Monday, April 20, 2009

Washington DC Weekend

I may have mentioned previously that I tend to get a little overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a day. If not, well - I tend to get a little overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a day. There, I said it.

So when we decided that we were going to take the kids to Washington DC, with the primary intention of going to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I couldn't resist getting a guidebook and making a list of places we should try to see.

Mike thought it was too much - but I was sure we could do it. And sometimes it is just easier to wait for me to fail that to try to talk me out of things - so we gave it a whirl.

We drove down on Friday evening after school. After stopping in Aberdeen MD to drop off the dog at his grandparents, and grab some dinner - we ended up pulling into DC around 9. The kids were excited to arrive and see some of the wonders that the DC area has to offer - "They have a Wendy's!!!"

My cousin works for Hyatt at the Regency Capitol Hill and hooked us up with a room there. It is an great location withing spitting distance (not that we tried) to the Capitol building.

We woke up in the morning and after a quick breakfast, picked up tickets for the Old Town Trolley. The trolley was great, the drivers are knowledgeable about the city, and they let you get on and off at a number of key locations. And no worries about parking!

Our destinations for the day:
The Capitol Building
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art
Lincoln Memorial
White House Visitor Center
National Museum of American History

Ambitious? Maybe - but I figured some would be sort of drive-by visits.

The trolley wasn't coming to the hotel for about 25 minutes, so we started out walking. We walking right over to the Capitol Building, and took pictures on the steps. Those pictures would be on Mike's camera, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Then we kept walking over to the Air and Space Museum. We got there just as the doors were opening at 10 AM. The kids enjoyed seeing the airplanes and space capsules and things. Tater especially enjoyed the Franklin Institute-like hands-on exhibits. He told me he enjoys museums where you do things, not the "looking kind". Uh oh.

There were a lot of interesting displays including information about the solar system, images of earth from different perspectives, planes, rockets, etc. Definitely a cool museum.

It was getting close to lunch time when we were finished there, so we went to the Smithsonian Castle for lunch. Not sure I would recommend that venue - but it was close and it was food.

My cousin, Kathy, joined us for lunch and then for a brief visit to the Hirshhorn Museum. Sprout had just studied Matisse in art class and wanted to see a Matisse. Since the Hirshhorn seemed like a small-ish modern art museum and claimed to have a Matisse, it seemed like the place to go.

And yet - not so much. I forgot how dark and demented a lot of modern art is - and much of the art at the Hirshhorn is of that variety. When we got to the hugenormous canvas of a, um...let's say "underdressed fella", we decided that was enough art for the day. Not a particularly kid friendly place. Oops.

At that point, the kids needed ice cream so we visited one of the vending trucks conveniently parked just outside the museum. Tater chose a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles Popsicle while Sprout picked a Pink Panther. Big fans of licensed characters. And artificial color.

Once the treats were history everyone was feeling a little more energized, so we grabbed a ride with Kathy over to the WWII Memorial. This wasn't on our itinerary, but should have been. The kids loved all of the fountains and really wanted to wade around in them. Of course, I didn't let them. Meanest. Mother. Ever.

From the WWII Memorial we had an excellent view of the Washington Monument and were then able to walk along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.

It was pretty warm out and the kids were beginning to melt by the time we started to climb the steps to see Lincoln. Of course I cracked my big whip (figuratively) and told them they had to go to the top and see the statue. You seriously can't be standing on the steps and not go up. Seriously.

Look how happy they were when we got there...those are some kids who are thinking their Mom can do no wrong...

After basking in the glow of this beautiful moment, we made our way back outside and finally boarded the trolley to get a ride to the National Museum of American History.

I had never heard of this museum before - or maybe I had, but I didn't remember. I have to say, this was my favorite and I wish everyone hadn't been so completely exhausted by the time we got there. The museum houses collections of things related to all aspects of American History including the original Star Spangled Banner (which is 32' tall and displayed in a dramatic black-lighted room), Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch, Fonzie's jacket (although we never found it), Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat, and a display about the First Ladies (with an enormous line that we couldn't even begin to think about standing in).

When we go back, I think this will be one of our stops when everyone is nice and fresh and ready to look around. As it was, we were there for about an hour and then the kids needed to be taken to a gift shop - stat - or else the Earth would cease to rotate on its axis. Could have been ugly.

Somehow they still had enough energy to explore all of the gift options in great detail. Gotta love that.

We finally hopped back on the trolley with the intention of doing a quick stop at the White House Visitor's Center (which would have been a pale substitute for an actual tour, which wasn't an option). Unfortunately (although actually probably fortunately) the Visitor Center closed at 4, so we were too late. So we just took the trolley back to Union Station (which has a mall...but we didn't go) and then walked back to the hotel.

We headed back out for dinner at the Capitol City Brewing Company, which was really good and more kid-friendly than you might expect. After dinner we went back the hotel and crashed. Long day...but we (almost) saw everything on our list. Yay, us!

On Sunday morning, after a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel, we checked out and drove out to Dulles to see the second part of the National Air and Space Museum - the Udvar-Hazy Center.

This one doesn't have the same kind of interactive displays as the museum downtown, so isn't quite as kid-friendly - but the massive collection of flying machines makes up for it - at least for the adults. Mike was quite enthralled.

There is an actual Space Shuttle, the Enola Gay, lots and lots and lots of other planes, and the Concord, and a Blackbird. This all sort of means nothing to me as a non-warplane-buff, but it was pretty cool to see all that flying stuff in one place.

Tater liked the space food and space toys on display. At this point he said he couldn't stand to look at any more interesting things and was completely focused on the point where he would be able to use the "penny squishing machine." Ah, the priorities of a 6-year-old.

He did think this thing was kind of cool. I think it went to Venus. But that could be completely wrong.

After we finished up (and squished some pennies) we went to Kathy's house (my awesome cousin) for a nice lunch. The kids were so happy to see they had a Wii. Apparently a kid can only handle so much history and culture before some virtual play is required.

We got home around 9:30PM - after driving across several states to collect our dog. It is good to have everyone back at home and be allowed to sit down and do nothing for a while.

DC was really an awesome place to spend the weekend. And although I might have been a tad bit over-ambitious, the FREE (as in no admission charges at ANY of those places!) access to so much coolness is hard to resist. We are already planning a return trip (someday...) to go see the National Gallery of Modern Art (the real one), and the National Archives, and maybe the White House...and the Jefferson Memorial...and maybe Mount Vernon...and the....

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