Whatcha’ doin’ in DC? Museums, Monuments & Memorials!

IMG_2542Never mind all the stuff that’s happening behind the scenes and behind closed doors in Washington these days. It’s still a great place for a little trip. In fact, with all the unseemly things going on, it’s actually a perfect time to go. Because D.C. is a shrine to everything that’s good about America. It’s a reminder of all the wonderful things that have been dreamed, designed, created, engineered and produced by Americans in America. I have to be honest- I needed the reminder. We are a nation of people who have pushed boundaries to overcome great adversity, invented innovative products and developed cutting-edge technology to solve complex problems, and created a vast array of arts and entertainment to enrich lives. We have found common ground during contentious times. Really, we have! If we can hold on to all the good, there’s no end to the amazing things that can happen right here on American soil. We just need to cut out the crazy. So, let’s cut out the crazy, ya’ll!  It’s really distracting and we’ve got a lot of work to do. In the meantime, take a quick walk around town with me and I’ll show you why all of a sudden I feel a bit more hopeful. Remember the future is rooted in the past…

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First of all, make sure you check your tickets and know which airport you’re flying out of. Because if you don’t and you have two likely possibilities you might have to scramble to make your flight. Oops.
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We stayed near Dupont Circle which is a great spot because you can walk almost anywhere. Even in the rain. The ceaseless, endless rain that doesn’t let up for the entire time you are there. Luckily there’s a CVS on every corner so if you also forgot to the check the weather before you left, you can buy an umbrella (or two or three).
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Plus, there’s a fantastic bookstore in Dupont. I always go where the books are and Kramer Books & Afterwards has all the books, plus a cafe and a bar. What else do you need in life? I could have just stayed there, but I heard there were a few other things to see in town.
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So we headed down toward all the main sites, but we stopped to say hello to the good guys. #muellertime
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Our route also took us past the EPA. What a relief to see it still standing.
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It was a total happy accident that we were in DC right after the Obama Portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  Honestly, I would have skipped this museum otherwise and that would have been a shame because it’s fabulous.
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Kehinde Wiley really captured the essence of President Obama. It’s a gorgeous piece of art. And it’s way cooler than George Washington’s portrait. Portrait art has come a long way, baby.
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This woman is everything I aspire to be when I grow up. Thanks, Amy Sherald for the beautiful portrait of a truly inspiring human and role model.
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There are a lot of other interesting portraits in the gallery and I can’t possibly show you all of them, so I’m moving on to the other side of the building which I loved equally. This is the American Art Gallery. The building is beautiful and so is everything in it.
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Like this Hockney. Wait a minute. He’s not even American! Oh well, let’s not sweat the technical details. And anyway, everyone is welcome in America!! Aren’t they?
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Nam June Paik was actually American so that’s probably why he was inspired to create this. I really like this piece- it’s called the Electronic Superhighway. It’s really electric (I mean that literally and as an adjective).
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We hadn’t planned to visit Ford’s Theatre but we walked right by it, so why not?
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Today it’s a working theatre so you can see a show just like Lincoln did, but you can’t sit in his seat. I asked if that was out of respect but the tour guide said it was to deter people who are tempted to try to recreate John Wilkes Booth’s leap to the stage. Hmm… I don’t know. Really? People really want to do that? But why? Because breaking a leg is fun?
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There’s a little museum attached to the theatre and you can ask Honest Abe a few questions but he probably won’t answer you. Probably, but you never know. Stranger things have happened (especially in Washington).
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If you’re looking for a cool place to spend some time taking a break from museums and monuments, head to Georgetown. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods anywhere. Is it something about the painted brick, maybe? The wide streets? The variety of available shopping and eating establishments? The general adorableness? I don’t know. But I like it. I like it a lot.
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There are several embassies in Georgetown. This one has to be the cutest. It’s the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda. I feel like everyone who works here would be very cheerful and kind. I don’t know why. Also, it had me thinking of warm, sunny days and how we almost went to Martinique instead where it would have been warm and sunny and not rainy and coldish. Not that that makes any sense because I don’t even think Martinique is near Antigua but this is how my brain works.
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My husband did his undergrad at Georgetown University so we spent some time walking around campus and helping him feel young again. I suggested doing a few quick beer funnels and streaking across the quad, but he demurred. I don’t think he would have liked me too much if he’d known me in college.
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There are a fair amount of awesome independent and funky shops in the neighborhood. Here my son is trying to figure out how to bring this sign back on the plane. Is it small enough to fit in the overhead? We don’t check bags for weekend trips…
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This place had a really fantastic mix of Italian products including imported chocolate that cost $47/lb. Note, that doesn’t say $4.70/lb. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Or maybe you like spending that much on penny candy. For me, it seems like an oxymoron. Or just moronic. Though, it was pretty good chocolate I have to say.
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If you’re in Georgetown you have to eat at the Tombs. It’s mandatory. Or at the very least it’s a tradition- so be traditional and eat at the Tombs! We did and everyone was happy.
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The next day, guess what? It was still raining. But what’s a little rain when there are sites to see? Soggy sites are still sites worth seeing.
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And anyway, if you go to Washington and you don’t visit the Lincoln Memorial did you really go to Washington?
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And if you don’t take a selfie and post it on social media, did it really happen?
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This is the new Museum of African American History. I can only show you the outside because getting tickets to see inside proved impossible. We tried for three days in a row with no luck. Gah. Maybe next time.
