On Thursday, May 2, we took the Metro to the Smithsonian National Zoo exit in Washington D.C. We hadn’t realized there would be an uphill trek of considerable distance to the zoo entrance. By the time we entered (free admission), I was hungry for lunch. We wandered down the shady path, wider than at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where various offshoots led to different animal exhibits.
Our first stop was a fast-food place for a quick lunch. Then we headed downhill to view the elephants. We spotted two of them. One was in the forefront, and you can note the other fellow peeking out in the background.
Next we headed farther downhill to the lower zoo but stopped when we realized we’d have to climb back up. No, thanks. We reversed position and headed to the panda exhibit. This led indoors to an air-conditioned space. The pandas are SO cute. I already have a panda doll in my collection, or I might have been tempted to get one. They’re adorably cuddly creatures.
We stopped by a section that held zebras and a prowling panther.
After all the climbing up and down hills, we Floridians were tired and ready to retreat to the hotel. The return trek back to the Metro stop didn’t seem so bad, maybe because we were going downhill.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum was built in 1914 and served as Washington D.C.’s post office through 1986. It houses a research library as well as exhibit space and gift shops.
The museum portion opened in 1993. You can get to it by taking the red line Metro to Union Station. This was one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited. Our niece accompanied us.
The history of the U.S. Postal Service was presented by means of staged displays, a mail train car, a stagecoach, vintage airplanes, postal trucks and much more. We could sit in the driver’s seat of a truck or check out a mail train car, stare at Owney, the preserved mascot dog, and see a variety of uniforms.
I found the postal police section very intriguing. I didn’t realize we even had a Postal Inspection branch that investigated related crimes.
A gift shop and stamp shop are present, plus historic examples of stamps through the years. No café, though, but you’re right across the street from Union Station with its food court and restaurants. We could have spent more time here browsing through the exhibits and reading all the informational signs, but it’s a lot to absorb in one day. Be sure to put this on your list of places to visit next time you’re in our capital city.
Outside, we trundled past the gleaming capitol building to view the United States Botanic Garden. We arrived at the Garden Court entrance and veered to the right with a section on Rare and Endangered plants. We walked through sections with orchids, tropical foliage, medicinal plants, desert cacti, Hawaii, and other collections. While amazed that this conservatory could be built in the middle of our capital city, I’m spoiled by the many gardens in Florida.
After visiting the Library of Congress, we strolled past the Supreme Court. Here I am by the steps of this impressive building. The structure is inspiring, making you hope that justice truly is being served inside its doors. Across the street is the Capitol Building, always an awe-inspiring sight. The tall Washington Monument reaches toward the sky at the other end of the Mall. Having been in town before, we’d already seen many of these sites and museums. The buildings where our Senators and House representatives meet or have their offices are impressive as well. We passed patches of greenery, mini-parks with flowering bushes and graceful trees. Our path took us to Union Station, where we browsed the shops before taking seats in the bustling East St. Café for a leisurely Asian lunch. Then we took the Metro back to Bethesda. SEE ALL PHOTOS HERE Giveaway! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench <><><> Sign up for my Newsletter for my latest book news, giveaways, sales, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.
Visiting the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is an awe-inspiring adventure. As you climb the steps toward the entrance, you’ll be impressed by the massive size of the structure. Inside the Thomas Jefferson Building, we passed through a bag check and then had to figure out where to go. Everywhere we looked, the architecture beckoned. I could have stood all day gazing at the intricate ceilings, wall décor, and majestic columns. Look at these folks. They don’t look too happy. Maybe they’re spirits trapped in the walls. After we admired the Great Hall, we headed upstairs, planning to work our way down. Here are some photos from an exhibit titled “Exploring the Early Americas.” We saw “Echoes of the Great War” about WWI and a display called “Drawing Justice.” The latter contained paintings of true-life courtroom dramas. I never knew such a field of artwork existed. Famous trials were depicted here in vivid details. I liked seeing Jefferson’s library, or at least a facsimile of books he’d kept there. Some are originals and others are reprints. The main Reading Room drew me like a lawn mower to a blade of grass. Up a flight of stone steps, we paused on a landing where we could peer below at the hallowed halls. Researchers sat at desks while other archways led to more reading rooms beyond. Downstairs, we viewed the Gutenberg Bible behind its glass case. By now, we’d become tired and hungry, and so we passed on the other exhibits. We couldn’t help stopping in the gift shop. We left with our imaginations enriched and our wallets a few dollars lighter. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE Giveaway! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench <><><> Sign up for my Newsletter for my latest book news, giveaways, sales, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.
