had babysitting for children. Perfect!
The first day that I walked into Judy Cocchiaro's class, I was a little hesitant. I had never done aerobics before with a chair (isn't that for older folks?). A good handful of the women were older than 50 (not to say I'm young, just younger than that!).
After a good hour of aerobics, including weights and step aerobics, I was sweating! I was so pleased that I decided to come to class religiously.
Don't get me wrong: There are a handful of moms my age, and it's just a wonderful class, no matter what your age.
The women are great, the older ones inspirational to us younger mothers. Judy always makes us laugh, and more important, inspires us to push ourselves physically. I have learned that no matter what age, all the women in the class are making new friends and working hard to live their best, healthiest life!
Lake Artemesia, Greenbelt Park
I enjoy two parks near me in which I love to ride my bike and walk for exercise. The area surrounding Lake Artemesia, which is beautiful to observe as the seasons change. It also borders College Park Airport, where, if you are lucky, you will see airplanes taking off and landing. Along the airport fence is the 94th Aero Squadron, which serves delicious food.
The other park, Greenbelt Park, is a good place to see deer, enjoy riding a bike over hilly terrain and watch the trees change color with the seasons. Any meals would have to be brought in and enjoyed at the campground.
Walking Around Lake Arbor
One of my family's favorite places is Lake Arbor. We have a wonderful walking path around the lake, where you can see groundhogs, rabbits, beaver, wild geese, turtles, cardinals and even the occasional osprey. It's wonderful to find such a natural setting in an urban environment.
Watkins Regional Park
I'm excited to share one of my favorite things. This place is a welcome resource, whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter. There are so many things to see and do because it offers indoor and outdoor activities for the young and young at heart.
The place is Watkins Regional Park. I have been visiting and enjoying the park for years. The train, wonderful carousel, putt-putt golf and Christmas in the Park are just a few of the activities I enjoy. This year I ventured through the park trying to increase my physical activities.
I was able to experience a wonderful running path and learned more than I thought possible about trees and animals.
Sports and Learning Complex
The Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex is a great venue to play. My mom and I took swimming lessons there. We had an awesome time. The instructors were very patient and supportive. The pool area was awesome; there is even a huge slide for the kids. On one side of the pool you can swim against the current for endurance training.
On several occasions we ran into people we knew. They were participating in classes at the complex that we had no idea were offered. The facility is massive and offers so many fun activities and ways to stay fit for all ages.
Melt Your Worries Away
My favorite thing is the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover. It is a very inspiring, healthy, motivating environment. When you walk in the door, you can feel the excitement of building strength and power. For four years, I have been walking around the free indoor track, while listening to piped-in relaxing music in the lower gym. I walk on the free outdoor track on beautiful days.
What really has me hooked are the classes offered with a health club membership: turbo kick, ab blast, core training, step, Pilates, quick-fit cardio. The instructors are very motivating, outstanding, constantly telling the group that we are strong, building a positive foundation for health, being a positive example for our families.
When I get into the pool and then the whirlpool, my worries just melt away. I am a stronger, more valuable employee and human being. Plus, the complex has a cafe that sells fresh salads, power drinks and water. In this world where everything is rush, rush, rush and instant, it is great to have a place to slow down, live, relax and enjoy.
Stress-Free on the Farm
The best place to relieve stress: National Colonial Farm in Accokeek. When you drive down this narrow country road to the farm, at one point the farmland appears, and the stress falls off your shoulders. You haven't reached the spot, but your soul knows you need this type of place because this country road transports you to another time and place.
When you don't see another living soul and just take in the beauty of the landscape, your heart knows you are in for a treat. The farm is directly across from Mount Vernon in Virginia, and the solitude and the peacefulness make you forget you are in the metro area. The farm depicts a typical farm in the 1700s with farm animals from this time.
The farm is a hidden jewel with an inexpensive gift shop, a walking trail through the marshland, picnic tables and a fishing pier. It's a place where you can take kids and let them run ahead of you for a quarter-mile and not worry. Whatever your fancy, bring a picnic, fishing pole, yoga mat, hiking boots or a good book to read by the Potomac River.
Keeping Busy at the SportsPlex
"Gorgeous" Prince George's County is one of those places you don't ever have to leave. Having two children, I must keep them busy. If we're not shopping at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo or Bowie Town Center, they are participating in exciting activities at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center (the centerpiece of the SportsPlex) in Landover, next door to FedEx Field. I have often spotted Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes on the gym floor tightening up her skills.
