Our third and last full day in DC was Easter Sunday. So we started with an egg hunt in the hotel room!
We had 10am entry tickets for the African American History Museum. It’s the one Smithsonian I had not yet been to so was excited to go but cautious about whether it would hold the kids’ attention and/or whether they could maintain the appropriate energy for such an exhibit.
My little guy was worried that “the story” as we started to refer to it was going to be too sad for him. And he did get emotional. But in the end he said he liked it.
We got to the Constitution Ave entrance at maybe 10:15 and walked right in. I can only assume this was because of the holiday. I imagine most Sundays are super busy. We put our coats in the free lockers they provide (such a small but hugely appreciated amenity) and headed downstairs to the Concourse where you can view the history galleries.
The first level is the most intense - focusing on slavery and continuing through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It’s also the most crowded. Everyone lingers here. There are a ton of interactive videos and I found it to be appropriately balanced between the atrocities of the time and the community it created among people of color.
You then go up a level to segregation. My kids were already most familiar with this era. They have a lunch counter set up where you can walk through a series of “choose your own” type situations specific to resistance. The 4 year old just liked manipulating the screen but my 7 year old really internalized how difficult some of the choices were (for instance, in a situation where you are peacefully demonstrating by sitting at a lunch counter and people start spitting at you and calling you names, would you a) fight them b) stay put and ignore them or c) be frightened and leave).
The final level is about current times, mostly focused on the progress that has been made including a section on the election of Obama. I unfortunately didn’t get to spend as much time in here as the kids were starting to get hungry and their remarkable restraint was starting to wear thin. So I started to head with them to the cafe while my husband poked around a bit longer. When we exited the exhibit, fortunately a guard was standing there and directed us to the “Contemplative Court” first. It’s this beautiful space intentionally designed to allow people to reflect on what they saw and refresh themselves before returning back to the present moment.
This picture is not mine as I didn’t feel comfortable photographing the space while others were in deep thought.
And I would have totally missed this if not for that kind man. It really did help me get back to a better frame of mind.
We then went to Sweet Home Cafe. My understanding is that this restaurant has at least one station that has a rotating, limited time menu. Overall, the cuisine is rooted in traditional, authentic, and present day fare. We got barbecue pork, buttermilk fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread (all from the standard “Agricultural South” menu. We also got one order of hush puppies from the rotating station, currently called “Afrofuturism.” Ordinarily, I would pass on a hush puppy without even thinking about it. But I decided to give these a try… they were made in the style of Akara (a Nigerian dish) using black eyed peas and I swear if all hush puppies tasted like that, I would pretty much never eat anything else.
Important to note that we wanted to try a little of everything and knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it all, but there are no “to go” containers offered given the museum’s strict no food policy. Fortunately my daughter had a container of grapes that came in a plastic cup with a lid so we were able to put our leftover mac cheese in there. And I wrapped the leftover chicken and cornbread in as many napkins as was reasonable and tucked it all in my bag so we could enjoy leftovers for dinner. Next time I will legitimately bring a plastic container or two.
After that, we promised the boy he could see dinosaur bones and the girl could see some gemstones. So we headed over to the Natural History museum. It was just after noon, maybe 12:30 at this point and the crowds were just crazy. I lasted about 10 minutes before I started convincing the crew that we should leave and come back another time to enjoy a quieter experience. Ice cream bribery may have been involved.
We headed back to the hotel via the Metro’s longest escalator, which the kids wanted to enjoy one last time.
We then headed to my aunt’s house for an afternoon egg hunt and some family time before wrapping up our trip.
Kids crashed easily that night. They were total troopers, clocking another five miles of walking. They both enjoyed their visit very much but were also both happy enough to be heading home.
And that’s it on our whirlwind adventure. For readers future, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions! Happy to help your DC plans in any way I can!