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OT maybe. Visit to The Smithsonian Museums

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  • OT maybe. Visit to The Smithsonian Museums

    Big old birthday coming up. SWMBO wants to do me a trip of where I want to go.
    I have always wanted to go to the Smithsonian. When I went online , I was surprised to see it is actually 19 museums in several different buildings?

    Almost sounds as confusing as a Disney theme park. Can anybody give me some highlights of the types of museums or the amount of time one can expect to spend for a thorough tour. Is it something that can be accomplished in a day or is it more of a long weekend type of thing?

    I imagine there are some parts we can omit as I don't need to see everything. But as a machine, mechanic, inventor kind of guy, I'm sure to find plenty of interesting sections as well. Any DON'T MISS things I should know about? Ideas? Other related things in the area?

    I'm sure there will be a few to respond. As we do, I'll fill in more requests like where does one stay? Seems like hotel will be the expense item anything else? Any place to stay away from?

    As you can tell I have absolutely no idea as to what I'm in for.
    Thanks, Mike
    Bricolage anyone?....one of lifes fun games.

  • #2
    Museum of Technology - Lots of great old machines. You'll probably also like Air and Space. You may well end up wishing you had more time than you do.
    "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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    • #3
      Air and Space is a great suggestion but there are TWO! There is the downtown one on the Mall and another wonderful, and enormous, facility out at Dulles Nationl Airport. Well worth the time and effort to see both. The museum at the airport is the Steven F. Udvary-Hazy Center and is my favorite. Parking is spendy ($15.00 as I recall) but there is no admission cost for the museum itself.

      Wear your walking shoes what every you decide to do and take the GPS gadget to find your way around.

      http://www.nasm.si.edu/udvarhazy/

      If you are a history buff also of interest, since June 6th is not too far off, a visit to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford VA is well worth the time. Why the tiny town of Bedford you ask? Because on June 6, 1944 they suffered the highest casualties per population of any city in the country. This would be a good time of year to visit Bedford as it is wicked hot in the summer.

      http://www.dday.org/

      The new(ish) WWII memorial in D.C. is great and should not be missed.

      I could go on and on but will let someone else add their thoughts.
      Errol Groff

      New England Model Engineering Society
      http://neme-s.org/

      YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GroffErrol?feature=mhee

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      • #4
        Good places to go are the American History Museum and the Natural History Museum which are next to one another about midway along the Mall on the north side. On the south side is the Air and Space. Nearby the Arts and Industry Exhibit was being renovated the last time I was there, but if it open is a pretty cool exhibit. Many of the other Museums are not on the Mall, but there is a shuttle bus service that will take you to most places. How long you need kind of depends on you, for a first timer I would guess at least 4 hours for any individual museum. Wear comfortable shoes, make sure you have plenty of camera capacity and batteries. There are nice cafeterias in the American History and Air & Space buildings. All of the main museums I've mentioned are free to enter, but parking is terrible, not expensive just non existent, I've used a couple that are 2 to 3 blocks south of the mall, definitely research parking before hand. Otherwise you should have a great time, it is definitely worth going.

        Stu

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        • #5
          For me each museum took at least a whole day. Went back to some of them a few times. I figured if I spent a month there I could get my fill. If I had to choose only three it would be Air and Space, American History, and the Fine Arts. Really hard to choose though. Don't forget all the memorials are within walking distance. The Jefferson was my favorite. Bring good walking shoes!

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          • #6
            Each one is very good. I am quite fond of the Museum of the American Indian, which has the best food of any Smithsonian cafeteria. Air and Space and the Udvar-Hazy Center are both great. The American History Museum was renovated recently, has some pretty good exhibits, including a number of cars and a steam engine or two. Natural History is good, lots of dead things and cool rocks. Don't forget the Mint and the American Portrait Gallery.
            Each one of these could take a full day.

            I was there a few weeks ago, and the Arts and Industries Building is still closed, scaffolding everywhere.

            allan

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            • #7
              A person who posts on a home shop board should first visit the Air and Space Museum in Washington. Allow a day there and do take one of the free guided tours.

