Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Date of Visit: August 25, 2016

Fort McHenry has been our list to revisit since 2014 when we considered going to the Star Spangled Banner Bicentennial. Since we are trying to collect the National Park Passport Centennial Stamps this year, it seemed like a good time to finally go and it just happened to work out that our first free Thursday was the actual National Park Centennial.

Usually Mik is into the military history sites we visit, but neither of us found this all that great of a visit. At least the site is mostly accessible as the main part Mik couldn't access was the walkways up around the edge of the fort. I think it mostly wasn't enjoyable because it suddenly got crowded when we started to explore it, but it was also because there wasn't really any signage to help direct where to explore (the pamphlet also didn't even have a map of the park) and very oddly there wasn't a single park ranger (or even a volunteer) to be found except back in the visitor center.

Another area Mik couldn't access was the bombproofs, but he did enjoy that he could still look down in there. Most of the other exhibits were in the buildings in the fort with ramps added to the entrances/exits as needed.

Destination Info:
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230

Hampton National Historic Site

 Date of Visit: August 25, 2016

We arrived around 9 a.m., so had about an hour to wait for the first tour of the mansion at 10 a.m. We spent the time exploring the grounds around the Hampton Mansion. There really isn't much to explore that is accessible, though, so Mik did get a little impatient. At least there was a Pokemon Go gym to entertain him at the top of the falling gardens that just required going in the grass a little to get the the gravel path in the backyard that leads to it.

We attempted to go to the cemetery because it seemed close enough that we could go there and back before the tour, but the gravel turned out to be quite thick on this path. This is also the path that goes down to the farm area, which I think might also have its own parking area, but we wanted to also fit in Fort McHenry today. Also, Baltimore is an easy day trip for us, so we figured instead someday we'll come back and remember the freewheel to make exploring the grounds not a big deal.

As a historic home originally finished in 1790, Hampton House is not exactly accessible. However, the tour starts in the hyphen with a ramp up to the entrance. Once inside there is then a lift to get to the first floor. The tour does end up going down to the kitchen and up to the second floor (3 bedrooms and special exhibit room), which I did while Dad waited with Mik, but really they didn't miss out on too much and got to see the best parts. In particular, we liked that the tour guide adapted the tour to include them the most by making sure they could hear when she talked about the bells in the hall on the way down to the kitchen and most of the information on that area. She also did the whole first floor area before we did the second floor, so they could wait outside and explore the grounds rather than wait inside for us again.

After the tour we headed back down the road to the museum shop to get our National Park Passport stamps. This road is a little steep for Mik's liking and we probably would've just parked at the top by the mansion if it had been open to get the stamps when we first got there.

Destination Info:
Hampton National Historic Site
535 Hampton Lane
Towson, MD 21286

Friday, August 19, 2016

Smithsonian Castle

Date of Visit: August 19, 2016

I know I've been in the Smithsonian Castle several times, but not sure if Mik ever has or just doesn't remember. I probably actually never took him inside, though, because I always just think of it as the visitor center and why not just go to the actual museums. Turns out it is actually a really great starting point to visiting the museums (or in our case just learn about Smithsonian history).

There are two public entrances to the building (north and south). The north entrance from the mall has a ramp entrance to the right. There is a button to open these doors. Make sure it actual activates to open both doors as we scrapped through when it only opened one side. It worked fine on the way out, so it just seems it may sometimes get stuck. The south entrance is also accessible, but it involves a lift to get up the steps that are right inside the entry.

We got there around 12:15 p.m. and ended up taking our time browsing the "Welcome to Your Smithsonian" and "The Smithsonian Institution: America's Treasure Chest" exhibits in the west wing while we waited to do the 1:30 p.m. Castle Highlights Tour. We particularly enjoyed the "America's Treasure Chest" exhibit as it has a sampling of the items in the collections of the different Smithsonian museums. Mik especially enjoyed the sports case.

Mik was a little hesitant to wait around for the tour, but he ended up really enjoying it. We learned a lot about the founding of the museum as well as the Castle's architecture. Also, while all the areas on the tour you can visit on your own, we would have missed some if we hadn't done the tour. In particular, we probably would've totally missed the Smithson Crypt because we didn't know about it and you only end up walking by it if you come in the north entrance with steps.

