Thanksgiving in Washington, DC Day Two: White House Visitor’s Center, African American Museum of History and Culture, Smithsonian Castle, National Air & Space Museum, United States Botanic Garden, Monuments By Moonlight

We hit the ground running on the morning of Day Two. We passed Old Ebbitt Grill – the oldest saloon in DC. Blinky could not resist posing with its larger-than-life Nutcrackers.

White House

We made a beeline for the South Lawn of the White House. The weather did little to deter tourists but we were able to take a few memorable photos.

Directly across the South Lawn is the National Christmas Tree which was still being set up. In the background, it’s hard to miss the ubiquitous Washington Monument.

White House Visitor’s Center

At the White House Visitor’s Center, we learned about the history, architecture, and inhabitants of the White House. There were a few interactive exhibits and approximately 100 artifacts on display including jewelry and china. At the very back the video White House: Reflections From Within played on a loop. The Center belongs to the National Park Service so we were able to get our passports stamped. And of course, I found an ornament to add to our collection.

African American Museum of History and Culture

Our next stop was the African American Museum of History and Culture – the only museum dedicated exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history, and culture. The museum houses Nat Turner’s bible, Harriet Tubman’s hymnal, guard tower from the Angola prison, segregation-era Louisiana railway car, and much more.

There are four levels to explore. Upon entry, the Museum Guide recommended we stick with the upper two levels which are family-friendly, as lower two, which focuses heavily on slavery and the Jim Crow era, could cause emotional trauma. We did as she suggested, deciding to save the lower levels for an adult-only visit.

One of the activities we enjoyed most was a simulated car ride which required the use of The Green Book. The Green Book was an annual guide for African American drivers recommending safe facilities for Black travelers which was in use from the 1930s to the 1960s. Afterward, I asked the kids if we had to make any of those decisions to get to DC. Of course, they answered “no,” but the point was made.

We ended our visit in Contemplative Court with a cylindrical fountain in the foreground and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr,’s quote, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” in the background. Once inside, everyone became noticeably quiet, lost in their thoughts. I imagine it was a tough visit for some. Contemplative Court provided a place to meditate and thank those that came before us.

Smithsonian Castle

Blinky and I made a quick stop in the Smithsonian Castle while the boys went ahead to the National Air and Space Museum.

The Smithsonian Castle was the original Smithsonian. Completed in 1885 with a generous donation from the estate of James Smithson, it now houses the Visitor Center featuring artifacts from all of its museums, and administrative offices. James Smithson’s remains are housed in the crypt in the castle.

The Smithsonian Castle

National Air and Space Museum

We joined the boys at the National Air and Space Museum. At least half of the facility was under construction, so many of the exhibits were closed. However, we did get to see the Sky Lab and the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Botanic Garden

In trying to fit as much as we could in a short amount of time, the United States Botanic Garden did not make our tier-one cut. However, it was a short walk away and open for another hour. So we stopped by and raced through. What a treat!

The United States Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America and informs visitors about the importance, value, and diversity of plants. It also teaches visitors about their aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic and ecological importance.

The annual Season’s Greenings: America’s Gardens were on display. It features gardens from Hawaii to Maine and includes iconic spots like the Jefferson Memorial, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Franklin Park Conservatory.

Stinky and Blinky took part in a cocoa bean demonstration and chocolate tasting.

And I lost myself in the gardens; inside and out.

I wish we had more time here. Capitol Police practically had to drag us away at closing.

FBI Building

We walked past the FBI Building and had a good laugh. Stinky noticed the cameras all over the building and decide to take a picture of each one. When he got to the last one, he said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I got in trouble for this?” Just then a police officer raced out of the building headed our way. We all froze! But the police officer sailed past us toward a squad car. Some thirty seconds later, another police officer on an electric bicycle rode by and came to a screeching halt just shy of the squad car. Stinky quickly packed up his iPad and we went on our merry way. A block later, we were rolling with laughter.

Monuments by Moonlight Tour

We ended a very long, but enjoyable day with a Monuments By Moonlight tour. This is a great way to get up close and personal with the monuments, with little to no crowds. And illuminated, the monuments take on an ethereal glow. We met our trolley at the beautiful Union Station. Our driver took us through the city and stopped at:

  • FDR Memorial
  • Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
  • Korean War Memorial
  • Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial

Our driver Steve was engaging and the journey was very superb! It was a fantastic way to end the day!

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