2.8.09 Smithsonian Museums and the Monuments

Washington Travel Blog

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2.8.09    Smithsonian Museums and the Monuments


Today, we again walked until our bodies gave up!  There are not many unhealthy people around here for a reason!


It could not have been prettier today and we enjoyed our short-sleeved shirts with our light jackets tied around our waists.


Smithsonian:  We started at the “Castle’ for info on the 17 Smithsonian Museums.  They have an overview in the back room of all the various museums, although I would not have figured that out on my own as they were not clearly labeled by museum name, but we enjoyed the displays. 


Did you know that the money bequeathed for the start of the Smithsonian Museums was given by Mr. Smithson, who never even visited the United States?  How nice is that?!


Museum of Natural History:  We did this whole museum and it was hours of entertainment.  Of course, you could do days, but they did a great job of choosing carefully the best of the best to showcase.  The Hope Diamond and the jewels, the skeleton and mummy exhibits, nature photography winners, and the dinosaurs were winners!


It was so pretty outside that we got popcorn from a street vendor and walked up to the Washington Monument.  That tall monument was fabulous in the sun with the U.S. flags surrounding it and blowing in the breeze.  Everyone in the city was on the mall playing in the sun.  Who would think DC would be so warm in early February?  It was a high of 26 a few days ago (when the girls were sick), so we were particularly grateful for the warmth.


The walk down the mall to the Lincoln Memorial appears deceptively close.  The reflecting pool, while not quite so lovely up close, made a nice walkway on its edging to see Lincoln. 


The WWII Memorial had the water shut off in the fountain for winter but all was redeemed when we found Texas as one of the states etched in the marble portico.  We didn’t see any reference to the WWII on the memorial itself, but identified it as such by our map.


We finally made it to the magnificent statue of Lincoln Memorial, then enjoyed the commanding view from the top of the steps, and pet the police horses nearby on the way down the hill.


The Korean War and Vietnam Memorials on either side of the Lincoln Memorial are very sad and moving.  There were a few notes with pictures left at the foot of the Vietnam Memorial, noting that a loved one had been killed exactly 40 years ago today.  There are so many people still hurting from the effects of that war, and other wars of course.  War is sad. 


Then we walked up to the White House, reveling in its magnificent beauty.  It really is gorgeous!  We were so hoping to get a view of an Obama family member, but no luck.  It did just give me shivers of joy to know that nice family is in residence now!


The White House Visitor’s Center had just closed.  We missed out on the White House Tour because we didn’t make a request 1 month in advance.  Actually, during this timeframe, they’re not giving tours until mid-February since the Obamas just moved there, but if you’re planning on going, contact your Senators (and maybe Representatives too) at least a month in advance.  Hopefully they can put together a group of 10 or more on a tour.


With an hour left before nearly all the Smithsonians closed at 5:30, we walked two blocks to the Museum of American History.  We enjoyed the magnificent Star-Spangled Banner- yes, it was the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry and inspired the song!  This new exhibit is very well done, in spite of the 15th star missing (rumor has it that the star was buried with Lincoln, but since some fool tried to dig him up last year, they put 15’ of concrete over his grave to protect it, so we may never know.) 


Also, 10’ of the right side of the flag is gone because it was distributed as souvenir gifts by the owner over time.  “Hi, welcome.  Would you like a strip from my flag?”  That is a different kind of hostess gift for sure!  But the family’s gift of the flag to the museum was generous and the painstaking restoration well-done.


We also enjoyed Lincoln exhibit, including the top hat he wore to Ford’s Theatre the night he was assassinated.  There were so many people in this exhibit that we finally had to exit the way we’d entered.


The First Ladies’ inauguration dresses did not yet include Mrs. Obamas and in fact, there were only about 10 dresses on display.  But they were dazzling and the displays in all the museums are of course, first class. 


Americans can be really proud of our Smithsonian Museums and amazing architecture of the grand buildings in Washington.  If anything, we were awestruck by the beauty of our nation’s capital.  The streets are clean, buildings sparkling, landscapes groomed, and people sophisticated, nice and helpful.  It is a lovely city and we have really enjoyed our time here so far.


We think that one more day of touring will allow us to see the Museum of Air and Space, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and take our 4:30pm tour of the Kennedy Center that Senator Hutchison's office arranged for us. 


I admit that we are very tired.  We need better shoes with more support.  Cities are tiring.  We cannot see all that we’d like, but I do think we’re getting to see the best of the best on this overview tour.  Hopefully, we’ll have opportunity to tour in future years. 


It has been a terrific trip to our nation’s capital- better than I had dared hope!

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