Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last Day in DC at the Zoo

Our last morning in DC, we packed up, checked out of the hotel and headed over to the zoo.  It's a pretty dang big zoo!

We took several dozen pictures, but I managed to whittle it down to this collection for your viewing pleasure...

Of course some things were closed because we went at the end of December, but we did see plenty--though we would like to go back in the summer when everything is open.

And as per usual during our trip, some of Kendra's reactions to the animals were just too dang funny and/or cute not to capture on video.

We have decided that the zoo is infinitely more entertaining with kids.  :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day Two in DC: The Museum of American History

Our last stop on our second day was the National Museum of American History, and it was both Grant's and my favorite place we went during our trip.  And considering that about a third of the museum was closed off for renovations, I think that's pretty impressive.  There is just a whole bunch of neat stuff in there, man!

One of the most noted displays is that of the original Star Spangled Banner.  Like, the one that was flying when the dude wrote the poem that became the song that is our national anthem.  I was really surprised how emotional that was for me--I got a little misty-eyed looking at it.  We couldn't take pictures inside the display area, but a kindly stranger snapped our second actual family portrait outside it so we could remember the moment.

There is just a bunch of really, really, really neat stuff in this museum.  When they say "American History" they mean actual American History.  They didn't just have a sword from the Revolutionary War, they had George Washington's actual sword from when he was a general in it.  They didn't just have stuff from soldiers in the Civil War, they had the table and chairs Lee and Grant used when they signed the treaty that ended it.  It blew us away.

They also had some neat but less significant things.  Things like the original Muppet puppets.

The hat Michael Jackson wore in one of his videos.

A quartet of Stradivarius instruments.

When I was in junior high, the Smithsonian Institute brought a big exhibit of items to Kansas City and I was able to go see them on a school trip, and I actually saw this next item there for the first time.  But it was like 1994 and the camera I owned just couldn't capture any light to prove that I'd seen it, so when I saw them here, I was kinda excited because I'd just purchased a pretty good camera that had been taking amazing pictures in low light conditions our whole trip.  Behold: the Ruby Slippers Judy Garland wore while filming The Wizard of Oz.

And since I'm from Kansas and all, I had to snap a picture of the dang buffalo.

This museum also had plenty of interactive pieces to the different exhibits, which means that Kendra had stuff to do besides look at display cases.

She also particularly enjoyed the giant Christmas tree on display in the main foyer--she was pretty excited every time she saw a Christmas tree, actually, so we let her finally get a closer look at one instead of rushing her towards something else.

AND!  Stairs!  Ohboyohboy!

"My Daddy is the BEST.  He takes me up and down escalators over and over again!"

She also noticed something that she really wanted to ride...

And she was pretty disappointed when we explained that this one is just to look at.  But we told her that there is a place where you can ride on elephants just like that one, and we'll totally take her there when she's bigger (and old enough to remember it).

We meandered through a re-creation of one of the El stops in the downtown loop and an old car from one of the trains, so we had to pay homage to the city where we started our family.

They had really interesting exhibits about the American Presidents and First Ladies, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed those.  Apparently, the china is a really, really big deal in the White House (but since I already use Correlle and plan to for the rest of my life, I guess I just don't get it).  Here's a sample of Mrs. Lincoln's setting that was used for state dinners and things.

Elliot took the whole visit in stride, as per usual.

It's just really hard work being that darn cute.

And in the moments when he wasn't doing so well with his situation, Kendra always stopped what she was doing and entertained him.

It's unbelievable how big of a help stuff like this is.  Now that we're out of the crazy newborn phase, I often feel like having two kids is actually easier than one because they take care of each other in ways I didn't expect at all.  Elliot never cries very long when his sister is around because she always rushes to him to help him or play with him and it always calms him down.

While we were in the museum, it finally stopped raining and I just happened to walk past one of the few huge glass walls in the place that gave a perfect view of a pretty fantastic rainbow.

