We head out of Gettysburg and down into Maryland. For DC, we are camping in Greenbelt National Park, which is 15 miles out of DC in Maryland. There is a Metro stop within 5 minutes of the park, so it is super convenient for traveling. We head straight to the campground so we can get checked in.
It is after rush hour when we finally make it to the campground, so I convince Dad to drive into DC for dinner and to go see some monuments. Our first stop is a burger joint called Orange and Black. Since I’m a huge Giants fan and they had just won the wildcard game, I thought this place was very fitting even if they weren’t actually Giants fans. The good news is the hamburger and onion rings were fantastic.
Then we drove over to the Mall to see some memorials. However, finding parking was not easy. We drove around the Mall for a long time until we parked at Potomac Park. Dad was pretty irritated trying to find parking by the time we got there and I was mad because he wasn’t trusting me on figuring out where to go. But as soon as we saw the Lincoln Memorial, all that grumpy went away. Lincoln Memorial will always be one of my favorites especially at night. But this was even more perfect for us since we had just visited Gettysburg earlier in the day.
We then walked past the reflecting pool for the Washington Monument and over to the Korean Memorial. This memorial is very eerie to see at night as the statues just appear out of the dark. Although I’ve never been to war, it seemed to capture the feeling of the soldiers walking through the wilderness at night. This is a must see memorial to visit at night as well. Little did I know this was going to be the last of the memorials we were going to see on the trip. Rain was on its way.
The next morning we hop on the subway and head to the National Museum of the American Indian. The architecture of the museum is my favorite of all the museums of the Mall. The rest is too much marble and masculinity. This is the only building that honors and connects to nature, which was very intentioned on the design. For lunch, we ate in the cafeteria in the Museum. If you visit, DC this cafeteria is a must visit. It is the only green cafe on the Mall, but that’s not what makes it really amazing. The food are different stations that feature cuisine from several of the native nations across the Americas. Dad and I had pulled buffalo on flatbread from the Plains Indians. It was fantastic.
After lunch, we met Heather for coffee. Heather just recently married Jim who I know from TechEd. Since we went through Gettysburg, we didn’t drive through Baltimore to be able to visit both Heather and Jim who have been huge supporters of the journey. However, Heather was in DC for the day and we were able to meet at the museum which was fantastic. Even though it was a quick visit it was a great conversation and wonderful to meet Heather. Plus I got to wish her congrats on their recent wedding.
Then I headed up to watch a movie introducing the museum and the native nations of the Americas. This is the best way to start the exploration of the museum. I spent almost the rest of the afternoon exploring one exhibit – Nation to Nation, the history of treaties of the US with the American Indians. This exhibit was super educational and really filled in what I was missing to slight understand the relationship of the US with the Native Nations. The Native Nations are not fighting for their civil rights like other groups have done throughout US history. Rather, they are fighting for their sovern rights – Nation to Nation. This is a must visit exhibit in DC.
We then head back to the Mall and go over to the Air and Space Museum. Dad is wearing my backpack and they stop him for having a knife. He said, I thought you took your knife out. I did take out my small knife, but completely forgot I had my large swiss army knife in there. So I grabbed the bag and waited outside since I’d been to the Museum before. Later, I told dad, “What do expect, I’m a west coaster who likes to be outdoors.” But since we spent the whole afternoon in the Museum of the American Indian, Dad only has 30 minutes to explore the Air and Space Museum.
We leave the Mall in search of power to charge my phone. I’m meeting friends for dinner and running out of juice on my phone would not be good. Unfortunately, the museums and the area around the mall really don’t have a lot of options for charging. After wandering around for an hour we make it to a Starbucks and I get to charge for 30 minutes. They really need to add chargers to the museums. Keeping my phone charged was a major issue for me in DC.
So dinner with friends – we all meet at one place that is way to busy and head over to Stoney’s on L which was perfect for conversation. David, who was far from home was in DC area for training. Normally, I only get to see David in Washington state. So this was a huge treat. Janel, who I went to high school with has been living in the DC since she graduated college. It was so great to have dinner with both and be able to chat up. Plus, they both signed my travel journal 🙂 It also got my mind thinking that I’m going to need a vacation after this road trip, and I would really love to visit David and Jeremy for that vacation. Their home is the most relaxing place on the planet. We say our goodbyes and head back to the campground for the night.
