If you want to include a bit of LBJ Texana when you are visiting Washington, don’t look in the U.S. Capitol “corridors of power” where Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) once reigned supreme as “Master of the Senate;” and from 1963-69 served as the 37th president of the United States.
Instead, visit 17 acres of the quiet Virginia shore of the beautiful Potomac River between the airport and downtown Washington, for a memorial to America’s third president from Texas; and nearby, a separate memorial to his wife Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007).
Public transportation via bus or Metro to either memorial is difficult, and maneuvering a vehicle on George Washington Parkway to find the entrances (available only southbound) is challenging. Although you cannot disembark shoreline at the site, I was able to get a fairly good view from one of the tourist boats that leave Georgetown’s vibrant Washington Harbor hourly from April to October.
Lady Bird partnered with landscape architect Made Palmer to plan her husband’s grove with two sections.
A 19-foot red granite stone quarried in Texas, dominates the commemorative area, surrounded by a grove of pine trees. The second section is a grassy meadow encircled by a stroll path “reflecting … the solace LBJ found in nature and the outdoors,” says the official text.
The artistry of landscape architects for Lady Bird’s memorial, according to the official text “is a bit like the finale of a fireworks display. Thousands of daffodils and hundreds of tulips trumpet the arrival of each spring. Careful compositions of bright hardwood trees highlight the best of all foliage.”
Lady Bird shares the space, so to speak, with the 35-foot tall Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial sculpture honoring those (with) “strong souls and ready valor” who died at sea during World War I.
Embarking at Washington Harbor, I chose the bargain $15 fare on National River Tours, for a 45-minute narrated tour of Washington from the Potomac river — a perspective I had never seen. Online there are many other boat tour companies and night tours with meals from the docks at K Street and 30th Street N.W.
Washington Harbor makes a very family friendly, fun, inexpensive, accessible day trip. Tables with umbrellas from multiple restaurants spill out over the boardwalk, which extends down to the Kennedy Center. Dogs, children, shoreline “fisher persons” and musicians mingle, creating a European ambience. Muscled crews in skulls share the river with dozens of paddle boarders and a few power boats. Two blocks up to Wisconsin Avenue, the shops and shady cobblestone streets of Georgetown’s magnificent historic homes beckon walkers.
As the sun dropped toward the horizon, I took the boardwalk partway along the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center for their everyday 6 p.m. free performances.