Travel Diary: Museum Hopping in Washington, DC

The best way to get to know a place is by not only visiting famous sites and local hotspots but exploring their museums. Museums can tell you a lot about the history of the place you’re in.

They’re also the perfect place to visit on a rain day, which is why for my last day in DC I ended up spending eight hours hopping from one museum to the next.

The rain started as a slight drizzle in the and then came down in buckets as we ran through the front door of the National Museum of Natural History.

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Henry the elephant was given a facelift in 2015 with a new coat of wax.

The Natural History Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum now contains different collections of plants, animals, human remains, fossils, minerals and meteorites. When you first walk in you’re greeted by Henry the elephant, pictured above. Seem familiar? This is the same museum that was featured in the hit movie series Night at the Museum. 

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Even though it was ten in the morning the museum was already packed with tourists and their children. We found it difficult to get through some of the bigger exhibits (mammals and fossils) but the crowd started to thin as we walked around.

There are so many animals to see and learn about you can spend an entire day here. We were here for three hours and still felt like we needed more time to enjoy all of the displays.

I was impressed by Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon (pictured above), who died at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens in 1914. Poor Martha! She was sent to the Smithsonian for immediate preservation and then put on display. Isn’t it neat this is a real bird? Isn’t it also slightly disturbing?

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Triceratops

A few weeks ago my niece asked if dinosaurs were real and if one was going to eat her. I don’t know why she was asking such a question or where her fear was stemming from but I made sure to not show her this picture. Even though Triceratops ate plants and lived 66-68 million years ago I don’t want to be responsible for scaring her.

This was definitely a hot display so we had trouble navigating around but the room is rather large so it didn’t feel too stuffy as we read about our extinct friends.

Airplane Coffin
Airplane Coffin

Have you thought about your funeral? Do you have plans made for when you die?

I think most of us consider the basics: we want to be cremated or we want to be buried.

But what do you want to be buried in? An oak coffin? How about an airplane coffin?

In Ghana, designer coffins are a thing. Who knew? I was floored as I read about this coffin. This specific coffin is supposed to add an air of prestige to death, signify the “mystique of travel,” and showcase the family’s wealth.

Unfortunately, the one exhibit I was really there to see–the butterflies–had an hour long wait and we were on a time crunch so no hanging out with butterflies for me! If you want to see the butterflies you have to pay a small fee and wait in line but I could see through a small window women with beautiful blue butterflies calmly resting on their heads.

One can only dream.

After three hours we tiredly made our way to the next museum, the Museum of American History.

My friend wanted to go here because she thought it would be all about the presidents but she was wrong. This museum encompasses all things American history. I’m talking about TV, music, art and more.

I mainly wanted to visit the museum so I could see Julia Child’s kitchen (located on the first floor). I love to cook so I have a great interest in different cooks and their cookbooks.  Thank you, Julia Child, for introducing us to the art of French cooking. I currently don’t have a functioning oven or stove so I’m not mastering the art of anything.

Get it? Ha-ha. I swear I’m funny.

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The first Mac

Since I work in TV I found this museum more interesting than the Museum of Natural History. Not to knock the animals but I find our technological advances and progression over the years as people fascinating.

I think everyone has seen a film about Steve Jobs so the first Apple Macintosh computer is something we’ve all seen but to see it in person! Jeez! The first Mac debuted in 1984. That was eight years before I was born. By the 90’s I remember dial-up, Windows taking forever to loud and by then our mouses were already sleeker and not as bulky.

Isn’t technology cool?

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World’s First Frozen Margarita machine

I’m positive Margarita is my middle name so I had to include a photo of the World’s First Margarita Machine. I’d like to thank Mariano Martinez and Frank Adams for this lovely invention. Inspired by the Slurpee Machines in 7-Eleven they adapted an ice-cream machine to make my favorite drink–frozen margaritas.

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Hope Diamond

My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the Hope Diamond. Maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit because all of the diamonds in the exhibit made my head spin. I need a raise. I think I need diamond earrings in my life or a ring the size of a tangerine.

The Hope Diamond is 45.52 carats.

45.52…holy

It’s one of the world’s most famous gems due to its size, clarity and blue color. Some people are convinced the diamond is cursed.

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Moccasins on display in the American Indian Museum 

After marveling at a few more diamonds and then getting to see the first American flag (no cameras allowed!) we only had an hour left to visit one more museum.

I visited the American Indian Museum in New York but was disappointed when I realized the Pocahontas exhibit was only in DC.

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Even though I didn’t get to see much at this museum I have to say it was very impressive. When we walked in there was a big area where a tribe was performing and teaching traditional dances. I wish we would have had time to stop and join in but I suppose there’s always next time.

Pocahontas

The Pocahontas exhibit was small but took up a majority of my time because it was truly very interesting.

When we walked into the room we were greeted with a timeline of the life of Pocahontas. I was surprised to learn we don’t have any recordings from Pocahontas. We don’t know what her voice sounds like and we don’t know what speeches she actually made. The only record there is of Pocahontas is a photo of her and that’s it!

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Yet she’s still this symbol and became a Disney Princess that little girls love and look up too. Can you believe that? Her image is used everywhere, from dolls, to movies and even Pez dispensers.

After checking out Pocahontas we had to leave. The museum was closing shortly and we had a dinner reservation. Tired and hungry we were more than ready to end our rainy day. Just because I haven’t talked too much about food I want to include the restaurant we went to because it was really good.

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Founding Farmers is a popular spot in DC and was recommended to us by a few different friends. People were waiting over an hour to sit down but since we had reservations we didn’t have to worry and were seated right away.

The food was delicious. We shared cornbread that had actual corn in it. We both also wanted to try one of their signature dishes and ended up with the chicken and waffles.

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I thought nothing would beat the cornbread and the maple syrup butter it had on the side but the chicken was extremely flavorful, buttery and crisped to perfection. Normally the dish comes with mac and cheese but since I’m lactose intolerant I had to go with a safer side (even though it isn’t dairy free either), the mashed potatoes.

Our bellies were full, our feet were tired, and with that our trip to DC came to an end.

Would you visit any of these museums in DC? What did I miss on my first trip? What do I need to see when I go back one day? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Pop culture and political junkie sharing her travels with the world.

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