              While the DC A&S is very good, when you go to the A&S next to Dulles be prepared to have your mind blown. Take the free tours, allow a day, 2 days would be better.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by oddball racing
                Is it something that can be accomplished in a day or is it more of a long weekend type of thing?

                I imagine there are some parts we can omit as I don't need to see everything. But as a machine, mechanic, inventor kind of guy, I'm sure to find plenty of interesting sections as well. Any DON'T MISS things I should know about? Ideas? Other related things in the area?

                As you can tell I have absolutely no idea as to what I'm in for.
                Thanks, Mike
                I was in DC 30 years ago for 3 months. spent two days every weekend at the Smithsonian. I covered the air and space, Natural History Museum, arts and industry

                Study up on the Metro. Near by at Roslyn station there is an escalator -- the 2nd longest in the world IIRC (longest in Moscow). There used to be a restaurant called the Orleans house near that metro stop that had prime rib to die for. (just looked it up. Darn! it closed at the end of 2007)

                Fords theatre and the house where Lincoln died are a short walk from the mall

                I didn't have a car available. I think if I was going back I would stay on the outskirts and take the metro. A fun thing to see in its self. http://www.wmata.com/rail/ (as an aside, when my sister visited DC in 1984 they stayed in a trailer park on outskirts and took the metro, worked well for them)

                The White House was interesting as was the capitol building,

                I never made it to the national zoo, Nor have I heard of the Indian or the second air and space, both of which sound worth visiting,

                I wonder if I can get SWMBO to make such a kind offer to me :-)

                So how many WEEKS are you going to DC for???? :-)

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                • #9
                  Yup, as said, there is a ton more to do within a short walk in downtown DC than you could imagine.

                  Visit your local library and borrow a few books on DC if possible. If they have an interlibrary loan, or you care enough, there are quite a few really excellent books on the Smithsonian itself that will give the back-stories on some of what is there...much better than the lil plaque could say anyway.

                  If you have a few hours, Arlington National Cemetary is a quick subway ride away from the downtown mall/Smithsonian area. I realize most older folks dont like visiting cemeteries, but the place itself and the Tomb of the Unknowns contained therein will give you a new appreciation of veterans.
                  "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by justanengineer
                    Yup, as said, there is a ton more to do within a short walk in downtown DC than you could imagine.

                    Visit your local library and borrow a few books on DC if possible. If they have an interlibrary loan, or you care enough, there are quite a few really excellent books on the Smithsonian itself that will give the back-stories on some of what is there...much better than the lil plaque could say anyway.

                    If you have a few hours, Arlington National Cemetary is a quick subway ride away from the downtown mall/Smithsonian area. I realize most older folks dont like visiting cemeteries, but the place itself and the Tomb of the Unknowns contained therein will give you a new appreciation of veterans.
                    Agreed. Arlington is a must visit. People visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stand and watch the Marine for hours. Really impressive dedication. Then there's the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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                    • #11
                      Years ago they had a civil war machine shop exhibit in one of the Smithsonians I visited. No idea if it is still on exhibit or not.

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                      • #12
                        Air and Space is number 1. I have seen maybe half the museums over the years as I have been to DC about 9 or 10 times. I haven't been there in quite a few years so I don't know what is currently open. I know that there have been some major changes since I have been there last. One thing I haven't seen is the backup mirror for the Hubble that was made right by Kodak. It's at the Air and Space museum I think.

                        It doesn't make a lot of difference which museum you visit, they are all excellent.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                        • #13
                          This has been mentioned, but I'll repeat it. Don't even THINK about parking nearby. Yes, miracles do happen, but finding a parking spot on the mall is so far down that list that it fell off the bottom.
                          "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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                          • #14
                            Time to see the Smithsonian by yourself - 30 days

                            Time to see the Smithsonian with your wife - 4 hours, including the travel time between all of the buildings.
                            The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                            Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

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