On Thursday, we made our first family trip to enjoy our nation’s capital. It isn’t far away, and we knew that, but it was still a pleasant surprise for the trip to take less than half an hour from home to parking.
Our first stop was the National Building Museum, a popular destination for families with young children. Elena loved it as soon as we walked in–she examined the Lego model of the building for a while, but soon enough the fountain in the middle of the great hall drew her attention. We made our way to the Building Zone, where there were so many different things to do that Elena just raced from one to the other, unwilling to settle down.
Because of that, we soon gave up our spots in that room to return to the great hall. By this time, there were different types of blocks and building supplies spread out all over. Elena settled in for some quality building time with Mega Bloks. She only has a small set at home, so she loved having a large collection available. Despite the large supply, she didn’t want to share with other kids–it was good practice for her; hopefully she realized that there was enough to go around.
The building museum did have some exhibits for grownups. We went through one about the World Fairs and Exhibitions of the 1930s. There were a few other people in there, none with children, but they didn’t seem to mind Elena. She wasn’t disruptive, but she did want to name the shapes and animals she saw in the pictures and has not yet found a museum-appropriate vocal volume.
After a snack, we took a leisurely stroll over to the Old Post Office Pavilion, home to the best view of the city outside of the Washington Monument. The previous evening, just by chance, a friend who I haven’t seen since we were in the same mission ten years ago, sent me a message. He lives around DC, and we decided to meet up for lunch. It was great to see him, meet his wife and baby, and catch up. As a bonus, we got to hear live music. Elena started dancing right away, and even tried out some new moves.
Our original plans included a stop at the Natural History museum, but Jenny could tell that Elena was tired, so we opted to walk around instead. We strolled through the sculpture garden, where Elena was particularly taken by an Alexander Calder sculpture–perhaps she was comparing it to the mobiles for which he is more famous. Our next pause was at the pool in front of the Capitol building. Elena loves the water, and before long she and Jenny were chasing pigeons and seagulls while I tried to take pictures.
By then it was time to start heading back. I thought I knew DC pretty well, because of frequent trips there in my youth, but I realized how little I had seen. Somehow, we always gravitated to the same few museums. On our way from the Capitol out, we walked through a lovely park in between courthouses and administrative buildings; I’m sure there are hundreds of places like that to discover and enjoy. While there, some people directed our attention to a fierce-looking hawk enjoying an afternoon snack.
We didn’t go directly to the car, because we wanted to return to a cupcake shop we had walked past earlier in the day. We split one cupcake; it was so rich, with ganache icing, that Jenny was sad we didn’t get more. It’s definitely on our list of places to visit again.
Between there and the car we criss-crossed past the Verizon center and through Chinatown, imagining all the while what it would be like to live down there. Elena started talking to herself–every day, the sounds seem more intelligible. She fell asleep almost as soon as we strapped her in; this time, it would have been better to have a longer drive, as she woke up when we got home and wouldn’t go back down. Still, a short nap was a price we were willing to pay for such a fun day.