Tuesday, May 31, 2011

National Building Museum

Date of Visit: March 23, 2011

National Building MuseumThe National Building Museum is one of the non-Smithsonian Museums I discovered when I spent the semester at American University in 2006.  I finally got around to taking Mik to it on this trip by squeezing it in the morning on the day we flew out of DC.  Mik really enjoyed the exhibits, especially since they had a temporary LEGO exhibit, but the accessibility was not very good.

National Building MuseumThe museum is housed in an old building, so no faulting it that you can only go in and out on one side (G Street entrance).  At least they clearly have signs pointing you around the building to the side with a ramp.  Also, the doors in have buttons to operate them.

National Building MuseumThe problem comes when you get into the museum and every single exhibit is in separate areas that have doors you have to open to get into them.  Now the doors are a good thing because groups of kids were eating lunch in the Great Hall (Grover Cleveland hosted his Inaugural Ball here when it was the Pension Building) and the area gets loud.  The closed doors keep the exhibits quiet.  However, they do not have buttons, so you have to open them, hold them open, and push through.  Not too big a deal for me, as I am used to pushing Mik in similar situations, but the doors are not light and on the second level it is worse.

National Building MuseumOn the second level the exhibits are not level with the hallway, so there are little ramps to even it out.  Well, that meant I had to open the door, hold it open, and push Mik up the ramp and in.  Conceptually, it did not seem any harder than the first floor, but the ramps are not quite flush with the exhibit floors.  This was only weeks into Mik having a Quickie Q7 wheelchair and I had not yet fully come to realize the front wheels suck and any little bump can get them stuck wanting to turn to go along the crack/bump and not over.  Basically, they act like a Roomba.  Anyways, that meant holding door open, tilting Mik back to have front wheels up, and into room.  Not quite so easy, especially since Mik easily freaks out when front wheels are off ground even when I have two hands on chair.

National Building MuseumMost exhibit areas did have a docent in them wandering around for if you had questions and such.  In one of the areas, the docent was really friendly and while she did not see us coming in, on the way out of the exhibit she came over and held the door open.  The LEGO exhibit was on second floor, but they had doors open and manned by ticket checker, since it was a paid exhibit.  It still had issue of not quite being level with hallway floor, though.

The building has elevators on both long sides of the Great Hall.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
National Building Museum
401 F St NW
Washington, DC 20001

National Gallery of Art - Sculpture Garden

Date of Visit: March 22, 2011

National Gallery of Art Sculpture GardenThe National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden is usually fun to walk around, although the one across the mall at the Hirshhorn is slightly more interesting in my opinion.  However, on this trip to D.C. we hit the Sculpture Garden at the worst timing.  For one, they were in the process of the switch over from the ice rink to the fountain.  Secondly, they were washing the sidewalks, so half the paths were closed and thus we could not see more than half the sculptures.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture GardenNote that some of the paths are dirt, but they are well packed down and even Mik rolled on it fine when he wanted to come over to me when I went close to a sculpture to take a photo.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
National Gallery of Art - Sculpture Garden
7th St and Constitution Ave
Washington, DC

Friday, May 27, 2011

Excited About New Disneyland Rides and Little Mermaid Accessibility

One week until we are in Disneyland for the official opening day of two new rides (Star Tours and Little Mermaid).  The rides open on Friday, June 3, 2011 and that will be our first full day at the park next weekend, but we plan to get to Anaheim early afternoon to get our Premier Passes and Mik and I will probably go in the parks for a wheelchair accessible ride or two.  Dad will use his 3 day Park Hopper with us Friday through Sunday, so we can enjoy more of the parks with him transferring Mik.

I am most excited about riding the new Little Mermaid ride in Disney's California Adventure.  Just as I suspected from the concept map in Blue Sky Cellar, there is a wheelchair accessible vehicle.  Not as big a deal this trip with Dad along, but good to have another ride we can do on trips without Dad, such as our upcoming August one for the D23 Expo.  It uses the same ride clamshell style ride system as Haunted Mansion just with a slightly different look and bright colors, so I still am hoping that one day they will redo Haunted Mansion to let the wheelchair go on it.

Mik is looking forward to the new Star Tours ride, although he is unsure about if it will be awesome or just as good with new experience.  Of course, this is not a wheelchair accessible ride, but that makes total sense.  I have heard some about an armrest on end moving out of way to allow for an easier seat to seat transfer.  Even without that it has always been the one ride I could actually transfer Mik to.

