Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Doing the Smithsonians

We were only able to hit a few Smithsonian museums on our visit, and we left a lot unseen at each of them, unfortunately. We hit a couple major ones, and a few less known locations. Each of the following locations had free admission.*

         -Botanical Gardens – So this is not technically part of the Smithsonians I don’t think, but it’s right on the mall, between the Capitol and the American Indian Museum (someday I will get to this one). This isn’t a place I can spend a ton of time, but there are some really cool areas, including a children’s garden where kids can dig and water plants, a balcony walk through a rain forest area, and a medicinal plants (all joking aside) section that are really interesting. My favorite, however, would be the orchid section, which is beautiful. The kids enjoyed the watering and digging, but 45 minutes here was plenty for them.

         -US History – this was actually the first place we visited. Our first stop was walking through the wars of US history, starting with the American Revolution. We quickly realized, after taking time to stop at each exhibit and explain it to the kids that we needed to choose between depth and breadth. In the classroom, I would go with depth. On our whirlwind tour of DC, we chose breadth. After about an hour in the “wars/conflicts” section, we knocked out First Ladies exhibit, gun boat, American Presidency, coins, and a new farm to table exhibit in about another hour. After convincing the kids that we didn’t have to spend their shopping money at our first stop, we took off to the Natural History museum.

         -Natural History – I had never been here until about a year ago, and it now easily ranks among my favorite all-time museums. We made it to the second museum before the kids opted to spend their money on stuffed tigers. The animal exhibits were among their favorite, although the dinosaurs and gemstones ranked pretty high up, as well. They weren’t as excited as I was about the Egyptian remains or the human genetics areas. We took the obligatory “shark mouth” photos and made sure we saw the penguins before leaving this one. The giant elephant that generally sits in the rotunda was under construction, so that was a little disappointing. We were able to show them from the second floor balcony, but it loses a little something when it’s behind a large barricade.

         -Air and Space Annex – Last year was also the first time I’d visited the Air & Space museum, and I liked it so much I immediately added it to our list with the kids. That was until Mark suggested the Air & Space Annex at Dulles. Here’s where the * from above comes in. The museum is free, but parking is $15. It’s totally worth $15, but it does need to be noted, especially when you think you’re doing the “free” Smithsonian stuff like the zoo. While the museum on the mall is cool, the Annex is home to the Discovery space shuttle (yeah, like the real one that was in *SPACE*), the Enola Gay (yeah, like the real one that dropped atomic bombs), several Nazi fighter planes, an air and space restoration bay where they are working on old planes, and numerous other bada** planes. They also had several interactive exhibits for the kids to check out, along with flight simulators you could ride in. J could have spent several more hours there, but we had tickets to go see the Minions movie.

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