We took the Metro into D.C. on my one spare day after Malice concluded. Here we visited the National Museum of Natural History. They had an ocean exhibit that I didn’t remember from a prior trip there, so we started in this section and read about the key role the oceans play on our planet.
From there, we entered the Mammal section. We strolled through there until lunch, which we ate in the downstairs cafeteria. Then we aimed toward the top floor and the rocks and minerals collections. I love this part. It’s fascinating to me to see the enormous variety of gemstones and other minerals and how they’re wrenched from the earth. The jewels had me gaping in admiration. I have to admit it had me longing for a jewelry store. But photos are the only things I brought home.
I dashed through the dinosaurs and mummies, a very brief section that doesn’t begin to compare with the Egyptian exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Too tired to go any further, we strolled outside to view the Washington Monument on one side and the Capitol building on the other. All of the structures here are so impressive, including the IRS building. It had a sign for Visitors, so we went inside, but a guard told us it wasn’t open to the public. We stopped over at the Air and Space museum but were too worn out to go far. It was nice getting out for a day of sightseeing after being at two business events.
We met family for dinner in Cleveland Park at Medium Rare. It has a fixed price menu that includes crusty bread, a salad, steak and French fries. The next day we caught our flight home.
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Besides attending Malice Domestic, we visited relatives in Maryland and got to see some new sites. My husband and I toured the National Building Museum in downtown D.C. We rode the Metro, which is easy to figure out and still a thrill for us tourists. The National Building Museum is a majestic building, with a Great Hall filled with tall (75 feet high) marbelized columns and high ceilings. Constructed in the late 1800’s, it has served as the seat of eighteen inaugural balls including Barack Obama. A small café and a fun gift shop reside here as well.
We saw an interesting exhibit called House & Home which explained the difference between the two terms and showed replicas of housing construction from the early days to now. Objects on display recalled simpler living and took us through various eras. Museum admission is free but the exhibits have a fee.
We visited Brookside Gardens at the conclusion of Malice. What a delight! Behold the colorful blooms. It was perfect weather to stroll among the flowers.
We walked into the rear section by a tranquil lake where you can sit and watch the ducks. I’ll remember the peace and tranquility with fond memories.
Our trip took us back to Orlando, where we spent a couple of days at Disney’s Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We noticed the Norway pavilion’s museum now has scenes relevant to Frozen. We saw an extended preview in 3D for the upcoming film, Maleficent. Angelina Jolie looks evil in the role of the nasty witch. This live-active film is a sure winner.
Do you ever wonder if the punishment fits the crime? Come along to the Crime Museum in Washington D.C. where you can tour through a history of crime and punishment. Beginning in medieval times, you get insights into torturous implements with the items on display. Metal was popular for finger screws and iron helmets. And look at this unhappy guy stretched out in the dungeon. The different areas of the museum are made to look like their eras, a cool factor I found appealing. Also scattered throughout the place are interactive kiosks to challenge you.
Note the handcuff fencing.
Definitions of crimes have changed through the years. In Colonial times, you could get your ears nailed to the pillory for kissing on the Sabbath. That was considered lewd and unseemly behavior. This era included a poster on the Salem Witch Trials. Next we moved into Pirates, where famous pirates are described leading up to the current ones operating off the coast of Somalia.
Blackbeard the Pirate
The outlaws of the Wild West come next amid sounds of gunshots and horses neighing in the background. Billy the Kid and the Dalton Gang were famous bad guys from this era, while Wyatt Earp was a well-known law man. You could shoot rifles for a fee at a shooting range looking like the Old West.
Note the bullet holes.
Crimes of the Great Depression followed with the Barker Gang, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone, among others. Sirens and jazz music play in the background along with machine gun fire. You can learn how to Crack-A-Safe at the interactive kiosk. Moving along, we come next to scams, hoists, and hoaxes. Then we come to the worst crime of all: murder. Apparently collectors like to obtain Murderabilia, items associated with these criminals. Can you imagine a more gruesome collection? It’s bad enough that killers become media celebrities without having people try to acquire their belongings and giving value to their fame.
Famous serial killers are mentioned in this area before we move onto conspiracy and assassinations. On the wall are posters listing all the presidents who’d been assassinated and famous kidnappings like the Lindbergh baby. There are notes from police files on famous solved crimes, including J.W. Gacy who worked as Pogo the clown. I knew there was a reason why I find clowns creepy. Computer crimes aren’t forgotten either as several of these silent criminals are mentioned. For example, Robert Morris created the first computer worm. An interactive kiosk will challenge you to see how fast you can crack a code.
See me in the line up?