What Mik is really most excited about, though, is riding more rides since Dad will be along to transfer him.  I am sure we will do Indiana Jones quite a few times.  Also, he loves doing the Matterhorn after dark.  We are also excited about taking Dad to see World of Color.

Monday, May 16, 2011

National Museum of American History

Date of Visit: March 22, 2011

The National Museum of American History is my all time favorite DC museum and not just because they have a Dumbo ride vehicle as one of the landmark display items.  There is a lot to see the museum, so we just focused on going through a few of the exhibits we really wanted to see.  We skipped the Star Spangled Banner, as that is the only exhibit Mik remembers seeing when we went during the Ballpark road trip in 2009 and it was too crowded to see anything else.

On the WaterOn the WaterCTA

The main area we saw was the Transportation exhibits.  Mik really enjoyed the On the Water exhibit and seeing the different miniature boat models.  He also loved the touch screens he could roll up to and select to hear different things to be read to him.  The American on the Move exhibit is also fun including rolling into the CTA car that makes it seem like you are actually riding with people to work in Chicago.

Gunboat PhiladelphiaGunboat Philadelphia

We really wanted to see the Gunboat Philadelphia, but either the wheelchair lift up to the viewing platform sucks or we are unlucky in that it was also out when we visited in 2009 and was out again on our March 2011 trip.  You can see the front of the boat from the exhibit entrance, but the majority of the artifacts and good viewing of the gunboat is up a few steps on a raised viewing platform.  Mik loves boats and maritime history, so it really annoys him that he keeps missing out on really seeing the exhibit because it has steps and a broken lift.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Sunday, May 15, 2011

National Portrait Gallery

Ramp Date of Visit: March 21, 2011


The National Portrait Gallery is in the same building as the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, but that does not make it a small museum, but rather it is two big museums together in one huge building.  Even though it is just paintings to look at, it is a pretty daunting museum.  We mainly went here to get lunch from the cafe and eat it in the nice covered Pavillion area, but we also explored a few parts of the museum.

The accessible entrance to this museum is on the north side of the building.  There are long ramps on the side of the steps to get up to the entrance.  There are automatic doors to enter the building.  The same set is for going in and out, as they are designed to swing both ways, so that depending on what side you press the button they swing away from you.

The main area we went through was the Presidential Portrait Gallery.  Mik liked the spaciousness of the gallery and tried to roll around it away from me because he wanted to see other parts.  He did not like the carpet of the gallery that made rolling around harder, especially since he is never encounters carpets in his normal routines.  I noticed it was a little tougher to push him on the carpet than the rest of the museum, but it is not that bad.

The museum is in the Old Patent building and one of the most interesting exhibits is this little exhibit off the coat room that is easy to miss.  It has some information on the building's history including it hosting one of Lincoln's Inaugural balls.
Small Elevator
Small Elevator

The mezzanine exhibits on the third floor include a sports Champions exhibit.  I thought Mik would love this area being a sports fan, but he ended up hating it because the elevator to go up to it was barely larger than the wheelchair, moved slowly, and made some noise.  You have to be able to go in forward and then roll backwards out.  There was barely room for me to ride with Mik.  I cannot remember if the button was automatic like most Metro ones are or if you had to press it to go once inside, but I sure hope not as you cannot turn around and would have to hit it as you enter and hopefully the doors do not close if you roll in and forget to hit button.  Really could be a freaky experience as if it did get stuck you cannot reach the buttons.  The exhibit is quite small, so it is not like you miss much not going up there.  The other side of the mezzanine uses a big elevator, so not the same problems.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

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

National Crime and Punishment Museum

Date of Visit: March 21, 2011

Jail
The National Crime and Punishment Museum is one of the expensive paid admission DC museums that normally I would not even think of going to with so many free museums to explore instead in D.C.  We got a Groupon deal, though, so it did not cost much.  After seeing this museum, it is not bad, although perhaps not quite worth the high admission price, as it still is not that big.

CSI Exhibit
Accessibility wise the museum is pretty good.  You do end up doing some odd backtracking and such to get back to the elevator to go between floors sometimes, but they give you a paper explaining how to navigate through the museum if you need the elevator between levels.  We got one automatically because they noticed the wheelchair, but we ended up having to help a person figure out how to get out of the museum because they could not do stairs.  If it is not obvious you cannot do stairs, just ask for the elevator guide through the museum when you purchase your tickets.

