The next morning we ate the hotel’s complimentary breakfast then headed back to the subway. We had hoped the day would be cooler since we were starting in the morning. No such luck. It was just as hot and humid at 10am as it was at 2pm. I was so thankful I brought a filtered water bottle with us since both days were spent refilling it at water fountains around the mall to stay hydrated. We started where we left off, exiting at the Federal Triangle stop, and headed up towards the American History Museum. On the other side of this museum, we would be back on the path around the National Mall.
It seemed a shame to walk past all the Smithsonian museums but there just wasn’t enough time to see them all. We stopped in the butterfly garden just past the Natural History Museum. We didn’t see any butterflies but the garden was lovely. We continued down past the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden, the National Gallery of Art West and East on our way to the Capitol Building. Much like everything else on the mall, it was under renovation. There was scaffolding on the building and the Ulysses S Grant Memorial was covered with white tarp. We continued past the Capitol Building’s reflecting pool, a wide fan shape as opposed to the long rectangle of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool on the other side of the mall. We snapped some photos on the sidewalk but did not go up the path nor ascend the stairs. We were hot and tired and looking for a place to cool off.
We continued around the corner to start the trek up the other side of the mall. I finally got to see the National Museum of the American Indian but only the exterior. I was a charter member having donated while they were building it. I decided to skip it this time since I really wanted to share my favorite museum on the mall with the kids, the Air and Space Museum. I loved going there as a kid.
Entering the Air and Space Museum was a welcome respite from the heat. We seemed to have chosen to visit during the national time of renovation because not only was the Capitol Building and the center green space running nearly the entire length of the mall under construction, so was this museum. Some of its exhibits were removed and some rooms were closed off. We still had lots to see in the Milestones of Flight exhibit as we entered, just a few things had been removed from the ceiling. We headed to the right to Early Flight, the Golden Age, and America by Air. On the other side, we checked out The Space Race, How Things Fly, Exploring the Universe, and Lunar Exploration Vehicles. We went upstairs briefly but we were running out of time. We got a few souvenirs in the gift shop then headed back out onto hot and humid Jefferson Drive.
A short way down from the Air and Space Museum was the Smithsonian Castle. Beside it was a lovely little garden called the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. It had a wrought-iron fountain complete with cranes and a delightful cherub of a boy that seems to be holding a fish on top. There are ornate wrought iron benches to sit on. It was another short-lived stop but we enjoyed the surroundings. We had to figure out how to get back across the mall which was completely closed off due to reconstruction. We wound up back at the Smithsonian subway entrance where there was a walkway back to the other side of the mall. At least this brought us closer to our destination, the National History Museum. We had lunch in their restaurant and walked through a few of the galleries on our way out. We grabbed some ice cream right outside and started on our final walk to Federal Triangle. We returned to the hotel, got in our car and headed home.
One final thought from the kids about Washington DC.
K – We’d stop inside of some of the Smithsonian museums when we when ever we were really hot to cool off. I’m glad they were free because then we could go and eat lunch there and get water.
C – That just reminded me that on movie night we watched Night at the Smithsonian. We watched all three movies. Very good movies.
K – We watched all three Night at the Museum movies and one was at the Smithsonian. Was fun to walk through through the Natural History Museum and think about the movies.
Our last leg took us through Pennsylvania so we stopped in Pittsburgh, a town I lived in during grad school, for dinner. I hadn’t been there in years so it was fun to drive around the old haunts then have dinner at Ritter’s Diner. We decided not to stay there for the night then found out the hard way that all hotels off the highway near Cedar Point were booked. We found a place shortly after midnight and got a few hours of sleep before heading out again.
We arrived home both happy that we had our amazing adventure but also happy to see our own beds. Not sure if the kids will ever want to take this long a trip again but I know I’d love to take a month to explore new places again. 3200 miles in 32 days will be one of our greatest memories.