At this point it was 9AM, we were soaked and the museums do not open until 10AM. We decided the best route was to get some cocoa at the cafe that was right by where we were at. When we ordered we were handed 6 packs of cocoa and some empty cups and pointed to the hot water. A little steep for $3.75 each but we were at a tourist cafe so we made the most of the dry table and drinks and in my mind counted it as "rent" for the hour. Once we had finished we found the rain had stopped and so we headed on the walking route to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The walk was another 4 to 5 blocks but took us right by the Washington Memorial. It is all framed up with scaffolding so it does not look as impressive as it normally would but was nice to see none the less. We found alot of trucks and equipment going into the mall area as tomorrow is the fourth with alot of activity going on so they are getting all ready for it.
We arrived at the Museum about 5 minutes before opening time to find a gentleman dressed in period garb discussing the Start Spangled Banner which is celebrating 200 years next year. Just before opening the song was played and respects to the flag paid. We then entered along with another large group of tourists and made our way through security.
Once in, we decided to start at a point a little different from the rest of the crowd. We saw some great history items like Dorothy's shoes from the Wizard of Oz and one of the original Kermit muppets. At this point we split into two groups as I knew the little boys would not stay interested long in many of the exhibit items. I took them and did a "power tour" of the museum while Stacey took the older kids and did a slower tour. We finished our tour much earlier but felt like we got to see the main items of the museum including Abraham Lincoln's top hat he wore the night he was shot, the Star Spangaled banner flag that flew over Fort McHenry and the camp kit George Washington used on some military campaigns.
|Bronze cast of Abraham Lincoln's life mask and his pocket watch|
|Kermit circa 1970|
|Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves|
|Archie Bunker's chair|
|They had these really cool interactive monitors that were like something out of Ironman with how |
you could manipulate the objects and get more information on MANY topics.
|General Sherman's Hat|
|Damage to the USS Maine due to a mysterious explosion that was a trigger to start of WWI.|
|Spencer testing his riveting skills. Unfortunately, his results said he'd have to go back to pushing a broom.|
|Philadelphia, oldest American fighting vessel in existence, built in 1776 and sunk in 1776. |
Salvaged in 1935, along with the 24 lb. ball that sunk it, from under just 15 feet of water in Lake Champlain.
|Old Schoolbus, circa 1939|
|Nice to see blue sky after our rainy start, but that sun was hot!|
We had some snacks outside and then Brynna, Skylar and Spencer decided they would like some DC souvenirs. Brynna chose a pink umbrella which made Skylar want a green umbrella. Spencer decided on a blue DC-Minecraft shirt.
We then headed to the Holocaust Museum which is located right next to the Bureau of Engraving. We got tickets for the free tour for later in the day and explored an exhibit about a Jewish boy growing up in Germany during the war and the changes in his life from the Nazi actions. It was hard to read how Spence and Sky felt about it but I think it was a great way to present the picture of the holocaust to kids their age. We explored some more of the exhibits before our time for the Engraving tour came up.
The tour organization was not overly good at the Bureau of Engraving. We were told to wait outside as we were a bit early for the tour which we were happy to do as it meant we could sit down. We were about 30 feet from the door. Then a couple of minutes before 2:15PM, we went back to the door and were told we were late and the tour started on time. Hmm, most efficient I have seen things run as both my watch and phone said 2:14PM and they had never come out to tell us it was OK to come in. Anyhow we made the tail end of the intro video and then went through the tour.
No pictures were allowed but they take you up on overhead walkways above the printing presses so you can see the operation clearly. They had big stacks of paper ready to print and explained how the printing starts and goes through progressive stages to turn into the paper money that we use everyday. They were careful to explain they are not a MINT as that is for coins not paper money. They and a location in Texas are the only paper money printers in the US. It was an interesting process to see and have explained. Turns out they also print invitations to the white house events which I guess is a good multiuse of the equipment for documents that need to be extra secure.
One of the highlights of the tour was that we got to see the new $100 bill which is not due to be released to production until October. It is pretty unique looking and they are already gearing up on all the printing. The other highlight that the kids were most excited about is that while we were watching part of the process in action a VIP tour entered the production room on the lower level. One of the tour looked familiar and it turns out it was Scotty McCreery from American Idol and his team. Signs all over the tour said no pictures could be taken or they would take your camera, but somehow their VIP tour was snapping pictures left and right. Guess we know where us commoners rate in the scheme of things. After the tour it dumped us into the gift shop like all great tours do. There was some fun displays on money printing over the years and even a live demonstration of how they used to do the printing using a hand press before the days of automation. Overall it was very interesting to see the whole process and I was surprised by how few people it takes to run the actual printing operation. The guide said 95% of the money printed goes to replacing money being taken out of circulation.
|Skylar is $1,141,700 tall in $100s. Didn't need that to tell me how valuable he is. :O)|
We went back to the Holocaust museum and checked in with the lost and found as somewhere along the route today Brighton lost his newsboy hat. They had not seen it but took down our information in case it gets turned in. We then took the elevators upstairs at our appointed tour time and walked through three levels of displays on the holocaust. The displays were really well done but it was incredibly crowded which by this time of the day really got on my "don't like crowds" nerve. Most displays you could not read as it was so crowded and at many times you could not walk ahead. Sounds pretty trivial based on the subject being covered. :-(
Again we split into two groups with Brighton and Brynna coming with me and the little boys going with Stace. There were many sobering displays and I believe everyone came out of the museum with a better understanding of why it is so important for us to be aware of what happened so that it never happens again. Even so, certain parts of the world are still experiencing much the same sort of issues today so that part I believe felt more real to the kids.
At this point pretty much everyone was exhausted. We started the trek back to the subway and decided to divert into the Smithsonian "castle" which was the original museum back in the day. It was a neat building to see but most of the family was wiped out. We made our way back onto the train and even found seats for the whole trip.
When we got back to the station we had some auto traffic on the way home and stopped at the store to get some meal items. We barbequed hamburgers for dinner and had fresh corn which was a nice meal compared to granola bars and jerky (our meal for the rest of the day)!
It turns out our friends from the previous park ended up in a site just two doors down. The kids played together until bed time and everyone fell asleep quickly after a long day full of alot of sights and experiences.