Thursday, March 24, 2016

National Museums of Natural History and American History

We drove in to see the National Museum of Natural History today.  Since we braved the crowds (not bad on the way in, YIKES!!! on the way out!) we got an early start.  A bit too early, so we had time to waltz on down to the tidal basin before the museum opened at 10.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a quick family photo, with the Jefferson Memorial peaking through in the background.

The National Museum of Natural History was fairly busy, and there was lots to see.  Leah enjoyed the butterfly garden - while Ian was a bit creeped out.

There was a tiny aquarium there, with everyone talking about "Dora" and "Nemo".  Regardless, Ian really enjoyed watching the fishes swim.

After a long day, we decided to take in the National Museum of American History, which is right next door.  Ian liked the ships and boats on display, in keeping with his nautical interest of late.

The top floor had a presidential section, and Leah gave her best at a stirring campaign speech.

Ian did, too.  Too bad they are too young for a write-in this year . . .

The National Museum of American History also has the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 - of Francis Scott Key and "The Star Spangled Banner" fame, on display.  I think that was everyone's favorite part of that museum.  If not, it definitely was mine!



Wednesday, March 23, 2016


After sunrise, I came back home where we did a bit of work around the house.  Later in the afternoon we all boarded a train and headed into DC to walk around the Tidal Basin and take in the cherry blossoms at peak bloom.

I don't know why the news folks said today is the official peak bloom day - the best is clearly yet to come.  Unfortunately, the best weather is not (though Thursday certainly looks charming).

While we were at the Tidal Basin, I took a couple of family photos.  Enjoy!


Huge mistake avoided!!!

I gave serious consideration to skipping sunrise last night.  But then I thought - I'm on vacation, I'd be really upset if I woke up and saw a gorgeous sky and knew that if I had only gotten up a bit earlier and expended a couple of calories I could have photographed the sunrise.  I am sooooo glad I did not give in to laziness.

I was one of the first ones to arrive at this primo location - tomorrow I will have to be a bit quicker.  I took the second or third train leaving the station, I need to be on the first.  The trees are expected to hit peak bloom today.  The sunrise from today will be hard to beat, but worth the effort.

Have a great day!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

National Gallery of Art

Today we drove into the District and made the short walk to the National Gallery of Art.  While it wasn't busy, it wasn't empty, either.  Although at times when people stayed away from the middle of the rooms, it looked like we had the place to ourselves from time to time.

After a good once-through, everyone had to choose their favorite piece of art so I could get their photo in front of it.  Leah really liked Thomas Coles' "The Voyage of Life:  Childhood."  We saw it early in the day, so the challenge was to remember how to get back to it.

Ian's favorite was this dark and stormy shipwreck/seascape, called "The Shipwreck" by Claude-Joseph Vernet.

Catherine is a Claude Monet fan, so her favorite was "The Japanese Footbridge."

Catherine managed to get me in front of my own camera (the horror!).  Turns out I enjoy Vincent Van Gogh (in this case, "Roses").  I think Catherine, Ian, and Leah have impeccable taste - I really liked their choices too - but the up-close look at how Van Gogh layered his paintings and the 3-dimensional appearance he achieved is just remarkable.

I've pretty well worn out the kids, they are asking for a day off.  We'll see...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Break in the District

First real day of spring break, and I woke the kids up at 6 to brave the drive into the Capitol Hill region.  On tap for today was the Library of Congress, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, and a walk by the tidal basin - if we had time.

It was a bit of a hike from the parking garage to the Library of Congress.  The kids enjoyed a sit on a park bench on the Capitol building grounds.

If you know your DC geography, you'll know that the Library of Congress is right across from the Capitol, and next door to the US Supreme Court.  The walk from the park bench to the Library of Congress did not take long.  In fact, we were the first ones there, and the first ones in line.

The upshot to all of this is, since we had a large group behind us and they waited for each other before heading anywhere, we basically had the entrance to ourselves!

Plenty of elbow room, and no distractions.  We made our way to the Grand Reading Room overlook, which we had to ourselves.

That was definitely NOT the experience we had at the National Archives.  We got to skip the line to enter the building, but then we had to jostle with everyone else to get a look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  The kids really seemed to enjoy it.  The walk from the Library of Congress all the way to the National Archives was one long civic discussion.

From there, we headed to Arlington National Cemetery, where we walked to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  We had about a 15-20 minute wait for the changing of the guard.  The kids did great, and asked lots of good questions.  I took a couple of photos well before the ceremony began (none during), pretty solemn duty they volunteered for.

Finally, even though the kids were already tired from all the walking, we walked across the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, then down to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the tidal basin.  The trees will be in full bloom in the next 2-3 days - can't wait!

We are still planning our shenanigans for tomorrow, stay tuned for more!



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

While it may look like it is all fun and games with the Skinners in Virginia, it is not.  Ian brought home a particularly nasty cold and shared it with the rest of us.  Catherine and I had the cold sweats, fevers, chills, body aches, headaches - you name it.  It laid us up pretty good yesterday, but I thought that getting out of the house would be good for us, so we kicked off spring break (I took the week off to spend with Catherine and the kids) with a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (the one by Dulles).

Catherine got us hooked up with a tour.  It was very informative, but a bit long, if you know what I mean.  The kids wanted their photos taken with the astronaut dude.  He was a cardboard cutout, not a real suit like Ian saw in Washington, but it still looked very realistic.

My favorite snarky thing I saw was this very confusing set of signs.  Is it an emergency exit, or is it not?

What I most wanted was a nice photo of the family.  I crowded them in front of the SR-71 Blackbird, and snapped a little momento to share.

Have a great day!


Monday, March 7, 2016

It is so much fun...

Ian had so much fun in front of my camera...

I was looking for a different kind of image, but this will have to do.



Sunday, March 6, 2016

Great Falls National Park

Catherine and Leah had a Girl Scout function this afternoon, and I was feeling stir crazy, like I needed to get out into the woods (despite camping last weekend with Ian and his Boy Scout Troop with another campout coming up this weekend).

So I loaded Ian into the car with our cameras, and we headed to Great Falls National Park, about 20-30 minutes away.

Despite the bare trees, the place was fairly crowded, though I can see it will be an absolute nightmare in the summer, if solitude is your thing.

Solitude is my thing, so I will have to plan accordingly.  The first overlook had some great little rock scrambles that Ian had a great time climbing over.  Nothing serious, but I know Ian really enjoyed it, because we went back to it after we visited the other two overlooks.

Have a great day!