Thursday, February 2, 2012

American History Museum, Abbreviated

Our latest museum trek was on Sunday, when my mother-in-law and I took the boys downtown to the National Museum of American History. We drove to the metro station and hopped on the very front of the train like last time. It actually makes the trip much more interesting for the boys. Clark loves sitting up on his knees and looking at the tracks as we go, and Cal loves talking about how he doesn’t want to look at the tracks because it scares him. Both ways, it gives the boys good material to talk about, which lasted all the way to the Federal Triangle stop, where we got off and walked into the museum.

I knew that the kids’ lab that they have at the museum is closed right now, but I remembered how cool the transportation exhibit is, and so I figured we could do that and see how much time we had left over and what our other choices were. After the boys touched the tracks and railroad ties on the big locomotive, we went into the On the Water exhibit about maritime tales in America. For any kids who are interested in boats, specifically ships, this would be a great place to take them. They have a bunch of model ships that are beautiful. There’s a huge old whaling boat and some gigantic whale teeth, a giant steering wheel, and…wait for it…wait for it…a huge propeller that looks like a…ceiling fan! They liked it for a few minutes, less than I thought they would, (is their obsession passing?) but they mostly wanted to play on the touch screens that were scattered around. That used to bother me, but after the flea display trip, I’m used to them obsessing over things that aren’t cool and ignoring the truly cool things. Huge whale teeth right in my face? Intricate model ships with to-scale crews and passengers? A life-size engine room? Nah. Touch screen with world map. Touch again. Push brother who also wants to touch screen. Yell. Push. Touch again. Exit exhibit.

Ship? Eh.
Touch screen that ruled the day
Ceiling fan-ish boat propeller! 
We tried to give them a snack on a bench just outside the On the Water display, but we were quickly told by staff that food and drink are not permitted there. So we packed up and found some tables outside the museum cafĂ© and had a snack. The tables are great and I will plan to bring a lunch next time we come, so we can just stay in the museum to eat. Then, with full force, recharged by juice and crackers, we hit America on the Move, the transportation exhibit that is set up in chronological order. I was just as impressed with it as I had been in the past. The boys liked it, but I think other boys who are more car-inclined than mine might like it more. My boys have never been as enthusiastic about cars and trains as some boys I know. They did enjoy it though, and there are little interactive pieces all over. Next to a huge freight train that you can touch, there are boxes that open like refrigerators so you can see the variety of freight that got shipped by such a train. The life-size model people scattered around the exhibit I think add a lot to it. In some cases it’s kind of creepy, like when you peek in the side of an old trailer and are startled to see a mom and daughter making dinner, but for the most part, it adds to the experience by setting scenes. So we spent around an hour in America On The Move and when we’d had enough (aka Calvin was freaked out by the old Chicago L car that shakes when you get on it) we changed diapers and headed out onto the street, past the men playing their buckets, to find lunch.

Cal petting model girl

The fruit displays are awesome.

Images from old Washington DC

Old DC streetcar

Freight-boy interaction

The boys called this a basketball floor and shot imaginary baskets.

Watching I Love Lucy on a turquoise TV!

I wanted to go somewhere different than last time, not because we didn’t like Ollie’s Trolley when we were there a couple weeks ago, we loved it, but just to try something new. The boys love mac ‘n cheese so I had looked up the best place in DC for mac ‘n cheese the night before. Capital Grille was on all the lists for the best macaroni and cheese and it’s fairly close, so we pushed them over in the stroller. Unfortunately, they are closed until dinner on Sundays, so we pushed the seven blocks back and ended up at good old Ollie’s, with its model merry-go-round that the boys can't get enough of. Uncle A met us on his bike and we had a nice little lunch, capped off with a chocolate milkshake for the boys.

Splitting a milkshake at Ollie's
Covering one or two exhibits in one day with 2-3 year-olds is about the perfect amount and the American History Museum is packed full of so many amazing things to see. If you have a kid who loves trains or cars, you could easily just stay in the transportation exhibit the entire time. The invention exhibit looks great and I want to get the boys back there for some more hands-on fun. I'll wait until Capital Grille is open so they can enjoy some mac 'n cheese.

Check out our other recent museum excursions here.

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