Friday, April 3, 2015

National Museum of American History: Lincoln's Carriage

Date of Visit: April 2, 2015

Since we were already going to be nearby on our walking the National Mall and Memorial Parks yesterday, we decided to quickly pop in and see Lincoln's Carriage. It actually is a really easy pop in and see thing if you enter from the Constitution Avenue side, which we always do because until today I didn't even think the other side had an accessible entrance, but according to the Smithsonian access map it does (Note: I don't totally trust it because it's over a year old and I know last time we went to the Air & Space the Independence Avenue entrance was closed, but it is likely the American History now has an accessible entrance on Madison and I just remember it not being accessible before the major remodel).

Lincoln's Carriage is temporarily on display on the First Floor of the National Museum of American History through May 25, 2015 as part of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's death. It's just a the carriage and a few signs with info, but it's still interesting to get an up close look at his carriage, which they rode in to Ford's Theatre the night he was shot.

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

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. Of course, we are always partial to Archives (Yellow/Green) since it's a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking.

National Mall and Memorial Parks: Lincoln Memorial

Date of Visit: April 2, 2015

It's been about four years since we've posted a review of the Lincoln Memorial, although we have been here at least one other time since then. For the most part our comments are the same, but since there are a few things we noticed and did differently we decided to do a whole new one instead of just a brief update and just referring to the other review here.

To start off, we discovered that walking over the Memorial Bridge from Arlington National Cemetery is a very convenient way to get to the Lincoln Memorial when using Metro. It's still not all that close (~1 mile), but it seems smoother/simpler and also more scenic, although it can also be windier, which was not so nice on the way back when we were going into it. Note that the elevator you take back down the platform depends on which direction you need to go and the sign that says which side it is for is above call button (we think it should say right up top!).

To get up to the memorial there are ramps up on the right and left sides of the stairs. There are a couple points where you can access the landings of the steps, so you can enjoy the view like if you take the steps up. This also allows you to cross over from the right side to the left when you get to the top of the ramp because that's the side with the entrance to the area with the elevator. In rereading our old review, I was reminded that we were annoyed by them have a wheelchair symbol and no button that time. I can't remember if they have any buttons now, but this time both doors were propped open, so getting in wasn't an issue even though we were like the only ones there at the time. I actually was a little concerned we would have to wait for it to be 9am because the exhibit area technically doesn't open until then, but it was around 8:45am and it was open.

After experiencing the Union Station metro elevator, Mik has a greater appreciation for the one at the Lincoln Memorial. Yes, it still seems odd to have the doors on adjacent walls, but it is plenty big enough to maneuver in at least.

We didn't spend much time inside the Lincoln Memorial. Just enough to get the typical picture of Mik doing the A and L in sign language.

We did, however, spend at least 15 minutes on the backside of the memorial. How we have never done that before I don't know, but we decided to walk around the whole outside of the memorial up top (partly to waste time before bookstore opened to quickly get a stamp for our National Park passports). Mik really enjoyed playing around with the modes and taking pictures of the Potomac from there including the below watercolor mode one.

Destination Info:
Lincoln Memorial National Memorial
Lincoln Memorial Circle
Washington, DC 20037

Arlington National Cemetery Metro Elevators

Date of Visit: April 2, 2015

It's convenient when you only have to take one elevator to get from the train platform and street level, which is the case for both sides of the platform at Arlington National Cemetery. But since it isn't a center platform station, there are two different elevators. They are actually some of the easiest ones to find for an underground station. It isn't really that difficult to figure it out (there's a sign above call buttons) and they are very close to each other, but it would be even better if the top signs clearly labeled which platform they go to.

Destination Info:
Arlington Cemetery Metro Station
1000 North Memorial Drive
Arlington, VA 22211

Saturday, March 7, 2015

U.S. Capitol - Tour

Date of Visit: March 7, 2015

The last time we toured the Capitol as a family was probably the first time we took Mik to D.C. when he was about 3 or 4 (1997?). Of course, he doesn't remember that at all and the only thing I remember was waiting in an extremely long line outside and being pulled out of it to be given our own tour because they didn't accommodate wheelchairs with the regular tours. Everything is way different now with there being an actual visitor center, which we didn't even really visit because Mik and Mom were worn out after the touring part (regular and our own this time).

Dad had set up for the 11:20 tour, but since we got there about an hour early and Dad got passes for an earlier tour. The tour starts with a movie. You enter at the bottom of the theater and there's an elevator to the top where there's a row for wheelchairs and companions. Overall a good view of the movie, but the companion seats are kind of far back that the barrier in front ends up blocking the bottom of the screen. At first I thought it was just because I was short, but even Dad ended up noticing the issue. All it really blocks out, though, is the closed captioning, but still annoying in the sight line. Mik had no issue, though, because his wheelchair could roll up closer and also sat higher than the companion seats.

After the movie, you exit from the top of the theater and proceed to lines to join a tour group. Here you get headsets to better hear the guide when on the tour, although personally I found it unnecessary. The tour does go up and down stairs, but between each level you go over to the elevators (normally, someone escorts your group for this, I think, but since Dad works there and has a badge he was our escort).

Overall the tour isn't bad, but I'm glad we were able to then go back with Dad because I felt like you really only got to see one part of the Rotunda and crypt depending on where your guide stopped to talk about that room. Only in the Statuary Hall did it seem like you where able to really explore the whole room.

