May 09, 2016

Washington, D.C. Vacation: Museums & Places

Left: A cheetah at the National Zoo. Right: One of the installations at the Renwick Gallery.

This week I'm going to be sharing what we did during our vacation in Washington, D.C. last week. We had a great time! A large portion of our time visiting D.C. was spent visiting museums and other sites. You could spend weeks here and probably still not see everything. S and I have both been to the city numerous times before, so we skipped lots of the "staple" museums, like the Air & Space, American History, Natural History, etc. I'll probably revisit them next time I go, but we decided to see some other D.C. spots this time around.

National Zoo: Be prepared to do some walking when you visit the zoo! It is gigantic and there are lots of hills. It is also absolutely beautiful and full of big, well-made habitats for all kinds of animals. We saw a cheetah sprint after a bird, seals playing together in icy water, pandas chomping on bamboo, otters mimicking each other's movements, and meerkats cuddling in a bed together. After over 3.5 hours of zoo visiting, we were exhausted!

Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden: This contemporary art museum was a strange one for us. I have an art history minor and am a designer myself, so I generally appreciate all kinds of art, but some of this was beyond me. There was an audio/visual exhibit with work from different artists that neither of us got into, among other exhibitions. The only thing we both really enjoyed was a Barbara Kruger installation and the sculpture garden outside.

A Barbara Kruger installation at the Hirshhorn Museum.

National Museum of the American Indian: We went to the American Indian museum right after and it was like a breath of fresh air. THIS is an excellent museum. It does a wonderful job of telling the history of American Indians. I knew very little about all the different kinds of Indians and enjoyed reading about them, seeing where and how they live, how they dress, etc. They have sections on treaties between Indians and Europeans/Americans, works by Indian artists, and a fantastic gift shop.

Renwick Gallery: The Renwick is a branch of the American Art Museum that is located next to the White House. It was closed for renovations for two years and before they reopened they invited artists to the museum's galleries so they could design pieces specifically for the museum with the space in mind. What they came up with was so visually interesting and beautiful! We also wanted to see the special exhibit Wonder, which closed this past Sunday.

Visiting the White House on a dreary, rainy day.

The White House: I requested a White House tour, but we were unfortunately denied due to our dates already being full. After visiting the Renwick Gallery we walked through Lafayette Square to see the White House and take photos. There were barricades and lots of police officers. Due to lots of rain the street and Lafayette Square were pretty muddy, too. It was still a nice view and worth the walk-by!

National Theatre: Also located a few blocks from the White House is the National Theatre. It's been in operation since the 1800s...and you can kinda tell. This theater is in need of a renovation pretty badly. The carpets and paint are worn and tired and the decor looks like it's from the 1920s (not in a charming way). That said, we saw The Wizard of Oz here and really enjoyed it. It show itself was funny and wonderful. I've wanted to see it for years and S bought us tickets for my upcoming birthday.

At the opening night for a production of The Wizard of Oz!

National Portrait Gallery: The Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum share a building and make one of my favorite places in DC. The Portrait Gallery has a huge collection of American president portraits and artwork, along with those of notable people, and several special exhibits. We saw two special exhibits: one of Life magazine portraits and another of celebrity artwork and portraits. I love it here and highly recommend a visit.

American Art Museum: This side of the museum has a large collection of modern and contemporary art. I love the pieces on the third floor the most! Unlike the Hirsshorn, the art here didn't leave me scratching my head wondering what I'd just seen (for the most part). A must-visit is the Kogard Courtyard between the two museums. It's glassed-in and so peaceful.


  1. Great overview of the places you visited. The National Museum of the American Indian sounds really interesting!

    1. Thanks, Steph! NMAI is such a cool place. I like that it has a place on the mall with the other Smithsonian museums, but is quite different in appearance and is so well done.