The National Museum of American History

Two weekends ago we made another visit to The National Museum of American History.  We were hoping to get there and visit the new Wegman’s Wonderplace which is aimed for children under 6 years of age.  We arrived at about 10:15am on a Sunday morning so only 15 minutes after opening and there was already a line of about 5 families in front of us.  As people leave, they let more in.  We gave Eilam the option of waiting in line and reading books that volunteers were passing out or venturing out into other areas of the museum.  Well, he really is not the stand around kind of kid, so off we went.  When we walked back over to that area about 30 minutes later the line was much, much longer.  It wrapped along the wall.  So we will try to visit another time.  The area looked like it had a lot of things for kids to play on (a house, a kitchen, boats, etc).

On this visit we spent a lot of time in American Enterprise exhibit.  There is a great interactive area of the exhibit in the back corner.  Eilam likes this area because there is a tractor.  It has you make various farming decisions and then presents you with the outcomes of your decisions.  There are other interactive business games as well.

 

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Photo from http://americanhistory.si.edu/

The Museum is three floors.  You enter to the second floor if entering from the Mall or the first if entering from Constitution Avenue.  The first floor east houses the Wegman’s Wonderplace, American Enterprise, the Value of Money (which you walk through a really great, big vault door) and the Spark Lab.  We have fun at the Spark Lab which is aimed for children ages 6 to 12.  There is a lot of hands-on activities incorporating science, technology, engineering and math.  While a little bit old for Eilam, he still likes watching us do the various projects.

On the west side of the first floor is a great exhibit America on the Move.  This is a fun place for kids as they have actual cars, trains, buses, motorcycles, etc to look at and see the evolution of transportation.  There is also the food exhibit, Lighting a Revolution, On the Water and Stories on Money.

The second and third floors are going through renovations on the east side but still have great exhibits on the west sides.  On the second floor is the Star Spangled Banner, American Stories (where you can see C3PO through February) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery.

The third floor houses the First Lady exhibit (with all the dresses), The American Presidency, the Gunboat Philadelphia and the Price of Freedom.  It is an interesting look at all of the wars that America has been involved in.

The National Museum of American History is a really great museum with activities and exhibit for people of all ages.  It has definitely become one of our favorites.  They have a lot of random event weekends throughout the year.  We visited the Holiday Festival weekend and learned how to make hot chocolate in colonial times.  I highly recommend this museum for any visitors or locals with children.

American History Museum

Where:  14th and Constitution on the National Mall

How to Get There:  Smithsonian Metro (Orange/blue/silver) when looking towards the Capitol building it is on the left side of the mall.

Cost:  FREE

 

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Atlantis

One weekend in D.C. we were in the midst of a blizzard while the next weekend we were enjoying the sun and sand of Paradise Island, Bahamas.  I had five days off at the end of January, so we booked a last minute trip to stay at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

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View from our hotel room.

We had such a fantastic time.  The property is a giant aquarium.  As you walk along the grounds there are lush greenery mixed with giant lagoons filled with sting rays, fish, sea turtles, and sharks.  Besides the regular swimming pools mixed in between with the lagoons on the expansive property.  The signature tower was way out of our price range, so we stayed in the original part of the hotel, the Beach Tower.  The Atlantis property is very large and the Beach Tower is the farthest away from the Aquaventure water park and the Royal Tower.  However, it isn’t a long walk and the resort offers free shuttles.  We never took the shuttles, so I can not speak about them.  It took us about 10 to 15 minutes to walk from our hotel to the main area.  The rooms were on the small side but we had a mini-fridge and a fantastic view.

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Predator Lagoon

We arrived on a Friday in the middle of the day.  Official check-in is at 3pm, we checked with the front desk to see if we there was a room available and lucky enough we got upgraded to a beach view room that was available.  This time of the year was definitely a low season, as the hotel and property was definitely not full.  There was no waiting in lines for anything, from dinner to the water park rides.  After changing from our winter clothes into summer clothes we went out to wander the area.