Then you pass through a darkened corridor lined by brick buildings and sound effects into the history of fingerprinting, Miranda Rights, what a booking officer does, mug shots were you can get your photo taken along with some crooks, and a jail cell where you can sit on the bed. There is a meet the warden video and a display on famous prisons and great escapes. One of the dioramas shows a luxury cell where Al Capone lived in Alcatraz. Here you can play on another kiosk to see how far you can get in your escape. Death Row is mentioned as you walk into a section that looks like a prison block with sound effects and an elevated walkway. Methods of capital punishment are described dating back from medieval torture and executions through the death penalty with displays of an electric chair, a gas chamber and a guillotine.
On a better note, we come to a section on famous lawmen. Notes describe how cops communicated before 1930, their use of firearms, equipment, and the bomb squad. See how fast you can defuse a bomb at the next interactive kiosk. Technologies such as night vision and thermal imaging are described. Here we pause for patrol training. In a simulation, you can drive a cop car on a high-speed chase. Or you can fire a Glock 17 at a simulated scene, watching for the bad guy to pop up and shoot at you. After this escapade, we descend downstairs to the CSI Experience.
You are greeted by a crime scene scenario in the bedroom where a murder took place. You can push buttons to see what each piece of numbered evidence represents.
You learn about witnesses and the role of the crime lab. At a kiosk, you can play the part of a witness. What did you see?
Contents of the crime scene kit are shown. Did you know that evidence is put into brown paper bags and not plastic bags like you see on TV? Fingerprint and footprint recovery, ballistics, toxicology, dental ID, autopsy, and entomology are some of the topics touched upon. The interactive kiosk here is, Can you match the bullet?
Other crimes are discussed such as counterfeiting, art forgery, and forgery of documents. Famous cold cases has a room of its own. There’s a section on crime related TV shows, movies and books. Books by Sue Grafton, James Elroy, and Patricia Cornwall are some of the ones mentioned. Even crimes against marine animals are covered. Then we descend to the lower level that holds the studio for America’s Most Wanted television show.
I would say you need maybe 2 to 3 hours to do this museum justice. There’s a Clyde’s nearby which is great for lunch, and then you can meander over to the International Spy Museum if you’ve never visited that attraction before. The closest Metro stop to the Crime Museum is Gallery Place.
Bar inside Clyde’s
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
Tomorrow, join me over at the Kill Zone where I’ll be discussing Crime and Punishment.
Leave a comment on this blog and enter to win a pair of handcuffs from the Crime Museum. U.S. Residents only. Winner will be announced here on Friday.
On a chilly day in April, we visited downtown Washington D.C. the day before Malice Domestic was to begin. It was so exciting to descend deep into the ground on a steep escalator, to join the hustle and bustle of people rushing to and fro, and to hear the rumble of an approaching train. When you’re not used to cities, riding the subway becomes an adventure on its own. We bought a ticket at the Metro station next to the Hyatt Regency Bethesda where we were staying and took the red line into town. I noted the urban style clothing: i.e. darker colors than we see in South Florida, closed toe shoes instead of sandals, men in suits. It was totally a different atmosphere than back home where people wear shorts and tank tops. I rode the train with a sense of wonder.Then we emerged outside, where the sky was overcast and the fifties temperature had prompted me to wear my North Face insulated jacket. We took a stroll around the White House and the executive office buildings surrounding it, noting the various gated entries. We passed the Renwick Gallery, an intriguing museum of decorative arts that I’d like to visit next time. And then we dined at our favorite place, the Old Ebbitt Grill.
View from White House
Other Impressive Building
After lunch, we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I enjoyed the exhibit of First Lady gowns. But then panic assailed me when I realized my prescription sunglasses were missing from their perch on my handbag. We went everywhere peering at the ground searching for them. Then my brilliant niece suggested looking up. If someone had found the glasses, this person might have put them on a display case to keep them from being trampled.
She was right! She spotted them atop a glass case and I secured them. Whew! Smart tip. Remember this advice if you lose an item in a crowd.
Old Ebbitt Grill
Crab Cake lunch
We toured exhibits of musical instruments, historical trains and cars and trolleys, and memorabilia from the American Presidency. Tired from our explorations, we trooped outside to the Metro station and rode back to the hotel. Dinner was Italian night with relatives. We visited with family again the next day. As it had dawned into the forties, we entertained ourselves at a local mall. Friday night, I attended the Malice Domestic welcome reception. And then the conference began in earnest for me.
First Lady Gown
Michelle Obama gown
Detail on Dress
Coming next: Panel Discussion on Southern Mysteries.