Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Mall -- out and about on a Sunday

With Washington, D.C. so close now (unless you're stuck in I-95 traffic -- OY!), we decided to head up on Sunday (June 22nd), using public transport, and show the littles some of their Nation's Capitol! The last time LegoManiac and String Bean were in DC, they were 27 months and 15 months -- and, go figure, they don't remember much! Dh and I knew that this was going to be an exploratory mission and wanted to make it as relaxed as possible ... so we opted for the shotgun-approach hopping through different museums and not worrying about seeing everything -- after all, the Smithsonian and National museums are all FREE and we live here now!

Parking the car at the "park and ride" at Springfield (as opposed to the kiss-and-ride -- a name I think it too cute!), we gave the kids their first taste of Northern Virginia culture: riding the Blue line Metro from Franconia-Springfield right to the Smithsonian! They're eyes got big when we told them we were traveling UNDER the Pentagon, then they got even bigger when we told them when we were traveling THROUGH the Potomac ... it's so fun to see the wonder in their eyes even at such small, everyday things!

Getting off at the Smithsonian station drops you just in front of the "Castle" -- THE starting point for exploring the Smithsonian museums. It's so cool to come up out of the station and see the Washington Monument on your left and the Capitol Building on your right! What a country!

Since the boys outnumbered the girls -- I'm including dh here, of course -- we started our wanderings at the Air & Space Museum. This museum gets better EVERYTIME I go visit (I used to work in the District and my brothers made me go to A&S all the time). The exhibits are fantastic and I was even able to track down the "aircraft carrier simulator" exhibit for the boys to try. Bam-bam had to keep "peeling off" while LegoManiac "almost" landed perfectly. He was a bit embarrassed as the girl in front of him landed her plane effortlessly.

After a bit more than an hour of tottling around the A&S (with me making mental notes the whole time about where/when to come back during our next two-year study of American history), then we decided the hunger pangs could no longer be staved off -- we headed to the best spot on the Mall: the National Gallery of Art's "garden cafe" with it's indoor/outdoor waterfall, great food and reasonable prices. Seriously -- you can get a really good lunch for three kids and two adults for a bit less than McD's! And the ambience is wonderful.

Next stop (after checking out the Sculpture Garden where the pond in the center is turned into a skating rink during the winter) was a quick tour of the Natural History museum -- with it's elephant exhibit right in the rotunda (where if you look closely you can see the entire habitat of a jungle elephant including the dung beetles, rattle snakes, and the birds that eat the local grasshoppers). String Bean and I wanted to see the Hope Diamond (a girl can dream, can't she?) and it's even more glorious in real-life than in the pictures! A beautiful blue stone, with diamonds surrounding and diamonds on the chain .... what a gift that would be.

The IceAge exhibit and the Western Cultures (with it's overview of the societal progression of man from cave-dweller to organized community) are amazing and created so that the kids really enjoy seeing ... and experiencing different cultures and ages. Marvelous!

A quick snack downstairs in the "atrium" and we were ready to head back on the Metro ... after noting that this weekend (and next) the Smithsonian is hosting the Folklife Festival -- with special emphasis on Bhutan, Texas and NASA's 50th anniversary .... I guess I know where we'll be later this week.

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