Washington D.C Day 3 – Downtown Penn & Night Tour

Note: We went to Washington over the second-to-last weekend of March, but I am really far behind on my travel blogging because I keep traveling and going to new events! I’m hoping to wrap these D.C. posts up in the next couple of days.

Day 3 was our “niche museum” day. There were a few private museums that we wanted to hit that were outside of the main Smithsonian collection. We took the Metro to the Judiciary Square stop and walked over to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Walking along the wall and seeing all of the names carved onto each stone in such small letters had the same chilling effect that walking by the Vietnam War Memorial has on me. And I had a nasty jolt when I realized that we had only walked along one half of the memorial – a wall identical in construction and also filled with names was located on the other side of the park.

One half of the memorial. There are over 19,000 names recorded on these two walls.

We meandered up E Street to the Marian Koshland Science Museum. It was so TINY! They sure packed in a lot of information in a little space though.

The two major exhibits were the Earth Lab which dealt with climate change (anthropogenic global warming) and global resources, and there was a very interactive neuroscience exhibit where visitors could learn about the brain’s role in aging, learning and memory. They also had an exhibit on infectious disease, animations and film of current scientific research, and a display that educates visitors about the role that the National Academy of Sciences has in shaping policy in the United States.

The museum is a memorial to Marian Koshland, an immunologist whose made key discoveries in how antibodies combat all of the many types of foreign bodies to which we’re exposed. She died in 1997 and her husband developed the museum, which opened in 2004. Wait…read that again. Marian Koshland’s memorial is a science museum. Coolest. Memorial. Evar!

We had lunch at a sports bar called The Greene Turtle. It was quiet when we arrived, but there must have been a game at the nearby Verizon Center because when we were leaving the place was PACKED with red-shirted Capitols fans.

Next we headed to the National Building Museum. We had seen a picture of the museum’s interior in one of our guidebooks and wanted to walk through the solemn, grandiose ballroom that has hosted inaugural balls. When we arrived we discovered that the National Building Museum had different plans for us; they were hosting a 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms Family Day.

 Not quite as solemn as we had imagined it might be, but fun nonetheless. Also, no amount of shrieking children or pink streamers could cover up the magnificence of the four-story, pillared ballroom.The arches along the ceiling and lining the hallways were beautiful.

On with our adventures!

We walked up F Street to 10th Street where the Ford Theater and Petersen House and museum are located. This was one of the things that the Hubby really wanted to do while we were in D.C. I don’t know that I would have sought this out on my own, but I am really glad that he wanted to go because it ended up being one of the more interesting historical places that we visited.

We didn’t arrive in time for a narrated tour, but we did catch one of the afternoon’s last self-tours. We went into the theater and sat in the seats. The box where Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln were sitting during My American Cousin is clearly visible and well-lit. While we didn’t have access to the inside the booth, we were able to move freely throughout the theater area and I was able to get some good shots from across the balcony.

The stage was set for a current production of 1776. I was soooo tempted to get tickets…

The theater box in which Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

After spending some time in the theater we headed over to the Petersen house. We walked through the sitting parlor where Mary Todd Lincoln sat, paced and waited while her husband lay dying, and by the bed where he spent his last hours and finally died. The building next to the house has been transformed into a multi-story museum dedicated to the times and presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and to the events immediately before, during and after his assassination by Booth.

The Petersen house is the building with the curved stairs. The museum is off to the left of the photo.

It was about 5:30pm when we left the Petersen house. We thought about all of the things we could do, searched around on the smartphone for a few minutes (I <3 my handheld computer so much), and decided to take a night tour of Washington D.C (also, I bought our tickets on my smartphone).

The bus didn’t leave until 7:30pm so we had about an hour to wander around downtown. We walked to Pennsylvania Avenue to find out where the bus would be loading, which happened to be directly in front of the Old Post Office clock tower that we had glimpsed from the tidal basin and other areas of D.C.

We wandered up Pennsylvania to see if we could catch a glimpse of the White House. I got really excited about seeing the White House for some reason that I still don’t quite understand. In my enthusiasm for finding it, I mistook the Treasury Building for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and ended up with way, way too many photos of the place. I mean it’s pretty, but…

It was time to get back to the Old Post Office Building and our tour bus. On our way back we walked by what was left of the Freedom Square Occupy D.C. encampment. The barren, sparsely-filled camp squatted in shadow of the upscale Willard Hotel.

Spouse included for scale.

We were running out of time, so stopped for “dinner” at a nearby Barnes and Noble. I write “dinner” in quotations because while the hubby was able to enjoy a grilled panini, me and my gluten-free self had rather limited options and ended up with this evening nutrition:

Mmmm….bananaredbull supper.

And then the night tour.

The night tour was easily one of my favorite tourist experiences in Washington D.C. It was just…incredible. The monuments are breathtakingly grand and imposing when lit at night. We rode around in a comfy, enclosed bus to different locations and then got off the bus to walk around and take photos.

We had an almost too-gregarious tour guide. He made big, loud jokes and tried to get us to meet and chat with our neighbors – the nerve! 🙂 But that aside, he was very well-versed in the monuments and confident as we strode over the shadowy Capitol lawn, through dark streets and along dimly lit pathways. And for all of his silliness you could tell he was keeping a sharp eye on all of his little tourist ducklings to make sure we didn’t wander off into the night.

Okay, I narrowed and narrowed and narrowed down to 21 must-see night photos. I’ve put them up over on my Flickr page because 21 photos is just too many to post here. You should go see them, because they’re awesome and because they’re in high resolution at Flickr and because DC by night rivals Rome by night. A bold claim, but having done them both I stand by it. Here’s my top five from the tour (it’s seriously paining me to only put five of the photos here):

U.S. Capitol

White House

Washington Monument from the WWII Memorial

Jefferson Memorial reflecting off of the Tidal Basin

Lincoln Memorial

The bus dropped us off back near where we had started. We made our way over to the Archives Metro station and had a quiet, exhausted train ride back to Pentagon City. We fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Washington D.C Day 3 – Downtown Penn & Night Tour

461 thoughts on “Washington D.C Day 3 – Downtown Penn & Night Tour

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    You definitely should have gotten tickets for 1776. My friend Sam Ludwig is in it, and from what I hear he’s awesomely good. (No, I haven’t seen it yet. Been away.)

    Another great little-known museum is the National Cryptologic Museum, about 15 miles north of the city up by Fort Meade. It’s got an Enigma, a large section on the code talkers, and bunches of other cool stuff. And nobody knows about it, so no lines! Check it out if you come back (and have a car so you can get to it).

    1. 1.1

      I love the 1776 musical and would have loved to see it again, but I’ve already seen it live at the Guthrie and a bazillion and ten times on tape and DVD. We figured with the time we had we should pass. Not quite/almost/maybe a little regretting the decision. 🙂

      The Cryptologic Museum sounds great! Thanks for the tip.

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