The best way to finish off this Washington DC travel series is with a little fun at the wax museum. There is no historical significance to this post. It is just good old fashion fun. Personally, I love wax museums. Each one is different and usually specializes in what is popular in the area. Washington DC wax museum was all about presidents and historical features. So, even though we visited to have a little fun it actually reinforced what we learned during our time in Washington DC.
What can I say? My family is a bunch of hams! I hope you enjoyed this travel series. If you want to start from the beginning please go here. Washington DC was a trip of a lifetime. The memories will live on with my family forever.
It is easy to see the Smithsonian Air and Space, History Museum and National Archives in one day. All three are big hits for different reasons.
Air and Space Museum
Air and Space Museum is a family favorite because it is interactive and fun. There is a 3D Imax movie theater that plays new releases after 5:00. This is a great museum to hit after lunch because you can end your day at the movies!
Smithsonian Air and Space museum gives an excellent history of the industry, however it is not cutting edge. It you are wanting to see the latest and greatest this is not the place. The technology showcased id out of date. You will leave with an appreciation of how air and space has come. The hands on discovery area is excellent! It is a great way to learn about basic physics and scientific principles for all ages.
The National Archives is home to the nation’s founding documents. It is open to the public. There are no pictures of inside the building because taking them is not allowed as to the safety and preservation of the flag and documents contained here. In addition to the first American flag, one can find the constitution, Bill of Rights and 10 Amendments.
The museum can get quite crowded so it is best to start on the third floor and work down. My oldest was excited to find Kermit the Frog in glass case on the top floor. Though one would think this museum would be full of older items from our Founding Fathers there is also lots of pop culture that every generation recognizes.
The First Ladies Dress Collection along with each President’s China is fantastic to see. The china was an unexpected surprise. The stories behind the sets gave insight into the first families that have served in the White house. It is fun to see the correlation between the china sets to the dresses the First Ladies wore. You could see their personalities and a little glimpse into who there were as individuals. Some of the First Ladies opted not to get sets and use what was in the White house. Others just ordered more to what was there. The First Lady is responsible for hosting dinners and such. Having appropriate dinnerware is crucial.
There was another area that was fun. It was like the pop culture walk down memory lane. I felt old when I saw things from my childhood — like the “See and Say”. Julia Child’s kitchen was also on display along with Sesame Street puppets.
Of course there were national treasures like President Lincoln’s top hat and remains of ships that sailed into harbors during the Civil War.
Please check out the first blog post on traveling to Washington DC here.
Arlington National Cemetery is so much more than what the name implies. Not only is it our most treasured cemetery in the nation, it also has a rich deep history. The Cemetery was born out of betrayal and hurt. It was the home of Robert E. Lee — the General of the Confederate Army. Ulysses S. Grant was the General of the Union Army and friends with Lee before the war. Both high ranking military men that had an opportunity to lead the Union Army. Lee decided to take up arms with the Confederate Army because his state (Virginia) was a confederate state. After the war was lost his property was confiscated by the United States government and turned into a cemetery to disgrace him. Tours of the house are still available, however when I visited the home was under construction and could not be viewed.
Upon arrival at Arlington it is a good idea to pay for tram tickets to see all the grounds and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
Up until recently any solider could be buried at Arlington if they so choose. Today space is limited and their are certain requirements that have to be met in order to be laid to rest here. The day I visited there was a burial taking place and I got to witness a portion of it as the coffin passed by me.
The Tomb of the Unknown Solider
The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is an around the clock special detail military guarded tomb honoring those lost in war with no body recovered. The changing of the guard happens every 30 minutes.
Silence and respect are required while visiting and observing all parts of Arlington. The soldiers will address any unnecessary disturbances. It is best to put cell phones on silence when touring the grounds.
The Big Bus Tour
The only tricky place to get to while visiting DC, was getting to the Cemetery. We decided to purchase a two day ticket with the Big Bus Tour because it went to Arlington. I do not recommend using this form of transportation. It would have been easier and cheaper to use an Uber. The Big Bus Tours simply used the same lines the public transit system used. They do provide a nice prerecorded informational tour and headphones while on the bus, but a part from that it is a waste of money and time.