After our regular tour, Dad took us to the Hall of Columns and the Brumidi Corridors. I especially enjoyed the corridors off of the Hall of Columns, which had some really cool ceiling murals including the one below that I took by lying on the ground. I could've spent a lot more time looking at the murals and such, but Mik and Mom were getting tired, so we only briefly saw them.

Destination Info:
U.S. Capitol
East Capitol St NE & First St SE
Washington, D.C. 20004

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Date of Visit: February 14, 2015

I have been to the Newseum a few times including when it used to be in Rosslyn and the day it opened on Pennsylvania Avenue, but Mik had never been. While I knew it was a well-done museum, the tickets are kind of expensive, so it kept getting pushed down on our list to do. The opening of a temporary exhibit about Lincoln, though, quickly moved it to the top because Mik particularly likes Civil War history.

We enjoyed the whole museum and found it to be well designed to go through. It's mainly designed that you go down one level, then go to the top floor (6th), and work your way back down. There's elevators on both ends of the building (the three in the middle only go to Concourse and 6th) that make it efficient to go through the museum without backtracking much, although we did find ourselves going backwards through some exhibits.

Mik's favorite part was the Berlin Wall Gallery, which I remember as always being an impressive thing to see. He liked seeing the wall pieces and guard tower, but it was the whole experience with the videos about the wall and how news played a role in that period that really made it a history come to life kind of thing that captivated him.

It was too cold to enjoy the Greenspan Terrace from outside, but Mik did like that you could read the signs from inside (or at least you could because no one else was up to venturing outside to block them). The timeline history of the avenue is pretty interesting and with the walls of windows you can enjoy most of the great view of some of the major landmarks in D.C. from the climate controlled indoors, too.

The "President Lincoln is Dead" exhibit was another highlight. It was interesting to see the different editions of the New York Herald that provided new information as the story of Lincoln being assassinated and the hunt for Booth evolved. In particular, we found it fascinating that all editions said assassination and at that time the word only meant a secret attack and not that he was necessarily killed (in fact, he was still alive during the first couple editions). It wasn't until after Lincoln that the word became known as we think of it today.

Mostly Mik wasn't interested in the NBC News Interactive Room, but I convinced him to try out one of the touchscreen stations (they have several with no seats for wheelchairs to roll into) and he actually had fun with the trivia game.

Overall a fun museum to explore at least once, but it still is on the pricey side and not likely to go back anytime soon even though the upcoming Reporting Vietnam exhibit does appeal to Mik (kind of wished we waited for it to be open since the Lincoln one is through January 2016). Only exhibit Mik found disappointing with the FBI one, as it didn't seem to really tie in the news influence into it as well as the other exhibits.

Destination Info:

555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20001

555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 - See more at:
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 - See more at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

National Building Museum: Designing for Disaster

Date of Visit: February 3, 2015

The "Designing for Disaster" exhibit explores the damage of natural disasters and how to make communities more resilient to disasters. The exhibit features a variety of photos, videos, and interactive displays. Mik found this a really enjoyable exhibit, especially the parts on earthquakes and air natural disasters (hurricanes and tornadoes).

One of the first things that captured Mik's attention was in the first room they had the video of the 1989 World Series playing in which it suddenly cut out because an earthquake caused a loss of power.

Mik's favorite part was the wind tunnel interactive display in the air natural disasters section. Here you choose what type of roof and which direction to put it on the house related to where the wind would come from. Then you could press a button for the wind to be relative to a category 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 hurricane. First he hit the one. Then he went all the way to five and thought it was cool how it showed the effect of the roof blowing off. Also, he noted that it was nice that the display was designed on a table surface that he could easy roll under to use.

This exhibit is on display through August 2, 2015.

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

Accessibility Note:  The accessible entrance to the museum is G Street. The Judiciary Square Metro (Red) is the closest, but since we live near Yellow Line we find the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro (Yellow/Green/Red) more convenient as it is faster/easier to just walk/roll an extra block or so than transferring to Red Line for one stop. More details in our first review of the museum here.

Our Other Current National Building Museum Exhibit Posts

National Building Museum: HOT TO COLD an odyssey of architectural adaptation

Date of Visit: February 3, 2015

The "HOT TO COLD: an odyssey of architectural adaptation" exhibit features over 60 architectural models suspended from the balconies of the Great Hall. As the Great Hall area is open to the public, you can view most of the exhibit without paying admission. With admission, though, you can go into the second floor gallery that includes more models and videos.

The exhibit is mainly experienced walking around the 2nd floor balcony, but from the first floor you can also look up and see symbols and colors on the bottom that reflect how they represent locales from hot to cold climates.

Mik enjoyed checking out the various models. Of most interest to him was the Phoenix Observation Tower (i.e. Big Pin), which is proposed for near Chase Field. I thought it was absurd, but he thinks it could be a cool way to watch a baseball game (seems too high a view for that).

The Smithsonian South Mall campus plan and St. Petersburg Pier idea were some of our other favorite models.

This exhibit is on display through August 15, 2015.

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

Accessibility Note:  The accessible entrance to the museum is G Street. The Judiciary Square Metro (Red) is the closest, but since we live near Yellow Line we find the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro (Yellow/Green/Red) more convenient as it is faster/easier to just walk/roll an extra block or so than transferring to Red Line for one stop. More details in our first review of the museum here.