The next morning, we repeated our routine to hop on the subway and exit at the Mall. We start our Smithsonian exploration at the Museum of Natural History. The rain has already set in as we are walking over to the museum, so we stop to snack at the Sculpture Garden.
So we have our treat and make it over to the Natural History Museum. This is one of the most popular museums on the mall so it’s super crowded. I have one exhibit that I really want to explore – the gems, minerals, and rocks. For awhile in college I studied environmental earth science, and if they would have had just a geology degree I would have stayed in that major. I love rocks. The gems were very impressive with the Hope Diamond, huge topaz crystals, and amethyst geodes. The minerals were also fantastic. I could have spent a lot more time in this exhibit, but it was so crowded with kids it wasn’t easy to relax and enjoy it. I think Dad was also getting antsy from the crowd.
We did sneak into the bone area before heading out, but again it was so crowded we just rushed through.
Next, we went over to the Museum of American History. As we entered, there was a singer who was gathering a crowd to come learn about the sit-ins of the civil rights era. This was the first museum that had that level of interaction with the public. There were three exhibits I wanted to check out in this museum. First, we went to see the dresses of the First Ladies. My favorite dress was from Mary Todd Lincoln. It was the same dress that I had seen her photographed in.
Then we went through the exhibit on American culture and how it had changed through the years. The exhibit included Mohammad Ali’s gloves from his match in 1974 and the ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz.
Next was an exhibit on how America’s relationship with food and cooking had changed since the 1950s. The exhibit highlighted the move from canned and froze food movement into the eat local and sustainable food movement of today. However, my favorite was the tribute to Julia Childs and her impact on food in America. She really created the foodie movement of this country. They had her home kitchen on display as well as all of her pots and pans.
But we were delayed from heading out of the Museum when we discovered the transportation exhibit the next hall over. This exhibit documented the move from horse powered transportation, to steam driven trains and cars, up to the modern era of transportation. The exhibit included the first Ford Mustang debuted at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. The classic cars and trains were fantastic to look at.
The rain had turned into a very light mist, so we headed out towards the White House. We walked around White House and saw it from the front and the back. Unfortunately, no sightings of President Obama or his family or Bo. President Obama was in San Francisco at the time.
The rain started to pick up again, my phone was completely dead, and both Dad and I were getting hungry. As we are walking we pass Old Ebbitt’s Grill, and head in. They find a table that has a plug for me to charge my phone, which was fantastic. In addition to tacos and clam chowder that Dad and I shared, I got Oysters from Maine. They were so much bigger than the west coast oysters I normally eat and super yummy. Dad did not dare to try the oysters since he’s a big chicken, but that meant I got to enjoy the half dozen on my own 🙂
To close out are exploring for the day we went to the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. These museums are open later than rest of the mall so we had two full hours left to explore. Honestly, that still was not enough time. The art and sculptures in these museums were fantastic. We tried to make it through all the exhibits in both museums. The champions exhibit in the Portrait Gallery had paintings of Joe Lewis and Mohammad Ali, which I had to get Dad with.
The museum closes so we continue on, but it is still raining and after this much exploring I’m tired. All I want is a beer and to rest a bit. Dad asks if we should head over to the other monuments, and I say we can but we’ve gotta grab a taxi. He said never mind and we headed to a packed beer bar to relax. It was so loud in the bar, we couldn’t really relax so we returned to the subway to head back to camp luckily subway stop was only a block away. But this meant we were missing many of the monuments and memorials including the Vietnam Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. That just means Dad and I both have a reason to return in the future.
The next morning we drive out of camp to go to the National Air and Space Museum out by Dulles Airport. Looking at the old air planes was super awesome and reminded of my Grandpa who would have loved to see this museum. My favorite planes were the Spirit of Tuskegee and the Concord.
After going through the airplane hanger, we turned into the exhibit I was most excited to see, the Space Hall. The centerpiece of this exhibit is the Discovery Shuttle. Growing up, I had dreamed of being an astronaut. It was why I studied science for so long. Unfortunately, you have to be 5 feet tall to be an astronaut so this dream was never going to be a reality for me. Yet, I still have a total love of space.
We finish the Air and Space museum and continue our drive south. We’re now headed into the southern coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.