Wreaths Across America

On December 17th people across the country gathered at cemeteries to lay wreaths for our fallen servicemen and women.  We had the honor of participating at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Unfortunately we had a spell of bad weather during the night and morning before, so the opening ceremony was cancelled.  It was really an incredible thing to take part of.  They estimated 44,000 people made it despite the weather to lay 245,000 wreaths.  They bring in semi-trucks full of wreaths which are stopped throughout the Cemetery.  Volunteers go up to the trucks and get as many as they can carry and start laying them out.  The Cemetery opens two additional entrances to help with foot traffic, so you can enter through the main entrance, close to the Pentagon or close to the Iwa Jima Memorial.  We parked at the Pentagon Row shopping center and walked the 0.5 mile to the Pentagon entrance.

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We were there about 45 minutes and were only able to lay two arms full of wreaths.  It was a wonderful event to volunteer at and I think this would be something that we would look for no matter where we lived as events are Nationwide.

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Semi full of wreaths and lots of volunteers
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On our walk through the icy, icy side walks to get there

The White House

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After months of trying to set up a White House tour through our Congressman that worked with our work and travel schedules, a date finally came available on the morning of December 14th.  Here is the link about White House tours and also how our Congressman has tour requests set up on his website.  Our tour time was 8am and we were to meet one of his interns.  It was a cold morning and we didn’t want to deal with the metro, we decided to drive and find public parking.  There are quite a few garages around the area and very limited street parking.  Street parking would be much cheaper but we were fine with paying for a garage ($20) for the convenience of not worrying about the metro during rush hour.

 

We were outside the tour entrance area on Pennsylvania and Hamilton at 7:45.  Since the tour was so early  there was no time to drop Eilam off at school and get there on time, so he came along as well.  Luckily the intern was already there along with one other person who the Congressman was able to get a ticket for.  She was actually from upstate New York.  When the members of Congress get tickets and have openings they will share between a few so hopefully all spots are taken.  Since everyone in our party was there we were able to get in line, which meant we were one of the first groups through.

Prior to your tour day, you will get an emailed “boarding pass.”  It has all the directions and the prohibited and permitted items.  You are not allowed bags inside but cell phones are allowed.  You must have an ID to enter.  Since it was so cold we all had our big winter coats on, so husband had his wallet and I had my ID and phone in my coat pockets.  Exactly at 8am they opened the line up to enter the premises and proceed through security.  They checked IDs and names on their lists at two points.  You walk through a metal detector and a radiation detector.  Eilam was grumpy and cold while waiting beforehand but he sure did like the security screenings.  He kept saying it was like a maze and like the airport.

Once through everything you enter the House and get a seasonal pamphlet with information about all the rooms that you will see and a message from the President and First Lady.  Eilam was thrilled to get this “book.”  Since we were there in December the entire place was decked out with Christmas trees and decorations.  It was really gorgeous to walk through.  It is a self-guided tour, so you can walk through at your own pace.

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Looking back at the entrance.

The whole tour took us maybe 30 minutes.  We walk through these things fast and with a three year old there isn’t a lot of looking around and reading every detail.  It was a great tour and if you are able to set one up while out here I would highly suggest it.

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A symbol of American resilience.

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Last fall, a good friend introduced us to the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  We had such a fun time we knew we would be heading back this year.  The Festival is currently in its 40th year and it runs every weekend from the end of August to the end of October.  It is located outside of Annapolis and takes about 45 minutes to get there from the D.C. area.  You can buy tickets online and skip the ticket lines there.

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The Festival is huge and has numerous artisans, food and drink vendors, activities, demonstrations and plays.  There are a lot of fun activities for kids and those under 6 are free.  Inside there is face painting, a big potato sack slide, pony rides, a reptile house, etc, etc.  The food is really good too, lots of greasy festival food, plus turkey legs, chowders, crab salads, and lots of desserts and sweets.  To top it all off they have mead, ciders and numerous beers for purchase.  With all the entertainment and shows it really is a great time.

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National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum located on the National Mall is our favorite museum to visit with our son.  Like most young children he loves all airplanes and space ships and rockets and helicopters and, well, anything that can fly.  There are actually two Smithsonian Air and Space Museums, one in Chantilly (the Udvar-Hazy Center) and one on the National Mall.  The National Mall location is easy to get to and has a lot of great exhibits.  The Udvar-Hazy Center is AMAZING.  If you can make it out there, I highly suggest it.  The place is just massive, I mean it has to be when you have the Space Shuttle there (and literally 100’s of other planes).  Both museums are free, however the Udvar-Hazy does charge $15 for parking.

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Eilam liked the museums last year but they are much more fun with a 3 & 1/2 year old then a 2 year old.  He is interested in learning about some of the exhibits and talks about what we are looking at.  The museum in DC has both a Planetarium and an IMAX theater.  The 10:30 showings at the Planetarium are free.  On Fridays the show is One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.  This was a great show featuring Big Bird, Elmo and another one of Elmo’s friends.  Eilam loved learning about the sky and stars and landing on the moon.  This last visit we were there a little over an hour.  If you have never been before, be ready to spend a couple hours.

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Having way too much fun at the Air and Space Museum

The Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly (about 30-40 minutes from DC depending on traffic) is an absolute massive complex housing the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde, the Enola Gay, an SR-71 Blackbird, a replica of an air traffic control tower and much, much more.  We have barely touched the surface of this museum and we have been twice.  If visiting the area and you can swing a visit, I highly suggest it.

