Throwback Thursday: The Smithsonian

spider.jpgI’ve had quite a few recent posts about my recent trip to DC. You might be getting a little worried that I don’t get out of the house much. I assure you I do not only leave my house daily, but even leave the state several times a year. However, this recent trip has so much significance for me because I a) got to take it with my best friend, b) got to visit one of my oldest friends who I rarely get to see and c) got to revisit some places from one of my favorite childhood vacations. Although the trip was only about 4 days, it was the triple threat of trips.

Saturday and Sunday of the trip were great because my dear friend, who is a reporter in DC, was able to have both days off to hang out with us. It was fun having our own personal tour guide who didn’t actually make us look like tourists. I didn’t have to do any planning or figure out the Metro. Where he led, we followed. And it was great fun and great food.

Sadly, he had to go back to work on Monday, so my bestie and I were on our own to explore until dinner time. It was on this day that we got delicious blueberry pancakes at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, a hole in the wall kind of place with crazy curving counters and a necessity for giving up personal space in exchange for some pretty tasty food. It was also on this day that we got to explore Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House, a real nostalgic trip for me.

It was also on this day that we decided to head back to the National Mall and hit a few of the Smithsonian museums. The first time I ever visited DC with my parents, I was enthralled by the museums we visited. While I loved the National Air and Space Museum for its space capsules and astronaut food, I was equally enamored with the National Museum of American History for the Star Spangled Banner flag and Judy Garland’s ruby slippers.

In addition to their simply amazing collections, which are contained in a series of splendid buildings which make up the “largest museum, education and research complex” in the world, one of the best parts about visiting any of the Smithsonian museums is that they are absolutely free. The same is true of Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House. It may be a bit costly to stay in DC if you don’t have a friend’s couch to crash on, and food and drinks are way more expensive than most other places in the country, but there is a darn lot of awesome, free entertainment in the city. There are actually 23 different Smithsonian places to visit, including some cool gardens and a zoo.

I don’t actually remember whether or not we made it the the National Museum of Natural History when I was a kid. It seems like a place we would have stopped, but my memories might be running together with the Field Museum in Chicago, which we also visited quite a bit during my childhood.

My bestie really wanted to see some dinosaurs, so we decided to begin our trip at the Natural History museum. As we made our way toward the hall advertising dinosaurs, our plans were thwarted. We ran into the same roadblock we’d found the day before at the Washington Monument: the exhibit is closed…until 2019.

I’m not entirely sure what is going on in DC, but it seems like some majorly good parts of the city are closed until 2019 or, like the main branch of the national library, 2020. Although, considering what is going on politically in this country, it does seem to make sense. The national library, a great place of learning and knowledge, closed until 2020…I wonder…

But I digress.

Although we were disappointed we could not wander around a hall exclusively created for showing off dinosaurs, the sign describing the coming exhibit did mention that bits of the original exhibit had found temporary homes in other corners. So, we set off once again to explore.

fossils.jpgIf you’ve ever wanted to see what any animal would look like stuffed, this museum will be Nirvana to you. There were giraffes, lions, bats, ermines, mice…you name it, it was there and stuffed. It was actually a bit creepy because they were both so life-like and so dead at the same time. We hurried through this bit and took in a more interesting exploration of evolution. We actually went through the exhibit backwards, so we joked about “de-evolving.” We did, get to see a model of Lucy, which was pretty cool. We also got to see some really neat fossils, which I had to get pictures of for my son. He is a HUGE fossil freak. He has several fossils his grandfather has given him and he loves them.

He also loves all sorts of bugs, which is why I know I will have to bring him back here some day soon. The second floor of the museum has a really cool live section, complete with a butterfly garden and several insect/amphibian/reptile inhabitants. The giant spider in the picture at the top of this post is an example of just one of the terror-inducing, I mean, critters who calls this museum his/her home. I took this picture to show my son, but just looking at it makes me shudder. There is no zoom and that picture is not blown up. That is the true size of that spider (shudder).

We thought about taking time to go in the butterfly habitat, but there was actually a cost for it (you get to feed them) and quite a line, so instead we just gazed at the cool butterfly hatchery next to it.


Because this is the natural history museum, there are not only animals and fossils, but also lots of gems, including the Hope diamond. My bestie and I both agreed that the diamond in its current setting is a bit gaudy, but I thought the history behind it was pretty darn fascinating. It’s hard to imagine that the diamond, which currently weighs in at 45.2 carats, was actually over 112 carats when it was first found. What is even crazier to me is that when the diamond was donated to the Smithsonian in 1958, it was sent to DC in the mail. Yes, that’s right, a 45.2 carat diamond was sent through the US Postal Service. It was insured, of course, and there is even a picture in the gallery of it being stamped. The insurance cost just under $150.

Although we wanted to spend a lot more time exploring other museums, I got horriblystone guy sick as the day wore on. We tried resting in the cafe in the basement, but my stomach was not having it, so we had to leave all too soon. On our way out we did pop into the gift shop where I got my son some cool dice made of some sort of stone and an even cooler jellyfish paperweight for my husband. We also got to see this guy from Easter Island.

Despite my rolling tummy, I was still able to navigate the Metro with relative ease. I even managed to find the tea store a friend had suggested. My hope was that a calming cup of herbal tea might help settle my stomach. Teaism provided just that and before we headed back to my friend’s apartment, I was feeling better. We may not have been able to visit anymore museums that day, but we did get to have some truly tasty noodles at DC Noodles and played Settlers of Catan well past my usual bedtime.




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Filed under cool links, cool places, entertainment, good days, my childhood, my friends, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

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