We definitely got a taste of spring this weekend. I was bopping around in the car, windows down, showing houses, rescuing corgis and playing outside with kids. It is weekends like the one we just had that remind me to be a tourist in my own city every now and again. It must have had the same effect on some out-of-town friends. Some of them began buzzing about their upcoming spring trips, coming to DC to see the cherry blossoms and do the tourist thing.
For the locals, the phrase “going to the mall” doesn’t mean buying new jeans and hanging out with their friends. The mall is the place where Abe watches us and where our tax dollars go to work. Well, not all of our tax dollars considering the current government shutdown, but the rest of our tax dollars. What do I mean? The museums on the mall are Free. FREE! Did I say FREE? Perhaps this is why busloads of school kids dump off here all through March and April. As a junior high school kid, there was nothing I wanted to do less than go to a museum. But as an adult, sqeeee! Fun!!!!
If you are here for a while or want to get off the beaten path, there are a ton of museums – some free, some costing a few bucks, but definitely worth a visit.
Folger Shakespeare Library
If you are a fan of Willie Shakes, this is the place to see. Hosting the largest collection of his written works, the Shakespeare Library is also home to the Folger Theatre which hosts Shakespeare inspired plays. Tours of the museum are free but operate on a schedule. Monday to Saturday at 11, 1 and 3 p.m. and Sundays at noon and 3. There are a number of other tour options that are available as well. Located on “the Hill” the Folger is at 201 East Capitol St NE. The location allows you to do the classic Brunch on the Hill before you go visit Willie.
Smithsonian Postal Museum
Stamp Geek? I won’t judge. I married one. Though our toddler took care of his collection in one giant tear of destruction – literally a tear of paper that cost the equivalent of a semester (for her) at college. Good thing Real Estate Dad is chill because after wincing for a few minutes, he laughed. “Well, at least she had fun.”
It’s safe to say if she ripped my Guns N Roses VIP Tour Book or flushed Slash’s guitar picks down the toilet, she probably wouldn’t be here to tell about it, but, hey. To each his own.
The Postal Museum is free, and it has all sorts of things besides stamps. There are exhibits that show how the mail influenced our lives and kept us connected, and exhibits about the transportation of mail and how that has evolved over the years. You can also learn about the oft-cited “Pony Express!” The Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, which probably doesn’t mean much to you, but it’s right next to Union Station. What that DOES mean is if you happened to be on some trip via train, and you had a train change here in DC, you don’t have to go postal waiting for your connection. You could hop over to the Postal Museum for a bit to kill some time. (See what I did there?)
This is a pretty relevant museum to check out in light of the current battle of politicians and journalists. It’s no secret some journalists don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good story (looking at you Brian Williams.) No matter what side of the aisle you’re on (or if you’re in the back cracking jokes with me) there is a ton to see here. How freedom of the press and cutting edge journalism have shaped our lives is immense. Lots of ground to cover so don’t wear stilettos. Extra Extra – They are open during the government shutdown! And they are currently offering a discount on their tickets which run $24.95 for adults but are now 15% off, running you a cool $21.21. The bonus is you get to enter a second day free!.
Just at the end of 14th Street, after you pass the Mall and the Monument, and are just about to get to the bridge that takes you to Virginia, the Holocaust Museum is one of the last buildings on the right. The exhibits include artifacts, photos and video to retell the history of antisemitism and the impacts on populations of people. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but the museum does have an exhibit for younger visitors – the retelling of the experience from a child’s point of view. Bring your tissues.
National Building Museum
To a real estate chick like moi, this place is fun. It’s right by the Courts in DC so if you’ve ever had jury duty, you’ve been here! It’s not free, but at $10, it’s almost free. The museum is really family-friendly – They have a cool play place for the kids which runs on an hourly schedule and a Play/Work/Build area where kids can toss around big foam blocks. They currently have a couple exhibits including “Housing for a Changing America” and “House and Home” which is about – you guessed it – what makes a house a home. There are some cool exhibits coming up as well – “Secret Cities” and “Evictions.”
There are dozens more but we can cover those in a future installment. Right now, you have a lot to keep you busy!