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Kids pool

The weather while we were there was in the low 70’s, so not hot but very comfortable.  It did mean the pools were on the cooler side.  Brian and I had no problem with the temperatures but Eilam does not like to get cold, so he wasn’t a huge fan of swimming.  He could have played all day on the beach though.  The sand was so soft and the water was the beautiful blue-green color.

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One of the main attractions of Atlantis is the Aquaventure water park.  Not all the rides were active but the open ones were really fun.  The signature one is a 60 foot almost vertical drop that you go under their shark tank.  I couldn’t start on that one, so we did the racing one first.  Which was fun but of course I lost.  I hesitated going down, so Brian beat me.  There were slides in the dark, tube rides and a rapid river.  My favorite was the Mayan temple tube ride.  It was circular and in the dark going down and then you float through a tube in the shark tank.

Eilam’s favorite part was all the animals.  He loved all the sting rays and turtles.  We went through The Dig everyday which was at the Royal Tower.  It had a moray eel tank which was really neat to see all of them.  We were there after feeding time one day so they were all out swimming around.

All of the food we had that weekend was really good.  Drinks were expensive and food was from moderately priced to expensive.  There was a Margaritaville underneath the bridge that we ate at two nights.  It was nice for someone with kids.  It was all outside and lots of music.  The food was good and the drinks were cheaper than eating on property.  We also ate at Carmine’s.  The food was amazing here.  It is family style Italian and the servings are huge and spendy.  We ordered a stuffed mushroom appetizer and then a rigatoni pasta with Italian sausage and prosciutto.  These total $60 without the obligatory 7.5% VAT tax and 15% gratuity.  We could have easily just had the pasta.  So it ended up a good deal with the amount of food you got.  The last night we ate at Bimini Road.  I had the cracked conch.  It was really good and you got a huge serving.  There was also a Starbucks, Quiznos and Duncan Donuts for other options.  Our package included free breakfast for 2 adults up to $80 a day.  It included breakfast at three restaurants.  We ate at each and everyday the breakfast was really good.  Even though it was for two adults and we ordered a children’s breakfast each day, since we were below the $80 it was included as well.  The buffet was really good and we liked it the best for Eilam because he was free (3 and under) and they had lots of pancakes.  Olives was my favorite.  I had a flat bread egg dish that was amazing, however, the place was really not kid friendly, well maybe not 3 year old kid friendly.  Too many glasses and nice things for a hungry kid.

For little kids they had a couple activities.  There is a kid’s adventure for children ages 3 to 12.  They have this available in the mornings, afternoons or evenings.  It is a chance for the parents to get away for a bit while the children can play.  We also signed Eilam up for Sea Squirts.  This is for ages 3 to 6.  It is a 45 minute trip to the animal hospital.  We were able to hold baby sea turtles, a horseshoe crab, pet a baby shark and hold a sea star.  After the animal hospital we went outside to one the lagoons and the kids got to feed baby sharks.  He wasn’t too interested in getting close to the sharks.  He dumped his bucket of sardines over the side and walked away.  The real excitement for him came next, when the kids were able to feed baby sting rays.  The sting ray is pretty much his favorite animal.  He still didn’t want to wade into the water to feed them but he got a lot closer to the side and dumped his bucket of squid in and stood there are watched them.  Then all the kids got Sea Squirt shirts.  I thought it was a really good deal for the $30 it cost.

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My husband booked a scuba diving with sharks from an outside vendor, Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas.  It was a two dive trip in the afternoon.  He had a fantastic time and he made a video of the dive.

This was a really great long weekend trip from D.C.  Adults and kids would have a lot of fun.  It was a nice short flight.  We went through Atlanta and the flights were about an hour and a half each.  While not the cheapest trip, we had a fantastic time and I would recommend visiting Paradise Island.