Washington, D.C. holds so many memories for me. I grew up a stone's throw from the US Capitol building. Growing up on Capitol Hill requires the city play a character in your childhood. My front yard became a pit when they dug the subway for one of the very first METRO stations, and that year we tick-or-treated on a city-built board walk. On hot summer nights we brought a picnic to the Capitol grounds and listened to the free concerts by the Marine bands. My friend and I, committed dancers, gave impromptu shows to the music and even got written up in the paper. On fall weekends and long summer days, I rode my bike to the mall and visited the Smithsonian museums solo, preferring to take my time. When a museum is free and access is easy it becomes a wandering place of beauty with no pressure or destination.
The city and I had a parting of ways when I left for college to the arid land and sunny skies of Southern CA and it wasn't until I had children and started going back to visit family that I rediscovered Washington, D.C. Every summer of my children's lives, with the exception of last summer, of course, they have spent days and weeks exploring the city of my youth and making it their own. Now as a tween and teen they have grown up with a massive expansion of the city with three new Smithsonian Museums as well as several other notable destinations like the Spy Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and the recently defunct Newseum. Our favorite find, however, and a must see for any visitor especially those with kids, is the National Building Museum.
The museum is housed in a wonderful old building that has served many functions over the years but was originally build as the home of the Pensions Bureau, a memorial to Civil War Union fighters and as a grand place for political functions. The structure itself is part of the permanent exhibit and was originally designed to use airflow and vents as 19th century air conditioning. And why don't we do this now? Just sayin'... The exhibits are always interesting. The first year we discovered it, eighteen architects around the area were asked to design a putt putt green and then museum guests got to play all 18 holes. Amazing! Since then we've blasted into the arctic with multi story iceberg sculptures, fallen willy nilly into massive olympic swimming pool sized pits filled with white plastic balls, witnessed the truss engineered using period tools to repair Notre Dame
and so so much more.
As a casual museum goer I'm always looking for a space I can sit, have a good coffee and process and, as a mom of younger kids, that space really needed a place for the kids to safely roam and be free. This museum has it all!! The coffee shop is simple, delicious and the prices are reasonable. You can get a fantastic espresso drink and a cookie for the kids and pay about what you would at Starbucks. But the best part is that there are tables in the huge atrium, a space the size of football field, so I got to sip, read and process while the kiddos went wild. Now they sip and process with me reminicining about their wilder days.
My family no longer lives on Capitol Hill and getting there isn't as easy as hopping on our bikes, so we maximize our time. I couldn't do it without good pockets! For this trip I wore the Meredith Pocket Belt in black denim. The Meredith style's larger front pockets give loads of extra storage and a place to rest your hands when strolling. The added security of the secret credit card/cash pocket makes me feel extra safe knowing what I need won't fall out and the long back pockets carry my phone (and I have a big one!), hand sanitizer, my mask (when it's not on my face) tissues, my keys and the tchotchkes my kids scored at the gift shop.
With Covid still on the front burner, we especially enjoyed the latest outdoor exhibits at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
. I remember blowing through these exhibits when the kids were little and they wanted to BE a part of the art in a way that is not allowed in this garden. Now that they are older and more sensitive to boundaries, we spent a good amount of time, despite the heat and humidity, enjoying the quiet and being outdoors together in the emotion of the art.
Washington, D.C. has SO much to offer every age group and its so easy to get around. I didn't know there were places that didn't offer these amazing resources and now I feel so lucky to have grown up in such an amazing city.