Fingerprint Scanner
Mik really enjoyed the National Crime and Punishment Museum.  The CSI Experience in the basement is kind of cool, although a lot of the stuff did not seem to work, was not well explained, or it was at a level that did not work for Mik.  In the booking area it was cool that you could get your fingerprint scanned and a card printed out with it as a souvenir of your visit.  Mik had a little trouble with this as the scanner is stationary and you have to roll up sideways.  Would have been better if it was on a table that had room for the chair to roll under.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
National Crime and Punishment Museum
575 7th St
Washington, DC 20004

Friday, May 6, 2011

Madame Tussaud's Washington D.C.

Madame Tussauds DC
Date of Visit: March 21, 2011

In my opinion Madame Tussaud's Washington D.C. is not worth the full price, but I have enjoyed going for reduced price twice.  The first time was for like $5 when I went the day it opened and I lived in D.C. area.  This time I got the tickets for $6 each from a Groupon deal.

Getting into Madame Tussaud's is odd with a wheelchair, but the staff was friendly.  Note that the entrance to the main entrance/ticketing does not have an automatic door.  After you get your tickets, you go back out the main entrance and then around the corner up to the second set of doors, which are actually the museum entrance.  Staff let us in here, so the door was not a problem at this point.  Then you take an elevator down to get to the museum and later back up to get out the way you came in.

Madame Tussauds DCMadame Tussauds DC

Madame Tussaud's D.C. is a lot of fun, especially if you are into the President's, as it has a wax figure for each U.S. President as the main attraction.  It is cool that you can go up to them and take pictures with them.  For the most part it is very accessible, too, although a few of the wax figures were hard or impossible for Mik to roll right up to, such as George Washington in the boat crossing the Delaware.  Mik still enjoyed it all, though.

Mik liked reading the facts about each President, although I did not like that they sometimes had certain props or settings for the Presidents and then did not explain the situation.  For example, FDR is shown doing the fireside chats, but no explanation.  Not that I really expect that much history info from this type of museum, though.

Madame Tussauds DCMadame Tussauds DC

The little interactive aspects were also fun.  Mik got shackled up like a slave in the Civil War area.  I made him do it to see if he could reach them in his wheelchair, but  he found it interesting after he started doing it.  Unfortunately, in the same area he was foiled in wanting to take a picture next to Abraham Lincoln because there is a chair next to Lincoln for you to take a picture as if in the box with him at Ford's Theater, so did not really work out right in a wheelchair.

Madame Tussauds DC

It was also fun to flip the portraits to answer questions about what President was being described, however, Mik could not reach the top row.  This was actually quite funny because the top row had one about what handicapped President was the White House remodeled for and a person in a wheelchair would not be able to flip it open to read more.  I guess they just assume you should know if you are in a wheelchair.

Madame Tussauds DC

Mik's absolute favorite part was pushing the button in the war area that asked could you push the button to start a World War.  It was hard for him to reach it and I did not think he would get it without my help stretching his arm out, but he was determined and after about five minutes he got it.

Madame Tussauds DCMadame Tussauds DC

The war area also included a sandbag area that I made Mik go into and wear the helmet.  He did not like that part, but the wheelchair did fit in there.  Mainly, he did not like the heavy helmet.

Neither of us cared for the celebrity area, especially since we did not have a clue who most of them were and several did not seem to even have signs to tell you if you were clueless like us.

Photos by Kjersti and Mik
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

Destination Info:
Madame Tussaud's Washington D.C.
1001 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004

Verizon Center: New Jersey Nets @ Washington Wizards

Nets @ WizardsDate of Visit: March 20, 2011

The Wizards game at the Verizon Center was my first NBA game.  I still do not much care for NBA, as it college basketball is way better with actual defense and offense.  Mik liked the game, but it was not that great with the teams being pretty sloppy.

Nets @ Wizards

Mik did not mind the handicap seats, but they were not as amazing as the ones he had sat in just a week before at the Suns game.  They definitely are not bad, but they fail the cup holder requirement that Mik has held as a number one priority for handicap sections since we were doing All the Ballparks in 2009.  I cannot remember if the regular seats in section in front of or behind us had cup holders, though.

Photos by Kjersti
Text by Kjersti with Mik's wheelchair accessibility input

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

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