The Smithsonian Castle is probably the one part of the Smithsonian we aren't likely to revisit on our own, but it was definitely worth visiting once and likely a place we would start if we were with others that hadn't been before again.

Destination Info:
Smithsonian Castle
1000 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

One Life: Babe Ruth at National Portrait Gallery

Date of Visit: August 3, 2016

Usually we wait until September to start going back to the museums, but when I told Mik about the Babe Ruth exhibit he wanted to go when it opened. That didn't happen due to my slow healing pinky and then the weather (humidity and rain). Today we finally managed a decent weather day and even decided to roll/walk home instead of taking the metro so Mik could get a better feel of the neighborhood and using his power chair again (recently got repaired after being out of commission for over a year).

The exhibit was a little disappointing in that it is just one small room. It's well done and gives a good overview of Babe Ruth's life, but we've been to the Babe Ruth birthplace museum in Baltimore and this exhibit just seemed a very small scale version of that museum. However, that museum is not accessible (or at least was not back in 2009), so Mik liked this exhibit a little for easy access. He didn't like that he couldn't get close enough to be able to touch most of the options to play the videos on the one multimedia part of the exhibit, though.

Even though the exhibit was disappointing, it was still a fun outing because there's always something interesting to discover at the National Portrait Gallery. For example, Mik enjoyed seeing the portrait of Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood from House of Cards in the Recent Acquisitions area. Plus, we enjoyed catching some Pokemon while sitting out front having a snack.

Go here to see our review of the National Portrait Gallery for more general accessibility info. It's a few years old, but all still applies as far as we've noticed (Mik has no desire to ever recheck that tiny elevator).

Destination Info:
National Portrait Gallery
Between G St and F St and 7th and 8th St
Washington, DC

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Titanic Memorial

Date of Visit: July 18, 2016

I had been meaning to walk over to the Titanic Memorial for months since we are often walking past the sign pointing to it. When I told Mik, the Titanic Memorial was a Pokemon Go gym he was like we must go see it. It wasn't about wanting to play Pokemon Go, although that is something we have been enjoying as something we can get out and do together since we tend to avoid the museums during the summer due to tourist crowds. He actually more wanted to go the memorial because he never even knew there was one and he enjoys checking out all the different memorials.

Getting to the memorial isn't exactly accessible for us, but that's because we tend to come from along the waterfront and that area is currently under construction. The problem is that while they have sidewalks open for pedestrian access through the construction area they have blocked most of the corners and not added any ramps. Going down the curb isn't a big deal and normally going up also isn't, but I'm just getting back my range of motion and strength from breaking my pinky back in April and maneuvering him over bumps is one of the main things I still struggle with. If we go the long way around from 4th & P Streets, accessibility isn't an issue (and more Pokestops).

Destination Info:
Titanic Memorial
Southwest Waterfront near 4th & P Streets SW
Washington, DC

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Birchmere: Brandy Clark and Aubrie Sellers

Date of Visit: May 18, 2016

After Mik somewhat enjoyed the Carrie Underwood concert, I convinced him to try out my favorite venue, The Birchmere. I figured even if he didn't like the show he would at least enjoy the dinner part.

The way seating works at The Birchmere is at 5pm they open and you get a line number at the box office when you come in. We always aim to get there about 4:45pm and the line outside really varies in the length depending on the show, such as we were like 100 last month for Vince Gill and The Time Jumpers and last year for Brandy Clark we were in the first 10. Also, the first time we went we didn't know to arrive before it opened and were near the end of the numbers for The Oak Ridge Boys and really there isn't a bad place to sit.

After you have your line number you can hang out in the bar area that they use for Flex Stage shows. There are some tables to sit at, but depending on the show they can end up all claimed quickly. From the bar you can order drinks and chips and salsa while waiting for them to start calling line numbers to go in for the show around 6pm.

This time we were about 30 from the front, but they ended up waving us over to go in right before they started calling numbers. As someone who has experience with the line numbers, I find this a little unfair considering most of the seating is accessible since you just have to move a chair from the table. However, it does make sense that it is less disruptive to just have you go in first and have your spot before it gets crowded and harder to maneuver.

