The first time we took my older son, Ethan, to Washington, DC, he was less than a year old and it was a week before Clinton's second inauguration. The weather was like ten degrees out. Kelvin. We saw a few monuments but not much.
The most recent time we took him was last week. He turned 16 while we were there, and the weather was like 102 degrees. Celsius.
No, seriously, it was hot. And humid. Hotter and more humid than the jungle in Nepal.
This time, though, we saw tons of stuff. Way more than we expected, and everything was awesome. And accessible by Metro.
We did the basics like the Capitol tour (disappointing; we saw only three rooms and didn't see either chamber of Congress, which I'd hoped to see) and the Air and Space Museum.
We also saw a few unexpected gems, though. The US Postal Service Museum, for example. Free and shockingly interesting. Cool exhibit about the Pony Express, a very interesting look at the automation and logistics of this enormous organization, and a stuffed dog. No, really. A taxidermy-stuffed dog.
Another unexpected gem was Newseum. I'd never heard of this before, and it's not free like the Smithsonian museums, but I could have spent a week there. They have some awesome displays of original documents from the last three hundred years, a big section of the Berlin Wall, a neat video analysis of political campaign ads through the years, the most incredible gallery of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, and a moving 9/11 exhibit, among other things. Well worth the time and money spent.
My favorite of the week, I think, was the Library of Congress. What a gorgeous building, and all devoted to books and history and learning and creativity and culture. It's a true monument to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. We had a fun docent and got a great tour. I like this place so much I would consider moving to the Capitol Hill area of DC just to live in walking distance of the reading room.
Since we were in Washington, DC on July 4th, we thought we should see the fireworks over the Mall. Although it was insanely muggy and kind of hot, we went anyway, and I'm glad we did. Fortunately, the fireworks were awesome and lasted more than fifteen seconds.
We also visited the National Institutes of Health where my brother cures cancer for a living. We saw his lab late at night when we wouldn't bother any of the workers. Security was impressive at the gate, but they let us in even when they learned he was my brother. Here's Dr. Dudley showing Sam how to use the microscope:
We also saw many other things, some of which we photographed and some we did not. For example, the Holocaust Museum was astonishing and gut-wrenching and beautiful. The International Spy Museum (privately run) was fun and interesting, but I might have preferred watching a marathon of History Channel specials on espionage and spies from WW II and the cold war. And some photos from other places we visited:
I can't believe it took me 45 years to see these things. Even though the weather was terrible (if you ever go, try to go during the cherry blossom season even though I think it gets insanely crowded), every museum and monument we visited was beautiful and very well done. Be prepared to have water and food taken away (every museum had a security checkpoint), and be prepared to spend $15 a person on a meager lunch. But also be prepared to be amazed and inspired by the history on display and the grandeur of the experience. Simply amazing.