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 The technology showcased id out of date.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.
The massive and powerful Lincoln Memorial is iconic of the National Mall. The detail is incredible.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial was my favorite on the mall. The shape of the building was different from anything else. His statue immolated strength and power.
The day that we visited was warm. The World War 2 Memorial provided an opportunity to take off our shoes and tap our feet in the water. Signs around encouraged visitors to do so as along as there was no swimming.
There is something special about this place. It was nice to pause, take it in and appreciate.U
Ford’s Theater and the surrounding area was my favorite part of town. It was close to where we were staying and we passed it almost everyday. Abe Lincoln is one of my favorite US Presidents. I remember visiting Ford’s Theater as a teenager and I was excited to finally take my three teenagers to it.
The first portion of the tour of Ford’s Theater was a fantastic walk thru of a museum three floors down. The presentation in the theater was great! It was a monologue in which the actor portrayed the head of the police department that was in the theater the night Lincoln was killed. Walking to our seats down the hall there was a tick tock sound in the background like a clock. One one side of the hall it gave a time line for the Lincolns. On the other there was a timeline for Booth.
Background on Booth
Booth was part of an eight person Southern sympathizing crime ring. He handed his card (a well known actor) to Lincoln’s security before entering the suite President Lincoln was in. Booth wanted to be known. In fact, Lincoln had seen Booth perform and might have been a fan. There is a possibility that he would have invited him into his suite.
Lincoln died 10 hours later in the boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theater.
Boothe was apprehended and captured in Virginia along with his crew including a woman. She was the first female to carry out the death sentence in the United States of America.
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Lincoln emotionally broke upon the killing of her husband. She buried her son and husband and it was to much for her. The nation did not like her because Lincoln’s first two months in office she spent $20,000 on her wardrobe and the White House when the Union troops fighting the Civil War did not have so much as blankets. No matter what she dd she just never could redeem herself.
Mary Todd was charitable and often extended a helping hand to to those in need. Lincoln often looked to her for advice on political matters too which rubbed the cabinet the wrong way. Her heart break and public criticism lead her to be committed to an asylum for a time. Mary tried to sell some of her gowns in New York because she was broke, but no one was interested. She was black balled by society and forever gone down in history as a whack job — which upsets me. it just goes to show that we need to deal with negative stigmas associated with mental illness.
The little home in the wall across the street from Ford’s Theater has the best little cafe upstairs over the gift shop. The Vietnamese coffee at Abe’s Cafe was one of my favorites that I had while in D.C. The shop was clean and picturesque with a perfect view of the historical Ford’s Theater.
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 I tell you about our lovely day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon I have to tell you about our experience with the Transit. Since we were in a big city we opted to use public transportation and Ubers instead of renting a car. This worked out great for the most part (and we discovered that with a party of five Ubers were more convenient and cheaper than the bus). To get to Mount Vernon we had to take a train and a bus. We had tickets at 1:00 to tour the house. I made the mistake of inquiring about purchasing a week’s worth of bus passes and the conversation caused us to miss the bus. The problem was the buses only came once an hour on Sundays. The next bus was not going to be there by the time of our tour. We called and Uber and it all worked out.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon is on the Potomac in which George Washington’s Dad, Augusta, purchased and built a house when George was a boy. He inherited the property and 11 slaves once his Dad passed away. George married later in life to Martha. She had a daughter and came from a wealthy family. George built on the 1600 square foot house his father built up and around it turning it into a mansion. He had over 300 slaves, yet was against slavery (or that is what the history books would like us to believe).
Treatment of Slaves
George allowed his slaves to visit their spouses on other properties on Sundays because it encouraged family bonds. His neighboring plantations did not appreciate that he allowed his slaves to do this, but George did not stop them from doing so. He also encouraged the slaves to harvest on his property and sell whatever they grew. George and Martha would buy from the slaves too. Washington allowed a few of them to have access to fire arms and would buy the slaves’ game.
One one occasion Martha was visiting the troops during the war. The property manager beat her slave dress maker when Martha was attending the men. The dress maker told him if he continued to hit her she would tell her lady. No record of if she actually told Martha, but she was no longer abused.
There still is a farm with animals on the property. All the animals are off spring of the animals from George Washington.
The Retired General and First President
Washington resigned as General of the Army after the war. He wanted to return to Mount Vernon and work the land. George Washington never lived in the White House. He finally retired in his childhood home. Washington died in his bed at the of 67.
Rumor has it that he was working outside and it started to rain. He did not change his clothes and caught a cold that lead to pneumonia that took his life.
Martha lived there until her passing. His nephew inherited Mount Vernon since he had no children of his own. His nephew and great nephew stayed in American politics. One was a judge. There are no living heirs of Washington today.
On the site there is a wonderful gift shop and restaurant. The Inn was a fabulous place to eat a meal. The selections are inspired from Washington and property.