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This is the original Smithsonian Institute building and these are random people who probably just visited it. We didn’t so you’d have to ask them how it was.
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I feel like everywhere we go lately we run into an Olmec. It’s weird.
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No trip anywhere is complete until you see a Narwhal.  Also, no trip to D.C is complete without a visit to the Natural History Museum.
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Or the Air and Space Museum. In fact, this is probably the most visited museum in Washington. I’m totally making that up, but it seems true, doesn’t it? “Seems true” is closer to “really true” in Washington than it is anywhere else.
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This brings back childhood memories. I might have been here a time or two or three or ten. My dad was in the Air Force and we were in Washington a lot.
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It blows my mind that John Glenn hurled through the vastness of space in this tiny thimble of a spacecraft. How do you not feel insignificant? Oh, I know- because you’re making history, that’s how.
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Rockets. Woah.
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So many different engines and machines and feats of engineering genius to talk about here! This could have been a very long discussion but luckily I’m good at distracting (usually with food)…
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But I could have told you how this would turn out…
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Yep, with me capturing the exact minute my son decided he didn’t want to be an astronaut after all.
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The American History Museum is also very cool- you can see Dorothy’s slippers and the real Star Spangled Banner (but you can’t take pics so this is the best I could do for you). There’s also a 3D movie about the Natural Parks that makes you want to pack your bags right now and go. I’ve decided we HAVE to go to Utah next. Stay tuned for that…
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And there is an auto section. Of course there is. I’ve mentioned before that we always, always, always, somehow end up looking at cars.
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One thing I love about visiting the Smithsonian museums is that your kids are being entertained AND educated all at the same time and they don’t even realize what’s happening to them. They’re learning without even knowing it!
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Ok. the Hirshhorn is my FAVORITE museum in D.C. I love, love, love it. And, the “Brand New: Art and Commodities in the 80s” exhibit was a highlight of the trip for me because it was like seeing an old friend.
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Oh, this. 80’s glam life goals.
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Statement Art (obvious)
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Statement Art (subtle)
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Everyone needs something to believe in. I believe that it’s ok to believe whatever you believe. So go on and believe.
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Who’s to say what is art? Art just is.
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Phew! That was a lot of museum pics. Let’s switch gears. Books! If you find yourself in the Adams Morgan neighborhood check out this used bookstore. They’ve got really interesting used books. That’s all I’ll say.
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And then eat dinner at Bistrot du Coin. This is a really good not-fancy French restaurant that feels really authentic. You can walk in looking all disheveled from the rain and 10 hours of museum-going and no one cares. They’ll serve you an apero and some moules & frites and everyone is happy.
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If you eat a lot at Bistro du Coin AND you get up at 6:30 a. m the next morning to try to get tix to the Museum of African American History (and fail for the 3rd time) you can make yourself feel better by taking a (rainy!) run around (adorable!) Georgetown.
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No rest for the weary! This is the National Art Gallery. My son dubbed this one the “old people’s art gallery” but what I think he meant was it has a lot of fine art displayed in a classic style.
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The Newseum is across the street from the old people’s art gallery and it’s a crowd pleaser for any age!
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I like the First Amendment so much more than the Second Amendment. And I am allowed to say that.
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This is really a fascinating place that combines history with how it’s been documented and announced as it unfolded through the decades.
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The Pulitzer Prize Photographs on display brought tears to my eyes. Really and truly a  moving experience.
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So much history displayed here- all documented by mind-blowingly talented photographers. I can’t even describe it in words. The photos are the story and no words are needed.
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This is an actual section of the Berlin Wall.  Amazing.
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Next up was the American Art Gallery. There’s a giant Calder mobile in the lobby and a Jackson Pollock mural upstairs. We have a few Pollock knock off’s at home that my kids painted, but seeing the real deal is a treat.
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The Outliers and Vanguard Art exhibit was really cool. All pieces were made by self-taught artists during an era when they were totally underappreciated. I’m glad they’re finally getting recognized for what they are (which is a beautiful expression of raw talent).
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I call this one “boy who is tired of looking at art”.
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One last museum to round out the trip. The National Geographic Museum has an interactive Tomb of Christ exhibit that’s fantastic. It’s 3D and VR ( though not at the same time- that would probably be a bit much).
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You can also see Stephen Wilkes Day to Night Photography and learn how he captures 24 hours worth of images and melds them into a single photograph. I am way too impatient for that kind of thing, but I really appreciate the result.
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The last night we were in town we decided to check out the newly revived wharf district (appropriately named District Wharf). But it was 8:00 pm on a Friday night and all the restaurants were packed. We had a hangry kid who couldn’t wait 90 minutes for a table, so we didn’t stay. But this is an area worth checking out if you’re better planners than we are and you make a reservation at one of the hotspots.
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After we went all the way down to the water and back we ended up here, which was one block from our hotel. And it was the best meal we ate all weekend. If you are in town I highly recommend Boqueria for tapas and wine. And Nutella stuffed churros. Yep, you heard that right.
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So, I’ll leave you now with one last thought. Great things have happened in the United States of America and lots of it is on display in Washington D.C. What happens next is up to you!

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