I usually go for one of the tables on the raised areas to the side, but since we've never tried the center area, we decided to try one the end of one of the front long tables right in the center. The view was probably better than some of the side places I've ended up choosing before, but those side spots right next to the bars mean no heads in the way. Mik found the lighting to be too bright, so next time I think he'd probably like the raised areas on the side better, too.

This time he went with the shrimp tempura on the specials menu. He also enjoyed the soft pretzels and crab dip appetizer that I order almost every time we come. His favorite was probably the chocolate lava cake he had for dessert, though.

Mik ended up enjoying the music, especially the opener Aubrie Sellers (I had been excited she was added after we had tickets because I had chosen Brandy Clark's show over another Aubrie Sellers was opening because I prefer The Bichmere over other venues). However, even before the show he had declared he had to come back because there were at least four headliners (the entree part of the menu) he wanted to try. I guess I'll be getting tickets for him to go with to see The Oak Ridge Boys and Chip.

Destination Info:
The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22305

Friday, February 26, 2016

Carrie Underwood The Storyteller Tour: Stories in the Round at Verizon Center

Date of Visit: February 25, 2016

Five years later and Mik still has only been to two NBA arenas, but he has now seen his first concert at one (and probably last). I had been trying to see The Swon Brothers for over a year including going to the Opry when they were supposed to play and then their date to play there got changed to another month. When they were announced to be opening for Carrie Underwood I was tempted to get tickets. However, I don't like arena concerts and wasn't really interested in seeing Carrie Underwood live, although I like her music. When I told Mik he got all excited because he loves Carrie Underwood, so we decided to get tickets.

We had tickets in the wheelchair row of Section 416. Finding the elevator was a little confusing, but there were plenty of staff to help direct. We actually would've found it from the first person's directions as he said it was over under the Green Turtle sign, but when I told Mom and she went over there she didn't notice because it's an entrance to the arena and easy to miss with the security there. The second person we asked actually escorted us over to it. On the way down we found a closer elevator that is more obvious right on the concourse and I definitely recommend avoiding the Green Turtle one because it's just too crowded of an area with people coming in and not being any space when someone was trying to exit elevator before we could get on.

Our seats in Section 416 were actually surprisingly good. The view was good and Mik especially liked how they showed the performers on the screens. What was really cool, though, is they cover the rows in front of the handicap section, which means they don't sell those seats to keep people from standing up and blocking your view as tends to happens at concerts. The usher wouldn't even let people stand there for a photo more than thirty minutes before the concert started. He also tried to keep people from exiting the section through the handicap area, which really was annoying because the stairs end right by the seats so they should be turning to the regular aisle to exit but they would come past whenever he wasn't watching.

Only thing Mik didn't like was there were no cup holders in the wheelchair section, which he was aware of from going to Wizards games, but this time I noticed that the regular seats do in fact have them, which is when the lack of cup holders at sports venues really annoys him. It was also is a little awkward with them having black curtains blocking the entrances to the sections, but I get it serves a purpose for the lighting effects of the show.

We both really enjoyed The Swon Brothers and it was worth going just for them, but we really should've left when Mom joked that now we can go when they were done (Her and I did that after Mickey Guyton last year.).

I like Easton Corbin's music, but we both found his performance just mostly bad. It sounded bad for a the majority of it and he wasn't as entertaining. Mik said it was so boring that he almost fell asleep. We both agreed they have the opening acts in the wrong order.

All along Mik wasn't exactly planning to stay for the whole concert. He just wanted to hear Carrie Underwood perform at least one song. After the first song, he was ready to go. Mostly he was ready to go early because he was tired and also didn't want to deal with the post-concert crowd on the metro.

Mik said that he may have lasted longer if Easton Corbin hasn't been uninteresting, but mostly the lights were just way too much once Carrie Underwood went on. Thus, he's never going to another big concert except maybe for just the opener. However, he has been reminded he likes live music (He used to spend the whole WIT Grand National rallies listening to the performers.) and we're going to take him to our favorite venue, The Birchmere, to see Brandy Clark in a few months. Of course, another Nashville trip with balcony seats for the Opry is on our to do list, too.

Destination Info:
Verizon Center
601 F St
Washington, DC 20004

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