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Spring Break to DC

posted Apr 2, 2012, 9:36 AM by Justin P
On Monday morning, Sandy and I left Raleigh and headed up for our spring break trip to Washington, DC. We had lunch in Alexandria then checked in to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott. After checking in, we took the Metro to Old Town Alexandria and walked up and down King Street from the Metro to the waterfront. We checked out a few shops and had a drink at an Irish pub, then headed back to the hotel. We used the fitness center in the hotel before heading to bed.

Tuesday, we did our tour of the monuments with Free DC Tours by Foot. We met up near the Washington Memorial and our guide, Deven, told us some background on the monument as well as the White House and the Jefferson Memorial, from a distance. From here, we headed over to the WWII Memorial. Deven told us some background on the memorial and then we had a chance to look around. He also gave us a mission... to look for "Kilroy", a graffiti placed by veterans. From here, we continued along the mall past Constitution Gardens to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Our next spot was the Lincoln Memorial. The Reflecting Pool was under construction, but we could see the Washington Monument and Capitol from a distance. Our next stop was the Korean War Memorial with another hidden secret. There is a German Shepard in the wall, honoring the dogs who helped find land mines during the war. Sandy and I ran over to get a quick bite to eat for lunch, then headed over to the MLK Memorial. The cherry blossom bloom, unfortunately peaked last week and there weren't many blooms around the tidal basin. I managed to find the few with remaining blooms and get a picture or two. Then we headed to the FDR Memorial and walked around to see the different displays here. These displays included a bread line, fireside radio chats, and a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, along with several waterfalls. Then finally, we headed to the Jefferson Memorial where the walking tour concluded. We walked around this memorial then departed from the group and finished up around the Tidal Basin and then back to the National Mall to visit the museums. Our first stop was the Freer Gallery of Art. This museum has beautiful exhibits of Asian art, including a special exhibition of Hokusia - 36 Views of Mount Fuji. Then we went to the Natural History museum and saw the first floor exhibits, including the fossils, sea life, and mammals. By the time we finished here, the museums were beginning to close and it was getting later so we headed up to 7th Street and had sushi for dinner before heading back to the hotel.

After breakfast, we headed back to DC and went to the Natural History Museum that we had started the previous day. First we went to the Butterfly Pavilion. This was a great exhibit! There are many exotic plants and live butterflies fluttering about between flowers. We had to be careful where we walked so as to not step on them and went into a vestibule upon exiting to ensure no hitch-hikers had attached themselves to us. From here, we went through the gems and minerals exhibit to see the Hope Diamond and other stones then the bones exhibit to finish up at the museum. Our next stop was the West Building of the National Gallery. We browsed the main floor, viewing the French, Italian, and Dutch works, including Monet's Japanese Footbridge, one of my favorites. There was even a man painting a reproduction of another of Monet's works in the gallery. We had lunch at the Cafe at the Sculpture Garden here then headed to the Air & Space Museum. We spent quite a bit of time here as there are many interesting exhibits. A couple that I found particularly interesting were the Wright Brothers exhibit, which is obviously relevant to our home state, NC, the two exhibits on aircraft in the first and second World Wars, and exploring the planets. Then we took the Metro back to Alexandria. We weren't terribly hungry, so we headed to a bar near our hotel for drinks and snacks before calling it a night.

On Thursday, we headed out the National Zoo. When we got there, I realized that I had forgotten to put the memory card back in the camera, so we had to run up to CVS and buy a new one. Now, we can officially start exploring the zoo! We started on the Asia Trail with the Sloth Bear. We had just missed the feeding, but the bear was still snooping around looking for any missed termites. We continued on the trail, seeing the Clouded Leopard and Fishing Cat then went over to the panda exhibit. One panda was sitting outside eating bamboo - a great opportunity for photos. Another was inside (also busy eating bamboo) as well as a red panda. Next we headed to the Bird House and outdoor bird exhibits, passing the elephants on the way. The Elephant House and Outpost were closed for construction, so the best place to see them was from this trail. Starting to feel hungry, we stopped for lunch at the Panda Plaza then did the African Savannah loop to see the zebras, cheetahs, and gazelles. Then we headed down to the Small Mammal House and Great Apes. The gorillas were particularly active, including a very cute little one. Our last stop was the Reptile Discovery Center and around back to see the Komodo Dragons, before we ran out of time. The zoo was soon closing so we left and took the Metro back to Alexandra. We got off at King Street and headed into Old Town to go shopping for a bit, then had dinner at an Irish Pub. We headed back to the hotel and took advantage of the fitness center before going to bed.

On Friday, our last full day of vacation and last day in the city, we decided to visit the museums we had missed. First, we hit the American Indian Museum, starting at the fourth floor and working our way down. After a while exploring the exhibits, we had already worked up an appetite so went to the Sculpture Garden Cafe for lunch. Then we went around the African Art Museum and finished up the East Building of the National Gallery. We view the Small French Paintings exhibit, including another Monet and we Calder's mobiles. Other interesting works included Jackson Pollock and Mel Bochner, a temporary exhibit in the tower with thesaurus works that combine linguistics with art. When we were finished, we went to the museum store and picked up a couple of prints. We went back to the hotel and went to a place near our hotel for dinner.

When we woke up, we packed up and checked out of the hotel and took a short scenic drive along the George Washington Memorial Parkway south through Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and on to the end of the parkway at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. We purchased our tickets and had over an hour to explore the property before our timed entry into the mansion. Being spring time, there were many baby animals throughout the grounds, including cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. We also walked through the several gardens on the property and saw Washington's tomb. When the time came, we did our tour through the mansion, which has been renovated such that the the colors and furnishings are historically accurate to the time of Washington's death in 1799. After finishing the tour, we stopped by the food court to get some lunch before making the drive back home.
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