I'm not sure if you can tell in this picture, but it was actually a double rainbow, and while it was nothing worth crying over, I thought that it was pretty.

And so concludes our second day in our nation's capital.  And we had so much dang fun the first two days, we decided to stay an extra night and get another day's fun in!

Day Two in DC: The National Aquarium

It started raining as we entered the first museum of the day and we sort of hoped it would ease up while we were in the building, but alas.  It was a wet walk to the other side of the mall to the National Aquarium (which isn't part of the Smithsonian, but we wanted to check out anyway).

Unfortunately for us/the aquarium, we lived in Chicago long enough to visit the Shedd Aquarium not once, but twice while we were there.  This whole aquarium was only about the size of one small part of Shedd...but Kendra was still excited for some fish.

However, the very first habitation was set up for a special guest of the aquarium.  There are only 100 in the world, actually.  An albino alligator--they get killed off very easily because they're so easy to see, so they often don't survive into adulthood.  Kendra was quite taken with it.

So, we stayed and watched the alligator for at least 15 minutes...long enough that it was even worthwhile to let Elliot out of the stroller and let him have a good look, too.

Eventually we were able to stroll through the rest of the room and see the other tanks as well.  Kendra liked the seahorses.

And of course, the tank with Nemo and Dory and in it was also a big hit with all the kids.

So, it was short and sweet, but it was pretty fun.  On our way out, we stopped for our favorite souvenier--a smashed penny.  We get them pretty much whenever we see the machines in a place we visit.

Fun stuff.  Unfortunately, it was still raining when we left the aquarium, but our walk to the next stop was very shot.

Day Two in DC: The Museum of Native American History

While the kids were pretty good for us, it turns out it's still a liiiiittle bit of a handful being in a hotel room with people on several different schedules, but we still made it out of the hotel in decent time and had already plotted our course for the day.

Since the Capitol building was right across from our first stop, we stopped to stroll around a little and snap a picture.  Unfortunately, that reflecting pool was also torn up for construction, so this was the best we got.  It's a lot bigger than I thought it was, for some reason...

This museum was pretty neat, I liked the set-up.  Inside and out, it reminded me of the Guggenheim in New York City.  There seemed to be a lot of different cultures represented there, many tribes I'd never heard of.  There were lots of interactive screens in the different small exhibits where you could get more detail on particular aspects of that tribe.  Someone in our party got particular enjoyment from those screens...

They also had several different set-ups of many, many examples of different common objects throughout all the tribes and times represented.  I thought it was neat to see them all together like that.

Another random fact about my genealogy: my great-great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian.  She was won in a poker game.  She was my great-grandfather's grandmother and while Kendra's blonde hair and blue eyes don't exact suggest that it's in her DNA, you could definitely see it in Grandpa.  So I was excited to see that the Cherokee were represented at the museum and carefully read and watched everything in that exhibit.

This is just the sign at the entrance, there was more too it than this.

At one point in our viewing, I went to the bathroom and left the kids with Grant so I could do it without them.  This is what I found when I was finished:

Like father, like son?

There was a pretty neat interactive area for kids where they had all sorts of different things you could do to get the hands-on experience of a few aspects of the different cultures.  Kendra really liked the kayak.

There was also a life-size tepee but my shot was so limited you probably couldn't gather that just looking at the picture.  I actually got a couple of other pictures, but for some reason I feel weird about posting pictures of children I don't know on my blog...

And Elliot did was he does best...just be a lovable, adorable ball of goodness for the whole world to enjoy.

There was a fantastic view of the Capitol building out the window of the children's area, it was pretty neat to see from up high.

There were also several pretty neat statues throughout the building--Kendra really got into shouting at the top of her lungs pointing out the names of the different animals she saw on them.

Not a bad way to spend a morning, if you ask us.  We heard the cafeteria in the basement is one of the better ones in the Smithsonian because it features native food, but it was still pretty early when we were ready to make our next stop, so we opted out.  Maybe next time...