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National Air and Space Museum

Where:  Independence Avenue at 6th Ave SW, Washington, D.C.

How to Get There:  L’Enfant Plaza metro (orange, blue, silver, yellow, green) exit the 7th and Maryland, walk one block towards the National Mall, cross Independence Ave and the building will be to your right.  There is an entrance along Independence and along Jefferson facing the National Mall.

Hours:  10am-5:30pm (7:30pm during summer months)

Cost:  FREE

Steven Udar-Hazy Center

Where:  14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly VA 20151

How to Get There:  Since it’s not in DC please check out their website for directions.

Hours:  10-5:30pm (extended to 6:30 during summer months)

Cost:  FREE admission ($15 for parking)

National Portrait Gallery

The other day I read in the Washington Post that there was a new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery with pictures and memorabilia about Babe Ruth.  I hadn’t been to that museum since we had moved to the area so yesterday I spent an hour walking around the museum and checking out the exhibitions.  I had forgotten how beautiful the inside of the building in.  There is a large indoor courtyard on the first floor that is just breathtaking.  On the third floor is the Great Hall where President Lincoln celebrated his second inauguration.

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While this is an art and portrait gallery it probably isn’t the most exciting place for young children.  So this was an afternoon for me to enjoy a quiet museum.  On the second floor is the American Presidents exhibit with Presidential Portraits.  There is also an interesting modern art exhibit on the third floor.

The Babe Ruth exhibit was small yet interesting.  It mainly concentrated on his baseball life and his influence on the game.  It runs through May of 2017.

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I also had to check out the Presidential portrait of Frank Underwood.  It is on the first floor not in the Presidential Portrait gallery, thank goodness.

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National Portrait Gallery

Where:  8th and F Street NW

How to Get There:  Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro (Red, Green, Yellow) exit toward Galleries or 7th/F Street

Hours:  11:30am-7pm

Cost:  FREE

A Rainy Fourth of July

Here in the D.C. area we had quite a cool, cloudy Fourth of July.  Our apartment complex was having an evening catered bbq and then we could watch the fireworks from the roof.  They day before we bought tickets to the Nationals vs. Brewers baseball game.  It was an early game, starting at 11am.  We “splurged” on Stubhub and got lower level tickets right at the first base line.

It was really perfect weather to watch the game.  Around 70 degrees, cloudy, not humid.  The Nationals lost but it was a fun day.  There is a great play structure for kids there.  Kids are allowed in to play for 15 minutes and then next group goes in.  There were slides, tunnels, rope ladders, and bridges.  It was a great stop before the game.

It started raining around the 8th inning, so we headed back to the metro stop.  The stadium is right at the Navy Yard Metro stop on the Green line.  The trains get very packed around game time.  There are parking garages and random parking lots around that area as well.

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Heading to the game with baby leopard.
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Walking from the metro after the game.

The b-b-q was moved indoors that evening because of the rain.  Crystal City Sports Bar catered and it was delicious (pulled pork, ribs, chicken, coleslaw, cornbread).  If you are staying in the Crystal City area of Arlington, I would suggest the Crystal City Sports Bar located on 23rd Street for food.  The fireworks that night were a bust.  We couldn’t see anything from our roof because of the clouds.  We came back downstairs to watch them on TV and realized that PBS was not playing current footage.  Co-workers were down at the Capital and they couldn’t see the Washington Monument.  Overall, it was a fun day though it ended with a little disappointment, especially since Eilam was very excited to watch them.

 

Dupont Kalorama Museum Walk

Two weeks ago the Dupont Kalorama Museum Consortium held their 33rd annual Walk Weekend.  There is free admission to six museums in the Dupont Circle area of D.C.  The six museums are Anderson House, Wilson House, Dumbartan House, Heurich House, The Phillips Collection and The National Museum of American Jewish Military History.  Each museum had special family programming for the weekend.

We went on the Saturday and took the metro getting off at Dupont Circle (red line).  The first stop for us was the Anderson House.

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It was a beautiful house and museum.  Brian and I felt like we were in a mini-Versailles in parts of it.  Eilam walked around and liked making loud slapping noises with his feet on the marble floors.  He had learned about tapestries watching the show Little Einsteins.  I was able to point out real tapestries and we talked about the pictures and scenes.  Overall, it was a really majestic place but I wouldn’t say it is very family friendly.

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Our next stop was The Phillips Collection.  This museum had some great special kids activities for the weekend.  There was painting and making your own maraca but the real treat was the instrument petting zoo.  They had a trombone, french horn, flute, clarinet, trumpet and much more for the kids to play.  Eilam was so excited for this.  Once he went around the room a few times and relaxed, it was hard to get him away from there.  He actually was able to produce sound out of a few of the instruments.  His Little Einstein obsession made this a great, great stop.  After a long time we finally pulled him away for lunch.  There were many tears leaving the museum because he wanted to keep playing.  We didn’t get a chance to visit any of the other exhibits because the instruments had such appeal.  I plan on revisiting it in the future.

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Pure amazement

After having an excellent brunch nearby at Scion we walked to our last museum Heurich House, or the Brewmaster’s Castle.  Very old and very ornate.  There were yard games in the backyard.  Again, not a kid friendly place to visit.  Once done there we headed back to the metro to head home.

Overall, this was a great event weekend and all three of us enjoyed ourselves.  I highly recommend anyone in the area attending future walks.