Photo by Lawrence OP on Flickr,

We spend a lot of time here thinking about ways to make Washington greater, which makes us good at finding fault. It’s important every now and then to celebrate what we do have, and the hard-working public servants who make it all possible.

Everyone has their own things they love about the city and the surrounding area, things we don’t appreciate enough. Here’s a quick list of my personal under-appreciated amenities.

National Aquarium. DC’s branch of the National Aquarium (NADC) may be the ugly stepsister to the larger and more glamorous National Aquarium in Baltimore (NIB), but it is a perfect place to bring young kids whose attention span is well suited to the limited number of exhibits and compact floor plan and for DC residents who don’t want to spend the time and money on a big trip to Baltimore.

A few years ago the aquarium brought in new curators who did a great job redecorating the space, updating the exhibit labels, and giving the exhibits a coherent theme. With more visitors, this facility could generate enough revenue to move to a more attractive location.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Public libraries. I don’t know what it is but I find libraries relaxing. DC has a wonderful new branch in Shaw. The Montgomery County libraries are excellent. Even the homeless people in DC’s downtown ML King branch seem to be using the building as a refuge to get clean and refreshed and access books and computers.

Rec centers. Sure, we don’t have a backyard with a swingset and room for soccer goals but our son has half a dozen parks he can walk to or ride his bike to, where there are ballfields, basketball courts, swings, and slides. And there are plenty of opportunities to meet neighbors and make new friends.

Aquatic facilities. Turkey Thicket, Takoma, and the fancy new Wilson Aquatic Center are all places where I can go and get exhausted after just a few laps and there are appropriate places for kids to play and get comfortable in the water, maybe take swim lessons and get exercise and have fun. In the summer the options increase as the outdoor pools open their doors.

Photo by thumeco on Flickr.

National Arboretum. Totally underappreciated and beautiful.

Bike paths and trails. Northern Virginia really has enviable bike trails within easy reach of area residents. DC’s system of lanes and trails is also something to be grateful for, especially the recent expansion that has opened up cycling as a commuting option for many residents.

There’s lots to be grateful for. What are you thankful for this holiday?