D&C’s Take on DC – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of our ‘take’ on DC!  We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Dave and I had a great time in Sag Harbor with my family!  This post includes visits to:  National Botanic Gardens, Museum of the American Indian, Clearwater Beach weekend, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Pentagon Memorial.  We are getting down to the wire with our time here in DC – it’s been great to see so many sites, spend time with family and friends, and it’s gone so fast!  However we are really looking forward to spending some holiday time with our friends in Chicago followed by quality time with family in NY and St Louis!

Around the National Botanic Gardens & Capitol:

National Botanic Gardens (Sat, Oct 29):

  • One of the oldest botanic gardens in North America
  • Established by Congress in 1820
  • 65,000 plants with collections including: medicinal, economic, and carnivorous plants, orchids, cactus, and mid-Atlantic native plants.
  • 1 million visitors annually

They had a temporary Bats Matter exhibit – some highlights:  there are over 1,300 species of bats worldwide and they have very important jobs in our environment including:  pesticide and insect damage control (by eating millions of insects a day!), pollinators, and dispersers (fruit bats eat fruits and pass seeds as they fly, resulting in more plants grown.)  According to our landlord we have a bunch of bats that hang out in trees right in our parking lot.  Yikes!

National Garden: 3 acre garden features the Regional Garden of Mid-Atlantic native plants, Rose Garden, Amphitheater, Lawn Terrace, Butterfly Garden, and the First Ladies Water Garden.

Not nearly as impressive as St Louis’s or Phoenix’s.  I haven’t been to Chicago’s, but I’m sure Chicago’s is more impressive too.  The highlight was getting to observe a praying mantis! If your time is limited in DC, skip this.

National Museum of the American Indian
3 for 3 today with a ‘thumbs down’ rating for this venue.  Very few exhibits actually open and they weren’t very impressive.  It just simply does not compare to other DC museums or with the amazing Native American museums and experiences we enjoyed in New Mexico. I would remove this from your DC itinerary!  The Dance of the Jaguars performance was interesting.

Clearwater Beach Weekend with Trish & Michelle! (weekend of 11/4)
Michelle and Trish are dear friends (and roommates for years) from college – we try to get together regularly and have visited each other in DC, Chicago, and Maine.  We decided to go somewhere warmer for a long weekend, and scored a great place on Clearwater Beach!  It was a fun few days of relaxing, reminiscing, and catching up!


National Museum of American History (Sat, 11/12)
Where else can you see Martha Washington’s china, the original Star Spangled banner, and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers?  I could go on, I’ve been before, and would go again to this incredible deep dive into American history, culture, and life.  A+!

Preview of the new African American History Museum (which will take about a year to get into – tickets sold out through April):

American Stories Exhibit

First Ladies Dresses:

Some interesting facts on a few First Ladies:

Dolley Madison – she used her skills as a ‘hostess with the mostess’ to win support for her husband James and to mute the opposition in a highly partisan time. She had weekly parties in the drawing room that encouraged conversation and cooperation.  Relevant then, relevant now….  Dolley also bravely rescued important papers and treasures from the White House as the redcoats were coming to burn the White House in 1914 (only the exterior walls survived the attack.)

Mary Lincoln’s opinion was highly valued by Abraham – and she was instrumental in his 1864 election after writing to urge state party leaders to support her husband.  However, her attempts to provide counsel once Lincoln was in office was met with criticism from his cabinet and private secretaries. Mary Lincoln’s reputation was further damaged as she overspent on a massive White House redecorating project.

Presidential China:

While I was checking out the china, one of the docents told me that there are very pieces of China left from the Washingtons – this was because they often gave away their china to guests so they could take leftovers home (no Tupperware back then!)

American Presidency

The Continental Gunboat, Philadelphia (1776)

Gallery of Numismatics – Dave missed out!  Highlights include a US $100,000 bill and money from the

Transportation & Wine

Julia Child’s Kitchen – all the furniture, tools, and equipment belonged to Julia Child, and were part of her show set.  Kitchen table was flown over from Oslo, Norway, where they lived for some time.  The solid maple counters are 2″ taller than the usual, as Julia was 6′ tall. Julia and her husband designed the kitchen (and studio) according to work zones, making sure tools and equipment were placed near the surfaces where they would be used.

Arlington National Cemetery (Sun, 11/13)
I’ve never been to the Cemetery and decided that the weekend after Veteran’s Day was a fitting time to go.  I was also reminded of this having dinner with Cathy and Don, a veteran, on Friday night too!  Cathy also suggested the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, and I decided to make a day of it on Sunday.

Arlington National Cemetery used to belong to George Washington’s step-grandson, who left it to his daughter who married Robert E Lee.  After the Lees vacated the property at the start of the Civil War, the grounds were used as a camp and headquarters for Federal Troops during the Civil War and later provided a safe haven for former slaves seeking freedom.  The first military burial here was in May 1864.

It is now the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and families.  400,000….. staggering….

Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each week day and between 6 and 8 services on Saturday.

It was pretty amazing to watch the Honor Guard at work protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.

Changing of the Guard:  what a regal, respectful, and special experience. It gives you chills. Here are some details:

  • An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
  • The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown.
  • The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed — the 21-gun salute.

I’ve included some of my clips below (that had to be short due to technology constraints), but you may want to view a full ceremony, shot professionally by PBS, on You Tube:

I found myself wondering whether anyone has tried any shenanigans here.  According to my limited research, it doesn’t appear so.  Before the tomb was guarded families would picnic near the tomb as the view is tremendous – but since 1937 the tomb has been guarded 24 hours a day with apparently without incident!

There were a few wreath ceremonies as well…

Memorial Ampitheater

Mast of the USS Maine:

Memorials to the Crews of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and Iran Rescue Mission Memorial:


Arlington House/Robert E Lee Memorial:

  • Robert E Lee’s home for 3 decades
  • During the Civil War, the grounds of the mansion were selected as the site of Arlington National Cemetery, in part to ensure that Lee would never again be able to return to his home. However, the United States has since designated the mansion as a national memorial to Lee

Around Arlington House:

JFK and family:

Women In Military Service For America Memorial:

I think this is a must-do in DC, even though it took me years to!

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
This memorial pays tribute to the 184 people who lost their lives on 9/11 at the Pentagon and on AA flight 77. I dialed into the narration and was glad I did as the design and layout of the memorial was explained, and it’s quite meaningful and special, despite its stark appearance.  Each victim is honored with a narrow modern bench with a name plaque and a rectangular pool underneath.  The benches are arranged based on birth year – the youngest victim was 3 years old (Dana Falkenberg, with her immediate family), the oldest 71 (John D. Yamnicky, a Navy vet.) They are also arranged based on whether the victim was on the plane (benches face the building) or inside the Pentagon (benches face away from the building.) I’d recommend combining with a visit to Arlington like I did.

Our next, and final DC post, includes: National Museum of American Art, International Spy Museum, National Air & Space Museum, Bureau of Engraving & Printing, Library of Congress, and Swedish House & Christmas Fair.





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