Monday, September 25, 2017

Playing Tourist in DC

We played tourist a few days ago and had a nice day downtown.  We went to the National Museum of the American Indian, had lunch on 7th Street at some food trucks, then went to the Ford Theater and Peterson House.

This post is about our experience at the National Museum of the American Indian and lunch at the food trucks.

After living in Fairfax VA for 17 years we saw a lot of new museums and monuments get built in the downtown DC area.  A few of the new ones we haven't seen.  Yesterday was a mix of that.

We started off at the National Museum of the American Indian.  We drove in from our campsite from Haymarket, VA which is about 37 miles and took an hour.

The traffic was typical morning rush hour and we were glad we were able to cruise along in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle - 2 people) lane.  After finding our way to the Washington Mall and heading toward the U.S. Capitol (near the Indian Museum), we saw that there was plenty of parking.  What?  Yes!  They no longer have meters with coins but use one every 5 or 10 cars and they all take credit cards.  I like the fact that the parking spot was limited to 3 hours which makes it very convenient for tourists and visitors.

We arrived about 9:25 AM, got our parking spot near the museum (and there were plenty more on the street available).  Next, we asked around for the nearest rest room.  Since the museum didn't open until 10 AM, we had some extra.  And a McDonald's was about 2 blocks away.  Perfect.  We used the facility, got a couple of cups of coffee and split a sausage biscuit.  And then we people watched for a few minutes.  The McDonalds may have been the nicest one I have ever seen.  Large,  updated furniture and traffic flow, fast and friendly service. It was exceptional.
We were only a block away from the museum and walked around to the front and took two pictures.
The fountain was a very beautiful one.  I could imagine sitting near it for lunch our just spending time enjoying it.
This is a better picture of the fountain that I got off the internet.
This notice caught my attention.

Inside, we stopped at the front desk and talked with a couple of people in charge.  They explained this was not a museum of US American Indians but of the Western Hemisphere Indians.  That included North, South, and Central America.

During our 90 minute stay we saw 13 minute orientation film, and the galleries:  Nation to Nation; The Inka Road, Native American's in our Nations Armed Forces

We have been to a few really good museums that had galleries and artifacts of (US) American Indians and I expected a more complete group of galleries explaining the hundreds of different tribes and a lot of their history and such.

The museum was more about a sampling of a lot of Indians in the Americas/Western Hemisphere including the Native American Indian.

The museum was a large and beautiful four story structure with an open area in the middle.  Almost like a rotunda of a capital building without the murial or guilded ceiling.  Or like an Embassy Suites hotel with the walkways around the center of the building which is open.  It was an impressive looking building both inside and out.

The structure itself cost $199 million with an additional $20 million for exhibits, public programs, and opening events. The facility itself was quite large and sits on a 4.25 acre site near the U.S. Capitol.

We went to the top/4th floor and began our tour walking through the explanations and artifacts of the diplomacy, treaties and betrayals of the U.S. government with the Native Nations.
The gallery was very well done with enough information to explain the agreements while not getting too complicated.  It very informative.
 In each of the nine treaties on display, viewpoints of the Indian and the US government leadership were explained.  It did not seem to be too harsh on the injustices the Indians have endured time and again.

After time in that exhibit we viewed the 13-minute Orientation film:  "Who We Are".  It sets the tone of the museum with a documentary of Indians in the Artic, Northwest coast, and the plateaus of Bolivia while introducing themes of the cross cultural lives of Indians throughout the Western Hemisphere.  No photography or video recording was allowed in this exhibit.

The next gallery we walked through was The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire.  A bilingual series of displays explained one of the engineering marvels in history.  The road is a network of roads spanning rivers, deserts, mountains and tropical lowlands.  It traverses the countries of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Boliva, Argentina and Chile.

I snapped a few photos of some of the many displays:
Our niece was Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Peru and we have since been interested in learning more about that country.  My brother and wife (her parents) visited her and have since volunteered for that last ten years and participated in a Disability effort of providing wheelchairs to those in Peru.  They are going to Peru again in November for their 11th trip.

The last gallery we visited was about American Indians who were veterans of the U.S. military:  Native Americans in our U.S. Military.  Though it was off to one corner and relatively small, it was one of my favorite.
 The last display discusses Ira Hayes who was part of the famous Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima.
He is pictured on the left side of the men raising the flag.

We also visited the bookstore and gift shop but didn't find anything we couldn't do without.  Next, we headed over to the other side of the mall and parked near the Ford Theater in an underground parking lot.

The costs were a little different, ($24 vs $6) but all in all it was nice to get a safe spot to leave the car and walk around downtown DC.  By now it was lunch time.  We asked around and were directed to 7th Street over by the National Portrait Gallery.

Wow - 7 or 8 trucks of delicious food.
I got the falafel and hummus plate and Pam had a burger.  A definite treat on both accounts.  It was fun to see the customers walk up and order.  The clientele were all quite different.  It was great for the taste buds and a time of some more interesting people watching.

That's a quick look at our time in the National Museum of the American Indian and lunch at the food trucks in DC.  Look for my next post on Ford's Theater and the Petersen House.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.


  1. My first lunch in DC was a hot dog from a food truck outside my office building. I was afraid of getting lost and not being able to find my way back. One of the best hot dogs ever. Even after living there for 15 years, I didn't get to very many of the museums. And that one is definitely new since we were thete. Thanks for the tour.

  2. After living in the DC area for so many years, we've never been inside this museum either. Washington DC is one of the cheapest places to tour of anywhere we've been. Great museums and always something to do.

  3. Nice tour. I worked in DC for three years and barely saw any of the big attractions:(

  4. I heard there is a campground in Virginia that will provide a tour bus to D.C....if we ever get there, that is how we will do it..Driving in that traffic at our extended years is not a good thing!! I do love those food trucks!

  5. What campground are you at in Haymarket. We stayed in the Bull Run Regional Park this summer. It is a little closer in and sites are well spaced. Very convenient to visit our kids in Centreville. It is a great Park with lots of shade. However, the trees block most satellite reception. Also, there is a range than can be heard.

  6. All that is new to us since our Ft Meade assignment. I have many fond memories, but the beltway drive is not one of them. Happy to hear the parking has changed, I got a ticket once that almost changed my career.

  7. Boy, do I ever remember the route you drove. I drove it daily from Gainesville to downtown DC when I was stationed there. A good portion of my life spent on Rt 66.

    The Indian Museum was under construction, but never saw it completed. Might have to go there someday, as long as I don't get flashbacks from sitting in traffic! :cD