One of their claims to fame is that a bus comes every 10 minutes. In Georgetown we waited two hours for a bus and most places at least 30 minutes. Often the drivers would tell us their bus was full and to go to another bus in which the information they gave us was bad. There was no air conditioning and my daughter had a mild heat stroke at the end of day two. They also tend to pack as many people as they can on them and do not follow any safety precautions. City transit is air conditioned, faster, safer and more dependable. A complaint was filed and we did get a partial refund.
I thought this would be my least favorite museum, but I adored the Washington DC — Smithsonian Art Museum! Ironically my least favorite section was the contemporary art, but I still liked it. I appreciate art that incorporates history, social issues and creativity to invoke emotion. One section of the gallery did this beautifully. Some pieces offended me, but I still respected and adored them because they forced a strong reaction from me.
The Smithsonian Art Museum was so much more than I expected. A half day is all I thought I would need to wander the halls and see the paintings. My intention when I visited was not so much to enjoy it, but to do it because I had to as an artist. I grew up sitting in galleries full of oil paintings with my Grandma. I thought this would be similar only on a larger scale. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The museum was the most spectacular gallery I have ever stepped foot in. Here is only a small portion of what the Smithsonian Art Museum houses.
Here are a few pieces of gorgeous iconic art that one would assume would be in a museum of this stature:
American History Portrayed
The Smithsonian Art Museum is known as one of the leading art galleries in the world. However, it is evident that it is an American museum that puts a lot of emphasis on showcasing American history, issues and politics through art.
The Hall of Presidents
The hall of presidents houses portraits done of every American president. Each president choose who painted them. By choosing who painted them it also dictated the personal style of each and gives the viewer a deeper view into past nation leaders psyches.
Play on Lights
Some pieces are touring through the Smithsonian Art Museum including a series that uses light to create shadows.
The contemporary wing of the museum showcased modern pieces. My favorite was the life like image of a woman sitting at a table eating her lunch. I thought she was a real person for the first 20 minutes I was wandering around the wing. I only noticed she was not real, but a piece of art, when I got closer and thought how odd it was for someone to have groceries and eating lunch in that spot.
The Human Body
The human body was on display in many areas of the museum.
One of the traveling displays was a series of mixed media pieces.
The last wing I walked was my favorite because it showcased deconstructed portraits. The gallery contained art by Titus Kaphar in which the rules of portraiture are manipulated to expose the marginalization of African Americans. He takes historical Anglo-European portraits and puts African Americans as the subjects in them. Kaphar physically assaults the paintings so African Americans are not left unseen like they have been by traditional art museums. Kaphar pushes the viewer to confront the absence of the importance African Americans have played in United States history.
The Smithsonian Art Museum is a must when traveling in the Washington DC area. Allow yourself a day, drink plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes. There are lots of spots to sit and reflect on what you are visually taking in. Give yourself time and let the art speak to you no matter what kind of emotion it invokes. One art enthusiast I spoke with at the museum said that he hated the deconstructed portraits because they made him angry. I told him that is exactly why I enjoyed them. They provoked strong emotion.
Before we traveled to Washington DC, I had everyone write down their top three places they wanted to visit. My oldest’s picked The Natural History Museum.
We all thoroughly enjoyed it. The dinosaur section was excellent with two huge dinosaur exhibits featuring the skeletons of each.
Visitors were able to view the lab from the museum floor. . It was great to see paleontologists working!
We went into the butterfly exhibit and enjoyed watching four different types.
The Origins of Man
The Neanderthal on display was fascinating. He provides the first scientific evidence of murder. The origins of man exhibit was of great interest to us all.
The line to get into the museum can be quite long. However, the grounds are fun to look at. We could not resist a picture with this guy:
It took us half the day to get through the museum. We decided to take a break and grab lunch at the Pavilion Cafe. It had a great selection of food. The cafe was located in the Gardens at the Smithsonian Art Gallery. Fantastic views and food about a 5 minute walk from the Natural History Museum.
Smithsonian Castle and Garden
The Smithsonian Castle and Gardens were just a short walk from the History Museum. I thought I would be most impressed with the castle. It was impressive, but the gardens were the shining star at this stop!
The inside of the castle was spectacular as well! It is important to always look up because ceilings on historical buildings are gorgeous.
This day was my boys’ favorite day spent in Washington DC. They enjoyed it so much that later in the week they returned to the Natural History Museum to take in the exhibits they did not spend much time in previously.