My 9-year-old, who took gymnastics at this state-of-the-art facility at a younger age, now loves all-star cheerleading. While my daughter is doing her back handspring tucks, I enjoy the rest of the facility. There is plenty for my 2-year-old to do, too, or I can sign her in to the SportsPlex child-care facility.
The Joys of Community Theater
Live theater has always been one of my favorite things. I discovered community theater many years ago and have been involved in several such local groups ever since. You don't have to travel far to see some really wonderful shows. The ticket prices are quite reasonable, certainly a lot less than most professional theaters, and you don't have to spend a lot of extra money to park.
My very favorite community group is the Greenbelt Arts Center in the heart of Greenbelt. The talented participants have day jobs and yet do a splendid job of entertaining, involving and sometimes even educating audiences. Whether it's a musical, drama, Shakespeare or comedy, it's always a delight to find entertainment so close to home.
Norma R. Ozur
Anacostia Tributary Trail System
One of the most enjoyable things I have done in the county is walk or ride a bike along parts of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, particularly the Northeast Branch, Indian Creek Branch and the Paint Branch trails, with a stop at Lake Artemesia.
The peace and serenity one can feel while strolling or sitting around the lake cannot be overstated. I've even unexpectedly seen a very large beaver swimming in the lake and numerous birds.
Concerts at Allen Pond
One of my favorite things is the Sunday night summer concert series at Allen Pond in Bowie. It's a great way to relax, and there is a variety of musical artists from week to week.
Bladensburg Waterfront Park
One of my favorite places is Bladensburg Waterfront Park, in historic Bladensburg, on the Anacostia River. I grew up in Cottage City, and we played softball and football at the ballfields across the river from what is now a wonderful and educational site.
This school year, the fourth-graders at the school where I teach were able to attend a field trip to Bladensburg Waterfront Park, and it was fantastic! We went on a pontoon ride, the children were able to observe local water wildlife in their natural habitat and there was an educational presentation about pollution and the Anacostia's connection to the Chesapeake Bay.
Exploring Old Greenbelt
Many of my favorite places are within a pleasant 10-minute walk of my house, in old Greenbelt. Where else can you stroll along tree-lined paths, past the entrance to a beautiful lake, tennis courts, ballfields and a state-of-the-art skateboard park, and be faced with the choice of the library, the well-maintained indoor and outdoor pools of the Aquatics and Fitness Center and the Community Center?
I choose the latter. Venturing inside, I can see the monthly art exhibit, visit the studios of the artists-in-residence and enjoy the array of fitness, arts and crafts classes and other programs. Particularly not to be missed are the award-winning, free Artful Afternoons, on the first Sunday of every month. They include hands-on craft activities for all the family, followed by a performance of some kind, always excellent.
Leaving the Community Center, I walk a few yards to the Roosevelt Center, where I drop in to the New Deal Cafe for something to eat and drink, admire the walls filled with artwork by local artists and listen to a live band playing on the stage in the back room. Then maybe I'll take in a movie at the historic theater or enjoy a play at the Arts Center. Some weekends, there is an open-air festival in the Roosevelt Center, with bands performing on stage and crafts for sale.
It's almost impossible to capture the spirit of old Greenbelt in just a few words, but it gets my vote every time for favorite place in Prince George's County.
Jazz at Montpelier Arts Center
One of my favorite things in the county is the Friday night jazz performances at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. Sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, this venue provides a very intimate and cozy environment in which to sit back, relax and listen to jazz.
Miles of Uninterrupted Trails
My favorite things are the Prince George's trails that run along the site of the former Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad. The five- to six-mile trail runs from Route 450 in Glenn Dale to the Patuxent River. Parking is available, and there are rest areas with benches, bike racks and beautiful landscaping.
There is a connector path from Glen Burnie that will take you over to an 11-mile, BWI Trail. Also, the Anacostia Tributary Trail System has a link to the American Discovery Trail. It has miles of uninterrupted trails.
The southernmost point of the trail is at Colmar Manor Community Park, and the trail extends along beautiful stream valley parkland. The trail links several neighborhoods to Metro stations, but if you need to travel faster than 12 miles per hour, you need to consider an alternative route. The trails are open to the public from sunrise to sunset each day.