Hometown Tourists

Sitting outside the Natural History Museum

We live so close to Washington DC, but we never really go downtown.  Between work and school and sports and the rest of life, we don’t have a TON of free time.  But every time we DO go, we have a wonderful time and I always, always say we need to do it more often.

Since we had no school and Matt no work yesterday and the weather was a balmy 55 degrees, we headed downtown to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. 

Did you know that the dinosaur exhibit is closing in late April for a 5-year renovation?  We have been to the exhibit before and loved it, but we wanted to see it one more time before they close it and completely revamp it.  It’s kind of a classic.  If you can make a trip, you should totally go before they close the exhibit.

We drove in to town and got a parking spot directly in front of the Constitution Ave entrance to the museum.  Since it took us so little time to park, we actually had about 25 minutes before the museum even opened.  We took a walk around the block, up the National Mall toward the Capitol, and just enjoyed the chilly DC morning stroll.

Matt and Q

B and G ran around on the Mall

Aside from the fun of running around the grassy Mall and pointing out landmarks they knew,  there were some exterior exhibits flanking the marble museum steps that caught the attention of the kids and made them even more eager to get inside. 

OMG Triceratops skull

O was fascinated by this guy

When we got inside, the kids could hardly wait to see everything.  I love this museum because it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s designed for YOU.  Every exhibit is beautiful and visually amazing so my littlest guy is constantly captivated, but they also give tons of information about everything on display for the readers and fact-seekers in the family.  And it’s a free museum.  You can’t beat that.

We went through the Hall of Mammals and it was awesome.  We went to the dinosaur exhibit and it was just so cool–the kids were completely fascinated by the bones and the fossils and the very concept of how huge the dinosaurs were and how long ago they lived.

Q wore an appropriate shirt for today’s planned activity.  He kept “showing” it to the dinosaur fossils.

There were also a few extra exhibits we really wanted to see and gladly paid a little extra for: the Butterfly Pavilion and an IMAX show.

Have you heard of the Butterfly exhibit?  It’s a giant indoor garden, warm and humid, with everything butterflies love, just filled with hundreds (thousands?) of butterflies in every shape, size, and color flying all around you.  If you stay still, sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a butterfly land on you.  I would gladly have spent HOURS in there.

This was one of my favorite moments all day.  And when she opened her wings, the inside was almost the exact color of my sweater.  Maybe that’s why she landed on me (TWICE!!!)?
Matt made a new friend too!

We ate lunch in the Atrium Cafe in the lower level of the museum because, guess what?  They serve organic/local produce, grass-fed, antibiotic-free meats, and every dessert and soup and baked good is made from scratch in-house.  Instead of settling for crappy food because we were out and had to eat, we got a really yummy meal from great sources that I was happy to feed myself and my family.  B is still talking about her portabella and mozzarella sandwich with olive tapenade.  It was good.

We also went to a 3D IMAX show called Titans of the Ice Age (bonus–it was narrated by Christopher Plummer, aka Captain Von Trapp from the Sound of Music).  The kids were mesmerized and the story was wonderful and it was well worth the extra few dollars and gave us a nice break after walking a LOT all morning.  And we actually bought a Smithsonian membership (for only $12 for the whole family) that gave us a discount on food and tickets.  When we go back to any of the other museums, we’ll be able to use it again.

Who doesn’t love giant, bright red 3D glasses???

It was one of those days I know we’ll talk about again and again, and it was further proof that we really need to get into the city more, especially now that the kids are older.  We all learned so much and really talked about everything we saw over dinner tonight.  We’re planning more trips and the kids are really excited and it’s reminding me again what a cool area we live in.

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